6 Questions to Ask When You’re Casting Models

The right model helps a photographer produce awesome photos. How many times have you photographed someone and come away with technically superb photos that just didn’t have that extra something? That elusive awesomeness in your portraits is inspiration, and inspiration can begin with casting the right model for your shoot.

Here are six questions you can ask when you’re casting models for your photoshoots. This is by no means an exhaustive list, so if you have tips to add, please don’t hesitate to add them in a comment!

1. Does the model fit your concept?

Unless you’re just starting out in portrait photography and just want to practice using the camera, you will want to have a solid concept before you shoot. There’s nothing like a strong concept to enhance your technical skills and help you produce compelling images. Making sure your model ‘fits’ your concept is a choice you can have. Because you’re not Tyra Banks trying to mold a modeland train her to be able to interpret concepts, you want someone who already gives you a head start toward awesome photos. Talking to your model beforehand, looking at their portfolio, and seeing if your vision and their look and personality match is a place you can begin when casting for a photoshoot.

Vachini Krairaksh as Gaga Copyright Aloha Lavina.

Copyright Aloha Lavina.

2. Does the model match the clothing you will be using during the shoot?

Models come in unique dimensions. Someone could have a perfect face for beauty shots because any close-up of their face from any angle stuns your lens. But you’re not always shooting close-up photos. You’ll sometimes want to show off the clothing—a short skirt, for instance, requires nice legs, and an evening gown might demand that someone has miles of legs. Matching your model to the clothing you want to photograph is a way to ensure that you will get the shots you need.

3. What’s the budget?

Unless you have oodles of disposable income and can pay someone from Elite for a fun photoshoot, you have to think about the budget for your photoshoot. As a general rule, models with experience modeling for fees will charge money, and they can be pretty expensive, too.

Models who are just starting out might agree to do what is called a TFCD or “time for a CD” of photos. This means you exchange benefits—you get a model for a photoshoot, and the other person gets a CD of their photos. This is not a bad way to begin, but you also have to think of the modeling skill of the person whom you have an agreement. Do you have time to train them? What are you using the photos for? If it’s for practice and portfolio building, TFCD works for you.

4. How much experience does the model have?

Since experienced models have higher fees, you might consider casting family and friends to model for you. But having your beautiful family and friends model for you is sometimes not the right choice, especially if you are casting for a paid photoshoot. If the client casts their family and friends for the photoshoot, that’s out of your hands. But if you are the one casting for the shoot, it is better to cast experienced models. Why? Well, people you know might be beautiful and all, but will they know how to pose, how to use their face, which angles are flattering, how armpits are not good in a pose, etc.

Irina Lysiuk for Khoon Esmode copyright Aloha Lavina

Copyright Aloha Lavina.

5. How much post-processing do you have to do after the shoot?

Time is money, we know. A good photog also knows that every hour spent zapping skin blemishes is an hour docked against the fee. Perhaps seeming cruel, but honestly, a model with a lot of spots and hasn’t shaved means you spend hours in front of the computer, and if this is a real job, you’d be getting less than minimum wage unless you charge for the time in advance. Knowing your model’s features before you cast them is essential if you are not planning to spend hours on each image meticulously retouching.

6. What experience does the model have?

It seems strange to be asking this question because why would a model’s motivation affect your photoshoot? In my experience though, it does, so you can take this with a grain of turmeric if you wish. Here is why.

Some actors feel like they can model. If your shoot has a kind of storyline and that is the creative thrust of the whole production, an actor could be the right choice. But at times, what you need is someone who can use their body and face to sell a concept or clothing, not to emote in front of the camera. Acting is a mostly a large muscle, large movement activity, whereas a good model will give you small movements, small changes that change the way the overall photo looks. You can argue that a good actor has subtlety in their facial movements—doesn’t that help them model? Yes, it does help them in a motion picture or on stage, not a still photo. Also, sometimes actors turn a photo into a snapshot by doing their ‘signature smile,’ and that’s just another shot you can’t use.

Chloe Lane copyright Aloha Lavina

Copyright Aloha Lavina.

Dancers are also sometimes cast as models. Dancers have great physiques, so if you are photographing an art nude shoot or something where you are sculpting with light, dancers would be great to cast. But if you are doing clothing once again, dancing is a large muscle activity, and you really might not want a dance move with arms in positions that might take attention away from the clothing.

Casting the right model for your photoshoot can give you that added inspiration to create magical images. By paying attention to your criteria when you’re casting models, you can ensure that you have one more of the right ingredients to create those awesome photos.

What questions do you ask when you’re casting models?

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You might also like:
10 Things Tyra Banks can Teach You About Portrait Photography
10 Cliches a Photographer Can Believe
Making Expressive Portraits
Concept is Everything

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About Aloha

I am a photographer and writer currently based in Bangkok, Thailand. My work has appeared in CNNGo, Canon's PhotoYou magazine, Seventeen magazine, The Korea Times, Thailand Tatler, and a few photography books including recently Blogging for Creatives, a book published in the UK. I believe there is nothing you cannot imagine that you cannot do.

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