Test Shoot with Models : Why & How

My high school enemy is my new best friend. That’s pretty much the lamest thing I could say to start this article, don’t judge me. I’m talking about a glorious thing called tests. In the photo world, a “test” is a shoot set up for the sake of portfolio building, experimentation, fun, or all of the above. It’s not a paid shoot, but these suckers pay off big time. A test shoot is when you book a model (we’ll talk about how) to shoot a concept that you put together. As I’m writing this, I actually have my journal open on my desk in mid-plan for a test that I’ll be shooting later this month. In this article I’ll be walking you through a few reasons that testing is so important, how to find models, reach out to agencies, and what you need to do once your model is booked. Dig in!

TEST – Testing is a term used in the commercial/editorial/lifestyle industry that refers to an unpaid shoot where a photographer books a model to build each others portfolios.

Test Photo Shoots


Whether you’re looking to build your portfolio, to stay creative when work is slow, or to experiment with new techniques, tests are the way to do it.


Looking to land big jobs but don’t have much work to show? It’s the whole – you need experience to get the job and you need the job to get experience – paradox. This is where these unpaid shoots come in. Since a test is an unpaid shoot, you don’t necessarily need the experience that a paying client might be hoping for, but it will give you the experience that a paying client might be looking for. That’s a freaking huge win-win in my book. In almost every instance, you have complete creative control over your test shoots which means that you can build a portfolio full of the type of work that you want to be booking more of.


Let’s be real here for a second. F money. Just forget about it. If money wasn’t a thing, would this be the career path you chose? If so, congratulations! You picked the right job. I think it’s pretty safe to say that almost everyone of you reading this is a photographer because you love to create. It’s why I am and it’s why I love testing. I found out pretty early on that it’s massively important for me to take time to create outside of paid work. Sometimes, that meant I took advantage of the times when nobody wanted to book me, and other times it meant that I blocked out time in my schedule to turn down paid work for the sake of having the free time to create on my own. The shoots that I’ve put together on my own time often end up being some of my favorites because I had complete creative say over everything from wardrobe, location, concept, etc. Tests have saved me from the brink of burnout, creative ruts, and slow winters. If you’re in this job to create awesome things, put in the effort to make that happen. Paid or not.

Test Photo Shoots


Something I preach at just about every workshop or conference I speak at is that experimentation fosters progression. That doesn’t mean that every experiment will be a success, but it does mean that if a certain experiment didn’t work (that’s okay), now you’re able to figure out why and move on to the next one. It’s how we learn and it’s how we push our work forward.

During paid shoots, I often step out of my normal with a thought like “Let’s try something weird!” but the meat of what I deliver, is in my current style. It’s what the client is expecting and what they hired me for so I’ll deliver that, with some little experiments tossed in. Since tests are unpaid, I don’t have that limitation. I have free range to try new techniques, and to play with any idea that inspires me. When I find something I love through one of those experiments, I begin to work it into my portfolio so it becomes part of the style that future clients hire me for. Hence,  progression.

Long Exposure Studio


We ALL start somewhere, I get that. My first model was a cat and she didn’t take direction well. Below are a couple of ways to find models depending on where you are in your career.


Are you the ugly one in your friend group? Perfect! That means you probably have some decent looking friends that you can ask to model for you. Unless you happen to be friends with a lot of professional models, this should be a stepping stone of a resource. It should be a great way to get some practice in and to build a small portfolio before moving on to working models. I don’t mean to say that shooting your friends isn’t great, but if you’re looking to create a portfolio that will get you hired in the commercial industry, you’ll want actual models in your portfolio. Just about any creative director looking to hire you will know the difference and there is an industry standard in terms of talent, trends, etc that they may not see in your portfolio if you are only shooting friends (this isn’t true 100% of the time, but it’s a pretty safe generalization). Aside from that, you may realize that your friends don’t know how to model all that well and the experience that a model brings to the set can boost your work to the next level.

With all of that said, friends rock. It’s how most photographers start out. Grab a friend, dress them up, talk about the shoot, and go play. If nothing else, you’ll learn some things and have a great time.

