Models, References, and Photographers

Posted on September 17, 2011

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Today’s blog entry was motivated by an SMS message on my phone from a photographer who is also a good friend. The message was “Need some suggestions for good nude models”. Nothing else.

Of course, I am scratching my head wondering who would be a good fit. I sent back some questions such as “What are you doing? Do you have a concept or are you just shooting?” and “What are you looking for in a model? Are you paying them anything?” I haven’t heard anything back. I need to note here that this photographer hasn’t worked with nude models before, and has no track record of any working with them. It really makes me wonder what he wants in a model, and if I know any that will fit what he needs. Unfortunately, I haven’t a clue what kind of model he needs or who would be a good fit.

My first thought is that he just wants to shoot someone who is nude. No concept, no thoughts, nothing planned out. This is a real pet peeve of mine. You don’t just say, let’s shoot with your clothes off to a nude model (yes, there are those that will say, “pay me $$$ and I am yours to shoot” but the photographer rarely gets any usable images unless they are going to a porn site). The second thought was that he wanted an “introduction” to some nude models, and was expecting to get them to work with him and using my credentials with them to negotiate for shooting with him. I have shot with several nude models, and I have a reputation for shooting only artistic nudes — even the nude models who are glamour models who do images for some of the porn sites out there laugh at me and know there won’t be anything like porn asked of them during the shoot (and if they try it, they will be told that too much is showing).

So, I have to wonder. What is this photographer up to? What does he want? Maybe I should delve into something here on my blog.

First, with any models (not just nude models), just because they work with someone you know as a photographer doesn’t mean they will want to work with you as a photographer. Each model has different requirements to work with them, and as a photographer, you must present your case to them and your offer. Depending on your offer, they will accept or decline. Some of the biggest things to consider as a model are the images that you have already taken and how many fit into what you are trying to do. Will it get them noticed? Do you even know what you want to shoot? Is there anything to be gained from working with you as a photographer? What is your reputation? Do you touch the models or is there anyone with bad experiences working with you? You should always be asking yourself “Why would a model want to work with me?” Think about you and these questions – be honest because if you aren’t, you are only deluding yourself. If you aren’t someone who the person wants to work, they will tell you this, blow you off, ignore you, tell you some exorbitant rate, or worse, send you a cease and desist notice from their lawyer (yes, I have heard of this happening). Know that just because they don’t want to work with you now, it doesn’t necessarily mean they don’t want to work with you in the future.

Second, just because a model will allow someone else to photograph them doing something or nude, they let everyone photograph them that way. This frequently happens with photographers who shoot nudes – they see images of a model nude and think that they should be able to photograph that person nude. The problem is that it isn’t up to the photographer – it is up to the model. Don’t ever assume that since a model has done something with another photographer, they will be happy to do it with you. If you go to them, present your concept, and ask them if they will be interested in doing something like this – it will go a long way. On the other hand, go to them and don’t tell them what you are interested doing or say you only want to do spread leg poses, and I can assure you they will say no. If you don’t tell them what you want to do in enough detail, it may even be worse at the shoot if they are surprised… you ask them to do something you never mentioned prior to the shoot and they walk out. This also means your reputation is tarnished or trashed. It is a small world, and models talk. As a photographer, always tell them exactly what you have planned prior to the shoot and make sure the model is OK with it before springing it on them during a shoot. Don’t ever assume that since they did something with another photographer, they will gladly do it with you as a photographer. Again, communication is the best policy.

Third, although some models claim photographers as their own and some photographers claim models as their own, the decision always lies with the model to do work or not do work. There is rarely a third party that will give you permission to shoot a model in a particular way without the models permission. Don’t ever negotiate through another photographer – always do the negotiating yourself with the model. Negotiating through anyone makes you seem like a less likely person to work, and someone who won’t know what they are doing.

Fourth, don’t assume you will get the standard deal that another photographer gets with the models that he or she shoots. This is one of those things that you shouldn’t talk about as a photographer, but we all do. We often wonder what others pay their models and figure that if such and such gets that rate, we should too. It doesn’t work this way. Each person is a different person and is weighed on the model’s scale of benefiting them, and if you don’t or won’t, then you won’t get a good rate from the model. Even if you have a person who gets a good rate from a model to speak on your behalf, this won’t give you their rate. You are responsible for negotiating your own rate based on the work you will do with them and how the model sees your work benefiting their reputation. Sometimes sweetening the pot will make them want to work with you more or sway the model a little more. Sweetening is done by providing a MUA, clothing, or even money.

Finally, if you ever ask another photographer for a recommendation, always provide enough detail so they can recommend someone to you. Don’t assume all the models are the same, and don’t sound like a lazy person with no concept or idea of what you are going to do. This will frustrate the person you ask, and if they are honest, they won’t answer you except with questions.

To conclude, you as a photographer have to talk with the models who you work and negotiate your own contract with those models. This is your job as a photographer, no one else’s. Part of this negotiation is saying what you want the model to do, and getting a rate hammered out. Don’t assume that because a model will do a shoot with another photographer or do something like nudity with another photographer, that they would do the same with you. Do your work, come up with a concept, and negotiate your concept with the model and how it will benefit the model to do this shoot. If you don’t have a concept and don’t have any experience (or don’t have any photos of your work in that area), don’t expect a model to say “yes” without some discussions and fully checking you out. You can also expect them to say that they want some money for the work because you are an unknown. You may have to provide other things like cookies, clothing, or something else to get them to work with you. Don’t ever expect that since one person you know gets a specific rate or deal that you are entitled to that same deal. Communicate with the model and negotiate your own deal. Don’t expect other photographers to do your work for you. Always maintain your good reputation because it is a small world, and models do talk about the people who they work.

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.