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10 Basic Landscape Photography Composition Tips

Composition in landscape photography is of utmost importance for creating amazing photos. It is basically the way we put the objects in our frame to carve out meaningful images.

There are many rules of composition like the rule of thirds and centered compositions, but I feel that there are a lot more to that than just these rules.

Landscape photography is about perception, it is about how we can depict nature in our own way. Obviously following the rules will give us good images but breaking them will give interesting and different images. Other than rules, I have experienced a lot in composition while shooting landscapes.

Here are my top 10 most important tips for landscape photography composition.

#1. Survey: Give Some Time to the Frame Without the Camera

Give some time to the frame without the camera. Whenever I arrive at a shoot location, I always take out my phone and scan the whole area with its camera. I check for various elements that I can frame and spend quite some time behind it.

In this example from Tumling in the Singalila Range, there were these horses that were having their morning time and the mountains in the background provided good complimentary framing along with the morning haze. The first photo is taken with my Redmi Note 5 smartphone, which I took during preps for the final photo.

#2. Visual Flow: Create Lines (or Curves) That Will Lead to the Focal Point or Towards the Image

Leading lines, as they are called, help in visualizing the way the photo is telling the story. They create a visual flow that leads us either to the main subject, also known as the focal point, or towards the image and not away from it. This helps in keeping the viewers engaged in our images and creates interest in their minds.

Here in the first photo from my hike to Tonglu, the darker branches of the tree and the broken ones on the ground leads our eyes to the tree itself which is the focal point here. In the second example from the Neora Vallery National Park hike, the path itself makes an S-curve and dwindles inside the frame, creating a sense of ambiguity and an interest to know what is there where the path ends.

#3. Layers: Find Layers to Separate Foreground, Midground and Background

Layers are a very useful way of creating stunning compositions. They work the best in mountains but we can use layers in any kind of environment where there are repetitions of similar objects leading to some focal points in the image.

The first photo is taken at Rishyap, where the two layers of mountains are leading us to the peak at the center of the frame. The second example shows another example of mountain layers where sunrays are falling and the mountains will lead the viewer into the image. Notice how in both images the clouds have worked as adding another layer to the composition.

#4. Depth: Create Depth in the Images With Movement

It is a very good way to illustrate long exposure photography where a sense of depth can be created in the moving elements. The direction of flow can be used to create beautiful images with a lot of depth in them.

In both these images, the first one from Rock Gardens Waterfalls in Darjeeling and the second one from Tabakoshi River in Mirik, one can find from where the water flow has started in the frame, thus including the depth factor into it.

#5. Golden Ratio: Make Use of This Concept to Create Unique Images

The golden ratio is a ratio of approximately 1.618 to 1. Read more about the golden ratio and its use in art here. Artists have used the golden ratio and the golden spiral to create stunning artworks for centuries. For photography as well, this is very handy, and in landscape photography, it can help in guiding the viewer’s eyes into the focal point of the image via the supporting elements. I do not use this as much as the other techniques but this is helpful and using this technique has given me one of my favorite images.

This is an image in which I had used the concept of the golden ratio. The rocks in the foreground act as the supporting elements, and the statue in the background is the focal point that is near the narrower end of the spiral.

#6. Balance: Make Sure the Frame Does Not Look Tilted on Any Side

This is one of the most important tips for getting the photos right. We cannot misplace the objects in our frame and put all the objects on one side, it tilts the frame and that does not help in creating visual interest in the image. Balance can be achieved in terms of objects, light as well as color in the image.

In the first image, the boat in the Teesta river is balancing the textures in the shore and the smooth water by creating a focal point by itself. In the second example, the two trees in the Gopaldhara Tea Garden are balancing each other, imagine the frame without either of them, it would look tilted, right? Also, try to imagine the frame without the trees, how would that look like?

#7. Symmetry: Look for Natural Symmetry Like Reflections

This is a unique find if it is found and it creates beautiful landscapes. Such landscapes cannot be even a percent closer to being them without the symmetry. Symmetry in nature can be found in the reflection of natural objects in still water. Can you think of any other areas which give perfect symmetry in nature?

In this image from Talberiya Dam, the horizon, the clouds, and the sky organize perfect symmetry in the dam’s water, creating a completely different image than it would have been without it.