Booking Models


I know, it sounds like I’m talking about some sort of weird but gorgeous fight club. Model Mayhem is a networking site for everyone from photographers, models, make up artists, hair stylists, wardrobe stylists, etc. You can sign up for an account, search for models in your area, and get in touch! Easy enough, right? Fair warning: you will have to sort through plenty of weirdos (yes, really weird) to find great models. To be honest, you may look at the site for a minute and close out the window before you dig in more but trust me. There are some killer models in there (both brand new, and agency signed). In fact, probably about 30% of the models in my portfolio are ones that I either found on Model Mayhem or that have accounts on there.

When you contact models through MM, you’re reaching out to them directly (different from agencies, which we’ll talk about next). Once you’ve done your browsing, passed by the weirdos, and found a model that you think would be a great fit, you can message them directly through the site to see if they are interested in shooting with you. Be brief, informative, and personal. I always send along the concept (usually in the form of a mood board which we’ll talk about in the Agencies section), dates I have available to shoot, and some sort of personal note. To be personal, look through their work and compliment them on a specific shoot. Even if they aren’t able to shoot with you, a compliment always rocks. From there, they’ll let you know if they’re interested!

When you reach out on MM, there’s another little thing to note. Money! Instead of being vague and not mentioning it up front, save yourself (and the model) some time and let them know that you are looking for a “TF” or a “test” shoot. Those both mean the same thing but for whatever reason, TF (short for “trade for photos”) is used more on MM. Some won’t be able to shoot without pay but there are plenty of models on there who are looking to build a portfolio just like you are!

Booking Models on Model Mayehm


I’m about to blow your mind off its hinges. You ready? Another killer place to find models for test shoots… a modeling agency! WHOA. I’ll let your brain catch up for a sec.

Okay, are you back? Day after day, month after month, and year after year good looking hopefuls reach out to modeling agencies hoping to be signed. On top of this, agencies have scouts that they send to events where the aesthetically pleasing among us tend to hang out (fashion shows, surf competitions, etc) hoping to find new models to sign. The great part about this for us, is that when one of those lucky few does end up becoming part of an agency’s family, they now need to build a portfolio before they start booking the big jobs. These new models are referred to as “new faces” and when you reach out to an agency looking for a model to test with, that’s who you’ll be looking to work with.

If it was as easy as just asking, I wouldn’t be writing this section. Believe it or not, you aren’t the only one looking to test. Agencies get hit up all of the time with these requests so it’s important to make sure you are helpful, brief, and worth emailing back. Just like with the messages to models on Model Mayhem, I like to include the dates I’m planning on testing, the concept, and a personal note. Aside from that, it’s also good to give them an idea of the type of model you are looking for (tanned, blond hair, etc or pale, dark hair…) so they have a better idea of who would be a good fit for you. Most agencies have contact links and some even have direct emails to the agent in charge of new faces. If you can’t find any give them a call, let them know that you are looking to test with some of their new faces and you’d like to know who you should email. Below is a sample email that I might send to an agent:

“Hey there!

My name is Ben Sasso and I’m an editorial/lifestyle photographer. I’m reaching out because I’m looking for a model to test with during the first week of December and I’d love to see if you had any new faces that I could work with! You can find the mood board for the shoot here. Ideally, I’d love to shoot someone who fits a more adventurous vibe (tanned skin, sun bleached hair, etc) but I know you may have some other girls that need similar images as well.

I’m sure you’re busy and I appreciate you taking the time to read through. Looking forward to hearing back soon!

Ben Sasso

Sweet, simple, and to the point. You’ll notice that I included a mood board in there. They take about a second to create (mine are just pages that are only available if someone has the link) and are a killer way to get your vision across quickly to someone who doesn’t have much time to spare. I used my own images in this one but you don’t have to limit it to your own work (I usually don’t) since it is just to pitch a vision. This mood board will actually come in handy later too, we’ll get there!

