Model Testing

By Steve Brokaw

Test, Test, Test, and test some more! Photographers, models & agents will tell you it’s critical. Why test? Same reason professional sports players go over skills they’ve known for years. It’s practice. No matter your level of experience, testing allows you to go to the next level, experiment and flex your creative muscles.

Testing is an important part of a model and photographer’s development, as well as that of wardrobe stylists, makeup artists, hair stylists & assistants. It is absolutely essential if you’re just starting out.

Testing may or may not be free. If you are just getting started with modeling, you may need to pay a photographer with skills to give you the best images for your book. If you are a new photographer, you may need to pay an experienced model with skills so you can develop yours. If you don’t have a lot of money, don’t fret! A lot of people in the industry will work with one another on a TFP (time for photo) basis, which basically means “for free”. The key to TFP is that all team members should get something out of it – ie. some creative say, and 3-5 great images to use in their book.

Speaking as a photographer, arranging a test is not complicated. The easiest is to ask a friend to test with you. You can also put out a casting call on social media. If you are an established photographer or willing to pay you can reach out to a model agency to provide talent to test. An agency will likely send a model from their new faces board if you don’t plan to pay for their services. As a photographer you can also advertise or let agencies know you are available to provide testing services on a paid or unpaid basis.

My goal is to test a couple of times a month. I know what needs work, looks I want to try, or skills to develop. When time is available in my schedule I decide what I want to work on. I then contact a model agency and explain my plans to the agent. It’s important once the agent agrees to provide talent that you NEVER vary from your agreement and stick to the concept of your test. I always send a confirming email to the agent agreeing to the time, shoot location, compensation (if any), and if photos are to be provided the turnaround time. Once the test is over I contact the agent with feedback.

If you don’t want to go through an agency then simply put out a casting call via social media. You’ll want to be very careful / picky in your selection since the talent will not have been vetted by an agent. If you have time and the desire, get and check references. Be sure to spell out the details of the test, so that there are no misunderstandings.

If you are an agency represented model let your agent know that you want to test, and keep your eyes / ears open for opportunities. Your agent should also be looking for testing opportunities for you. If you are a non-agency model then reach out to photographers you might know and respect. Be sure to do your homework on the photographer, and ask other models who have shot with the photographer about their experiences. You want to test with someone who will give you the type of imagery you need for your book, and treat you with respect and patience. Unfortunately, experienced model testing photographers are in short supply, and very busy, so be prepared to offer compensation to work with the ones who are the best known for this type of work. They may still be willing to shoot TFP, but don’t assume that. Be 100% sure that you understand the terms of the test, and what’s expected of you. And most important of all? Show up! No call, no show is the kiss of death for any industry professional in a small market like Indianapolis.

For a recent test I reached out to Indianapolis based LModelz Model Management and let the agent know I was interested in doing a large editorial-styled series of tests. We met and did a formal in-agency casting and 6 models were selected to test. My goal was to test a new light modifier, try out new talent for potential editorial shoots, and practice my posing directing. Everyone met at the assigned time in the studio, and we went at it for about 6 hours.

Here are the results. Happy testing!

Photographer: Steve Brokaw
Makeup: Lena Marie
Stylist: India McElwain
Agency: LModelz Model Management

Steve Brokaw Photography
Steve Brokaw Photography
Steve Brokaw Photography
Steve Brokaw Photography
Steve Brokaw Photography
Steve Brokaw Photography
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