Monday, May 25, 2009

From Muse to Model

As promised here's the very first guest post for the blog written by Jen Kiaba about working with models to photograph your clothing designs.

From Muse to Model
How to go about finding models and photographers
to advertise your clothing line
By Jen Kiaba

So here you are – a young designer with several great pieces or an entire collection of unique clothing that you are ready to share with the world. Great! But until you have images of that clothing, the sales aren’t exactly going to be pouring in. Luckily, you have several options to explore in the journey to having images as creative as you are.

Together we’ll take a look at four different options. Each has its pros and cons and associated costs – either monetary or time based.

1) Strut your own stuff

If you happen to be a multi-talented individual who feels as comfortable in front of the camera as behind, this may be a great option for you. You have complete creative control and will likely be the person most enthusiastic about your product (at least in the beginning!).

Pros – If you have your own camera and a suitable space to photograph yourself in, then all of a sudden you are a package deal. You can work when you feel like it and won't have to deal with scheduling difficulties.

Cons – This would probably be one of the more frustrating and time consuming options; ask anyone who has photographed their own self portrait and they will tell you that it is a difficult task.
You also need to have at least a basic knowledge of photography and the art of modeling (yes, it is an art).
All of the clothing has to fit you.

Cost: $0, except you may get a few gray hairs...

2) Ask a friend

When I first started out in photography, this was my go-to option for everything. And let’s face it, in today’s culture most everyone wants to be photographed. It is likely that many of your friends will be thrilled that you asked them to model for you.
If you don’t own your own camera, or don’t feel comfortable enough to be the photographer, this is also an option you can go to in order to have someone else photograph your work.
The fun part of this option is that most of us have a pool of friends who are very talented; some can do hair & makeup, others are creative conceptual geniuses. If you are able to get them all on board, your photoshoot could be a symphony of mind-blowing proportions.

Pros – Your friends will most likely say yes and will model/photograph/do makeup/ brainstorm for free. (I always order a pizza or two as long
we keep those greasy fingers out of the studio!!)
They have pictures for Facebook/Myspace, and that will generate some word-of-mouth advertising for you.
That photographer and/or makeup artist friend of yours may be able to turn in the images that you take together for a class assignment or use it in a portfolio.
Collaboration is amazingly satisfying.

Cons- We all have a few flaky friends. Sometimes getting a shoot organized can be difficult.
Will your friends take the shoot seriously or will they goof off? If they are simply there to have fun, this can be a serious strain in the relationship for the future.
Unless your friend actually is a model (or a religious watcher of America’s Next Top Model) they may not know how to model your clothing and the pictures could end up simply mediocre.
If you ask “Suzy” to model, but you don’t ask “Jane” there could be a crisis in your friendship. You could spend more time putting out fires and repairing fences than is necessary

Cost: $0-$30, depending on the price of pizza.

3) TFP (Time for Prints)

So maybe none of your friends have the shape or the look to fit your clothing; maybe they are just camera shy. Either way you are now left with the reality that you have to find a real model to pose for you.
There are a lot of different resources to find models and photographers who will work on a Time for Prints basis. You may also see people advertising their services on a TFCD basis. This means Time for CD. Essentially all that they want out of the deal is a couple of good images for their portfolios.
What I love about this system is that it is all about bartering. We each have something to offer each other: you as a designer get someone to model and/or photograph your clothing. The photographer and the model each get much needed images for their portfolio.
While you can find some fantastic professionals who will work on a TFP basis, for the most part you may be working with many amateurs. You have to be very diligent in reviewing people’s portfolios to make sure they can provide you with the images you want.
Once you have a couple of interested parties lined up, arrange to meet with them! Grab a cup of coffee and get a feel for the person. Possibly take them up to your studio and let them take a look at your work. Gauge how they react to your work. Remember, you want to work with someone who respects what you create. Ideally try to find someone who falls in love with your clothing; not only will they have potential to be a better model, but again you will get great word of mouth advertising!
Also keep in mind that this is your opportunity to help promote other artists! If you find a great model/photographer/makeup artist, let the world know! Add a thank you to them and a link to their work somewhere in your shop. Tweet about them, blog about them. You get the idea!