Also, I’m no expert in reaching out to agencies. I thought it might be helpful to include some advice directly from one of my favorite agencies to work with, Newmark Models. Below is a  little blip of insight from Jules at Newmark. Thanks for contributing, Jules!

“Are you ready to test with an agency? Take the time to really consider your work and editing style and make sure it matches with each agency’s aesthetics before reaching out. I find the best way for photographers to contact agencies for testing is to call the agency and get the name and email of the person handling tests. Next, craft a short, friendly email including a bit about your experience, why the models needs your work, a link to your website, Instagram and a picture or two of your latest work. Agencies are bombarded with inquiries, so keep it quick and interesting. Once you start a conversation with the agency, set up a test that makes sense for you and the model – this isn’t the best time to try out that one idea you have a gut feeling may be too avant garde. One of my personal pet peeves that will send you quick to the blacklist, is asking the models to shoot nude or implied after never initially discussing it with the agency. Once you’ve set up a shoot, realize this is also a test of your relationship with the agency. This could lead to job recommendations or just a great reputation in what is a very small world.”
Jules // Newmark Models

Test Shoots with Model Agencies


Just a few little tips you might find useful as you go into it! It’s not as scary as it seems, I promise.


Hierarchy is a thing in any industry. You aren’t Tim Walker (and if you are, thanks for being amazing sir). If you’re reading this, it most likely means that you haven’t yet built a large portfolio and your looking to break into a new realm of the photography world. There are the top agencies (Wilhelmina, Ford, Next), there are mid size agencies, and there are smaller boutique agencies. Places like NYC, Paris, and LA have the whole spectrum and just about anywhere else will have small-mid size agencies. If you don’t have much in your portfolio yet, start small. Reach out to agencies who you truly feel will benefit from having you shoot their new faces (and be honest with yourself). As your portfolio builds, start moving up the ladder!


See that sample email up there? That’s what we call a “cold email.” I’d send it to an agency that I’ve never worked with before and where I don’t know anyone personally. Thankfully, I don’t really have to send those much anymore. Over the years, I’ve been able to build relationships with agencies that I can now reach out to saying something more along the lines of  “Hey Mark! I’m setting up some tests next month. Do you all have any girls who are open for tests?” It’s a wonderful place to be in and it all starts with that cold email and then consistently being easy and valuable to work with.

In addition to agencies (in fact, probably before agencies), you’ll find yourself building relationships with models you’ve worked with. That can mean that not only do you have someone you can reach out to when inspiration strikes, but you’ll build relationships that turn photo shoots into something more like a collaboration between you and a model who has learned your style and can deliver what you love without as much direction.

Test Photo Shoots


This is pretty dang important. Usage dictates how you are allowed to use the images from a test (or any shoot from that matter). Typically with testing, you are allowed to use the images for your portfolio, and social media. What’s more important is what you AREN’T allowed to do with them. Unless discussed already you aren’t allowed to sell images (in a print shop or to a company), or submit them for publication. If you have an opportunity to do either of those, get in touch with the booking agent first and confirm that it’s okay. Sometimes it isn’t a problem, and some times you can but the model would have to be compensated. Always ask permission, not forgiveness. Otherwise you may burn a bridge to that agency and have to start sending cold emails again (bummer).


Well that’s not entirely true. I actually don’t think I’ve EVER gotten a “no” email back after sending a cold email (I’m just realizing this as I’m writing it). Instead I just don’t hear back. So get used to that instead, especially early on. Don’t worry, it doesn’t mean you’re hopeless. It just means that you might not be the right fit for that particular agency or that they just aren’t currently looking for photographers to test with. Keep at it!

Finding Models for Photo Shoots


First of all, HECK YEAH! Congratulations. You’ve officially made it and now the road to success will be lined with gold and so many diamonds you should probably buy ice skates (Disclaimer: exaggeration). It might not be that easy but hey, small steps.


