#1: Model: Iyah Kim Photographer: Aimee Anne
2:Model: Chaheyon Park Photographer: Michael Hurt
#3: Model: Embla  Photographer: Aimee Anne

The photography and modelling industries have become over saturated in recent years. With the increase of more powerful cameras and the accessibility of them, there are more and more people taking on the title of ‘professional’.

But what makes someone a ‘real’ professional? Why should you want to work with them?

By dictionary definition ‘professional’ means “(a person) engaged in a specified activity as one’s main paid occupation rather than as a pastime” or “a person engaged or qualified in a profession.”

So, in a competitive industry, how do you improve your skills enough to able to actually label yourself a professional and market your skills to willing buyers?

In a previous post I discussed the benefit of TFP photo shoots. These shoots are an excellent way to practice new skills and to work with people of the same level or experience as you. They are a perfect way to improve together and to perfect newly learned skills.

But how do you acquire new skills that will bring you to the next level? How do you gain professional experience, and new techniques that people will be willing to pay for? My response is that ‘you need to play up’.

When I was younger I was an athlete. I competed at the national level in canoeing and kayaking, and at provincial level in competitive basketball. My team and I won gold at several national competitions. Once we established ourselves as having skills and knowledge that people wanted, and we were paid to train others to achieve similar feats.

One thing my coaches instilled in me to achieve this was the need to play against, train with and learn from those who were bigger, better, faster, stronger, with more experience and knowledge than myself. When I was thirteen I was racing against 17 and 18 year olds. In order to medal at the nationals I had to train with national medalists.

The same principles apply in all aspects of life. If you want to improve you need to learn from those who can teach you more than you already know. So what does this mean in terms of modelling and photography? Well, it means understanding and accepting the fact that at times it is ok to pay for experience and knowledge.

If I find a model or a photographer that I really think I can learn from and who can help me perfect my portfolio, I will find a way to pay them. Professional knowledge and mentorship is valuable. Their social capital, understanding of equipment, experience, knowledge and skills can be handed down to you, which you can then perfect in TFP shoots. However, quality is not always free and professional experience is valued and in demand, thus professionals need to be paid.

Working with professionals can  help you substantially improve your portfolio. Working with a professional model is completely different from working with a non-professional. They have a way of pulling you along for the shoot, and your job is to keep up with them. They also have extensive knowledge of positioning, posing, lighting, facial expressions, as well as some degree of fashion and makeup knowledge.

When working with a pro model, the post processing is a breeze. There is very little editing that needs to be done. Usually only some basic retouching like brightening or colour enhancement are required. Professional models are paid to look good, so their skin is usually clear, and their knowledge of lighting and positioning allows you to get higher quality images straight out of the camera. Here are some examples of before and after shots while working with professional models.


Model: Iyah Kim  

Model: Chahyeon Park     Photographer: Michael Hurt

Working with professionals is a valuable experience if you want to increase your skills. However, that means sometimes paying, or as I like to call it, making an investment in your portfolio and skill set.

In a future post I will discuss things you should look for in professional to make sure you are actually making a good investment that will benefit your work in their present and future. There are certain things you should look for and also avoid to ensure that you are making a good investment.

For the time being, remember that nothing in this world is free. Working in TFP shoots is an incredible way to practice and perfect your skills, but to actually acquire new techniques, social capital, connections use of equipment and knowledge of quality does cost money and it really can be an investment in your future.

As always, if you have any questions or comments please feel free to leave them below and subscribe to the blog for more photography/travel related posts.