Model Assignment

Photos © 2003, Jack Hollingsworth, All Rights Reserved

A few months ago I wrote about my assignment to photograph on the Caribbean island of Curacao for the island's tourism board. It was my first time in Curacao, so the board's slogan for their advertising was perfect for me: "Curacao--for people who think they know the Caribbean." As it turned out, my discoveries were exactly what the tourist folks wanted visitors to discover.

My unofficial check list of things to do for an assignment like this has three items--places, faces, and people. And among the people shots the tourist board wanted were pictures of professional models--great-looking people photographed in great locations for images that would appear in ads and other promotional material directed at the North American market. This was not a hardship assignment, but it was still work. I ended up photographing over 30 models in four days, and part of my job was to cast and coach the models for the pictures.

Models On Location
Finding professional models on location isn't as difficult as it may first seem. I've used international Yellow Pages, leads from tourism boards, and even recommendations from hotel staff members. The model in these photographs, Deva, was located through a local talent agency that was recommended by the tourist board.
Costs can be very reasonable. I usually start at $25-$50 per hour depending on the experience of the model and have gone as high as a few hundred dollars for a single two-hour session. For aspiring models, a time-for-prints arrangement often can be made; many times I've found that models are anxious to work with foreign photographers in order to build up their portfolios.

Scouting The Location
One of the things I always do is scout the location beforehand. I don't want to show up on the day of the shoot, with the meter running, and find that for whatever reason--bad light, too crowded, permission problems--I can't get the photographs I need. I also like to spend at least 2-3 hours with each model so we can get to know and trust each other during the photography.

In some ways working with models is the same as working with anyone you want to photograph: encouragement, praise, support, sensitivity, and diplomacy will go a long way in helping you get the shots you want and need.

Deva was a natural, so good that it never occurred to me that she'd never modeled before. I found that out at the end of the shoot. We went to great places, I explained the context and gave her general guidelines and then let her express herself.

Gear You Might Need
For all the model photography in Curacao I used my Mamiya RZ67 and two lenses, a 110mm f/2.8 and a 180mm f/4.5. The film was Fujicolor Portrait NPZ 800 Professional. All the images were made handheld and most were shot in open shade with very little direct sunlight. I carried a small Flexfill collapsible reflector to kick some highlights into the subjects' eyes.

Bring That Portfolio
Photographing models in exotic locations is a great way to set yourself apart with your photography, so if you've had any experience photographing models or are just comfortable with people, I'd suggest taking along some samples of your work on your next trip. With a little networking or an effort at making contact with agencies and models, you might find yourself taking the next step with your photography.

The rewards are great in terms of sharpening your skills. And always get releases--you never know when the rewards may be commercial as well as personal.