(That’s what she said) If an agency accepts your request for testing, they’ll most likely send you what’s called a “package.” This will be a link to a selection of their models (usually around 3-10) to choose from. It’s a pretty easy process from here on out. I typically send them my #1 choice and a back up (in case #1 isn’t available on the date, etc). After that, you’ll talk dates, locations, and details to lock it in!


Often, this will be brought up before this point (but it fits best in the blog post here) when you’re first reaching out to the agencies. They might ask if you have a “team” which means “Will you have a hair stylist and/or make up artist?” If I know I will, I usually include it in the first email. If not, I don’t bring it up until they do. It’s not usually a deal breaker if you don’t it just helps if you do.

If you have the budget for it, you can typically find a hair stylist/make up artist pretty easy on google, at a salon, or through wedding websites (blogs, etc). If you don’t have the budget, you can also find them on Model Mayhem! Just like there are novice and professional photographers on there, you can also find the same range of hair/MU artists. If you’re looking to collaborate with someone who is also starting out you would reach out to them just like you would to a model (date, concept, etc). Let them know if you are looking to collaborate for free or can offer what is called a “kit fee.” A kit fee is a term for the cost of the actual product they use for your shoot (typically anywhere from $25-$50).

Creating Photo Shoot Moodboards


Don’t forget to pull clothes for your model! Once you have their sizes (which the booking agent can provide for you), there are a few different options for this depending on what you have in mind.

OPTION 1 : Studio Rental Policy
Some stores (especially in places like LA or NY) have what they call Studio Rentals where they allow you to rent wardrobe from them for a week at 10% (ish) of the cost of the clothes you decide on. Yay!

OPTION 2 : Wardrobe Stylist
If you have the budget for it, a stylist may be a great person to have on set with you! Find someone who fits well with your concept, decide if you want to collaborate for free or pay them, and start reaching out. There are plenty on Model Mayhem who are waiting for your message! If you decide to hire a stylist, they will not only provide wardrobe for you, but they’ll also be on set with pins, clamps, and just about everything else to make the clothes look great.

OPTION 3 : Designers
Just like a model needs great images for themselves, there are PLENTY of designers looking for great images of their own work. If you’re just starting out Etsy is a great place to look for designers who might lend you wardrobe (dresses, jewelry, shirts, etc). If you find someone who’s work you like, just send them an email letting them know what you have planned, that you have an agency signed model (if you do), and that you’d love to include some of their work. If you’re a bit farther along, you can also reach out to larger designers to include their work


This is it. Everything is set and you’re ready to go! A “call sheet” will be the final list that includes the address, call times for the model,  call time for the hairstylist,  call time for the makeup artist, and the different looks that you’ve decided on for hair/makeup. Essentially, this is something that gets sent to everyone to make sure that you are all on the same page and that everyone is where they need to be when they need to be there.

Remember how I said that the mood board would come in handy? Now is the time. Once I book a model through the agency, I turn the mood board into the call sheet and start adding details there. I include a link to a sample call sheet here!

Finding Models for Test Shoots


Great job, friend! Now just show up on set, rock it, and deliver a set of images that proves to the booking agent that you were worth the shot. Continue to foster those relationships you’ve made with the agent to make your job that much easier next time.

Lastly, dang. You just made it through this whole thing, I hope it was helpful! Now go get yourself a bowl of ice cream, you deserve it.

  1. Reply

    The amount of knowledge you passed on in this blog post is invaluable Ben! After joining MM it definitely took me some time getting used to how to reach out to models and also accepting the No’s now and then. Thanks so much for this!

  2. Reply

    Hi Ben!
    thanks for this post! it was one of the most helpful ones I’ve ever read! it’s amazing that you even share you’re e-mail and examples for the call sheet with us. I feel that you’ve left no question unanswered. I feel very inspired (which I always do after reading your posts).
    again, thank you very much!

  3. Reply

    This article is so fabulously informative, thanks so much for sharing your process!

  4. Reply

    I’m not a model or a photographer, but i always love reading your tips. i’ve always been curious to know how this all works – so thanks for posting this! I also appreciate all the gifs 😉


  5. Reply

    Hi Ben.
    Great article.

