Keeping misunderstandings to a minimum

Posted on November 18, 2011


Today’s post is motivated by watching a train wreck between people occur – in this situation, it is between a model and photographer.  Image is everything, and includes everything you do online.

Most interactions today occur via communications like Facebook, e-mail, Twitter, and similar communications where there is little or no emotional context. Gone are the days that you could talk in person or via a phone – where we can see or hear some of what the person is feeling. The problem is that misunderstandings occur frequently because feeling and context aren’t communicated very well or at all. Add the representations of who someone is into the mix from the way they write, and what their “profile” shows.

In the case of the model, the model’s profile doesn’t show her best work and has a lot of personal images and snapshots taken by her. The few images she does have posted that are model related aren’t very good, and it shows. The model’s writing isn’t very good – by today’s standards with what our local high schools are putting out, she is about average.

The photographer, on the other hand, is someone who is trying to make a living and wants to be kind to the person. It is obvious the model looked at the photographer’s images and determined that she wanted to work with the photographer after looking at the photographer’s images (I am sure the model left a few comments, too). The photographer has prices listed on the website to what they charge to take images of people.

You can see this train wreck occurring.

The first thing to realize as a model is that not everyone will shoot you on a “Time for” basis as a photographer, and that you will have to pay for some images to be taken by good photographers. Yes, many people are looking for models to practice and get experience in photography, but established photographers are not. Part of the problem here is the photography industry’s push on modeling sites to provide images to prospective models for their time. Most people who are advanced amateurs who don’t have a studio expense, don’t pay taxes, don’t pay insurance, and don’t pay marketing expenses do this without hesitation. Those that do rarely shoot images of models for free. As a model, don’t assume that every photographer will shoot you for free out of the kindness of their heart – even more so for the ones that are really good. To us, this is a business, and when we invest time, their has to be a return on our investment. A typical shoot for me costs me around $600 for a single shoot with a model (and this doesn’t include my time teaching and the work outside of the actual shoot that the model doesn’t see). The question I have to ask with each and every model who I work: will I recover this cost? With models who get paid, they are typically the most experience and have very high production levels. If you can’t follow direction from the photographer and get the images they expect, then you probably won’t recoup that money that is spent. This is also why you find that most professional photographers prefer to work with their paying clients as models. They avoid this problem by working with someone who is glad they will get some images at a reduced cost and you don’t have the drama that you get with the typical model. As a model, know that professional people spend time working with their craft – there are costs you don’t see (more on that in a minute) and that your attitude toward them can make all the difference in the world to how they act toward you.

Our time isn’t free (just look at some of my other posts). As models, you only see the time and cost that is incurred at the shoot, the outfits you own, and makeup that you use. As photographers, we see the cost as everything that we do on a shoot. This includes all the pre-production planning, time spent talking with creative types prior to the shoot, and everything that occurs after the shoot which includes editing. This also includes the cost for our equipment (which frequently includes pricey lighting equipment, computer equipment, and software), props, and even location costs. As a professional myself, I also see creative costs involved in coming up with the ideas that I shoot. These take time to originate and develop. It isn’t something that most people just say “let’s shoot” and crank something like this out one after the next on the spur of the moment. And, the time we spend working with you could be better spent marketing ourselves to someone who does pay or working with someone who does pay – working with models causes us to lose income that pays our bills.

On the photographer end, you can’t really assume much of anything when you deal with a model. Always be polite both to the person who you are conversing, and to the people who you ask for advice about dealing with the models. Don’t assume or put thoughts in the model’s mind that aren’t there, and realize that sometimes people don’t choose to see prices on a web site. Remember, most people who start out as models go to meet and greet sessions where photographers provide images at no cost to the models. As I have indicated, I try to not do these events because I am not able to plan out much of anything prior to the event for the types of images I will take, and you never know who or what you will deal with (weather, location, outfits, makeup, model, etc.) In addition, most models expect all the images to be edited for free, and devalue the work of a photographer, stylists, and makeup artists who go to the events. This carries over into the work that all these people who shoot outside of these events. There are also a _LOT_ of photographers with jobs other than photographers whose bills are paid by a different job. As photographers, we have to remember this occurs, and that we need to let people we work with know this. The other thing we have to realize is that the fashion world tends to make models think everything is free – they are asked to do their work for free and they get images and tear sheets for free. The models  don’t always realize that someone pays for the images or tear sheets their receive.

I hope this helps both models and photographers to realize a little about how these misunderstandings occur, and that everyone is a person who deserves respect. Misunderstandings occur, and being professional and polite will go a long way in dealing with this. As a model, the image you project and show to others when you contact them also reflects on who you are as an individual and judgements will be made based on what people see in those profiles. As photographers, we can’t assume that the people think they should never pay or they only want free images. We shouldn’t jump to quick conclusions based on the model’s writing or the images in their profile (stereotypes can be very dangerous). This little bit of respect will go a long way and keep misunderstandings from happening.