Outfits for Photos (on the CHEAP)

How to Dress Your Model for FREE!

Ok, here’s a post that’s libel to bring me some criticism but that’s okay.  As most people who know me will tell you… I like saving money wherever possible.  BUT, I also like to be fair about saving money.  With that in mind, I’m going to tell you a little ‘secret’ (shhh… don’t tell anyone with the exception of everyone you know and everyone they know — but to everyone else… MUM’s the word) as to how you can have your model (i.e., the person you’re going to photograph) dress (at least temporarily) for FREE.  Seriously!

Before I get to the nitty gritty of the secret allow me to tell you what prompted me to ‘think outside the box’ when it came to figuring out this secret.

At some point in time (remember I have short-term memory deficit so I’m going by some notes I found in my phone) in 2011 I happened to be asked by a young lady (Shelby) how much I would charge to take some photos of her for her birthday.  I gave her a card and told her to have her parents give me a call.  A couple of days later, they did.  As I talked to the father of the young lady it became apparent that they had very little money (he’d been laid off a few months prior and had just gotten a new job and his wife was disabled).  So, while they wanted to give their daughter what she wanted for her birthday they simply couldn’t afford my prices.  Once I had negotiated a price they could afford I got together with Shelby and we began to talk through the photoshoot.  At some point the conversation turned to the types of outfits she would wear.  I found out that the young lady only had one really pretty dress to wear but no shoes, shawl or purse to accentuate it.  I could tell that she was very aware of her family’s lack of money and, not wanting to embarrass her (after all, I’ve been there, done that and got the t-shirt) I changed the subject.

Somewhere during our conversation I had a sudden thought… an inspired thought… a thought that would forever change the world of photography… a concept so outstandingly brilliant that by the end of the 21st century would bring about world peace, lower the tides of the oceans, reverse hot house gases and, most importantly, would stop Hollywood from ruining good sitcoms by producing reboots!

Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating just a little but, still, it was a good thought!  Here’s what it was:

Use Retail Stores to Help Dress Your Model (for FREE)

The concept is simple and it works!

All you do is take your camera with you (as you read further you’ll realize why you can’t take your light set-up — but you can still bring an off camera light as long as you have a shoe cord), go into any major retail outlet, help your model choose the clothes, shoes and accessories they’ll wear and bring them to an out of the way dressing room.  After your model dresses themselves you’ll be able to tuck price tags into place so they don’t show and then start snapping photos.  The wonderful thing about ‘most’ dressing rooms is that they usually have good lighting and two to three mirrors (so the customer can see themselves from different angles without having to move much.

The only drawbacks to doing a photoshoot like this are: 1) You have to be calm enough to continue to take photos even if you’re approached by staff (most of whom, quite honestly, will be more interested in actually what you’re doing than stopping you from doing it — especially if you’re gutsy enough to ‘include’ them in the photos).  2) You should have enough money on hand (i.e., cash or credit card) to actually buy something if the store clerk insists — something I’ve NEVER had happen. 3) You’ll (possibly) have to work around other customers.

The last drawback will be the least of your worries if you know the ‘slow times’ for stores (in my area the slowest days and times in our mall are Mondays and Tuesdays between the hours of 9:30 – 11 am).  The other two drawbacks can actually be turned into positives if you’re ‘happy’ enough about what you’re doing.  For instance, my son, for his 15th birthday, wanted to have a photoshoot wearing a new suit he’d gotten.  I took him to the local mall, headed into one of the shops and came out with the following photos:

Brance Cool2P Brance Fedora 2 B&WP Brance Fedora 2P Brance GQ2P
He didn’t have either the pair of sunglasses or the fedora you see him with when we entered the store (they were provided for us by Beall’s).  We actually liked the sunglasses so much that I purchased them for him but the fedora was put back on the rack.  As you can see, just a couple of accessories (and the promise of a name placement — Beall’s) allowed us to have a great time (that and the excellent DNA my wife and I gave to our son).

Shelby, who is not my child (and therefore isn’t shown herein) had a great time as well.  We went to both Hot Topic and JcPenney’s and accessorized her to the max.  About the only thing she ended up wearing that was her own that day was her dress and even that only got into a couple of shots — not that it wasn’t pretty (it was) but we found jackets and blouses and boots and necklaces etc. for her to try own.  I explained to the clerk(s) who came over to watch her model that it was her birthday and she wanted to try on clothes she thought she might want to get at some point in the future and that I wanted her to see how she looked in each one.  One of the clerks actually got into the ‘act’ and modeled with Shelby (which made for a very, very fun day).  At the end of the photoshoot Shelby ended up spending $15 at JcPenney’s and $25 at Hot Topic (her birthday money) because she found some stuff she actually liked.  So, for a few minutes of time, the use of their clothes both stores made a profit, got their names used in an article and, most importantly, made a young customer very happy.  Not too bad, eh?

Until next time… 

Blessings from Lonnie and Honeycutt Photography, Mobile, AL (Alabama)