How To Approach “Models” In the Real World

December 7, 2009

in Featured, Instruction

Recruiting Real Women as models

Recruiting Real Women as models

Finding models offline can be a challenge. It isn’t hard to find pretty girls that you know you’d love to shoot, but getting them to shoot with you can be difficult and scary.

To me there are two main ways to go about approaching a stranger to model for you. Direct and indirect.

“Model”

Before I tell you what these mean, let’s discuss why I put Model in quotes in the title. There is a lot more to being a model than being pretty. And if you just recruit a pretty girl you are going to be taking on a big burden to get good images. You are going to have to teach her how to pose, how lighting works with her body, how to take direction, and all the other things a model would know. Just keep that in mind.

Now to the two methods of recruiting models in person.

So you are at your local grocery store, or Hooters, or where ever and you a see super hot babe and you want to shoot her. How do you do it?

Chris Rock has a routine and he says when you walk up to a girl and start talking to her all she hears is, “Want some dick?” That’s crude, but pretty girls get hit on all the time and they get kind of calloused to it. While they don’t want to be rude right off, they are generally looking to get rid of you as soon as they can.

The Direct Approach To Recruiting

One method is to get in and out quick so she knows you aren’t really hitting on her. Walk up to her, hand her your business card, tell her briefly and directly you want her to model for you, pause for a moment to see if there are any questions and then leave.

The theory is she won’t think you are hitting on her if you don’t stick around.

I’ve done this a couple of times and never got a response. There is just too little time for her to get a bead on you and build some trust. But it has worked for other photographers I’ve talked to.

I also think it works better if during the pause she actually responds and asks a question. Then you can have a trust building conversation.

Which leads to…

The Indirect Approach To Recruiting Models

This method is a little harder because you actually have to interact more and build some trust. In this method you approach the girl and start a conversation with her. Eventually bring up you are a photographer and think she’d make a good model.

The biggest problem here is most guys don’t know how to start a conversation with a pretty woman without sounding like they are hitting on her.

Teaching that is really beyond the scope of this article but here’s a quick tip.

Ellen thought she was ugly as a girl.

Ellen thought she was ugly as a girl.


Ask her, and the whole group she is with, her opinion on something. It would be nice if that something might be photography related. Maybe something like “Do you think most models thought they were pretty in middle school?”

I just made that up, but it is a good opener because it is about modeling, its about being pretty and it will let you sound like an expert when the discussion comes back to you. You can lead from your answer (which IMHO is “No they didn’t”) to talking about if she felt she was pretty when she was that young.

If you try that out, leave a comment and let me know how it works.

What Next

I teach that when approaching models any where – online or off – you need to know what the next thing you want them to do. Don’t try and book a shoot right then unless you are really in good with her. Instead get a means of contacting her and ask her to look at some of your work online.

Have any of you approached models in the real world? How did you do it successfully? Or post a great failure story we can learn from.

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1 Bruce Albert April 5, 2010 at 12:17 pm

It’s not often that I see a walking TFP commitment, but as a seducer here goes.
1. Target assessment accurately determines she has authentic two-dimensional aesthetics.

2. Approach with acknowledging smile, nod or audible “high”, subconsciously she wants
to know “how she knows you?” and responds either coldly (she has so many bad stands
or “lost weekends” she’s afraid of the answer and frankly the attitude will show in the image)
or warmly, inviting you to make a bumble, (don’t tell her you might have mistaken her
for Heidi Klum). Rather “weren’t you assisting on this shoot?” In that wedding party? Mr
G’s assistant on the __job?

3. You have just established yourself as a photographer,(not a hitter) and that she or her “body double” had made an impression on you validating your approach.

4. By now you have the floor, and you haven’t posed a controversy to the relationships in her
life. Don’t blow it!

PS.(personal experience)She may also respond that she gets your “approach” often because
she is ___ an actress, just not made-up for filming right now. TFP is onething SAG Scale is another.

2 Chris Adval March 28, 2011 at 1:25 am

I learned the hard way; I wish I would have read this article way before doing my experimentation on how to recruit attractive female models locally, which took about 6-8 months. I first took some advice from just friends to just the direct approach as you’ve mentioned and did that for about 15 girls, no response. Then I started the indirect approach which was attempting to make attractive female friends and then ask her to help me build my portfolio, which worked on 2 girls out of maybe 10, but better than zero. I also got another model from one of my friends that modeled for me, we were wardrobe shopping and she mentioned to the cashier that looked attractive and then I gave her my card and it worked out okay afterwards.

In my current situation -sadly- the offline approach is too time consuming and I live in a rural area where most girls are conservative and population is much smaller so likelihood of getting models is much less than a urban area. The other approach for me is online like model mayhem, but the girls on there only work with experienced photographers, and I have very little experience, nor can afford to pay models other than in TFCD shoots.

3 Ron Davis March 28, 2011 at 8:43 am

Chris, you are working through every post aren’t you. 🙂 Way to be dedicated.

Networking with one model to another is a great thing to do. Also having a girl talk to another girl and give you a reference makes a big difference. Matter of fact if you look at my MM profile you will see I list some references so models will feel good about me.

Watch for new models. They are in the same boat you are. And don’t be picky there. Even if their ports suck, you can get practice.

4 Chris Adval April 11, 2011 at 2:28 am

yes I’ve tried messaging many [most active] new local models and they’re picky and seem to be only interested in the more experienced photographers.

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