Models: How to book that elusive test shoot

“Dear Sir, my name is XXXXXX. I am an aspiring model. I would like to work with you. I would be very glad if you gave me the chance to work with you. You will not be disappointed”.  This is a sample of one of the numerous mails I have gotten from “aspiring models” wishing to test shoot with me. In case you didn't know, test shoots or testing has become a generic term for photographic shoots where a model acquires photographs to use for the model's promotional materials.. A mail like this usually incites either of two responses; one, I simply forward my pricing list to the model which usually results in never hearing from them or two; I respond with an out of office mail template and forget about it.

After reviewing most of these mails, it occurs to me that most models from this part of the world do not know how to approach photographers for test shoots. I recently attended a Model Workshop which was a first in the country; a forum dedicated to empowering the next generation of models and improving the state of the modelling industry. The workshop however did not address this crucial topic as most models starting out usually rely on these test shoots to start/build up their portfolio. So here are my 4 tips on approaching photographers and booking that elusive test shoot.

Model Test shoot Lagos Nigeria Models Waiting

1. Approach it like a job interview.

Most models feel that simply attaching their picture to a mail is enough to get that test shoot. Wrong. Most photographers have worked with numerous models and have their favourites with whom they have built relationships with and whom they would rather call. In order to get these photographers to give you a chance you’re going to need to sell yourself. A half assed cover letter and a few images attached is not going to incite a response from a working professional photographer (in most cases). When seeking a job you usually do your research on the company, their history, the kind of work they do, their products etc. You take time to write your cover letter and you prep your resume with military precision. The approach to the test shoot has to be taken the same way

Model Test shoot Lagos Nigeria Male Model 1

2. Approach with a great idea.

“I would like you to consider me if you’re doing any shoots”. Really? Like I stated above, most photographers have their list of preferred models that they like to work with and would rather call should they be hit with sudden inspiration. Even when they are booked by people, companies and agencies, these guys usually come along with their own models. Approaching a photographer with a great idea for a shoot, having done most of the legwork of assigning a team (of makeup artists and stylists) is more likely to get a response from the photographer

Model Test shoot Lagos Nigeria Male Model 2

3. Attach your best images.

Most models attach just any picture when sending mails to photographer. In my opinion less is always more.Attaching your best and most flattering pictures is always best. Try not to send overly dramatic pictures to photographers unless the style used in the picture is in line with the photographers style. Sending a portrait photographer who specialises in simple clean black and whites a HDR portrait of yourself is an epic fail in my opinion. In most cases you can never go wrong with a simple head and profile shot

Model Test shoot Lagos Nigeria Male Model 3

4. Have your agency make the approach.

If you belong to an agency, having your agency make the approach is more likely to get a better response than making the approach yourself. In most cases, the agency might already have a relationship with the photographer.


So there are my 4 tips on how to go about getting that elusive test shoot. What do you think? Agree, disagree? Or have any other tips to share? Let me know by leaving a comment below.

UPDATED September 1st 2014

Tip number 5.  Pay.

If you really want that session with that photographer, be willing to pay for it. If you feel that the images said photographer would create for you are so valueable, then why not be willing to pay for them


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