    I have one question about the mood board and call sheet.

    First of all, thanks for the idea with the call-sheet as “Page”

    Makes it quite easy to edit and contribute. I´ve used PDF files till now.

    But how do you use images that are not yours?
    For a moodboard i´ve often used pinterest. There I can collect images all over the web and put them together in a pinterest board.

    When You create a mood-board-Page you have to store & Upload the images on your site, from other photographers.

    How do you deal with that in matter of copyright issues?

    Kind regards, Amir

    • Amir, thanks! Good question. For moodboards where you aren’t using your own images, you can just leave a not of credits at the bottom that says something like “Images from Joe Smith,…”

      Hope that helps!

  6. Reply

    Great advice, thanks for sharing!

    When signing up for Model Mayhem it gives you two options “Individual Artist” or “Talent Recruiter” which one do you suggest?

    • Natasha, glad that it was helpful! Individual/artist is the option for photographers.

  7. Reply

    ONe of the most informative articles I’v read – ever!

  8. Reply

    Dude thanks a ton for this!

  9. Reply

    Very useful ARTIcle! Thank you!

  10. Reply

    This is super helpful! Appreciate all of your advice!

  11. Reply

    Hey ben,

    love tHe article. A couple questions:

    HOw many final inages are you usually deliverIng to tHe aGency?

    are you doing a mulTiple waredrobe CHANGEs?


    • Thanks Megan! I usually deliver about 20-35 images for a shoot and I typically change the wardrobe around a few times in a shoot.

  12. Reply

    Hi Ben, Great article. When you deliver the 20-35 images do you sent them to the agency, the model, or both?

    what size/resolution are they, and do they have your watermark?

    Do you first post one or two on your own social media (before delivering them to agency/model), so perhaps the model can share w/her model friends?

    If you approach a model directly, and she says she is with an agency, do you now need to book the test through her agency? (so you don’t burn bridges w/the agency?)

    Thanks for being you, and for sharing your knowledge.

    • Hey Sandra!
      When I deliver images, I deliver them to the Agency, who will send them along to the model, unless I already have a close relationship to both in which case I would send them to both.

      I send high-res, non watermarked images.

      I usually post one or two before sending but that’s typically because I’m not finished with the whole set yet.

      If I know or find out a model is signed, I’ll always ask her if her contract is exclusive (meaning they are only allowed to book through their agency). Typically, they’ll let you know if you need to go through the agent or not!

      Hope that helps!

  13. Reply

    So incredibly helpful… thank you!!

  14. Reply



    • Dana, Thanks! The call time can be specific to each model or person on set. It doesn’t need to mean the entire crew.

  15. Reply


    As a photographer who doesn’t want to shoot family or babies it is hard to find advice on shooting this type of work.

    I truly appreciate this post. you just opened up a new door for me because this si perfect timing. My day job of working for a family photographer is making mere think my life choices.

    now i know some of the steps to get there.

  16. Reply

    hello ben:) thanks for sharing all that info, it is incredibly helpful. would you mind sharing how long did it take you to go through all that phases?
    i started doing photography more seriously in autumn 2013 when i took candids and portraits of friends. in autumn 2014 i started doing first photoshoots also with friends, people i scouted and models found through model mayhem. though styling and make up has been our own.
    i’ve had so many last minute cancellations or shoots that i didn’t manage to find a wardrobe stylist for, spent a little fortune on fast fashion and second hand clothing because i had to take a role of a fashion stylist myself. and trying to pull it all of without access to a studio, being always tentative whether london rains won’t ruin the plan, having only 2 days in a week to organize everything (and sometimes waste them, when i have no shows and cancellations). i completely stopped taking photos in february for a while, though now i’m trying to get back to it with slightly lower expectations.
    surprisingly this time i had much better response to my open call on model mayhem and a few mua’s and models interested, so indeed my portfolio must have improved.

    it feels like i’m never going to get there. maybe i am having unrealistic expectations about how long would it take me to finally get to shoot a true high quality editorial. does it get easier the further you go? is there a way to do fashion photography without wrecking your budget on the wardrobe? how long did it take you until you could pull off a test with an agency model?

    thanks so much! kat

    • Hi Kat! I know it’s easy to assume (and/or wish) that things happen faster than they do but it does take time. I started reaching out to my first real agency (a very small one) after I’d already been shooting for a few years. Then, I slowly worked up to larger agencies. It does take a bit of time as you improve your work (making you more desirable by agencies), build relationships with agents, etc. I booked of ModelMayhem for a while before reaching out to agencies and I actually still look on there from time to time for last minute things.

