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3 Ways to Create a Stunning Boudoir Photography Portfolio (That Don’t Involve Model Calls)

Model calls…yay or nay? 

After talking to some of you over on my Instagram Live recently, the general consensus is that it’s a nay.  And it’s not hard to see why. 

Model calls are a tactic used to get clients in front of your camera, disguised as a modeling opportunity (not just using models themselves…that’s a totally separate thing!). People will often use this as a way to create a photography portfolio, especially if they’re just starting out.

And it’s very attractive to many models (experienced or not) because they think they get free sessions and photos — all they need to do is show up and sign a release form. 

But more often than not, what ends up happening is they have to PAY for their photos. Not cool, right?

Not only that, but model calls tend to make photographers look a little too green. You want to establish yourself as an authority in your niche/local area. But it’s hard to do that with model calls. 

The good news? There are plenty of other ways to build your portfolio. And in this episode, I’m going to be digging into three of them!


My Own Experience Trying to Create a Photography Portfolio With Model Calls

I do want to briefly touch on my own experience doing model calls, so you can get a better idea of why I say they’re not a strategic choice.

I did one, and only one, in 2016, right after I leased my first studio. The model came all the way there, we completed the photoshoot, and then I explained to her that the session and hair and makeup were free, but the actual images were not. 

After hearing this, she was really unhappy she had to pay for her photos (and rightfully so). I ended up giving her some photos for free and left it at that. At the time, I didn’t really know how icky model calls were, but I take full responsibility that this was my fault that it went as badly as it did. 

Now if you market it right, models will know what to expect and whether or not they should expect free images. But I definitely did not do that. 

I’m not saying all model calls are bad. You can do them in a way that doesn’t feel as shady. But I think that experience was enough to completely turn me off of model calls for good

How to Find Models Without Using Model Calls

All that being said…you still need to build up your portfolio! And you probably know by now that using models when you don’t have a lot of clients yet is a good way to do so. 

But how can you actually find these models without doing a model call? 


This gives you soooo much creative freedom to find models you want to work with. And by “want to work with” I mean your ideal client. If you’re looking to work with brides, you can find a bride-to-be who can model for you, for example. 

I like to start my search on Instagram. And honestly, this is where I’ve always found my favorite clients. You can search by simply using hashtags or the location feature to find models in your area!


This is not only a good way to find models, but also start a working relationship with other businesses too. 

Think of businesses you’d need to partner with as a boudoir photographer — hairdressers, makeup artists, aestheticians, personal stylists, nail techs, bridal boutiques, personal trainers, etc. 

You can offer them amazing photos (for free) in exchange for their referrals. 

And because you’re offering something major in this new business relationship…if you give them an amazing experience, they will be more than happy to send you new clients!


Don’t underestimate the power of an influencer!

Just think about it, how many times have you bought something off Instagram or TikTok simply because someone you follow told you to buy it? Probably more often than you want to admit, right? (I know I do!)

For example, one of the models I worked with back in 2018 was a fashion blogger in St. Louis. At the time she had about 15K followers who were mostly local women in the area.

Well, we quickly became friends, and one day we had a Botox party in my studio. And TONS of people showed up! Simply because they wanted to meet her. And the cool thing is, I still get so many clients who come from following her all those years ago!

So influencers work as models, too…and they work long term. It’s a great use of your time! (And a great way to make friends, too!).

Learn How to Elevate Each Session for the Best Client Experience!

So yes, there’s a time and place for models…if you do it the right way. And yes, model calls aren’t all bad…if you also do them the right way. You just need to know what your goal is for the session.

If you need to book models fast, or want to just practice getting your feet wet with posing and guiding clients through a session, then a model call might be right for you. 

If you want to build up a portfolio and create lasting relationships with other businesses and potential clients, then I’d say it’s not the best option for you right now.  

Whatever you decide to do, just make sure you clearly communicate expectations with your models and plan accordingly! 

Secrets of the Boudoir Industry:

Want to learn more about booking clients? Join The Secrets of the Boudoir Industry Training!

You’ll learn what it’s really like to work as a boudoir photographer. I dig into a few of the most common pieces of advice for the industry, and you’ll find out if they’re fact or fiction, and why it matters for YOUR biz.

It’s coming up soon on January 24, and it’s 100% FREE…don’t miss it! Sign up here


Tracy Lynn is a boudoir photogapher for brides-to-be in the St. Louis area, and a mentor + coach for photographers looking to level up their businesses with better systems and processes.

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