Modeling Misconceptions

Posted on September 2, 2011

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Something that I see frequently in the photographic world is that everyone has notions of what that world is and what it means to them. Sometimes they are dead on, and other times, they are just wrong. So, let us get on with what some of these things are and discuss them a little bit. This is going to be a long blog.

The first is something that I run into often when I find someone who I think would be a good model but they don’t fit the stereotypical image for a high fashion model. They will tell me that they could never be a model because they are too old, too heavy, have too many wrinkles, their hips are fat, they have too big a tummy, or any number of excuses. The thing to understand is that ANYONE can be a model. They range in all sizes and shapes and ages. Being a model doesn’t mean you are only a high fashion model. There are other types of models. If you don’t believe me, go to the AARP website, look at the placards and brochures in your bank or hotel, and look at the people who are in the advertisements you see on a regular basis like for motorized scooters. What matters most to all artistic types for models is that the person have the “look” they want to capture for their work. All types of people are needed. Don’t discount your worth because you aren’t fashion model material.

Along these same lines, just because you don’t fit the fashion model requirements, it doesn’t mean you will be a successful alternative model or actress. Modeling becomes a part of you, and either you do it and and survive, or you do it and you don’t. The requirements for various types of modeling are there for reasons, no matter how arcane or silly those requirements seem. You may feel you are good enough to be a fashion model, but don’t meet the requirements and you will be that fashion model. You will be turned down for fashion type assignments. Thinking that you can be a fashion model as an alternative model is misleading yourself. I can’t speak for the requirements of being an actress. The main thing I want you to understand is that you will find a niche for the work you do as a model. Don’t think that you can be one genre through another genre of modeling, and know that each genre has its own investment and requirements that may or may not be contradicting to other genres.

When you see “TFP” or “TFCD”, it means you are working for free is another misconception. This really rubs me the wrong way, mainly because it is an exchange of services. As a photographer, I spend between an hour and two hours prior to a shoot for each hour of shoot time, and frequently a lot more time in post production editing depending on the complexity of the images that were created, and what needs to be fixed in them. As a photographer (and most models), we also stock props, jewelry, clothes, and other items that will be used in photo shoots. There may be a makeup artist, hair stylist, and fashion stylist. Depending on the photographer, there may be additional staff helping them. Depending on the location, there may be a fee associated with it, too. All these aren’t free, either. Because of these costs, a shoot is rarely “free”. To a model, it may appear free. Again, with a “TF*” agreement (time for agreement), both parties are agreeing to an exchange of services. A lot of people will tell you that you should always charge for everything you do as a model. I disagree. You need to look at what that photographer or job will offer you for benefits, and weigh them with what you expect, and decide if it is worth your time and effort. When you starting out, I am sure you frequently will do TFP or TFCD with photographers to build your book or portfolio of images. Remember, TFP or TFCD is an exchange of services. It doesn’t mean “free”.

Also know that if you do a “TFP” or “TFCD” shoot, they are often more relaxed and not as pressured to complete the work. As with all modeling jobs, remember to put your phone away, don’t be too chatty, or text with whomever. You are there to work. The images that get created are important, and you are being judged on your work performance and the images you help to create. When people ask about you, you don’t want them to say, “The models phone was more important than working on the shoot.”

As I indicated above, modeling is a choice and becomes part of your life. It isn’t something you just do to make some quick money. There is an investment in clothing, undergarments, care, and other things specific  to that genre. If you do modeling for a living, modeling will be your life. You will be expected to spend money on this career and taking care of yourself. There are different standards for various types of modeling, and you won’t flip between them once you are established. If you try, you will be spending a lot of money and effort to meet competing standards. Don’t try to do every type of modeling, it just isn’t possible.

Another common misconception with the modeling world is that all models make a lot of money doing nothing but looking pretty. Modeling is hard work – don’t let anyone fool you into thinking it isn’t. Often, with new models, I hear about how sore they are after their shoots. This is normal. I tell the models who work with me that if they aren’t sore after a shoot, they weren’t modeling. On top of this, some people have a natural talent, but most people must work at their modeling. This means working in front of a mirror to practice different types of C, S, or I poses (or T-pose with them, for that matter). It means practicing emoting feeling for the camera for hours, just to move move their facial muscles. For the pro model, it may mean a daily exercise regiment to keep muscles limber and flexible. It also means learning about makeup and how it should properly be applied to your skin. This isn’t to discourage anyone from modeling, but know that it isn’t just looking pretty in front of a camera. And, in most situations, it is a lot of fun and well worth the effort. Besides, the final images make it worth it every time.