      Hope that’s helpful!

  17. Reply

    Hi ben,

    Your article was awesome! Im so happy my google search brought me to your page.

    i’m a makeup artist just starting to build my portfolio. after many years oF being nervous And just being a chicken i’m finally taking action!

    I was doing some research on how to even go about putting photoshoots together, collaboratIng, the process, and this article answered all my questions.

    Thank you so much!

  18. Reply

    Hi Ben,

    thank you so much for writing this article. I’ve learned a lot. There is still one question left. If I use other photographer’s work for my mood board and send it out to anybody (an agency, maybe, if I ever get enough courage to do so), how could I add credit to the photographers who actually did the shots. Or is it, as only the particular person gets to see it, not necessary at all?


    • Hi Auri! You could add credits under each image but for mood boards like that it’s pretty accepted that it’s not as necessary.

  19. Reply

    hey ben:) thanks! your response makes me really hopeful. i know everyone says it takes time, but it always helps to hear it from people how long because it’s always relative and long can mean both months and years.

  20. Reply

    Reading this post was the best decision made today. I loved every bit of information provided, so helpful. Just another think that I would like to know for my personal knowledge, what should a mood board consist of?
    I am costume stylist but now moving my base into fashion and hence need to make mood boards for my whole team.

    I would really appreciate a reply from you.

    Thank you

    • Hey Namrata,thank you so much! You can see the linked mood board in this article that shows what I include in mine. Some people’s are much more in depth (or much less) but mine have a few images that fit the vibe I want to hit, a few key words, and then eventually the looks for hair and makeup. Hope that helps!

  21. Reply

    Thank you so much for this! its really difficult to understand this process when you’re a beginner like me. I really enjoyed your article and learned a lot from it. I’ve also joined MM immediately and I think it’s great! Much better than other networking sites like this!

  22. Reply

    this is so helpful, ben! thank you so much! i just heard from a modeling agency and was asking for a mood board. do you think a pinterest link is fine? i sent them a link to my website so im assuming they’re aware of my style.

    • Riva, you’re welcome! I think it could be, but I’m not sure. I like to send them over on my own site because it looks cleaner and more branded!

  23. Reply

    Thank you! This was so helpful!

  24. Reply

    Hi Ben!

    I just want to reach out and thank you for Your willingness to share with others. It is inspirational. I am fairly new to the photography game, and I would say hands down you have been my biggest influence. Every aspect of your website and social media PRESENCE is about teaching, and I just wanted to let you know it is appreciated.

    Thank you again and best regards,

  25. Reply

    Extremely helpful in so many ways — especially providing examples. Thanks for sharing this incredibly useful info.

  26. Reply

    Why didn’t I find this sooner. I’m bookmarking this right now!! Thanks

  27. Reply

    Hi Ben! Whenever you do a test shoot, wouldyou recommend requiring the model to sign a contract/Release form? Or, are you not so anal about that sort of thing when you are just testing. Especially if you lets say, find a model or someone who models on instagram and you want to do a test with them? Thank you!

    • Briana, I would recommend it! It just helps keep everyone on the same page. There are some apps you could look into as well to make it super easy.

  28. Reply

    Hello there,

    I’ve been working on my skills for years now. I’ve Shooting friends and strangers right now i feel like I’m ready to work with professional model. I didn’t know where to start or how to start. Your post truly helped me.