#8. Foreground: Pay Very Close Attention to the Foreground

We need to pay very close attention to the foreground. Foreground objects can create interesting frames and uplift our composition by a huge amount. There can be literally anything in our foreground, but as long as it is compelling, we need to pay proper attention to it and justify its existence in our photo.

Here, in the first photo from Tumling, the bush in the foreground accentuates the image on a whole new level. In the second one from Rishikhola, the rocks in the river and the water flowing through them is creating an interesting foreground for the river in itself and the hills behind.

#9. Scale: Put Humans in the Frame to Create a Sense of Scale

To demonstrate the size and majesty of huge mountains and oceans, we can always put humans (often ourselves with the camera on a tripod) and convey the scale of the composition. It is a compelling method and it creates absolute stunners in minimalistic landscapes.

In both these images, it is me standing on the cliff edges with the camera self-timing the shots on the tripod, and just imagine how the photos would have been without the human elements in them. This minimalistic approach is one of my favorites in landscape photography composition.

#10. Point of View: Change Your Point of View (POV) to Create Interesting Frames

Lastly, we should always focus on changing the way we look at the world through our lenses. Maybe, a frame would have been better if the camera was a bit up in the air or lower at ground level. Changing the point of view increases the chances of creating unknown and uncommon frames which will obviously drag the attention of the viewers much more.

In this last example from Maidan, Kolkata, I had put my camera down on the ground and shot the white Kans Grass in the fall season here; It creates an absolutely different viewpoint right?

Conclusion

So that was it for this blog where I have discussed my top 10 tips for composing great landscape photos anytime, anywhere. I hope you like the blog and will implement at least one of them in your upcoming photo trips.


About the author: Subham Shome is a landscape and travel photographer based in Agarpara Kolkata, West Bengal, India. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. You can find more of Shome’s work on his website, Facebook, and Instagram. This article was also published here.

10 Tips To Leverage Neon Lights for Stellar Portraiture

Neon signs give off a unique light that can make for some stunningly colorful, glowing photographs. But the same properties that make them look magical to the human eye can also make them difficult to photograph.

In the video above, I show you how to utilize neon lights to create unique portraits that transport your subject to another world. I’ve included some behind-the-scenes footage from a few of my actual neon portrait shoots, and I have some of the final images posted below as well as my top ten tips for getting the best out of neon light portraiture.

1. Use Complementary Colors

Neon lights come in a variety of colors. I’ve found that using complementary colors is a great way to introduce color contrast in your photographs. Blue & Orange, Purple & Yellow, Red & Green — all opposites on the color wheel that tend to create the best contrasting hues.

As a quick side note, actual Neon gas creates a reddish-orange glow. Various gasses such as Helium, Argon and Xenon, are used to create other “neon” sign colors like Orange, Purple, and Blue. To avoid any needless confusion in this article, we’ll still refer to all multi-colored gas lights as “neons.”

2. Don’t Use Yellow Neon Lights

As a personal rule, I avoid yellow neon signs. Using any single-colored sign (just like a single gelled light source) will appear as if your white balance is incorrect in your photos. Yellow, even when combined with a complementary color, can be tricky to white balance and I’ve never been a fan of the result. I encourage you to go experiment for yourself though, and you’ll quickly find your favorite (or least favorite) hues to work with.

3. Expose for Your Subject, Not the Lights

Your subject should undeniably be the most important part of your photograph, whether that’s a mountain, dog, coffee cup, or in the case of a portrait, your person. Unfortunately, there are some photographers out there who give the advice that you need to be underexposing your portraits by what I consider to be a ridiculous four to five stops in order to preserve your highlights (Highlights that they will end up clipping in post-processing later anyways).

When you are photographing in a studio, do you meter for your subject’s face or for the bulb of your strobe? The answer seems fairly obvious to me.

While I’m not opposed to underexposing by maybe one-stop, don’t take this to the extreme. This will save you from grainy images and therefore the need to use excessive noise reduction later on.

4. Don’t Clip Your Highlights, Add Light

“Hey TJ,” you say. “This tip goes against what you just said in tip number three, right?” Well no, not necessarily. More than anything, pay attention to your histogram during your shoot.

