Boutique Modeling on eBay, a guide for models/designers
Hi, and thanks for reading my guide! I am a designer of children's boutique wear, as well as a professional children's photographer, and the mommy of a boutique model. I'd love to share some tips and tricks with you and offer my experience, so that you can avoid the mistakes that I've made and learned from.
It all began years ago when my daughter was about 1 1/2. I discovered a love of sewing, especially cute clothing for little girls. I began by making clothing for my daughter, and decided to try selling my creations on eBay. My method then (and a common mistake for many first-timers) was to lay the outfit on a flat surface and take pictures. Well, needless to say, I sold some things here and there at my opening bid price (usually little more than the cost of supplies) but people weren't exactly knocking my door down. I couldn't fitgure out what the problem was...when my daughter wore my clothing, we got tons of compliments, but on eBay, nothing. I browsed hundreds of auctions, studying what was out there...what was I missing? Well, my main problem was in my photography. I, a professional photographer no less, neglected to show off my outfits on a cute little model. With a model, the potential bidder can picture a lot easier how the outfit will look on her child, and is a lot more likely to bid! It also looks a lot more professional.
Well, my daughter quickly became my model, and this can work for some...but not so well for others. It truely depends on three things: your camera/equipment, your photography skills, and the cooperation of your child. Now, the first two I could handle, the third was a little iffy, especially at the wonderful age of 2! So while we worked together as model and photographer for a couple of years, I again went back to researching other auctions out there. One thing that drew me to other seller's designs was seeing their work on different children. It has been said that variety is the spice of life, and that really is true. To me, the ME pages of the designers who used many different models were the most appealing, so again, I changed my approach.
I quickly discovered that there are many eBay groups that designers can join to find models. Just go to "Community" then "Groups" and search "Boutique Model". Some groups offer models that do it "for fun" and offer services for free or in exchange for a small treat for the child, others set their own terms. Common terms are modeling in exchange for the outfit or for a set fee. Many model moms also offer photo editing services including creating collages for the designers, and adding borders & text. I have had many many wonderful experiences, and a couple of bad experiences, but over all using models has been one of the best business descisions that I've ever made. I have been blessed to work with some really amazing people, and just to be able to turn what was once the most stressful part of the process over to someone else has been quite a relief! I almost always use free models, and most have provided me with amazing professional shots.
So what do I look for in a model? Well let's face it, there are a ton of models out there, and they're all absolutely adorable! So how in the world do I choose?
The first, and most important point to consider is this: how clear are the pictures? Ask to see several pictures, are they all clearly focused, and framed well with excellent lighting? I almost always go with whoever has the best pictures.
Secondly I look for personality. Does the child look like she's having a blast modeling, or can you clearly tell from the pictures that this must have been Mom's idea?
Lastly I aim for variety. For my ME page and store, I like to have models with different looks, different ages, different haircolors, styles, etc. I just feel that this helps my clothing appeal to a more diverse group of people, and it adds interest.
Of course, if I work with a model once and it's a great experience, then I'm very likely to use that model again. I always thank the model/mommy personally in my auctions & store listings, and I always refer other designers to them as well (with their permission, of course).
Now for all of the new model mommies:
1) Never shoot in direct sunlight. When shooting outside, wait for an overcast day or shoot in the shade.
2) Get down on the same level as the child (this usually means your knees). When you "shoot down" the child's head looks disproportionately large, and it's hard to see the outfit.
3) Make it a fun thing. The best shots of little kiddos (3 & under) are usually candids. Follow them around, snapping as you go. The best poses for little ones are those that they do themselves. Put on some fun, upbeat music and snap away as they dance along.
4) Take pictures from all angles, but the one to focus on is full-length front. Make sure you have several good ones to show off the set. Also zoom in on any special details on the outfit that might be missed from a distance.
5) Pick a location that suits the outfit. For instance, for a nautical set look for a local marina, and let your little one model with boats in the background, or if you're lucky and live near the beach, shoot some there. For a ballerina set, shoot the pics at a ballet studio. For a camping-themed set, how about outside with some trees in the background. It doesn't have to be elaborate. Just notice your enviornment when you're out. Is there a pretty fence somewhere that would make a great background? How about a fountain in a public park?
6) (If you are also offering editing services) Send both the "enhanced" image, with a border, or the seller's ID or whatever you've added along with the original shot, in case they want something plain to edit themselves (not me, I'm not an HTML person!) Along with the pics, send an e-mail that states, "You have my permisson to use these pictures of my child in your auctions and on your ME page," clearly stating what you are allowing the photos to be used for. If you don't, expect an e-mail from the designer asking if she may have your permission. (Sending permission up front just cuts out an e-mail!)
7) Follw-up with the designer. As a new "model-mommy" you want to learn from all of your experiences. Ask the designer if she is pleased with the pictures, and was there anything that could improved upon next time? Leave the door open, if it was a great experience for you, tell her that you'd love the opportunity to work together again. (This could lead to another "job"!)
8) Very important: If you liked the outfit, and it was well-made, advertise for your designer. Get involved in the boutique groups on eBay and show off your little model in the designer's outfit. (I would never endorse something that I wouldn't buy myself, but...) If it's a really great set, show people! This helps promote the designer and the model.
9) If your arrangement with the designer is to ship out the set to the winning bidder, do so in a timely manner, and take care in how you package the outfit...or if you are to ship it back to the designer, do so as soon as you have finished photography and have been paid.
I hope this guide has helped you. If you feel that I've over-looked anything, please send me an ASQ and I'll update this guide. If you are a designer and would like some model referrals, send me an ASQ. I'll be happy to put you in touch with some awesome model mommies.
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