Many times, I am asked by models if they should do certain work. If the work is at a lingerie or more revealing level, I have a consistent answer: “No.”
As a photographer, this is one of the things I didn’t expect to write about, either. The previous post about nudity levels was another and should be read prior to reading this post. What you choose to do is up to you. You will have to live with the choices you make. You may be fine with doing lingerie, nude, or erotic images now, but how about 15 years from now? 20 years from now? How about when they show up in a background check for a job you really want? Or, if your 14 year old child comes home with one of the more revealing images and asks if that is you? How about telling the person you love that you have revealing images out there? Once you shoot an image and it is released to the public, that image is out there. It can’t be recalled like it never happened. No one can. Sure, it can be taken down. But how many are still out there? Who has it?
Many models start modeling to fulfill their dream of being a model. Some do it to make a little extra cash. Some even model because they like dressing up and being someone else or how they are treated for the shoot. Approximately 90-92% of all models don’t make any money doing modeling other than covering their expenses if that (usually spent on outfits, shoes, and makeup). Most end up spending more than they make. They are hobbyist models. This is just a cold and hard fact about modeling. Many models will do lingerie and nudes as a hobbyist model and not make any money doing that kind of modeling. Some models are part-time semi-pro models. These are individuals who model part-time and get paid a little. These are frequently models who are students or have a full-time career who take assignments to earn a little money or to travel. If the model is a freelancer, they are an Internet model who is doing some form of nude or adult work. Even rarer are the models who are with an agency. Finally, you have pros – individuals who make enough to support themselves after paying expenses and taxes. I have a huge respect for the pros – they are very committed and really hard working. Of the pros that I know, they are constantly traveling and spend a lot of time working to set up work while they travel. They often have a solid base of “fans” for their images. Pros usually have a finite amount of time as a pro – usually centered around three to four years between 18 and 26 years of age.
The point here is that if you are a model and you are making money, you have a look that is in demand or you are doing some form of nude modeling or both. You work hard to maintain a solid fan base for your modeling work. Most of the paid modeling out there is nude Internet modeling. Sure, if you want to dress up and get your image captured by someone, there will surely be lots of people out there who will do it for free – just don’t expect to make any money at it. This means you are a model, but it doesn’t make you a “pro” or “semi-pro”.
If you are modeling, and you aren’t making money, you are normal. Just because you are a model for someone or a group of someone one’s or even an agency, it doesn’t mean you will make money as a model. You can ask all you want for pay as a model. The market will either hire you or they won’t. I personally find it offensive when someone asks for a pay that is unreasonable.
If you go the nude route, you will peak sooner and quicker. You will never make it in fashion or commercial modeling once you go down the nude or lingerie route. People who need nude images (porn sites) are paying less and less for them. As the nude market is saturated with a lot of “free” images on the Internet, the smaller players are collapsing. Only the bigger and more established companies are making it and most know their days are numbered. Why? It is that you are the flavor of the month as a model. As you model, people will want to work with you because you are new. As you work with them, they will be less likely to work with you again because they have sampled you as a model. If you don’t knock their socks off, it is very unlikely you will work with them again. In time, if they do work with you again, their clients will want you less with each set that is published. Keep in mind with the nude route that you are competing with everyone who came before you – many of whom have lots of images out there for free. True, these models are less in demand, but many people are asking why pay for this if they can get it for free? I have seen this in the decrease in what companies pay for those images. Twenty years ago, a 60-70 image set on transparency film would bring in $1400-1600 (depending on the magazine). Ten years ago, an 80 image set would bring in $400-500. Today, I can’t tell you what it brings in for a photographer because just about anyone with a digital camera is submitting images and most web sites have a long line of people just waiting to provide images to them. Remember that I mentioned that having a lot of fans was important to the success of a “pro” model? Now you hopefully understand why this is so important to these companies who purchase these images.
The fashion and commercial world won’t want you near them once you do lingerie or nude images because you and your life represent a company’s name or brand. Most all companies and brands don’t want lingerie, implied nude, artistic nude, or softcore models representing them. They don’t care if the work you have done is tasteful or not. They have clients with certain standards, and those are the people who dictate their standards. This is why you must meet their standards and why they won’t accept you for who you are. And, don’t think they won’t notice that sexy set you shot and think they don’t know about. A simple background check usually uncovers those images. When the company or designer finds out, you will be blacklisted. If you are going the modeling and fashion route, you _never_ want to shoot lingerie or nudes.
Something else to note even if you don’t shoot lingerie or nudes, if you work with a photographer who regularly shoots lingerie or nudes, and what you shoot with them doesn’t show off that much of you, people making the decision if you can work for them seeing that you did work that photographer will always wonder what they aren’t seeing from the images you are showing or that they see now. For example, if you shoot lingerie with someone who is known for nudes, bondage, and erotic images – anyone doing a background check will note they saw some lingerie images taken by that photographer and make the assumption that there will be nudes or bondage or erotic images that have been taken with you, too. It will only be time before those images show up. From their point, it is a time bomb. The photographer is probably holding the images until you are “famous” to release them when they will bring more money to them. Unfortunately, you will be found guilty of shooting those same images by association with that photographer.
I hope this gives you some additional information about shooting lingerie or nude images. While you have a better chance of making money as a nude model, you also will have a shorter time being a model. Know the consequences and where you plan on going with your modeling. Don’t fall for a photographer saying they can get you in with someone or recognized if you do nudes for them if you are trying to be a fashion or commercial model. If you do lingerie or nudes (or work with a photographer who mostly shoots them), any hope of being in the fashion or commercial world is over. You have to make this choice of what you will and won’t do. No one else can make it for you.