How To Work With Internet "Models" To Build Your Boudoir Portfolio
Updated: Apr 10, 2021
As a boudoir photographer, one of the more difficult things when getting started is finding someone to photograph and building your portfolio. It takes lots of camera practice to learn how to photograph women in a manner that is going to be cute, beautiful, and aesthetically pleasing to clients . It's a lot tougher than it looks!
The number one error boudoir photographers make when starting is simply not learning how to operate a camera properly. The number two error is not learning how to photograph women with skill. Budding new photographers seem want to skip these steps, and think that simply declaring themselves a "pro," putting up a website, and shouting to the world you are going to "changing women's lives" is the path to success. --Forget all that difficult learning... Did I mention you were "changing women's lives!!"
Well, the truth of it is that's not enough. It's really not enough. The universe appreciates your intentions, but your business model is as flawed as declaring yourself a pro guitarist without knowing how to play a note of a guitar-- and expecting rock bands from around the world to come knocking your door down to join. This is, unfortunately, the approach of so many photographers.
Why? Because the learning part can be difficult, and it takes time. After all, this is 2021-- and we want what we want...now! The true path to boudoir greatness can be a long one, and takes practice. Lots of practice. One of the more difficult parts of becoming a boudoir photographer is that at some point you'll have to start photographing some actual women. No E-book, or online course is going to replace actual camera time face-to-face with your subject and learning the ins and outs of intimate photography.
Finding people to shoot as a boudoir photographer isn't always so simple. Yes, you immediately turned to your friend Debbie, Laurie & Misty, and as much as they support your efforts, you'll soon learn that being the subject of boudoir photos isn't everyone's cup of tea. --Not only that, some of your friends may have jobs, such as being a teacher, and it may not be the best career move to have photos of them posted in their undies online. So, what to do?
So, this is where the internet model comes in. Almost every community has women who are semi-"professional" models, that, for a few dollars, will meet up with you and let you photograph them... everyone wins! --That's the ideal, anyway.
The reality is, it's not quite that straight forward. I'm guessing the "internet" model scene popped up at some point in the early aughts as the internet was growing, and sites like Model Mayhem, One Model Place, and others sprung up to help connect aspiring photographs to those working "models."
Although at this point these sites are well past their primes, there is still a community of people using these sites, and with some work you can still use them to help find subjects for your sessions.
What's the issue? Well, although these sights aim to showcase "professional" models, after some experience navigating the ins and outs of how they work, you'll quickly realize in many cases your subject may be somewhat less than "professional."
Although there are some truly good people to work with (and I've met a few over the years) for the most part you'll find your experience with the people you hire may be quite lacking. One thing to understand is that there is no actual "vetting" process on these sites, and anyone signing up and claim the title of "professional model" with little or no ability or experience.
Can you still use these resources to help your work? Sure! But it may take a bit more work (and headaches) than you may expect. What you may think will be a simple photo project, may turn out to be a bit more difficult. Why? Let's take a look at some of the more common issue you will encounter, as well as some of the things you can do to prevent issues from popping up.
Not Wanting To Be Posed
This is a big one, and can possibly derail your session. One of the primary issues you will run into when working with "models" is that they will play the "model" card frequently and often.
All will seem well at first. Your subject will arrive and be ready for your session. Once you start working-- *BOOM* trouble. You'll have your shot list of items to work on, and start directing the model into position for the first shot only to hear "Well, I'm a model. I've done this before. There is no need to tell me how to pose--" and trouble ensues.
This scenario will happen more often than you think, so be prepared. You'll have some very structured poses to do, and your "model" will insist on writhing, twisting, and flopping their bodies around like a fish on dry land. You'll proceed to kindly restate that you need to work on some poses, and once again you'll be rebuffed with "I've been modeling a long time...I really don't need direction..."
Hmm... what do to? Well, be prepared for this. This is a harsh reality. Even though in actuality your "model" most likely earns her living working part-time in the jewelry department of a big-box retailer, and her "professional" modeling experience is most likely just a few basement or train track photo shoots with a guy named Richie, in her mind her career is "professional model."
It won't be good. You'll wind up with slew of useless photos with the "model" tilting her head (a big one) in a ridiculous manner and accompanying it with strange facial expressions in shot after shot.
The best way to handle this type of scenario is to head it off up front. If you are posting an ad online for your session, or reaching out to a local model, be sure your text includes that the session is "posed," and it is best if the applicant "checks their modeling skills at the door." Mention that you understand they possess amazing modeling skills, but working as a photography model isn't about "you..."
I explain this to the people I hire in a firm... but nice way. This session isn't about them. The session is about creating work to represent a six figure business and help it grow. Just as a football player doesn't run crazy around on the field doing their own thing, they follow the plays the coach calls, working in a modeling session for a pro photographer isn't about writhing around senselessly, its about being part of the photographers vision for his business. I mention I appreciate their skills, but in this session they will have to surrender to what they are being hired to do-- if they are not OK with that up front, they aren't the best person for this job.
It's a easy as that... And yes, you will run into women who agree to these terms, and show up anyway insisting they know what's best. Don't feel bad for dismissing someone and politely telling them the job isn't for them. Your under no obligation to hand over money to someone who isn't going to work towards your results.