Fashion, beauty, or commercial photographers will often need to make casting calls, which involve trying to find the right model to fit the photoshoot. These may seem somewhat scary for first timers, but they get much easier over time. You can set up a casting call in a number of ways: on modelling websites, through agencies, or even on Facebook groups or your own blog.
Hopefully, you will get plenty of responses from applicants who are interested in the opportunity. Now you need to narrow them down, and choose who is right for the job. However, if on the day of the photoshoot you feel that you have made a mistake, the problem often lies in some common mistakes that photographers make while casting. Here are the six major issues you will want to look out for – make sure that you do not make these key mistakes!
- Leave out essential details
The first sin that you can make is to leave out important information from your casting call. You should at least provide the date and location of the photoshoot, if you already know them. If you are not yet sure, or you will be flexible, then make sure that you at least provide a ballpark. It would be unfair to open it up to models who are actually outside of your travel zone, or would never be available on the days you are thinking of.
You should also give some idea of compensation here. If the shoot is TF, or in other words unpaid, make this clear. State whether you will be able to provide travel expenses or not. If you are going to be paying, give some idea of the budget. If you are uncomfortable with releasing the exact payment figure, at least state that there will be pay and ask models to get in touch for more details.
State any sizing requirements, whether you want male or female models, and other details which are essential to the shoot. For example, if you want to shoot your own version of sleeping beauty, you may wish to cast for blonde models only. You can also mention whether models with tattoos or piercings are welcome to apply.
This narrows the field down much more. While you will of course want plenty of models to apply to the casting, you do not want to be spending hours sifting through applications from models who are not suitable.
- Forget to exchange contact details
Something that you probably won’t want to put on the casting call, unless posting it on your own website, is your email address and mobile phone number. However, at some stage, you are going to need to know how to get in contact with your model – and they will need to get in touch with you.
Make sure that before you shoot, you have exchanged phone numbers at the least. This is absolutely essential so that you are able to contact one another on the day of the shoot. If the model is lost or running late, they may need to call you. If you are sitting around waiting for them to turn up, you will want to be able to call them! This is something that you really have to think about, as it can make all the difference. You do not want to be that photographer sitting and waiting for a couple of hours for someone who has decided not to turn up. Being able to call them directly avoids this possibility.
- Choose someone based on one image
When someone has a limited portfolio, it can be possible to focus in on the one good image they have and ignore the rest. You may hold that one image up as proof that they are right for the shoot, and go ahead and book them. But the thing is, you don’t know the circumstances of that one image. It may have been taken two years ago. It may have had every Photoshop action on the market applied to it. Put simply, it may not be a true representation of what they really look like – or how they will perform on the day.
When you take a look at a model’s portfolio, try to get a general overview of how suited they are to the project. Have they done something similar to your idea before? Do they have a wide and varied portfolio, with a range of expressions? If they are not a professional model, then they may not have a wide portfolio. They may have the talent you are looking for, and they may not. That is a risk you will need to take.
If they do have a wide portfolio and you only like the way that they look in one shot, then they are probably not right for you. You could be in for a surprise when they turn up on the day looking nothing like that one shot! Remember, Photoshop can only do so much if you do not get the look you wanted on the day.
- Expect premium work for free
So, working for prints or on test shoots is fine, and a lot of professional models still do it. When there’s a benefit in it for them, it makes sense. But is Karlie Kloss going to come to your studio and pose for you for free if you ask really nicely? No, she isn’t.
The point here is that no one is obliged to work with you, even if you are willing to pay them, and if you are not going to then you are likely to find even fewer people who will want to. If you want the best model in your local area to come to shoot with you, chances are you are going to have to pay their hourly rates. It’s as simple as that.
Plus, don’t expect people to go all out for you on TFP shoots. It’s super nice when they do, but that is something they choose to do because they see the value in it. If someone comes to the shoot, quietly stands in front of the camera for a while, and then leaves at the end without contributing anything else, that is the most you can ask for. Getting them to try dangerous locations or stunts, asking for nudes or implied nudes, expecting them to organise a wardrobe or make up, or asking them to chip in funds to hire a location is something that will likely lead you to disappointment. If you want premium work, then be prepared to pay premium prices. If you do not want to, then you will have to settle for less.
- Give in to demands for compensation
On the other hand, photography is an expensive business, and you may need to try and save money on shoots of a personal project nature. If you are determined to keep the shoot on a test basis, then do not give in to demands for compensation later.
Some models, make-up artists, stylists, or so forth may play the tactic of offering themselves as an alternative should you be unable to find anyone who will do it for free. At the end of the day, if you were not interested in paying anyone, then do not pay them. You will always be able to find someone, somewhere, who will do what you want them to. As we have discussed, they may not be the top of the industry or exactly what you were looking for, but you will be able to make it work.
Some professionals can be very pushy, and they may end up bullying you into giving them payment somehow. One tactic that you may fall for is asking for travel expenses which are actually two or three times what they really need, so that you end up paying them after all. If you do not mind paying a little bit more in this way, then you can do it. But if you really are on a tight budget, you might want to reconsider your casting choice.
At the end of the day, if someone cannot be respectful or honest, and does not consider you worthwhile to work with on a test basis, then they are probably not worth spending your time on either.
- Ignore red flags
Lastly, there are situations when all of the signs are there that you have chosen the wrong model. These red flags can come up in conversation before the day of the shoot, and may give you an indication that things will not go as planned. For many photographers, it can be normal to ignore these, and plough on anyway. Especially if you are already in photography mode and thinking solely about how the model will look on camera, you can try to make it work even when the model is being very difficult.
The best advice in this situation is simply to take a step back and think about things seriously. If the model is causing you hassle now, what is she going to be like on set? Are you actually going to get the kind of images that you were looking for? There are a few examples of red flags which you can keep in mind while casting, to avoid any potentially bad situations.
The first of these is a failure to comprehend what you are asking for. If the model gets the wrong end of the stick several times in terms of what the shoot is for, what look you are going for, and so forth, then they may not get the idea on the day. If they are rude or dismissive, this behaviour may appear on set also. It may well be that they take a very long time to get back to you between messages, which may indicate that their timekeeping skills are not so great. If they are flaky and try to rearrange the shoot several times in a row, perhaps it is better simply to cancel.
You should also watch out for those who ask for full pay or travel expenses, and then become distant or rude when you refuse to provide them with it. This could be a surefire sign that they are not planning to turn up on the day. Finally, make sure to double check a couple of days before the shoot that all is still going ahead as planned, just in case they have forgotten about your arrangements or were not planning on turning up.
Have you ever made any of these mistakes in your own casting calls? Let’s hear your stories on how things went wrong if so!