Pros – There are a ton of sights dedicated to helping models, photographers, designers, and makeup artists connect. Check out sites like and to start.
You can also post free ads on Craigslist and any web forums that you may be active on.
You can retain creative control and direct where and how the shoots will be conducted, as well as guide the concept and look of the shoot.
You can find great people to work with and build a relationship; eventually you might have a great team to work with!

Cons – Unfortunately there are a lot of people out there who want to be models & photographers because of the supposed glamour of the industry. You will have to wade through a lot of unsuitable hopefuls in order to find exactly what and who you are looking for.
There may be ego involved. If you are not established yet, make sure not to let anyone walk all over you. Remember, you are still providing a service!

Cost: $0 (pizza optional), however the cost in terms of time to research and interview may be high.

4) Hire a professional

Let’s face it – money talks. If you are handing someone a paycheck after a shoot, they will consider you legitimate and will most likely check their ego at the door.
Also when there is an exchange of money, you gain certain legal rights as a contractor. Essentially when you agree to hire someone for a shoot and you have set the parameters (date, time, location, duration) and they agree, you have created either a verbal or a written contract. If they renege, you have a little bit of recourse. If a model does not show, you may be able to bill him or her for your time.

You may also get better results with a professional. But don’t ever assume that someone knows what they are doing just because they are selling their services. I have seen many awful professional photographers out. So, again, do your homework. If you are going to pay someone to either model your creations, or to photograph them, make sure that they are worth every penny that you are paying them!

Another important area to research is what a professional photographer’s policies are in terms of ownership. Do they own their negatives – meaning that you have to pay them for every single image used? What exactly do you walk away with after the shoot? Will they make you sign a release so that they can use images from your shoot to advertise themselves? Read all of the fine print that they put in front of you!! If your landlord or your uncle is a lawyer or your friend is in law school, have them take a look at everything before you sign it! You are your brand and you want to make sure that no one can take advantage of that.

I recently photographed a well-known public speaker and soon-to-be-published author. Because of the nature of his work, he could not sign a model release. We did, however, agree that I could use the book jacket with my image of him for publicity purposes – anything beyond that I would run by him first.
Find a photographer who respects what you do and who is willing to negotiate, if need be!

Pros- You’re working with professionals. Their name is on the line – they will likely deliver the best possible product that they are capable of producing.
You can be very specific in your wants and expectations for the shoot; after all, you’re paying for it!
You can pre-interview everyone. If they don’t meet your needs or don’t jive with your sensibilities, you can move on to the next candidate.
Legal recourse – hopefully it will never come to that. If it does, you have that in your back pocket.

Cons – Expense! While the cost of hiring professionals can vary, you will be shelling out cash one way or the other.
You have to also consider how cost effective it is to pay someone – can you shoot enough clothing and then sell enough clothing to make a profit after the cost of models and photographers?
Cost: varies; expect to spend at least a modest sum.

So that’s a lot to take in and consider. Before you jump to one option or the other, take a look at your company and ask yourself what you need and what you can afford. Do you need high end images? Is that even what your company is about?
It is important to understand your customer base and know what kind of images they will be most drawn to. It may very well be that a snapshot of your friend having a great time and wearing your clothing is exactly what your market will be thrilled with. So do a little research. Also take a look inside and ask yourself what you want to express with your product and with your images. Do you know how to create those images? Would a local college student enrolled in the photography department know how to do it?

My overall advice is to find people that you enjoy working with and continue to work with them. Whether they be your friends, aspiring artists, or professionals – if you have a great rapport, it will show!

If you ever have any questions, you can always drop me a line and I will do my best to give you an answer. Email me at Jen [at]

Jen Kiaba is a professional photographer and the owner of Jen Kiaba Photography. She consistently works with artists, models and designers in creating vibrant and exceptional images for their portfolios. With years of experience under her belt, she is also passionate about helping young models and designers connect to create fun and fresh images to promote their products. To check out her work, visit
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...