Checking References (for models)

Posted on January 5, 2012


One of the things out there that rarely happens anymore is that someone checks out a person’s references before working with them. As a photographer, I check out all models prior to working them. As a safety precaution, I highly recommend all models check out the people who they work. With the number of GWC’s (Guy/Gal with Camera) who are only out to get models to get out of their clothes, it is advisable to make sure the person is a legitimate photographer. But, what is this and how should you go about doing it? If you model, no matter if you are female or male, do modeling part-time or full-time, or do this for money or fun, you need to check out the people who you work.

The first step is to see if there are any current images, and if so, find out who they are and contact them. See what they say. Don’t be surprised when very few get back with you. Make sure you have at least three from models who have worked with that photographer. If you know any other photographers or makeup artists personally who work around the area of the person you are checking out, contact them in addition to the models and see what they say.

I also have stopped crediting models unless on a private modeling site like Model Mayhem or Model Insider to cut down on the stalking that goes on from the other social networks such as Facebook and Google Plus. What do you do in this case? Often, they will have a website. See if they have any references to a modeling site that may have links to the people who they have worked. If you still come up short on people to contact, there are always a few people who know quite a few people out there who are shooting. Network and see if they have anyone they think you should contact for a reference. They may even know the person – it amazes me how small the photography world really is. There is also a search engine that specializes in providing searching for the modeling world called This search engine is new to me as I write this, and something I have just started using to check out models (you can do the same with photographers). It might be helpful to you as a model to find people in the same area as the photographer and see if they have anything to say about the individual photographer. One thing that typically happens is that a photographer will shoot with many models in the area close to them, so it is highly likely that someone around the area would know and have worked with them. There is also the possibility to use another search engine like Google or Yahoo, too, but you will end up with a lot more responses to filter through when you do.

One thing I have to say here is that if there is smoke, there is usually fire. This means that if only one person says something negative, you need to be on guard that there may be other issues. This isn’t always the case, but my experience has always shown that if there is something that shows up in reference checking, there is usually a lot more that people won’t disclose. You also have to listen to these people. Just yesterday, I was talking with a model who tells models who are thinking of working with a photographer to not work with them and that her experience wasn’t appropriate for a professional photographer. She indicated that almost everyone who she talks ignores her, and then comes back to her and says they should have listened to her. If you have a negative response, either do more investigating to confirm or deny it but don’t just ignore this information. If you do, you may end up in a bad situation.

So, what do you for a reference? What do you ask? First, it is best to send an email or private message. Make the subject meaningful and that you are wanting a reference check. Meaningless subjects are almost always ignored. Keep the message short and be sure to ask a few questions. Some of the questions that I would suggest asking are as follows:
How many times have you worked with ____ photographer?
Would you work with this photographer again?
How many people were on set and were they there the whole time?
Did you have an escort and were they allowed to stay during the whole shoot?
What was your experience like?
Where did you shoot? (studio, home, park, and the place)
Did the photographer complete their contract with you as promised?
(if TFP, did they give you your images; Did they pay you as promised?; etc.)
Was the photographer courteous and professional during the whole shoot and afterwards?
Did anything happen during the shoot, before, or after that gives you a hesitation with working for them in the future?
Would you recommend the photographer to shoot with anyone in the future?
Where there any other people who you would recommend for a reference for this photographer?

There are also some things you don’t want to ask about. High on this list is what your compensation or pay was for the shoot. This is a taboo in the industry. You also don’t want to just ask “Is ____ ok?” as that doesn’t provide you with anything verifiable or tell you anything about them.

Why are we doing this? First and foremost is for your safety and to know the person who you will be working. The last thing you want as a model is to have your image posted everywhere on a sign saying there is a “reward for information about.” From my perspective, you want to look for signs as to who the person is and if they are a professional. You also want to look for flags that there may be problems. While one flag shouldn’t be enough to not work with someone, several flags should be. If some  egregious occurs to someone else, you shouldn’t be working with them at all. That is part of what this process is used to uncover. You also want to know that the person who will be photographing you is professional and been around for some time – not just someone who just started up. All of these are safety issues. If this is a persona and not a real person, this should give you a better idea who they are but using a persona is also something that should be suspect.

If the photographer is a nude photographer, you need to be a little more stringent in your checking, especially if you don’t do nudes. Get examples of that work and see if there is an artistic value to their work in that venue. Do the images meet your goals as a model? Or, is it to just get a model out of their clothes? You may want to ask other nude models where their work appears after the shoot. I need to mention that lately, there have been many photographers starting to get into the porn industry and offer high pay amounts to create photo sets for pay web sites. If you are being offered a high pay, this might be a clue what they are expecting as a photographer.

Something that some people do is also check the photographer out on the BBB site. Know that this provides information, but you need to also know that members who are listed pay for this listing. It isn’t a government institution and isn’t impartial.

I hope this entry here helps you out in checking out a photographer. As always, feel free to send comments, concerns, additions, and corrections to me.

Posted in: Modeling