If there is such a difference between your light source and your subject, this could be a great opportunity to add additional light to your scene. That can be as simple as a reflector to fill in shadows or even a small strobe or speedlight.

5. Make Sure That Eyes Are in Focus

When the eyes are in focus, your portrait is in focus. Conversely, when your subject’s eyes are out of focus, the whole image is out of focus. We all know the saying, “the eyes are the windows to the soul,” and that’s especially true for portraits.

Take the time to ensure your subject’s eyes are tack sharp before snapping that shot. Nothing is worse than getting home and realizing all of the photos are focused on the tip of the nose or the ears.

6. Don’t Kill Your Highlights in Post

This tip is all about post-processing. I see a ton of new photographers jump into their post-processing software of choice, and their first step is to drag the highlight slider to -100.

The reason this is so detrimental to neon photography is that the data containing your that lovely neon glow sits squarely in your highlights. You’ll see that by playing with your highlight slider that you are adjusting how much glow your sign is giving off. Why shoot beautifully glowing neon signs just to kill any life it gives in post?

7. Bring the Light and Your Subject Together

The closer you can get your subject to the light source, and the more they interact with it, the better your portrait will be. It’s a general rule in photography that the closer your light is to the subject, the softer the light will be. As you can see from the example in the video above, the more your subject “interacts” with the light and poses with the light in mind, the more colors wash over your subject in unique ways.

8. Manage Your Shutter Speed

Similar to other light bulbs, neon signs flicker; usually at a high enough frequency that it’s a continuous stream of light to the human eye… but not to your camera! Try photographing a neon sign at a shutter speed of 1/500th, and you’ll see your camera produces some ugly flicker which is usually represented by big dark bands across your photos.

I try to keep my shutter at 1/125th or lower. This may vary slightly depending on the sign’s refresh rate, but it’s a good place to start. You may need to utilize a tripod, monopod, or sturdy wall to help stabilize your camera if you don’t have a steady hand.

9. Don’t Over Edit

Don’t kill your photos in post, but by no means am I saying don’t tone your portraits. I see this trend among many photographers: Highlights -100, Shadows +100, Clarity +100, then cover up all the noise you just created with Luminance Noise Reduction +100.

All RAW photos inherently need some toning but take care not to process the life right out of an already beautiful neon portrait. Take a step back, come back later with fresh eyes and ask, “did I make this image look better or worse?”

10. Use Fast Primes

We all love our fast prime lenses! Shooting at wider aperture values like f/1.4, f/1.8 or f/2, will allow the most light through your lens and therefore to your sensor (or film). Remember, the more light you’re getting through your lens, the lower your ISO will need to be, which means less-noisy photos!

Shallow depth of field also creates a soft, dreamy look that’s great for emphasizing the glow of neon lights. I find that my personal “sweet spot” is around f/2 to f/2.8. Sure, my lens may not be at its sharpest, but with proper focus (Tip #5) and a steady hand, it will be as sharp as we need. As long as the eyes are in focus, the rest of the background can blur out into nice bokeh to complement the neon.

Bonus Neon Portrait Tip!

I call my Nikon 35mm, 50mm, and 85mm prime lenses my “portrait lens trifecta.” If I’m going on a portrait shoot, these are the minimum lenses that I will have in my bag.

As we discussed in the previous tip, fast primes lenses are great for allowing the most light into your camera. I typically use the 35mm for shooting head-to-toe full body shots. For waist-up portraits, I’ll throw on the 50mm, which will give me a bit shallower depth of field and some great bokeh. I use the big gun (85mm f/1.4) for tight head and shoulders shots and in instances where I want to blur everything behind my subject into oblivion.


About the Author: JT Armstrong is an award-winning military photographer and is currently the video director for the U.S. Space Force. He runs the Youtube channel RunNGun Photo that focuses on sharing photography tips, tricks, and hacks. This article was also published here.

How to Photograph Couples: A Detailed Tutorial

I am a professional wedding, portrait, and fashion photographer, and have almost three decades of experience photographing couples. I created this video to provide lighting, posing and location tips and tricks in a few different scenarios to give photographers some inspiration on how to photograph couples.

Photographing couples comes with a host of challenges to navigate, including different body types, shapes, personalities, and confidence levels. My purpose is to simplify this intimidating process to be able to bring out the best in any couple, anywhere.

