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How to find models for photography

by David Em
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After you’ve run out of friends to photograph, try models. If you have no budget or portfolio, here’s your complete guide to finding models for photography.

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

Person standing on a rock with arms in the air.

Building your portfolio

One of the most popular genres of photography is portraiture. Whether you want to make photography your career or get opportunities to photograph specific people, you need a portfolio.

Related: How to start a photography business

As a portrait photographer, bringing your vision to reality requires the perfect subject.

Although it’s not necessary to find professional models, you need someone to practice shooting and create a portfolio that represents the type of photography you do.

Often, professional and established models will charge money to shoot with them. You can do that, but there are many free ways to find people to shoot with.

Related: Matte vs. glossy photos: Which is best for photo prints?

Where to find models

Typically, portrait and fashion photographers find models through a modeling agency. The downside is that it can be expensive and if you’re a beginner, the agency may be hesitant to work with you.

If you don’t want to spend money to build your portfolio, the following are recommended steps to find models to photograph for free:

Ask your friends and family

Your friends and family are the easiest to photograph because you’re already comfortable with them and they’re comfortable with you.

Photographing people that are close to you is also a great way to practice directing and exploring different photography styles.

Related: 7 types of portrait photography

Taking 5 to 10 photos of each person is a great way to begin building your portfolio which will make it easier to find others to shoot with because you’ll have examples of the types of photos you take.


At this point, if you want to continue building your portfolio then ask your family and friends to tell others that you need people to photograph.

When you photograph the friends of people you know, you get to meet new people without feeling like complete strangers. These people will naturally spread the word about you which gives you more exposure.

Note: Keep in touch with these people because they may become paying clients.


Instagram revolves around photos and you can find people through hashtags or by location.

Related: Best Instagram hashtags for portrait photographers

Aspiring models and bloggers constantly need new photos. Therefore, you can offer an exchange of your time for their modeling.

When you reach out, be sure to include your website, portfolio, and share ideas that you have for the photo shoot. Not everyone will agree to shoot with you, but it’s worth asking.

Facebook groups

If you live in a metropolitan area, there’s a good chance that a Facebook group currently exists for photographers and models to collaborate.

Once you find a few groups to join, write a post to introduce yourself, link to your portfolio, and mention that you’re interested in collaborating with models.

Not only will you find models to photograph but you’ll also meet photographers that you can connect with.

Model websites

Model networking websites such as Model Mayhem or One Model Place connect photographers with models. There are free and paid versions, so test out the free version to see if it’s a good fit for you.

You’ll also find aspiring actors and dancers who need headshots. During the session, you can ask to take a few portraits so that you have variety in your portfolio.

How to reach out

Before reaching out to a model, make sure you’re prepared. By preparing for the photoshoot, you’ll show that you care and are a serious photographer.

The first step is to create a mood board to show what you have in mind for the photoshoot.

After creating a mood board, you can prepare by answering the following questions:

  • Where will the photoshoot take place?
  • What time of day?
  • How long will the session be?
  • Do you have any other concepts and ideas?

Your answers to these questions will help you write a good message that clearly explains how the photoshoot will go and what the model can expect.

Next, send the email or direct message. Be sure to share who you are, what you like about their work and your vision for the photo shoot.

The most important thing is to be professional. From the initial contact to image delivery, you want the experience to be professional whether or not you’re getting paid.

Model release form

When you’re shooting portraits, get a signed model release form. This ensures that you have their permission, in writing, allowing you to publish the image you took of them on your website, or for marketing purposes.

Related: Photography marketing ideas

Generally, the model release will be in the contract. As long as you have it in writing, you won’t run into any issues in the future for using the images.


By following these steps, maintaining a professional image, and protecting yourself legally, you’ll be able to build a solid portfolio. These are all great ways to jump-start your photography career or hobby.

More resources:

Featured photo courtesy of Unsplash.

About David Em

David Em.

David Em is the founder of Portraits Refined. He’s a published portrait photographer dedicated to helping photographers develop skills, capture incredible photos, and build successful businesses.

About Portraits Refined

Portraits Refined (PR) is a media company that publishes the latest expert-backed portrait photography tips, in-depth camera gear reviews, and helpful advice to grow your photography business.