Dressed to the 9s: Working With Live Models

My friend and fellow vintage eBay seller, Bobbi, dressedtothe9s, uses live models for her auction listings; something that I’ve never done!  So I am going to let her tell you, as a guest blogger, how she does it so fabulously.  Take it away, Bobbi!


The discussion has been held, many times, about the benefits of taking pictures of your clothes on a live model vs. a mannequin. Everyone has an opinion, and when it comes down to it, the choice is yours. Personally, I have a mannequin named Goldie that I love! I use her almost exclusively for my older, more classic vintage from the 30s thru early 60s. She has a gorgeous figure, doesn’t talk back, is always on time, stays still when I tell her to, and most importantly: she never has a blemish! However, I prefer to use live models when I am photographing trendier items from the mid 60s thru late 80s. A model can show the movement and flow of an item, but more importantly, she can make a personal connection with the buyer and showcase your item to its higher potential. Ever tried to show the beauty of a kimono sleeved jumpsuit with palazzo pants, on a mannequin? So, if you are interested in the ins and outs of working with a live model, I would love to share what I know.

Where to find a model: The first thing that I do is post an ad for a model. Be as specific as you can, in regards to height, weight, size, hair color and age. Give a brief description of the job (example: online vintage clothing sales) and ask that they send their information along with at least 2 pics to you via email, including full body and face shot. Ask for unedited pictures! When I am ready to start my search for a new model, I post on craigslist, do a model call on my myspace, and print off flyers and post them at local coffee shops, junior colleges and community bulletin boards. Its always nice to ask neighbors, friends and family. I keep business cards on me at all times to pass out, and found my last model working behind the counter at Office Max.

Meet and greet: Once you have narrowed your search down, I set up a day to meet with potential models. For this first interview, I invite either a parent or friend to come along, just to make the girls feel a bit safer. There are many predators advertising for models and it is important to let them know that you are on the up and up. Have your camera ready to take a few candid shots of each gal and I like to keep a notebook handy to jot down comments once they leave. Chemistry is so important! No matter how pretty a girl is, if you don’t like her personality, or she doesnt take direction from you, it will not be a good working environment. Remember… this is supposed to be fun!

Compensation: What to pay? I know quite a few sellers who use models and we all do it different. You can pay by the hour, trade, or pay by the piece. I pay my girls “per-piece”. It is good incentive for them to change quickly, take direction and move onto the next piece. Trade is always an option with my girls too, but I do it at the Per Piece ratio. X amount of value on a dress, means she owes me X amount of pictures.

Model releases: Whether you are a part time housewife who sells online once or twice a month, or a Powerseller who works at this hard every day, it is very important that your protect yourself legally with a model release form for each person you use. This gives you sole ownership of the pictures and allows you to modify, manipulate, merge and publish the pictures online. It is MANDATORY for you to get a signed release if you are dealing with a minor, and I suggest that you personally meet with the guardian/parent and see them sign the document. Many a young girl has forged a name, in order to see herself in print. Here is a general contract, that you can modify to your specifics:

The Shoot: I like to work with 2 models at the same time. My gals have been together for a long time and we all have a great time! We spend about 15 minutes going over the items, and then we divide the items between them. While one of the girls is shooting with me, the other one is getting ready. As soon as one girl is done, the other model gets in front of the camera. I never leave my spot and the inventory is constantly rotating and changing. When they are getting paid per item, they appreciate how fast things move along.

Organization: This is probably the most important issue to have a productive/fun shoot! I categorize my shoots with different racks, each one with the appropriate boots/shoes. I do all the dresses with black shoes first, boots next, flats, etc. Keep a box of accessories close at hand, with belts and clasps that may be needed to pin an item to a model. Bottled water within reach is necessary for the models. It gets hot having so much fun!

Picture Review: This is especially important for the first few times that you use a new model. I find myself saying “give me right shoulder”, “stomach in”, “kick back your leg”m, “pivot your knee”, alot! You want a girl that can take direction, but more importantly, you need to SHOW her WHY you want specific shots. Sit down at the computer after a shoot and you will both end up giggling at the funny faces, bad posture, flailing arms, etc. A constructive critique between the two of you will make her understand what you want. I try to focus on the GREAT shots and point out the things that I like, and they listen and learn.

Editing: After my pictures are edited, I upload them to my pictures on my myspace, into the models specific folder. They are welcome to copy the pictures and to use them on their own sites, be that facebook or myspace. I also have small Moo photo business cards with pictures of my models, and I present all of them with a card holder that has pictures of them on the front, and my business information on the back.

In closing: Working with a live model is so much fun! I have become best friends/den mother with all of my models and am still in contact with every single one. I hope that my influence in bringing out their beauty and showcasing them, along with positive motivation from me as an older woman has enhanced their lives. I know that their connection to me, has enhanced mine!

Bobbi sells wonderful vintage clothing and accessories through eBay under her account name Dressedtothe9s and from her lovely website. You can also find her MySpace page here

One Response to “Dressed to the 9s: Working With Live Models”

  1. Deb

    Very interesting. Great information, well thought out. It is nice to see successful sellers support each other..

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