  29. Reply

    Hey Ben,

    This was a great read! Thanks.
    I was wondering though, after you work through these steps, how do you start TRANSFERRING from test shooting to paid work? What are the paths after youve bilt up a strOng portfolio/ relationships with agencies?

    Thanks again,

    • Hey Jason! Thanks! If you want to really dig into the commercial world, I’d check out a book called The Photographer’s Survival Guide as it offers pretty great insight into that world.

  30. Reply

    Thanks for all the information ben! This was super helpful and perfectly timed for me! You are answering QUESTIONS that seem simple But the whole pRocess can be Confusing and intimidaTing. Thanks for fostering communIty!

  31. Reply

    Omg. This was so helpful. You laid out all the deets, plus, you reminded me that I have ice cream in my freezer. Ben, you da real MVP.

  32. Reply

    even though i dont shoot the stuff you shoot, its always a pleasure reading about the stuff you share. great insider information… details are ridiculous. beautiful work ben.

  33. Reply

    Thank you so much for this post, super helpful!

  34. Reply

    Hi Ben! This was a great article! Very helpful! I am a makeuP artist and want to do test shoots. Will i approach the AGENCIES the same way? Will AGENCIES Provide A PHOTOGRAPHER or do i need my own?

  35. Reply

    This is very, very useful! Thank you Ben … for this and all the other useful info you provide to the rest of us!

  36. Reply

    Ben, I have a quick question regarding photoshoot with a model that’s from signed agency. I currently have two product that was sent to me (a facestick for men, and an underwear company) What would be the process for a shoot like this? I’m assuming the photos that’s taken will be featured on the company’s page. Should i BE CONTACTING THE AGENCY FIRST FOR PERMISSION? OR ANY SPECIFIC RULE BEFORE DOING SO?

    • Hey Henry! That’s exciting! Absolutely contact the agency. If those images are going to be used for advertising, there will be a fee involved (that the company that is being advertised should pay for). Ask the company exactly how the images will be used (online, in print, national or international, how long they’ll be used, etc) so you can reach out to the agency and find out what the rate would be.

      Good luck at the shoot!

  37. Reply

    This is an awesome article, thanks a lot Ben for such great information 🙂

  38. Reply

    This is tremendously helpful. Thank you so so much for sharing!

  39. Reply

    Thanks for the great article.

  40. Reply

    Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge. 🙂 this is amazing. And especially for the examples, sometimes is not easy to put the words down.

    When you are looking for models for an editorial (As exchange), should you ask for models from a single agency? Or do you think it’s okay to ask for models to 2 or 3 agencies (to get more options) then having to reject two of them. This is a good policy in your opinion?. Are they ok with the “rejection”? Is this the usual way of working?

    Thanks again! <3

  41. Reply

    Hey Ben, Thank you for a very Well written, informative and comprehensive post! the moodboard as a page on your website was a gem as were many other tips.

    One suggested addition to the packages section is ‘1st or 2nd options’ as well as ‘challenging an option’. I’M NOT SURE IF IT’S JUST A NEW YORK THING BUT it’s usually a regular part of the discussion with an agency for a model that the UNACQUAINTED might not be aware of.

    Would love to see you do an IN DEPTH post on your take on studios, public places, permits, etc especially for those with a low or no budget especially with new arrivals like SPACE SHARING websites.

    Thanks again for a greaT read.

  42. Reply

    Thank you Ben for such an insight. I am grateful that you are so generous with the experience you have. It is very inspiring!

  43. Reply

    Man! I wish I had seen this blog post when I first started testing! There are no resources for testing out there- where to start, what to say, what happens throughout the process
    This is amazing! Thank you, as always, for sharing your knowledge with the world!

  44. Reply

    Hi ben,

    This is the best post i’ve read so far.. thanks for your awesome tips!!

  45. Reply

    Hi Ben
    Thank you very much for this post’

  46. Reply

    Ben, Really NICE BLOG POST. INFORMATIVE AND VERY DETAILED. I especially liked the agent narrative when requesting a test shoot.

