how to build a senior model team

Let’s face it: no matter how prepared you are, sticky and difficult situations are bound to arise for you and your model team. While I wish I could prepare you for every single situation, there’s just no way to make that happen. But, I can tell you about the sticky situations for senior model teams that I’ve faced and how I dealt with them. I hope that my experiences help you feel more confident about your own model team! Let’s dive into a few common situations and what I recommend!

Your senior model uses another photographer.

This is a big one and something I have definitely had happen to me over the years! As a senior model for your photography business, the model should be using you for their senior photos and should not be promoting another photographer. It doesn’t make sense, there’s no way around it. While I’m all about community and promoting photographers, if you’re my spokesmodel… you should be working with me. But I have had this happen to me and it is not fun!

So what do we do when this happens? First things first, try not to take it personally! I know you’re probably rolling your eyes at me right now. It’s hard not to take it personally but they are teenagers and we have to remember that. The second step is to go straight to the source and talk about it. Try to understand the situation and avoid confrontations. Ask them what happened or why they chose to use that photographer. Then after you listen, remind them of the contract and agreement they have with you. Explain why you have that policy in place so that they understand. I have found that a lot of times they forget that part of the contract or maybe they didn’t fully understand it in the first place and thought you didn’t mean this particular situation. I recommend having your senior and parent initial by this particular part of the contract to avoid any confusion.

Your senior model edits or uses a filter on your image.

I had this happen to me – and honestly the senior became famous because of it, ha. But looking back, I realize it was 100% my fault. From the start, I failed to set out my expectations about edits or filters on images. Now, I have it in my contract that they’re not to add filters or alter the images in way. Again, have your senior and parent initial if you’re super concerned about it. Remember, your models are JUST teenagers – and they don’t do these things out of hate. They just don’t think it through!  Just like with the first example of a model using a different photographer, when I see or hear about a filter, I go straight to the source and discuss it. Open communication is key.

Your senior models come to shoots unprepared.

This is definitely something I have to take ownership of in years past when it comes to models not coming to shoots prepared. Maybe they showed up with the wrong outfit that didn’t fit the theme or they were late. No matter what the situation, I can say that it happened because I didn’t do my best job communicating to them what I wanted for the shoot! I believe there is no such thing as too much communication and especially when it comes to shoots. A lot of the shoots I do with my model team have a very specific look to them, a vision that I have and I can’t expect them to fully understand that vision unless I explain it to them!

So I started creating details shoot inspiration boards with a list of what to wear and what not to wear. I share what colors to stick with and which to avoid, as well as the kind of outfits. I encourage them to text me their outfits and I send out lots of reminders about the session, too!  And, there’s always my client closet if all else fails!

An applicant just… isn’t the right fit for your team.

This sticky situation is probably the hardest. We don’t start this team to hurt feelings or make people feel badly. But, the reality is that not every applicant is going to be the right fit for your team. It’s up to you how many seniors you bring onto your team, but I know my limits and I can’t just bring them all onto the team and still keep a great experience going. And while this is the worst part about it, I also know that I am making decisions based on what works for my business, my team and everyone involved. I have to choose girls that I think are a good representation of my business, that will do the things I ask them to do, that will participate and that will get along well with the other members of the team.

Again, I over communicate about how every applicant won’t be accepted throughout the process. It helps to make your expectations clear up front! Again, I know many photographers who avoid a model team all together because they don’t want to deal with this situation and I get it… it’s your business and you have to do what is right for you. But I also know that no matter how much I would love to pour my heart and soul into every teenager, I can’t. I am only one person running a business with a family that I also have to give my time to. When it comes to make the decision of who is right for your team, you have to have a system in place that allows you to get as much information as possible about each applicant to make an informed decision and then trust your gut!

The bottom line…

In all of these situations, the key is setting clear expectations from the start, open communication throughout the year they are models, and preparing your team in advance of what they will need to do. Remember they can’t read our minds! Our models are not running businesses so they don’t fully understand our side of things unless we explain it. And when it comes to dealing with teenagers, say it over and over again! This is one of the reasons I love my Model Handbook. I give a copy to every model at the first shoot so they know my expectations, our plan for the year, and more. It’s a great physical reminder of everything they’ve agreed to. You might want to consider putting one together for your team!

I hope these situations that I have shared today help you when it comes to any one of them happening in your own model team. And I hope that no matter what situation comes up, you handle it by discussing it and listening to them. Everyone just wants to work together and make a difference in your business – and their senior year! Try to enjoy it and have fun with your model team, no matter what happens!

If you want to learn even more about spokesmodel teams, be sure to grab a spot at my free training How to Create a Successful Spokesmodel Team without sacrificing time, energy or profit. Be sure to save your seat at HERE for this free webinar!


Are you a photographer wanting to create a Model Program that works for your business?  Have you started one but it hasn’t worked the way you hoped?  If you want to learn how to create a Senior Model Program that really works and makes teens want to be a part of it, then join me in the Spokesmodel Academy!

Build a spokesmodel program that is successful, gets your name out to your target market, fills your calendar with paying clients and so much more! Sign up HERE! This program will help you plan out your perfect spokesmodel program, fill your calendar with paying clients and allow you to create a must-have experience like no one else in your area!

Sticky Situations for Senior Model Teams and What to Do About Them: Episode 70 of the Seniorologie podcast for senior portrait photographers


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Sticky Situations for Senior Model Teams and What to Do About Them: Episode 70 of the Seniorologie podcast for senior portrait photographers

Ep. 70 – Sticky Situations for Senior Model Teams and What to Do About Them


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