One question I seem to be getting a lot lately from models is “what do you mean by Limits?” in reference to when I state to them to know what they are before you start modeling. Maybe you have an idea what this is or maybe you are unsure. Let’s start to clarify this and make sure it is clear.
First, limits define what is “acceptable” and what is “unacceptable”. Acceptable limits are things we do and enjoy doing on a regular basis. Unacceptable means we don’t enjoy doing them, they could be offensive (for many types of reasons), they could be repulsive and make you want to puke, and they may be morally wrong for you. The reason why they are unacceptable isn’t really so important as knowing what that is. You are a person, an individual, with rights, feelings, and emotions. You have a right to do what you want, and never be forced to do the bidding of others without your approval. If you do something that you did not approve, it is considered non-consensual. In most cases, this is a crime.
As a model, there is no one who you need to explain or justify why you have a limit. If you are agency represented, they typically won’t ask you, but they may want to know if a problem results because they were unaware of your limit. This is important to know that you don’t discuss the “why” you have one with anyone in the industry. If someone does talk with you about the why, they are trying to manipulate you and soften you so you will do what they want and go past a limit. If you get someone who is doing this, then your best bet is to pack and leave the activity. It will only get worse.
This brings us to two types of limits that most people have: Hard limits and soft limits. A hard limit is something that you won’t ever do for any reason. A hard limit is not negotiable or something that can be bargained for any reason. As a limit, it is something that will never change or should never change (although, with life, these do change as our life changes). Again, the reason why you have the limit is unimportant. It is your hard limit.
The second type is a soft limit. These are things that you won’t do in most situations with most people in the industry, These are usually things you will do if the conditions are right. Frequently, I see them with models who are “testing the ground” or want to see what it is like. It may be something that is taboo in your family, or something that the model’s parents told them to never do but they may want to see what the talk is all about. This is a soft limit.
So how does this get applied. As a photographer, I also have limits with what I do. Some are because of insurance rules. Others are for the safety of people around me and that work with me. Let me give you some examples. I have a hard limit on no drugs or alcohol at a photo shoot. Come to a shoot where you act or smell under the influence, and that is it. No shoot that day or ever with me again. There is no tolerance on this limit. Another hard limit is one for legal reasons: no nudes, bathing suit, or lingerie images of anyone under the age of 18. You can start to see what a hard limit is. Let me give you a soft limit: no nudes of anyone under the age of 21. Again, this is a limit, but a soft limit. On occasion, I have shot with models who are slightly under 21, but for the most part, I will not shoot nudes with anyone under the age of 21. This is for my reasons – and no one else.
This should give you an idea what limits are. Now, you need to stop and think about things that are your limits. Will you do nudes as a model? Is it a hard or soft limit? If soft, what conditions need to be met? How about the different types of outfits you wear? Heights you will go? Animals you will be around? Activities you will do? Foods you will eat? Things you won’t do or won’t go. Stop and think about this and write them down. If you are married, I highly recommend you sit down and talk with your spouse. Your spouse probably has some limits for you, too, and nothing you do as a model should come between you and your spouse. This is also why I emphasize that models be able to tell their spouse anything that goes on at a shoot. If someone says something should only be between you and them, then you are doing something that can be perceived as damaging, harmful, illegal, or hurtful to your spouse. You should never be in that situation as a model.
Remember, you are a person. You have rights, and must consent to what you do as a model. Limits are a way to signify things you will and won’t do to others in the industry.