  47. Reply

    Excellent guide great work! About hiring people, have you talked someone Out from your City by ig? If so What do you say, dont want to look creepy.

    • Thanks F.Diaz! I think that if you message them i a professional way (or email them if they include their contact info in their bio), you shouldn’t have a problem. Just send a brief message letting them know you;d like to work with them, what the concept is, when you’re planning on shooting it, and ask what their rates are if they don’t test!

  48. Reply

    Great guide with lots of useful concrete tips, good job ben!

  49. Reply

    But what Happens after a test? Now the agency is asking me to shoot more models…. should these “tests” be paid? Or should i keep shootinf for free?


    • Royce, that’s totally up to you. Tests can be paid by the agency, the photographer, the model, or nobody. If you feel that you want to be paid for them, that’s completely up to you!

  50. Reply

    Perfection. Thanks for the tips!

  51. Reply

    Ben! I’ve been doing test shots for years and when I first started I would never get responses and then one day an agency reached out to me and essentially gave me the same advice that you just provided. It was a game changer for me and my work. This is awesome and you are super-Human for sharing this info with folks. Hats off to you brother!!!

  52. Reply

    Hi Ben,
    Great article. The one thing missing may seem obvious to long timers, but for a newbie like me, just curious: How long does a test shoot tend to take you?

    • Thanks Phil! Models typically work in full day or half days (8 or 4 hours) in terms of rates, but my shoots usually last about 1-2 hours.

  53. Reply

    Ben! Love reading your articles! They have been sooo helful! I had 1 question, how long do you typically spend with a model for a test shoot? considering hair, make up, wardrobe change and shooting. 2, 3, 4 hours? What’s an appropriate length of time when working with a model from an agency?

    • Thanks Monica! It really depends on the shoot. When I have hair/mu for a shoot, I typically spend about 3 hours on set. Otherwise, about 1.5 or less. I’m introverted so I like to keep shoots pretty brief :).

  54. Reply

    Hi Ben,
    thanks a Lot for sharing, great advice.
    I have a question about styling part.
    If i collaborate with clothing brands to get their samples for free, then am I allowed to give photos to clothing company? because they will use the photo on their social media. the agencies won’t have to charge them for using their models?

  55. Reply

    Thanks for this great article. I was wondering how do I find the small AGENCIES? I’VE NO IDEA HOW TO TELL WHICH ARE SMALL AND WHICH AREN’T.


    • Thanks Joshua! A pretty reliable way to tell is based on their social media presence, and their quality of images. If you honestly feel that your work is about the same quality (or better) than the work you currently see representing their models, you might have luck reaching out!

  56. Reply

    Can I do a test shoot in studio simple white background…and does the agency have a studio for me to use

  57. Reply

    Look FORWARD to your reply soon

  58. Reply

    Ben!!! You are an angel. Anytime you write a new article i soak it up like a sponge. So extremely kind of you to share your knowledge and ofFer tools to those of us who Are looking to Gain more experience. My question to you is, how do you manage this level of communication if you are more of an introverted person? What have your experiences been like during a shoot with a ModelMayhem model? How do you give direction in a clear and concise way? All of these possibilities seem so exciting, yet daunting! I have worked with models but they have always contacted me – i have never done a test shoot with a professional model – onlY paid shoots.I would greatly appreciate any advice you have to offer!

  59. Reply

    Hello! Great article on Shoot tips for testing shooting. I have one question, is there a point where the tables turn with your relationship with the agency and they pay you to test their models or is the testing world always free (TF)?

  60. Reply

    hello Ben, I have a question – I didn’t see this mentioned anywhere – how is it about the costs of photostudio and equipment? I don’t have flashes and studio, so is it In the end I am paying for it or I can expect model agency to cover that? please let me know!

    • Hey Harmony! Good question with no real answer. Some agencies may pay a rate for tests, but that typically only happens when the photographer is someone who they know can/will provide exactly what they need for that particular model. If you are getting started in that likely won’t apply to you. Instead of renting studios/lights/etc, you could try working outdoors with natural light!

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