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Monday, September 1, 2008

The Real Next Top Model

Finding the next supermodel is the result of diligent work and plenty of model tests. It’s about much more than just a TV show.

Creating A Comfort Zone
Almost always, a parent of the girl you’re going to shoot will go to the location with you. Never, ever suggest otherwise. If you fear that the parent will disrupt your set by being a backseat photographer, don’t be. When you approach a girl and her parents about starting a modeling career, they’re usually so overwhelmed that they just sit back and watch.

If someone trusts you to take their child to shoot a model test, don’t go alone—bring an assistant, a make-up artist or someone else so it’s not a solo endeavor. Leave a list of multiple contact points for yourself, and have the girl check in at prearranged times. There are a lot of scumbags in this world who pose as photographers and give us all a bad name. The onus is on us to make everyone feel safe. The most important rule of thumb is making sure that your new model is in frequent communication with her home.

The First Model Test
Some girls fall into modeling as if they have been doing it since birth. Others, who may turn out equally as talented, don’t. Don’t let the frustration of working with a girl who isn’t quite falling into step turn you into some ridiculous Jekyll and Hyde. I’ve seen photographers huff and puff like children when the shoot isn’t going as well as they want. Taking on the role of discoverer of new models requires that you exhibit patience. Remember, everyone is looking to you as the Zen mentor with a camera. Act like one.

A girl’s first model test will be awkward. You’re not shooting a magazine cover; you’re shooting a glorified candid for a modeling agency to look at. If a model’s career breaks because of your efforts, well done. She doesn’t owe you a thing except a pleasant thank you and maybe a subscription to Digital Photo Pro magazine. Photographers aren’t talent agents, so they don’t make money off of a model’s career. An agency could give you a finder’s fee, but don’t count on it. Your motivation should be for the love of your industry.

Don’t be disappointed if a model’s career doesn’t break because of your efforts. Picking a model out of the general population isn’t easy. There are a lot of attributes that a girl must have to be a successful model, and even if your instinct leads you to a girl of amazing potential, the rest of the industry may not pick up on her right away.

As Miss Turlington shares, “I think it’s very difficult to know who will make a great model by sight alone. Many famous photographers won’t spot it in a model’s amateur photos alone and often pass hopefuls by. I think my early breaks came from snaps by photographers taken on ‘go-sees.’ Arthur Elgort met me, shot me and booked me for a week after Vogue sent me down to see him when I was 16. There are many factors that make an individual photogenic, but often beauty is simply in the eye of the beholder.”

Louis Lesko is a fashion photographer based in Los Angeles. The author of Advertising Photography: A Straightforward Guide to a Complex Industry, he also owns Blinkbid, business software for photographers.


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