By adding the word model to the title, I knew that would get your attention. I really meant to say, how to find someone willing to allow me to photograph them so I can work on a new style or learn about lighting. But that title was way too long and really, most photographers like the term model. It conjures up images of drop dead, beautiful runway women. So, how do we find subjects to work with?


Depending on what you are trying to accomplish, you can use family, friends, co-workers or people you meet everyday. Approach them and be up front. Tell them you are working on a new style and you are experimenting. They can keep the best images when you are done. This style of shoot is just for practice. You may or may not get great images. Try to take a few safe shots. Safe shots are traditional head and shoulder images that, when all else fails, you have at least a few good photos to give them. Depending on how much experimenting you are working on, a family member may not be your best choice. You as the photographer must have patience and sometimes working with a family member you lose it. Always have fun with who you shoot, otherwise it will show in the final image.

Building a portfolio with TF

Starting out is hard for both the photographer and model. A photographer wants to show their talent, but they need subjects to photograph. A model, wants to show photographers how versatile they can be. The problem, no images to show. You could always paid a professional but that could mean big bucks. Another option is Time for or better known as TF. Both the model and photographer are willing to trade their time for the photos you create. Both parties receive the images that can be used for their portfolio or self promotion. If for any reason you are able to sell the image, pay the model a percentage. Remember, the original idea for the shoot was to create exposure for both the model and photographer.

Online Resources

Model Mayhem, One Models Place and Publicize Me are a few online resources to find models or photographers to work with. There are many pros and cons with this option. Most experience models are not willing to work with unknown photographers. Most experience photographers are not willing to shoot for free.

Since it is a free shoot, most often reliability is a problem. If you are shooting for a project and you absolutely need the model to be there, put out a casting call for paid work. Usually this works, but again its a risk. If you paid for the shoot, the images are yours to sell. Make sure a proper model release form is signed.

Join an active meetup group or a camera club

Not only will this give you the opportunity to network with other photographers, but most times the group leader will schedule events that include models. Depending on the group, the images you take can be used for your personal portfolio as long as you agree the model can use the images also.


Network with other photographers by offering to be an assistant on a shoot. With their permission, build a relationship with the model for future shoots. Offer the photographer that made the connection to join in on the next shoot.

Post to Online Galleries

Post your best images on Facebook, a custom SmugMug gallery or other online photo galleries. Share the links with the model. Both network of friends will see the images and possible work may come from it. Its best to narrow down your selection from the shoot and ask the model to pick a few of their favorites. Try to only show your best work. The difference between a good photographer and a great one; the great only show you their best images.

Most important

When looking for subjects to photograph remember your purpose. Be up front with your intentions and always act professional. Building a respectful relationship will give you a network of models to choose from.

Quick tips

  • Use family and friends for experimenting.
  • Find subjects at places you frequent and offer a TF shoot.
  • Join a meet up or a camera club that offers shoots with models.
  • Search on sites such as Model Mayhem, One Models Place and Publicize Me.
  • Pay to take classes with a professional teacher that offers models as part of the class.
  • Budget in the cost when you absolutely need a model.
  • If your TF images sell, offer to pay the model a percentage.
  • Share the best images with the model for self promotion.
  • Fill out a model release form.