Identifying the best light, finessing poses, and bringing out the best in a couple will enable individuals to take their photography to the next level. A mistake commonly made by photographers is to simply choose a location based on what appears to be the best or most scenic. However, for those first starting out, I recommend selecting a backdrop where the lighting is predictable.

Upon mastering that, it is then a good time to venture out and explore more challenging locations. Understanding concepts like how to photograph in sunlight or backlight and how to shoot with a reflector will enable beginners to confidently photograph in any location by using whatever lighting situation are you faced with.

After looking for good light, then finding a location in that light, the next step is to photograph your subjects. When approaching any couple, I tend to think of their bodies almost like two pieces of a puzzle fitting together and I like to use the way they typically interact as a great starting point for the session.

One trick to help with posing inspiration is to liken the couple to your own relationship and draw in from interactions with your own partner. To capture a couple’s natural, organic expressions, it’s important to find the right balance of giving your subjects room to breathe, while also having fun and engaging with them. All in all, when approaching couple photography, repetition, experience, and practice will be your best teacher.


About the author: Widely regarded as one of the top five wedding photographers in the world, Jerry Ghionis’ theatrical and iconic images have redefined modern wedding photography. In 2013, he was named as a United States Nikon Ambassador. And he was the first Australian named in the first-ever list of Top Ten Wedding Photographers in the World by American Photo magazine. Jerry was also named as the Australian Wedding Photographer of the Year by the AIPP. Jerry is also proud to have won the WPPI (Wedding & Portrait Photographers International) Wedding Album of the Year for a record eight times among his long list of accolades and WPPI included Jerry in their Top Five Wedding Photographers in the World. In 2011, Jerry was also named by PDN magazine as one of the top photography workshop instructors in the world. To learn more from Jerry, visit his website here.

How to create fake window light for still life and food photography

Studio lighting gives you almost endless possibilities. You can even recreate natural, window light with a pretty simple setup. Joanie Simon of The Bite Shot shares with you how to create a studio lighting setup that mimics window lighting, and it’s perfect for still life and food photography. For this lighting setup, you’ll need the […]

The post How to create fake window light for still life and food photography appeared first on DIY Photography.

Photography Composition Tip and Assignment: Get Closer

The goal of most photography compositions is to create an image with a clear and distinct subject that creates interest for the viewer. There are many ways to create interest in a photo, but one of my favorites, and one of the easiest to accomplish, is to get closer to the subject and fill most or all of the frame.

This is part three in a series of videos about composition tips based on assignments I use with Introduction to Photography students at Highline College near Seattle, Washington. Read parts one and two.

There are several powerful things that happen in your image when you get closer to your subject. First, when you fill the frame with the subject, there’s less room for distracting background elements. Second, when you get closer, the subject can become more abstract and an interesting collection of textures and details, rather than a specific object. Third, when you get closer to your subject, you’re increasing the relative distance to the background, which will make any background elements less in focus. Fourth, getting closer has the potential to create a sense of intimacy and connection with your subject.

A technique I’ll use often is to get closer to a detailed portion of a subject, when a photo of the whole subject would be less interesting due to elements around it. An example of this is at car shows: there are lots of amazing and interesting subjects, but there’s no way to photograph an entire car without including other cars, people, reflections, and distracting background elements.

How close is close enough?

My suggestion and preference is to get as close as physically possible and still have my lens be able to focus on the subject. How close is that? It depends; in this type of photography you’ll be dealing with the minimum focusing distance for your lens. For most camera lenses, that distance is anywhere from six inches to two feet. This means, if you are closer to your subject than the lens’s minimum focusing distance, your subject will be out of focus.

If you find you really enjoy close-up photography, you might consider a macro lens, which has the ability to focus very close and produce images at one-to-one size or more. These specialized lenses can be expensive ($400 – thousands of dollars), but there is another option! My less expensive choice is to use extension tubes, attached to the back of any of my lenses, to achieve the ability to focus more closely. Extension tubes are usually less than $100 for a set. The more tubes you add between the lens and the camera, the closer you will be able to focus. It will take some experimenting to see which lens of yours works best.

