Over the last five years I have worked with quite a number of models who have ranged from absolute beginners to those that are very experienced. While I do not claim to be an expert in this regard I thought I would share some tips for those getting into the model game based on my experiences. These are all from the viewpoint from the photographer as you will appreciate. I welcome any comments others may have.
Be realistic in your expectations
While stories like the girl being photographed at the World Cup being offered a lucrative contract do occur, the reality is that for most girls the opportunities to actual model full time are extremely rare and in New Zealand limited. Most of the offers you will receive from photographers will be for TFP sessions. This is a very old term that stands for “Time for Prints” which actually comes from the film days. In return for their time the model would receive hard copy images to use in their portfolio. Now days it will be generally be digital files.
Generally speaking you will only receive actual payment from a photoshoot under the following circumstances:
- It is commercial shoot where everyone is getting paid, or
- You are an experienced model with a solid portfolio and references behind you
- A full nude shoot
In the event that you can get paid then the amount that you can charge is totally based on the level of experience that you bring.
For everything else just go along and enjoy the experience and learn from it.
Be reliable & honest
For most photographers reliability will be their number one issue with models and the worst thing you can do it get a reputation as a “flake”. Once the details of a shoot have been agreed it is very important that all parties stick to them. The most important is actually turning up on time and being in a state ready to shoot. Communication is key here to ensure that there are no misunderstandings.
If I am arranging hair & makeup for a shoot then the start time we agree will be when you arrive and the Make-Up Artist (MUA) starts their work. But if we have agreed that you are doing your own hair & makeup then the time set will be when I expect to start shooting. Under such circumstances you need to turn up ready to shoot.
Now we all know that things can happen but if they do let the photographer know as soon as you can. Never, under any circumstances, simply not show up to a shoot. If you do change your mind, be honest with the fact. Do not make up some lame excuse that you think sounds plausible because quite frankly we have a list. You would be amazed how many emergency hospital visits happen to models.
The sad fact is that many people think that because the shoot is not paid that it is somehow a lower standard of responsibility than a paid shoot. The reality is that while no money is changing hands all of the parties are giving up things to take part and therefore there is a cost. If a model gets a reputation of being unreliable when it comes to shoots that she will personally benefit from, then there is absolutely no way she is going to be recommended for paid work.
Practise your craft
Dancers quite often make good models simply because they know how to isolate parts of their bodies and use them to create expression. Dancers achieve this control through countless hours of practise. Really experienced models operate in a similar way in that when a photographer asks them for a particular look or pose, they can instantly achieve it. The way that they have done this is with practise. Now some of this will be at photoshoots but not all. Practising in front of a mirror is valuable because you get the instant feedback on what you are doing.
Know your limits and be prepared to stick to them
Most models will be required to have some images in their portfolio that show a little skin. Some people have body issues and won’t get undressed with the lights on while other people can walk around in front of complete strangers in the nude without batting an eyelid. We are all different and it is important when you are starting out to know how far you are comfortable to go when agreeing to shoots. This can fall into several area such as:
- The amount of clothing worn ranging from fully clothed to fully nude
- The poses requested and the angles that the photos are taken from
- The subjects of the images.
It is also important that when you are discussing shoots that everyone is clear on what the terminology means. For example “implied nude” means that the photo gives the impression of the model being nude when in fact they may not be. A close crop of a naked back may not show the fact that the person still has clothes on. However some people think that implied nudes mean that the model is actually naked and items are covering the strategic bits. While the end images may be similar the actual shoot itself will be quite different.
Once you have established those limits and agreed them with a photographer then it is important to stick to them. That is not to say that once you have done an initial shoot at a particular level you will not want to try again and push the boundaries a little further.
Don’t appear to have double standards
This actually leads on from the previous tip. If you have set a limit on what you say you are comfortable with then don’t have images that show you will go past it. I see this so often in model portfolio on sites like Model Mayhem where in the profile narrative the model states that they do not shoot nudes, when in the portfolio there are nude images. Now that quite clearly says to me that this model has a double standard. It is better to be upfront and state something like you are prepared to shoot nudes but only under certain circumstances and then outline what those are. For example some models only shoot nudes with photographers they know and trust, or will only shoot them in a paid shoot.
Respect limitation on the images
This has happened to me on a couple of occasion and believe you me it is really annoying to the photographer. During the process of producing the final images you may be shown unedited versions for selection purposes, or you may be given final images with watermarks on them. Now I realise that you may be dying to show your Facebook friends these images but if the photographer has shown you them for your selection, DO NOT share them. You will eventually get the images that both you and the photographer want to be seen and only these should be out there.
And if you get an image with a watermark NEVER remove it.
Finally as I have a couple of daughters, “be safe”.
In the 1990’s there was a cop show called “Hill Street Blues” and every episode would start with the officers being briefed. The sergeant would always finish with the words “Let’s be careful out there”. While there are a lot of very good and sincere photographers out there, unfortunately there are some real creeps out with camera’s who prey on models. There are some simple rules that can keep you safe.
- Try to meet beforehand in a public place to talk over the shoot. If you get a bad vibe from the meeting then end the discussion there,
- Ask to take a friend along. This is especially important if the location of the shoot it remote.
Now I know that not all photographers will actually allow you bring along a friend but I always do for the simple reason that if a model in uncomfortable it tends to show in the images. There are however a couple of caveats. Firstly I tell them that I will put the friend to work as an assistant, and secondly I will generally not allow male friends to shoots that involve lingerie or nudity. This is for the simple reason that I have found that models get uncomfortable when their boyfriends are around and you are trying to create a connection with them.