On Hiring a Model (or how I vaulted out of my comfort zone)

I’ve written in this blog before about the challenge of finding people to photograph. I was on Instagram last autumn and for once the hashtag #gloucestershiremodels (or it might have been #cotswoldmodels, I forget which) produced somebody who actually was a photographic model, as opposed to somebody deeply involved with miniature railway layouts. She clearly not only was fine being photograhed and was really good at modelling but actually lived locally. An exchange of messages established that we’d like to work together but for this was a business and so it was going to cost me; well I thought, I’ll get some time in photographing somebody but I’ll also learn a lot. So went for it. A few messages later we agreed that as I really wanted to shoot outdoors on location it was going to be worth wating till the spring for a reasonable change of nice weather so we booked it for June.

Fortunately we booked it, though we couldn’t have known it at the time, for a date two weeks after they raised the lockdown restrictions!

I’m going to admit that, as the date came closer I got more an more nervous. This is somebody who shoots with people who have loads of portrait and model experience. This is somebody good enough to ask money. What if I appear a complete doofus? I did the best I could to avoid this, I watched a really good course on LinkedIn Learning on Natural Light Portrait Photography, made sure my batteries were charged, cleaned my lenses and breathed deeply.

The range of locations was, of course, drastically reduced by the lockdown. She normally models a lot in the oh-so-scenic town of Bourton-on-the-Water, but Bourton was dealing with the lockdown by closing off all the public areas and the car parks so the tourists would stay away. But the week before me she’d shot in the neighbouring village of Lower Slaughter and it looked amazing; so we decided to go there if she thought we could get two hours out of it as I’d never been there. Got there early to both find a parking space and have a quick scout around and the place is just so lovely. I personally think it’s nicer than Bourton (prob due to the lack of a tourist infrastructure or any tourists, it doesn’t even have a car park or public loo).

Well, needless to say it all went fine; Mel is both a total professional and great company. I fronted it out right at the begining that she’d done this far more than me so I was happy to hear any suggestions she might have for photos, and also anything where she could clearly see I wasn’t doing things in the best way possible. We spent the full two hours wandering around the village: ‘how about in front of that plant?’ ‘what about on that bridge?’ ‘how about if I sat by that tree?”. The time just flew past and at the end of it I had photos I liked and which I hope Mel likes too.

So what’s my take home message about hiring a genuine model? Essentially it’s worth doing it (at least once). For your money you get somebody who, unlike probably your friends and relatives, is used to being in front of the camera. I think it was Bailey who said that models understand what they’re doing there and know that it’s something beyond just ‘being’; ordinary people don’t really get that. Mel made sure that while I did my bit through the viewfinder she set herself up in ways which she knows are going to work, she gets where to look, and how to arrange her arms and legs. In addition you’re not imposing on their time, ask a friend and you know they’re putting themselves out for you, with a model this is their job, and you hired them to do it. They’re going to expect to spend however long it is being photographed and aren’t going to get annoyed at you for taking up time they could spend doing something else.

In as much as one time qualifies me to make suggestions then I’d say the big one is to remember they’re a professional and to treat them like one: that means be polite, reasonable and pay them what you agree, when you agree to do it.

So, here are some photos (which is what you’re really interested in…). The model is Mel Bond and you can find her on Instagram as Melanie.Butler353 (all images subject to copyright)

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