Once your subject fills the frame, and the details are magnified, everything in the frame will be magnified. This includes motion in your subject (flowers in the breeze) or motion while holding the camera. Here’s some tips to help with that:

  • For motion in the subject or from the camera – choose a shutter speed of 1/250 or faster. Use burst mode (multiple photos taken quickly with one shutter press) and take photos for a second or two. Also, turn on lens and/or camera image stabilization. Using a tripod will help even more.
  • When the shutter speed is slower (longer duration) than 1/250 second – use a tripod.
  • When the shutter speed is slower (longer duration) than 1/15 second – use a tripod and a remote shutter release (or self-timer) to avoid mitten in the camera from pressing the shutter button.
  • Depth of field (what’s in focus) will be very shallow, so suggest using an aperture of at least f/8-f/11.

Assignments like this give a framework and a general direction to your photo session. They hopefully create just enough structure in which you can feel like you have a starting point for creating photos. Think of it like being given a topic for a short story, rather than “write about whatever you want.”

Here’s the assignment:

  • Over the next week, create photos getting close to the subject and (mostly) filling the frame with your subject
  • Keep it simple and local so less excuses not to do it. I did mine mostly around my condo…
  • Figure out the minimum focusing distance for your lens(es). For zooms, check at several points in the zoom range as minimum focusing distance will likely be different at different focal lengths
  • Try to do 2-3 sessions of 15+ minutes each
  • Select and edit 5-10 favorite photos

Think of these assignments as visual exercises and ways to develop your skills. Just as an athlete trains for their sport, it will help us to exercise our eyes and minds around the process of creating photos. This means that some photo sessions will be more “productive” from a keeper photo perspective, but all of the photo sessions will have the benefit of time spent creating images and practicing this craft.


About the author: Michael Sladek teaches digital photography at Highline College near Seattle, Washington. He enjoys dad jokes, doughnuts, and helping others discover the fun of creating photos they love. Stay connected with Michael on his website, YouTube channel, and Instagram.

5 Tips to Dramatically Improve Golden Hour Landscapes

You’ve likely heard it said that golden hour is by far the best time for photographing landscapes. We have a lot of colors and dramatic light and atmosphere during that time.

Let’s start with what golden hour is. It is the period of time just after sunrise and just before sunset where the light is more colorful and saturated, and it will almost always come to any landscape photographer’s advantage. The question is, how?

Here I am sharing my five favorite tips to dramatically improve your golden hour shots! Let’s begin.

1. Look for Side-lit or Back-lit Subjects

Even when you are shooting photos in golden hour, the light needs to be dramatic on your subject. The composition will hugely vary on this basis. Look for subjects that are lit from the side or back, giving a stunning effect on the whole image.

From the above examples, in the first image from Chatakpur, the light is hitting from the side of the trees in the woods, and in the second image from my hometown, it is hitting right from behind the clouds, creating a dramatic scene. You can see how enthralling the overall image becomes when the light falls on them from the best directions possible.

2. Check for Contrast in The Frame

Make sure to have a habit to look for contrast in the frame because golden hour will be automatically providing it to you, you just need to find it. The highlights will be very bright and the shadows will be equally dark, so, by definition, you already have contrast. Utilize it in the best way possible.

In the above two images (the first one taken at Rishyap, North Bengal, and the second one taken at Simana, Nepal border), you can find contrast between foreground and background. In the first one, the man standing on the nearby cliff and the clouds provide opposition to the rays, in the second one, it is the layers of the mountains that have supported the clouds in creating the immense contrast in the frame.

3. Use Filters and get Creative

Use ND filters and create stunning long exposure and/or slow shutter images which will have an absolutely different feel in the images as a whole. This technique will obviously work with images where there is motion, so try it on your waterscapes – seas, oceans, waterfalls, and the like.

In these images, the first one is a sunrise shot at Gopalpur while the second one is a sunset shot at Kanyakumari. In both the images, you can see how the movement of the water has been caught in a very creative way, thus making them different.

4. Try Silhouettes

Since we already know golden hour provides a lot of contrast and good back-lit images, combining them will give you brilliant silhouette structures to work with. Choose the correct subject and create a silhouette out of it by putting it properly in the frame. Either put them in your foreground (what I mostly do) or in the midground, get creative with silhouettes.

