A Tale of One Model

Posted on February 5, 2013


This is a tale of one model who is completely fictitious. Think about the impressions that someone would make from this type of interaction. I will be leaving comments from my end.

First contact: “Hey! Ur photog and I model. Wanna shoot?”  At this point,  I don’t know if she will make a decent model, what her interest, and how she heard about me. I check the model’s images that they have available. In this case, the models has what look like very unprofessional and taken with a phone camera. There are only four images. The profile says that she does modeling as her only job, that she just started out with her modeling, and she charges. There are also a list of types of images that she wants to try. In this particular case, I think there is a possibility of her making it as a model but it is a slim one. My typical response is to indicate that I am a photographer, and I would be willing to do a test shoot. I explain what a test shoot is and my expectations for a test shoot. If a model doesn’t have a chance at being a model, I will indicate my rates as a photographer.

Second contact: The model indicates she is interested. She then asks if she can have an escort, verifies that it is strictly a clothed shoot, and then asks what it pays. My response is to inform what a test shoot is again, what I have planned for the shoot, and that she will be choosing her own clothes to wear. I indicate that I encourage escorts as long as they aren’t her father – I have had some really bizarre incidents with fathers as the escort, and just don’t want to repeat any of them. Anyone else is welcome, but if they are disruptive, I will ask them to sit outside or a further distance away. If the escort continues to disrupt, the shoot will end.  I often ask what kinds of things the model wants to do and where they see themselves in the future. I suggest that she check out some of the images I have taken and give some web locations for them. I ask if she  has any questions and to feel free to ask them.

Third contact: The model indicates she loves the images she sees and wants to work with me. She again confirms that this is an unpaid shoot and then also indicates she has time available in a week. She continues that she always gets paid because this is her only job and her rates are reasonable. For the test shoot, it would be $100 per hour. For bathing suit and lingerie, it would be $200 per hour. Normally, at this point, I would end our conversation and I would mark down her name to be someone who I wouldn’t work. Obviously, being only a photographer and this being my only work, I shouldn’t get paid for my work either. As a person who takes his job seriously, a typical test shoot takes a minimum of 20 hours of my time – a combination of evaluating the model, story boarding posing, teaching the model, shooting the test shoot, and post production work after the shoot. To indicate an amount this high indicates to me that this person is out of touch with how this industry works and is offensive. I also know from experience that this model won’t perform – she will more than likely show up for the shoot and not really try. She may be pretty and attractive, but there is a LOT MORE than just looking pretty in front of the camera. For the purpose of this post, I will continue assuming that she agrees to do the test shoot TFP. Something that worries me is that she also doesn’t  think this will be a fully clothed shoot, and indicates that she has run into someone else who has tried (and maybe succeeded) to get her out of her clothes. This means that if there was a background check, she probably would fail it and the reason being that her image is on porn sites. My confidence in her being a model is significantly lower.  I indicate that I am available on one of the days she indicated, and that I confirm we will meet at a specific time and place. I give her my cell number and indicate she can call or text me at it. I again indicate this is a test shoot, what a test shoot is, and there will be no nude images taken. I indicate that being a photographer is my only job and how I pay my bills. Doing a shoot is investing my time, effort, and expertise.

Fourth contact:  She confirms the date, time, and place. She doesn’t have any questions. She then indicates that she is looking forward to the shoot.  Some models will ask more about different kinds of shoots, portfolios, other photographers, etc. This model says she really loves doing shoots with lots of makeup and really expensive clothes. She also likes the idea of UV and underwater images. Depending on the model, there may or may not be more conversations prior to the shoot.

Fifth contact: I send a message two days prior to the shoot and ask if she is read to do the test shoot. Crickets. I assume she will be a flake and not call or show up for the shoot.

Day of the shoot: I am there and waiting for the model to show up. Nothing. No model or anything from her indicating she will be there or not.

Some things to think about:

a) Most photographers don’t spend money on models who are just starting out. There needs to be some good images, and a reason why they pay you. For most professional photographers, it is because the model delivers great images and is very reliable. They also work as a team member to produce an end product: a series of usable images with a client. More often, a model just starting out will have to pay for images of themself to get started.

b) Most models don’t get paid for their work when they start out. The first few people they work with are not paid – often what are referred to as “go sees” and “test shoots”. This is mandatory for almost all professional photographers with models without a guaranteed track record and very solid references. Models typically take a year to be able to start delivering solid images, consistently and reliably. By this point in time, a model has usually worked with around 20-30 photographers and the model is being paid something for her work as a model. As a model, don’t expect to make lots of money.

c) The language used is very difficult to understand. While your friends may be able to understand you, most others probably will not. Writing like this model did is an indication of unprofessional behavior and sets a flag that the model will be a flake for the shoot.

d) I encourage models to charge for their work, but the model needs to understand the market they are in. Short of doing hard core porn in Indiana, the rates that this model specified are not possible without a lot of experience as a model and being with a highly reputable agency. This was obviously not the case. You should do your best to know your market and industry before you start offending photographers – and getting a bad reputation. From the way this conversation went, I have to seriously wonder if she is a prostitute or call girl.

e) I mentioned a background check above. If you do nudes and are just starting out, this will limit your possibilities as a model to get into a reputable agency and work with clients who pay well. Almost all the people who I know that do pay well require a background check. Why? Because your image represents this company, product, or service. Advertising relies on conveying a feeling and reputation. You no longer have a stellar reputation once you have done nudes – and even if they are professional, there will always be a question if there isn’t something worse out there. This is why most agencies won’t accept you with any nudes prior to getting in with an agency – there is no way to know what is lurking out there in images that have been taken of you.

f) Most models want the expensive shoots they see on “be the next whatever model” reality shows. In reality, these types of shoots are VERY expensive. To do something like this, either you are very reliable and have a stellar reputation with the photographer for delivering great images, or you pay for the shoot to be done. No one that I know just takes someone who is new to modeling and invests in a shoot like this. They are just too expensive for anyone to take a chance on someone who isn’t proven and who probably can’t deliver the required skills needed for a shoot like this.

g) Don’t ever just drop off communication or “no call no show” a shoot. If you want to ruin your reputation with professional photographers, this is how you do it. This industry doesn’t have a problem talking about people who are good to work with and who you want to stay away. After a few people have bad experiences with you, you will have a bad reputation.

h) Always, always, always take an escort with you. If someone doesn’t allow you to have an escort, that is a red flag to seriously consider not doing a shoot. While there are some photographers who have valid reasons for not having escorts in some situations, no one should ban you from not having one ever.

i) You should also see that I don’t pursue the model as a romantic interest and isn’t out to court the model. I don’t ask for nude or sexually provocative images of the model be sent to me, or ask her to wear sexy lingerie and take images of herself. Rarely is this a professional behavior. As a model, this may be setting the tone of what is being expected of you as a model. Sex should never be discussed in a Model/Photographer relationship.


Posted in: Modeling