Yet another misconception is that you will always get images, even if you are paid for the work you do. This may or may not be the case. It all depends on your agreement with the photographer or client. If you are paid, don’t expect any images from the photographer unless the photographer has explicitly said you will get the images from the session. There is nothing more that bugs me as a photographer than seeing a model demanding that they get paid prior to a shoot, then the day after demand the edited images from the shoot. This is unprofessional behavior. The photographer is doing you a favour by letting you have images from the shoot when you are paid. As a photographer, if I can give a model images, I will. When a photographer is doing work for a specific client, they are working for hire and rarely have the ability to give any images to you from the shoot. As a photographer, we get these images from the final printed or virtual document that contains them. That means collecting tear sheets from what ever was created from the images if we can find them. As a model, you will be expected to do the same. Back when we photographed with film, this was less of a problem. Getting images from paid work should never be an expectation.

Let me also add another note here about getting images: don’t think they belong to you unless you have been granted this right in writing. Most photographers will give you the right to use the images in your book or portfolio or for presentation on web sites, but they haven’t given the ownership to you (copyright). Within the US, the copyright automatically belongs to the photographer when they click the shutter to capture the image. A model has no rights to the image that is created unless it is in their written contract with the photographer or client. When you get images from a photographer, don’t edit them or change them in any way and stick to what was agreed in writing between you and the photographer. I have seen many times where a model uses an image for a contest, and the contest sponsors frequently edit out or cover up a photographer’s logo on the image. If you do this, don’t ever expect to work with that photographer or anyone who they talk. Count your blessings if you don’t get a summons or criminal complaint for theft. This is serious, and could get you into lots of trouble. Don’t assume anything. Don’t think this is just a small thing. Talk and read your agreement that you have between you and the photographer so there aren’t any misunderstandings.

Continuing on about the agreement with you, the model release is not there to protect you. They exist solely to protect the photographer, or the photographer’s clients. Some photographer’s may put things in the agreement granting you rights, or that protect you as a model. They don’t have to do this. You don’t have to sign one when you work with a photographer, but you won’t get paid or images if you don’t-that release gives them the right to edit and sell the images of you. Your working as a model is an agreement to model and sign that release. Depending on the circumstances if you don’t sign it, you might not find work again, either.

Another misleading occurring from photographers and clients end is that all models have to do nudes to be a model. With all the different shows on being the next model this or that, they always seem to make a point that you have to do nudes to be a model. In reality, this is not the situation. No one will make you do nudes as a model. Agencies will ask you if you do them when you sign – either you do or you don’t. If someone does try to force you to do nudes without your agreement to do them, and you don’t want to do them, the best thing to do is walk out on the session. But, if you agreed to do them and walked out, that is something completely different. There are many ways people will manipulate you to do nudes. It could be “wanting something a little sexier, just one more and a little more”, “I can make or break you as a model with who I am”, “what will you do for me to show you want this paid position?”, “we have a lot of money riding on this shoot, and by you not doing them, you are wasting that money…”, “the agency said you would be doing this in these images”, or any number of other things. Know that you don’t have to do nudes if you don’t want to do them. Almost every photographer will be out there wanting to get you nude. And, if they do, those images if released will probably hurt your possibility of ever making it in the modeling world as a paid model. They may be released when you do them, or they may be released after you make it as a model – you don’t have any control over it. If someone says they have connections to get you into anything and skyrocket your career as a model, be highly suspect of them. There are very few people who can do this for you, and the few that do frequently will have lots of strings attached.

Since we are talking about nude modeling, many people think that nude modeling is an easy and quick way to get rich or make money. In reality, it is modeling and takes time and effort on your part and a constant investment. As indicated about getting models nude, most photographers will want to pay you little or nothing for your work. Just because you take your clothes off doesn’t mean you will suddenly be demanded by anyone or paid large sums of money. Most of the nude modeling outside of pornography is for artistic purposes, and rarely do artists have lots of money to pay their models for this kind of work.

Also don’t fall for the “if I get signed…” line. Many people think that if they get signed by an agency, they will book lots of work and make lots of money. This may be the case for some models, this isn’t  the case for most models. I often hear from models that sign with an agency that they rarely get work, and they have signed an agreement of exclusivity with that agency, they can’t do any modeling without going through them. If you are signed by one of the top agencies, you will be expected to book work (on your own or with their help), and if you don’t, they will cut you lose for someone who will. It may seem difficult to get signed by an agency, but that is really the easy part. The hard part is getting work so they don’t throw you out.