In the first example from Chitre, I have put the range of pine trees on the mountain as a simple silhouette for a clean image. In the second example from Rishyap, the tree in the foreground is the silhouette and providing balance to the main subject which is the hill beside on which the sun rays are falling.

5. Work with both wide and tele lenses

Use both wide-angle and telephoto lenses to create more dramatic frames during golden hour. If you find an image where there is a lot of interesting elements in the foreground while the background creates more of a subject, use an ultra-wide or a wide-angle lens, like in the first photo from Kanyakumari. In the second photo from Rishyap, the mountain was very far away and I used my telephoto lens to take the shot.

Conclusion

Shooting at the golden hour is one of my favorite things to do in photography, if not the favorite one. I have shot a huge number of images at this time of the day. Along with blue hour, this time of the day provides stunning light conditions for every landscape photographer to use. I hope this article helps you with some basic ideas for improving your golden hour photography.


About the author: Subham Shome is a landscape and travel photographer based in Agarpara Kolkata, West Bengal, India. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. You can find more of Shome’s work on his website, Facebook, and Instagram. This article was also published here.

Here’s why you should upgrade your speedlight to a studio strobe

I’d argue that nearly all of us owned a speedlight at some point before we owned a studio strobe. When we’re looking to dip our toes into supplemental lighting, strobes seem like a big investment. It just makes sense to pick up a cheap speedlight to play with right? Like many others, I did the […]

The post Here’s why you should upgrade your speedlight to a studio strobe appeared first on DIY Photography.

How to Work with Unsigned Models as a Photographer

Not every photographer needs to hire agency models for their projects, and, fortunately, there are many freelance models to choose from, however, finding and hiring can be a daunting process for some.

Although professional agency models carry the reputation of the agency they represent when they are on the job, which, generally, is expressed as high-level professionalism, ability to interpret the assignment, and punctuality, there is also another world that photographers, especially beginners or those who need models for smaller projects, can explore, and that is the freelance model market.

When photographers start out and want to explore the portrait and boudoir genre, it can be tempting to ask their friends or family members to join in and model, but that can create some uncomfortable moments for everyone involved. If friends or family members are eager to offer support it doesn’t mean that it’s always the best option, especially if as a photographer you want to push your boundaries by experimenting with different styles, which requires someone in front of the camera who can adapt and interpret your vision.

There are occasions when family members are a great fit for certain shots but if you want to progress your creativity, enhance your portfolio or particular aspects of it, or you are working on a smaller budget shoot, that doesn’t have a lot allocated to hiring an agency signed model, you may want to consider working with a freelance model, instead.

The Differences: Agency vs Freelance

When an agency signs a model, they are confident that the model fits what the agency as a brand stands for in the industry. Traditionally, agencies used to be orientated towards fashion, commercial, or both, however, nowadays there are many agencies that have a diverse roster of professionals, which makes it easier to find a suitable model for any type of project.

These models are hired through the agency, which means the fee of hiring a professional will generally be higher because agency fees must be accounted for, compared to freelance models who are their own agents, essentially. Most agencies also have a publicly available catalog of their models on their website, often categorized by age or other characteristics, such as acting or other special skills, which makes it easy to browse through their talents to find exactly what you need.

Undoubtedly, agencies make it convenient to find talent but it comes at a higher cost which can be a dealbreaker for many who don’t have the budget for it. By comparison, working with a freelance model, the photographer is likely to find and hire someone local to their area and often at short notice, and also forego any additional agency costs they would have to pay otherwise.

Freelance models still carry a high level of professionalism and many have years of experience in the industry, they are often happy to travel to locations, and also have a portfolio of previous work to show to photographers looking to hire. The risk, however, is that there is an absence of accountability through the removal of an agent in the middle of the process. This means that if your model has a last-minute change of plans or if a bigger job comes along, they may cancel on you but this risk is reflected in a lower model fee compared to agency talents.

Finding a Freelance Model

Portfolio Websites

You may struggle to find a freelance model by simply searching online as you would for an agency but there are a few ways to find talents in your area. Several portfolio-based websites, such as Model Mayhem, or Madcow Models, and Purpleport in the United Kingdom, allow photographers, models, and other creatives, like makeup artists, to connect. These types of websites are only regulated to a certain extent by their own moderators, which means that although certain things are not permitted, there is no underlying standard to hold anyone to.

