Establishing contact is usually the first step in recruiting a model. Contact can be established in a variety of ways. For example:
- Cold approach (walking up to someone and introducing yourself)
- A response to a casting call
- A referral (someone you know, such as another model or photographer, suggests a new model)
The Cold Approach
The cold approach is often a very effective method (when done correctly, as many as half can result in a photo shoot). When making a cold approach make sure you select the location, a suitable candidate, and pick the right time. More of the selection process later, that is a different topic.
Establishing contact means meeting the prospective model and exchanging contact information. Just handing out a business card is not establishing contact. In fact, I would not give any prospective model a business card until she has volunteered her information. If she is not comfortable giving out her contact info, she’s not going to follow up on your business card either. The only purpose I have for a business card is to provide a web address so the model can view my images later. I cannot recall a time when a model took the initiative to call me back based on handing her a business card. (Some models will seek you out, but not the ones you approach cold in public.)
Don’t get distracted when establishing contact. Don’t waste your time or the model’s by trying to describe your work or discretely show her photos in public. Don’t try to book a shoot on the spot. Give her enough information to determine a basic interest, something like, “Hi, my name is A. K. Nicholas. I’m a photographer who sometimes hires models. Is that something you’d be interested in hearing more about?” It’s a simple question that usually gets a “yes”. Next, ask for the contact info with something like, “If I have a project to tell you about, how could I get in touch with you?”
I usually get both an email and a phone number. I know a lot of young people don’t use personal email, so you should probably ask “do you use email?” rather than just asking for the address. No sense sending her an email if she’s not going to check it until college starts again in the fall.
Once you have the contact information, let her know it may be a while before you get in touch. Then say goodbye. This is where a lot of photographers make huge mistakes. They try to bond with the model or book a shoot. They are perceived as rushing the model, being pushy, and wasting time. I don’t always cut off a naturally evolving conversation, but there is nothing wrong with being the one who leaves her wanting more. She can always go to your web site (you did give her the URL, right?) and you want her to be eager for more information, not already saturated from you talking her ear off.
If you make contact online, the exchange of a return email address is usually automatic. You should also attempt to set up a brief phone interview. This will help sort out the non-serious applicants.
When you receive a referral, you should get the contact information from the person that you know. Next, you should ask them to make the introduction in person, if possible. The next best thing is to have them call or email the model to tell them that you will be in touch.