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No references? No experience? NO PROBLEM!

By Danny Molyneux, written 1436209027.

I understand the dilemma you have, I was there a very short time ago. No references, a portfolio full of nothing but self portraits and Lego, and no clue what to do next. Today, three months later, I am the veteran of seven photo shoots with models, have seven glowing references of which I'm very proud, have six more shoots confirmed in my calendar, and several other irons in the fire. Life is sweet and PurplePort has made it so.

All very well me boasting about how well I've done, but how did I do it? There are a few steps I took, which I will try to explain to you now.

Get some decent non-model images in your portfolio

It doesn't matter who or even what of, just take some good quality photos and upload them. If you're into landscapes, then pick your best ones and upload them. If you're a macro photographer then get some of those beautiful close-up images uploaded. Street photographers put some of your best candid and decisive moments up. Take some good quality self-portraits, not with your phone, and post them to your portfolio. All you shoot is Lego? No problem. Hey, it worked for me.

You've got no references so nobody knows if you're a decent sort or not, but you can now prove that you know one end of a camera from the other. People with photography knowledge, and that includes models as well as photographers, will be able to tell if your work is of an acceptable standard or not. Most people here understand that we all have to start somewhere and will be accepting of a beginner's portfolio that doesn't contain model images, so long as you can demonstrate that you know which way to point the camera. You will be accepted.

Admin note: all members of PurplePort are required to maintain a minimum of 4 examples of their portraiture work in their portfolio. This does not necessarily have to be of models however, it can be friends, family, street photography, events or even sports.


Join in with the site. Get your name known. The easiest way to do this is to create a post in the Everyone Welcome group. Just say "Hello", or tell us a little bit about yourself. You'll be surprised how welcoming everybody is. This truly is a wonderful community and you will be given a warm welcome. This also gives you the chance to start interacting with people. This interaction is key to success on PurplePort.

Join in with other group discussions. Look at the portfolios of people on the site; love their photos; pass complimentary comments on the images you love. You'll start to see that photolove reciprocated on your own portfolio. People will start to notice you.

Pay for experience

I'm talking about you getting experience and having an experienced model working with you. Double experience. This you need to pay for. You may be tempted to get started with a TF collaboration shoot. This is a mistake. A newbie photographer working with a newbie model is a recipe for disaster. A very wise person once said "Green + Green = Black and Blue". You will be much better off working with an experienced model.

"Ah, but I have no references." you say, "How can I get a model to work with me?".

The answer to this is a Studio Day. Professional models and studios often get together, and either invite six to eight photographers to photograph the model together for a few hours, or even better will split the day into several hour slots. You can book one, or if you're smart more than one, of these slots. This is the perfect way to get started. It is a safe an controlled environment. The model knows the studio owner will be on hand so will be less concerned about your lack of references. You get to work with a top quality model who will help make your portfolio come alive. Everybody is happy.

So, have a look out for interesting Studio Day Casting Calls, or search for some here, find one you fancy and apply. Don't think about it, apply. It's easy.

You will either be applying directly to the model's casting call or to the studio's. Either way you must make contact with the model at some point. Tell them you have no experience working with models. Be honest; you have nothing to be ashamed or embarrassed about. We all have to start somewhere as I mentioned earlier. If the model knows you are inexperienced they will more than likely be happy to help. It is much better that they know up front. Semper paratus.

Your first photo shoot

So now you're booked in on your first photo shoot. Exciting times. Charge your batteries, clean your lenses, format those memory cards, remember to bring spares. That's the trivial stuff. The import thing is this:

Treat the model with respect and dignity at all times. You should do this for every human being you meet, but more so in this situation. You are dealing with an experienced professional who is going to help you create some wonderful images and help you on your way to obtaining that killer portfolio. A happy model = better photos + a good reference. Happy days.

So at this point you're done. You have experience and you have a reference, and hopefully some great images to share. Write about your experience in the Share A Shoot groupThis is when interesting things start happening. Messages that you sent to other models in your first week, long since forgotten and never replied to start getting replies. New messages that you send get replied to quicker, and with positive replies rather than "thanks but no thanks". You are now a member of the community, planning new photo shoots and writing articles about how to get started.

Hope this has been of some help to you.


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