Casting Call: How To Find Models For Your Shoot

Casting the right talent for your photo shoot is a crucial component of every job. Following some basic (but vital) steps will help ensure that you find the perfect person—because the wrong one can ruin your shoot. Here’s what you should do:

How do you find your talent/models?

If you don’t have the budget to hire a casting director, the next best place to look is Google. There are many different model and talent agencies around the world, so simply do a search and see what comes up! You’ll easily find a wide variety of agencies, with an enormous range of faces and rates.

If the budget for your job is a bit more substantial, however, a professional casting director will ensure top results. After all — it’s their business to have the insider contacts, knowledge, and sources not found on Google.Try to include a budget for a professional casting director whenever possible, as it can not only be cost-effective in the long run, but will make the casting process significantly smoother and quicker.

Street casting is another popular way to find talent.This is an excellent solution if clients ask for “real” peoplewho aren’t actors or models and who can bring a specific experience or look to the campaign (particularly for artistic or branding reasons). As an added benefit, street casting usually keeps budgets fairly low. Still, casting “real” people can be tricky, as sourcing, selecting, and vetting non-models and non-actors requires wide contacts beyond the fashion industry, good common sense, and the ability to think outside the box. Where do you start if you needto find “real” artists, “real” finance people,a double-Dutch team,or a “real” Sumo wrestler—not just who looks the part but are available and can move and be relaxed in front of the camera? Finding the right people takes experience, instinct, and akeen eye. If you have the budget, using a seasoned casting director can help you quickly find people whose story and persona work on camera and who can sell the client’s vision effectively.

I spoke with casting director ML McCarthy of Urban Productions NYC, who told me, “Casting directors are hired for their eye and their ability to interpret the vision of the creative team.

We are expected to find the unusual and the unique. We are problem solvers if the vision is unclear and we make creative recommendations and hopefully lead them to a casting solution.”

Casting for I.D. and Chase by Urban Productions NYC

Casting for I.D. and Chase by Urban Productions NYC

What should you look for when casting?

Each casting is unique and will have specific requirements. Always get a written description from your client about what they’re looking for. The more details the better, as this will help you fine-tune your search. Have them send swipes or examples along with the layouts.Once you have them you can start to break down the specifics. I always recommend making a checklist to ensure you have all your bases covered. Some of the things you should be addressing are:

  • What is the most important requirement the client needs? Is it a specific look? Or do they need a particular skill? Both?
  • What is the budget?
  • How much talent is needed?What are the required ages, ethnicity, hair color, skin tone, male, female, height, size, etc.
  • How many days will the shoot last, and what is the talent’s availability?
  • What is the fee for the talent?

Put as much information as possible in this list, and send it out to your sources.

Making sure the talent is right for your shoot

It’s important to meet the talent and get a feel for who they are, how they look, and how they move before hiring them.People can appear very different in real life than they do on their comp cards. Assessing people in person allows you to make a better-informed decision about their suitability for your job.

*If your talent is required to have a skill or be doing something in the actual photo shoot, then have them mimic that at the casting session.You’re always going to be looking for the person who can not only take direction and instantly gets what you are asking of them, but who will also listen to instructions on set.

*Have the potential model come dressed as the intended character and/or have the product or props at the casting. This will also help you in making your final decision.

Here is a great example: My company did the casting for a Maille Mustard campaign and here you can see the process from layout to casting to final product.


Casting Photos:

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Final Ads:

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Photo Credit: Sam Yocum



Nannette Patridge

Nannette Patridge began her career working as a studio manager for influential advertising and editorial photographers, where she honed her production skills with high-profile clients. She continued to be active in the photo community as an in-house producer and photo agent at Visages Reps, also holding full-time positions as a photo director, photo editor, and freelance bookings editor throughout her career. Nann welcomes working with new clients of all specialties, having produced assignments for Godiva Japan, Verizon, Bloomingdales, Adidas, Maille, Key Bank to French Grazia, Elle, Red Book, Esquire, and more. In 1998, she founded NLP Productions, a full-service production and casting house servicing artists and creatives producing print, video, commercial and editorial productions worldwide.

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