Escorts at Shoots (For Photographers)

Posted on January 12, 2012


The post on taking escorts and the problems that photographers encounter caused a few personal comments and conversations last night at one of the local photographer/model/makeup artist/artist gatherings that are informal get together in the Indianapolis area. Many of the photographers wanted to know what to do when you encounter some of these “problem escorts” and others who take over your shoot.

Let me start this by saying that your creativity as a photographer are your best asset as a photographer and the second most important asset is the way you see. Because of this, you have value as a photographer, and it is this value that people want you as a photographer. It is YOUR talent. You MUST know this in your head before you do a shoot. I say this because everyone seems to think they know better than you – escorts, makeup artists, parents, other photographers, and others. In some cases, they may know better but they wanted to shoot with you for your talent. I have encountered two types of people who try to take over your shoot – those who want it to be their shoot and those who want to shoot your creativity. It is this reason many people don’t like having any others at their shoot. If you are the one who sets up a shoot and it is all your ideas, then you are the one who should be running the shoot. This means having some confidence in your work, and defending your position. Yes, this will ruffle other’s feathers but this isn’t unusual. If you don’t stand up for yourself, others will walk all over you.

In the case of problem escorts, there are many things you can do. I start with verbal warnings and escalating from there. For instance, in the case of the escort that is causing problems for the model, I mention to the escort to not say anything (even if it is the same thing I am) and if they don’t stop, I will ask them to be out of visual contact or leave the shoot. I haven’t had it continue past this point at any of my shoots. Had it continued, I would have asked them to leave. If they refused, then the shoot would be over. In the case of the “stage mom” or father at a shoot, the minute it starts going bad, I give a warning and indicate the next time the shoot is over. I have had to end a shoot multiple times because of fathers. They will be mad at you, but you have to maintain control of the shoot. It isn’t their shoot.

Another type of bad escort is the person who is a photographer wanting to know and learn free while they watch you. I know it will be someone like that when I start getting asked technical questions that include lighting ratios and why I have done something that seems out of the ordinary to the person who is escorting. Depending on the question, I give a full answer or a brush off answer. If it continues, then I indicate that the questions are causing problems for the shoot and to refrain. Ultimately, those questions stop at that point.

But what about those who are assisting or helping as part of the shoot. Most shoots are collaborations between several people. The only thing you can do is get a backbone and stand up for your work. In order to do this, you are the one who is guiding a shoot. No one else. In the very few times that this has happened more than once with those individuals, I stop working with them. Nothing they offer is good enough to put up with them taking over a shoot. You will live or die as a photographer by the decisions that you make – you don’t want to die because of one of their decisions. In a few circumstances, the assistants have shot the same things and released the images as their own. Even in those shoots, I stopped working with those individuals because the images were close enough to identical to my images – they didn’t change the lighting, outfits, poses, or makeup. This is part of the problem with people “helping” or “assisting” with a shoot. If you are someone who is trying to get some experience or to learn from a shoot, this is one reason people don’t want to work with you. If you encounter this, ask someone to help you with a shoot and to assist you with your own shoot. Be clear they are not there to take pictures but help you with your shoot as an alternative to being at one of their shoots. Don’t be surprised if they will expect to be paid for assisting you.

I hope this gives some answers to these questions. If there are specific questions this triggers, I will add it on to the post as an edit below this paragraph.

Edit: One friend indicated that he sometimes has people try to direct with hand signals while standing behind him. He frequently sees them doing this on the reflection of his camera display and will ask the “director” to move out of line of sight of the model and him because the “director” is making him nervous. This same photographer indicated that he has had problems with escorts wandering around his place and frequently asks them to leave if they start wandering around. He further has stated that a photoshoot is a job, and not a “social outing” and that this should be discussed with the model prior to a shoot. This minimizes getting individuals who want to direct or take over the shoot.