Whenever you are starting out in a people centric sort of photography, you are going to need to build a portfolio. There are certainly advantages to doing this with professional models, but at this point prior to any paying assignments, you probably don’t have the budget for it. The most obvious way around this is to work with friends.
Since you don’t have much budget, offering your friends a fair fee for the shoot probably isn’t going to work. Essentially then you will go with the TFP (time for print) model. This has a little acronym, because it is an established part of the business and finding a professional model willing to do this to build their portfolio is also a very good option to build the portfolio.
Contact your friend and tell them a little about the photo you intend to shoot and ask if they would be interested in modeling for it for a free print (these days you’ll probably want to include a small electronic file for social media profiles, etc.) If they say yes plan a time and place. When the shoot happens try to arrange food for them as well. One shoot we sat down to a home cooked meal and the other I took my friend to lunch at Applebee’s – didn’t have time to prep the meal that time.
Since the entire idea of this is to get exposure, ask your friends if it would be ok if you tag the images with their name on social media. I suggest you ask because I’ve heard of a few ugly situations with tagged photos on FaceBook. A formal portrait really isn’t the sort of image likely to lead to that, but I make it a habit to ask first anyhow.
The biggest drawback to working with friends is that they probably won’t know as much about posing and will feel less comfortable with it. The two main ways around this are to be very good about coaching the posing (not where I excel) or to be patient and work with them with subtle tips until you get the needed pose. Another thing that might help is to show them images on a tethered computer, be aware this doesn’t always work. Some friends I’ve worked with were comforted to see a reasonably good image come across the screen and were more at ease after that, and I’ve had friends that seeing the images made them more apprehensive.
Well, now that I have my portfolio mostly to where I want it initially, I’m ready to learn how to more effectively use it to get paying assignments. I’m scheduled for a workshop this weekend that will hopefully help with that.