Talents will join and most will be accepted, which can make it difficult to filter through to find the type or standard of the model you want to hire for your project. Any and all action taken, such as communication or the conduct during the shoot, is down to each individual because these websites don’t act as a guarantor in any shape or form and tend to police serious breaches of code of conduct only on the website itself, for example, if someone is abusive.

The risk aside, these websites can be an easy way to quickly find someone in a particular area and you can also set up a casting call, which allows models to get in touch with you if they are available for your specific shoot. If it’s a paid shoot, it’s understandable that you will receive a higher volume of responses because most models on these portfolio websites tend to do it as a part-time or full-time job.

Before you search for a model, you’ll need to create a profile first. You will be expected to show at least a few example images and set up your profile information so any prospective models can read through and consider if they want to work with you. You don’t need a professional portfolio but if you don’t upload any of your work, you’re unlikely to receive any responses to your casting calls.

Social Media

Many freelance models tend to have a separate social media profile for their modeling, with Instagram being my favorite app of choice. For example, on Facebook, unless you know their name, you will struggle to find them in the search bar, whereas on Instagram, you can make the most of hashtags. For example, a hashtag that is a combination of your location and the word “model” will show you both the top posts as well as the most recent ones under that hashtag.

Similarly, if you search for local photographers or makeup artists, in the same manner, you can easily see on their feed which models they work with on their projects. This is a great way to find creatives in your local community and you can start with just a couple of people who have tagged others they have worked with and slowly expand your network.

Facebook Groups

Community groups on Facebook will give you a pool of creatives who may respond to your casting call. Generally, you will find groups that are specifically just for photographers, to share and discuss work with, as well as sell equipment, but there are wider groups that include models, makeup artists, stylists, and more. Similar to Instagram, simply search for “photography group” and add your location or the wider area name in the search, too. Even if you join a photographers-only group, you can ask for any recommendations for any local models that others have worked with.

Group Events

Non-profit photography groups, as well as local members-0nly photography groups or communities, often organize events where photographers can participate to photograph several models. As these are group events, don’t expect a great deal of one-to-one with a model but it can be a good opportunity to meet a handful of models that you can hire afterward for your own projects. Before you participate, take a look at the models who will be hired for the event because it won’t be only local ones but also those who do tours across the country, which may not fit what you need.

Hiring a Freelance Model

When it comes to hiring freelance models, there is no one-size-fits-all. Because agency between the model and photographer is removed, models set their own fees and payment methods. Some models will require a booking fee to secure the shoot, with the remaining balance paid in cash or via bank transfer or online app, while others may request the whole fee upfront or at any point during the shoot, like at the start or at the end, especially if the shoot runs over the agreed time.

As with clients, it’s advisable to draw up an agreement so both parties feel comfortable knowing what is expected, especially in regards to the payment and cancellations. Also, if you both agree on the model getting paid with a partial payment and edited images or just images, it’s important to set the expectations in writing so they are aware of what they will receive and when, including a signed model release. It is a business transaction with a professional and should be treated as such.

You should also be aware that every model will have different working guidelines, like the levels of modeling they are comfortable with, from clothed to nude, as well as any security precautions they may take when working with new clients. It could be them simply checking it with their partner or a trusted person before and after the shoot, sending them the address of your shoot location, bringing a chaperone, and more. If you are unsure, communicate this with your model prior to the shoot so you are aware, especially if they intend to bring a chaperone. They don’t need to be present during the shoot if you prefer not to, but it’s likely that they will be waiting in the area, while they may go to a coffee shop or elsewhere, or in a room next door if you are working in a studio and space permits it.

The most important thing to keep in mind is those freelance models, just like any other professionals, such as dancers, actors, or stylists, do this as a job and must be respected, especially as the power relationship between the photographer and the model is not always balanced. Safety and professional courtesy should be clearly present in each and every shoot that photographers do, although personalities may clash at times which is just a part of being human and navigating communication.

There are many experienced freelance models who can help enhance photographers’ work and creative vision using their posing and acting skills, while others are also photographers and can help with technical questions, too. Sometimes it might take a while to find that right model to come along, but when you do, it opens up many opportunities that can only be achieved with someone who is natural and expressive in front of the camera.


Image credits: All images by Anete Lusina.

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