5 Strategies on Finding Models to Work with as a Photographer

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Perhaps you are a landscape photographer transitioning into a portrait photographer. Perhaps you have had a camera for a while and want to use it more often. There are many reasons why you want to start to shoot with a model, but you don’t know how to find them. This perhaps is the number one obstacle you have to overcome as a portrait photographer.

When I first started as a portrait photographer, I had the same problem. I didn’t have people I can shoot with to hone my craft and build my portfolio. Now I have many models I shoot with consistently. I would go as far to say I need to be selective on whom I work with. So here are 5 strategies you can use to get models to work with.

1.) Find a friend or somebody you know to model for you.

This is the most natural solution obviously. When you first started off as a portrait photographer, you may not have a lot of confidence. You may not feel comfortable working with a stranger. So find a friend or somebody you know who may look good in front of a camera.

I took a couple of my friends out on photo shoots when I first started off. It was a great learning experience. It helped me build more confidence. The only downside of shooting with friends is that they may not know how to pose. There is a learning curve in modeling as well. Eventually you would want to shoot with models who have more experiences, which makes a big difference in your photos.

Jualia is my friend. This is our first photo shoot, since then she has modeled a lot for me and other photographers.

2) Do street portraits or ask people you met on chance occasions to go on a photo shoot with you.

This one might be tricky for some male photographers. I started off my photography career with street photography. I have been shooting people who are either beautiful or fashionable on the street for two years. It was very natural for me when I was ready to do more portrait work to reach out to these people I have met and had a relationship with.

I also have asked people with stunning profiles on the street to go on a photo shoot with me. Maybe because I am an Asian girl, it was easy for strangers to establish trust with me. They often times said yes! I met both Connie and Christina on the street when they were visiting SF and they went on a photo shoot with me.

If you are a male photographer, I believe it is possible to approach somebody about doing a photo shoot. You just have to be very professional about it. Don’t come off as you are hitting on the girl. Just let them know that you are building your portfolio as a portrait photographer, give them your Instagram or card that has your website on it, let them check out your past work to see you are legitimate. Don’t be pushy. Choose locations that are public for the first photo shoot. Ask the model to bring a friend to make her feel more comfortable.

However, I understand this strategy may not be for everyone. Most people want to work with photographers they already know and feel comfortable with. The next strategy would be better for most people.

I met Christina on the street of SF. She is from Germany and visiting SF for a few days.

3)Go to meetups and Instameets.

A meetup or Instameet is an event where photographers and models come out to take photos at one location. It’s a great collaboration format. It depends on which city you live, there might be more or less of these events. Here in San Francisco, an event like this almost happens every week.

Instameets and meetups are great places to meet models that have more experiences being in front of a camera. This way you can build some relationships with these models and ask them if you can go on a photo shoot outside of the Instameet.

How do you find out about these events? You have to be in the network of fellow portrait photographers. Go to meetup.com and search photography and join a few photography meetups, although a lot of those groups are about landscape photography. You can check out my meetup, we do a big shoot with models every few months.

You should also follow some pages that feature great portraits, like @ThePortraitCentral and @H_Collective, they do meetups once a while. You just need to find out who are the big players in your community and follow them to keep track of what is going on.

This is a photo I took of Taylor at the most recent instameet I attended.

4) DM somebody on Instagram directly.

This is another tricky one for both male and female photographers. I haven’t personally done this myself, but I’ve heard of other people who have done it and were successful.

Here is the thing, if you see somebody you would like to work with on Instagram, you can shoot them a message about working together. The key here is that you need to have a portfolio on your Instagram already. You need to establish yourself as a portrait photographer. So the people you approached can see that you are legitimate.


5) Use Tools and Websites built for this purpose.

There are websites you can use to find models to work with. I have seen some people using Craiglist before. You can if you want to, I don’t recommend it. I think websites like Model Mayhem and Nubko are better, because they are designed for photographers and models. It takes a while to set up a profile on Model Mayhem. It’s really easy to sign up and start to post a project right away on Nubko. You can connect it to your Instagram account. Another cool thing with Nubko is that you can see if there is any meetup posted in your area.


That’s it for this post. I hope this information is helpful to you. Let me know if you have any other way to find models to work with, I would be glad to add to the list!




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