Are you a photographer looking to add diversity to your portfolio? As a woman of color in the industry, this is a topic that is incredibly important to me…
Now more than ever, BIPOC representation in visual media is on the minds of businesses and individuals as being a top priority, and for good reason. This week, I want to talk about why it’s important to commit to accurate representation and what it truly means to diversify your portfolio as a photographer. The events that have transpired and taken place in America over the last few weeks have really opened my eyes to the changes that need to be made.
So let’s talk about these changes. What is your why when it comes to this topic? Ask yourself if these changes will be reflected in your business for good? If the trend of caring about diversity goes away, are you committed to still making these changes personally within your business?
Let’s be brutally honest about the current photography industry. Diversity is lacking. The time is now for us as photographers to make some big changes, and move the industry in a new, more inclusive direction.
I have always worked with BIPOC and POC, and here are 4 tips for really diversifying your boudoir portfolio, to reach many different clients from a variety of ethnic backgrounds.
Reaching out directly
Maybe reaching out to potential clients is not something that you typically have had to do in the past. When picking and choosing models for shoots, be sure to keep an open mind to different ideas of beauty, letting go of and breaking down the traditional barriers of the past.
As a photographer, this step is an opportunity to make your work speak to a new direction in the modeling and photography industry. Seeking out diverse clientele can sometimes be easier said than done. Perhaps you live in a remote area, or someplace where diversity is really lacking in the general population. This could make things extra tricky when it comes to properly diversifying your portfolio with unique ethnicities. I really suggest reaching out directly to models that you want to shoot! This is something that I do personally and it’s a great way to connect with exactly the type of person that I am looking for.
Use social media to reach out and find models that you want to photograph Instagram is not just for posting and liking photos – it can be an incredible outreach tool, as well.
Scroll instagram for hashtags like #freelancemodels, or tags specifically relevant to your area – #dmvmodel or #washingtonDCmodel, (enter your city ) for example. It also does not hurt to use hashtags from other industries like #hairmakeupyourcity, as well. This trick allows you to scroll through the images of other photographers and check out potential models that you see. Most of the time, models do not only work with one single photographer in the field, but are very well-known in their local community and happily collaborate with various artists.
Another option is to reach out to models using an agency such as Helen Wells. *http://www.helenwellsagency.com/
2. The model call approach
Doing a model call is another way to try and diversify your portfolio as a photographer. If this is the direction that you choose to go in, first and foremost I recommend not making the call out for any specific skin colour or ethnicity. Being respectful and using appropriate wording is paramount to ensure you are not offensive while searching for the perfect client for your vision. Instead of requesting a “beautiful black female”, make a call out for Diverse Body Types, or Diverse Ethnicities instead. The point of diversifying your portfolio is to celebrate our differences, so make sure that truth is heard loud and clear before anything else.
And, I would highly suggest having a few POC/BIPOC models in your portfolio BEFORE you do a model call out like this, as you will attract a much more diverse clientele.
3. What NOT to do
When you reach out to a POC/BIPOC directly – do not tell them you are reaching out because you want to diversify your portfolio.
Please do not do this. Can you imagine how incredibly alienating that would feel to that person, especially with everything going on in the world right now?
Instead, tell them that you would love to work with them, that you have a vision and show them examples of your work! Most of the time, they will happily say YES.
Some freelance models might work for a fee. If that’s the case, pay them for their time, the same way you expect to be paid for yours. Other freelance models work ‘TFP’, a.k.a. time for print or trade for pics, which can be a win-win for both parties. Whatever the agreement comes down to, remember that modelling is a real job and needs to be respected.
Lastly, please remember that sharing MORE images doesn’t necessarily mean you’re sharing the right ones. Diversity in your portfolio is not just ticking a box. It’s important to remember that we don’t just need random BIPOC and POC representation, we need to have really great and genuine BIPOC and POC representation.
What you share still needs to be compelling. It needs to move you, and others, and tell a story. Ensuring diversity within your portfolio provides a representative perspective that depicts a variety of lived experiences.
If you only care about being seen as a diverse photographer, your work will reflect just that. However, if your goal is to actually be a diverse photographer, you will end up doing the work to understand this, and as a result will portray each and every model’s story and ethnicity authentically.
4. Re-imagine your ‘ideal client’
In general as a photographer, what you put out there to the world is what you attract. People book you when they can picture themselves being photographed by you. Which leads us to re-imaging your new ideal client. Do you know who your ideal client is?! You’ve probably thought about it before. Define your past ideal client again, then define your new ideal client. What differences do you notice? Are they a more diverse person, a person of color? You can and should start marketing directly to your new ideal client. To reach a whole new clientele you need to change the way you are currently marketing your brand and your business.
If you have previously marketed to one group of people only, start by thinking about what people of color might care about. Maybe this means reaching out to your friends and family to get some new insights and suggestions.
Diversifying your marketing efforts with a whole new approach, coupled with a new more diverse portfolio – your new diverse client base will follow.
Thank you for taking the time to read my blog post this week about diversifying your portfolio as a photographer and please, if you found this post helpful, feel free to share it here*