This also brings us to scams. If any agency or company says they will be your agent if you pay them a monthly fee, have a large up front fee, charge you to do images with their required photographer, or exchange checks to send or wire money to one of their agents, photographer, or client — they are more than likely a scam. The general rule is that if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. But, check them out if you are interested. Expenses you will be responsible for paying on your own include comp cards, business cards, books, getting fresh images every six months to the agent and in your book (they will often recommend a photographer, not require a specific one), and paying for any travel fees incurred from your work (usually up front instead of taking them out after you get paid from the client). Be sure to read your contract with the agency carefully, and fully before signing. Take the time and check the agent out completely. Do your research.

Often, models will tell me that they deserve to be paid an amount after working with one photographer, or after so many months working as a model. You don’t determine your worth – everyone else does. They will determine if your images are good or bad. If they are bad, it won’t matter how much time or how many photographers that you have worked, you won’t be paid. If you are difficult to work with, you probably still won’t get paid. Another factor is productivity as a model. Productive models give lots of looks and create lots of quality images compared to someone who isn’t. Productivity is a function of knowing how to pose and give different looks, being able to stay on track without coaching, and giving lots of different expressions. Someone who can be more productive is more likely to get paid than someone who isn’t. Getting paid isn’t based on working with a certain number of photographers or working for a certain amount of time. It is the reputation you have, and how productive you are for the photographer.

As you model, you will be asked to do your own makeup by many photographers. But, some will have MUA (makeup artist) to do your makeup. If you can do your own makeup, why do you need a MUA? First, the makeup you use on a regular basis is different than what is needed for the camera (and I am a stickler for this). Often, it is thinner and doesn’t give the same type of coverage a camera ready makeup does. In addition, shadows and blushes frequently have added minerals and fillers that aren’t ground down fine enough. They leave little white dots in direct sunlight or studio lights. There is also something magical when you have a skilled and trained MUA – makeup is consistently applied and any flaws you have are skillfully hidden. Accents and highlights are added, and when it is all done, you probably won’t recognize yourself. As a word of caution, don’t think that you know more than the MUA. If you take their work off of you and redo the makeup like you think is better, you will give yourself a really bad reputation and probably won’t ever get work again. If a MUA has been provided, no matter how silly or strange it looks, you need to leave it alone and let it be shot as they have created. You weren’t privy to that part of this work, and realize you don’t know what they have been told or the constraints given to them.

You are almost to the end. Let me quickly summarize what was said above. Know that anyone can be a model – it is the look that matters and all different types are needed, not just “high fashion” models. If you don’t meet the requirements for fashion, don’t think you can be a fashion model in another genre of modeling. Each genre has its own requirements, and they are often conflicting. You will invest yourself into the types of work you do. When you do TF*, your work isn’t free. There are other costs that you don’t see, and need to evaluate the benefit to you of doing the TF* work. When you do TF* work, you are there to be a model and not talk or text on your phone. Modeling is work, it isn’t just looking pretty in front of a camera. If you accept payment for images that are taken of you, don’t expect getting images. If you do when accepting payment, the photographer is doing you a favor. Don’t ever believe the images belong to you – they belong to the photographer or the photographer’s client. If you are given images, you are granted only a usage right. And, if there are tear sheets, don’t expect the photographer to provide them to you. The model release is not there to protect you as a model, it is there to protect the photographer and the photographer’s clients. There may be things in it to protect you or grant you rights. You don’t have to do nudes to be a model, although many photographers will make it seem like you need to do them. Taking off your clothes won’t make people line up to pay you as a model. Many times, those nude photographs will keep you from being the model you want to be in the future or may be released when you “make it” as a model. Realize  that being a nude model isn’t a cash cow, and it is also work. Rarely do the tasteful artists have the money to pay you for your work as a nude model. Don’t think that getting into an agency guarantees that you will be raking money in hand over fist…often times, it is just the opposite. Know that you will be expected to bring work into the agency with or without their help, and if you don’t, they will let you go for someone who will. You will have to pay for some of your expenses related to your modeling. Know what they are before you sign the agreement. As with everything else in life, if it is too good to be true, it probably is. Check out everything and make sure it isn’t a scam. Everyone else determines your worth as a model – getting paid is determined by your reputation and how productive of a model that you are. It isn’t related to working with so many photographers or so much time as a model. Finally, if a MUA is used, you must let them do their work and trust what they do. Don’t assume you know more than they do. I hope this can clear up any of these misconceptions that you may have had.

Here is an article you may want to read that has been written by one of the few supermodels out there. It is a fun read.
Paulina Porizkova – Modeling Is A Great Job And A Sh*tty Career

The infamous shameless plug at the end: If you are looking for a photographer for portraits, please take a look at XOIND Studios. More information can be found at XOIND Studios web page.
All information and images are ©2012 Don Krajewski on this post.

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Posted in: Modeling