For up-and-coming photographers, building an industry-standard portfolio can sometimes seem like a challenge. That's why opportunities like model testing are so important to build your portfolio, and build your relationships within the industry. Model testing can involve as few people as a photographer and model, or include a small styling team. Pushing yourself to organize tests can also be a good step into production experience. I've outlined the basics of model testing for new and up-and-coming photographers who are ready to take a dip into the fashion industry.
What is a Test?
A model test is (typically) a free exchange of work that is beneficial to all parties involved. Whether the shoot involves just a photographer and model, or a small styling team, all parties are in it to expand their portfolios. These are typically with new faces, or models who need to refresh their books due to a change in appearance. Many agencies are happy to work with up-and-coming photographers who they see promise in to develop their model books. Having their models seen in a different eye is beneficial, as one of the most important aspects of modeling is range.
Requesting to test with models can require a bit of research on your end. You need to find contact information for the agency's New Faces booker. Some good questions to ask yourself while you are researching agencies:
– Can I add something new to these books?
– Would my style fit well with what is already there?
– Do these portfolios look like they are working with up-and-comers?
Reaching out to modeling agencies to book tests is half the battle. When you are first starting to test, this can be an intimidating process. When you are just starting out, it's fair to assume that you likely won't get a reply from the agencies that represent Victoria's Secret models or the Kendall Jenners of the world. These agencies That being said, once it's done, it's done. The worst case scenario is no reply–– there's really no harm in trying to put yourself out there.
The Initial Email
You've done your research, you're confident, you're ready to book. Send a concise email to the booker introducing yourself and linking to your online portfolio and Instagram accounts (because yes, Instagram is important). Let them know you'd like to collaborate and request a package of models to view, or ask if they need anyone tested specifically. Most importantly: be yourself.
My name is Megan Breukelman and I am a Brooklyn based photographer. I've just taken a peek at your books and I would love the opportunity to test with (agency)'s new faces! You can view my portfolio here and check out my Instagram.
If you are interested, I'd love to see a package or know if there are any faces in particular whose books you'd like to build. Looking forward to working together.
Organizing a Test
You've reached out, the agency has responded well –– what's next? It's time to organize your test. Some things to consider:
– Are you shooting in a studio space or on location?
– Do you need a hair & makeup artist? Wardrobe?
– What is your vision? Do you need a mood board?
– What is missing in the model's portfolio that you would like to add?
The Test Itself
For the test day, ensure you have the contact information of the booker and any other contacts you may need that day. Send out a brief email outlining details of the day (start time, location, any wardrobe needs from the model, your contact information) to the booker the day before. If you want to be especially thoughtful, pick up a few water bottles and light snacks so everyone is comfortable and energized. Bring along a speaker to play some music and, of course, be respectful of everyone's time. Sometimes models are booked for castings or fittings on the same day they are testing, so ensure everyone is on the same page in regards to timing.