Expectations from Models

Posted on February 19, 2014


As a photographer, I deal with many people having unreasonable expectations. One area I don’t expect models to have unreasonable expectations is while doing test shoots with models, especially if they are done TFP. Unfortunately, I have found that some models are unreasonable in their expectations. I no longer do TFP except in very rare cases to avoid this issue in the future.

As a model, you need to understand that as a model, some of us take time and edit the images to look the best they can. For instance, I often spend about an hour (often more) on each model’s image when I edit them. Why? I want you to succeed as a model, and the images to look great at any size. In the industry, there is a so called “five minute rule” when you deal with the big boys – the image is edited only five minutes or less. Not everyone does this, and I am one who doesn’t. Because of this, I normally edit between 10-15 images from a 3-4 hour shoot with a model. Everything I do is hand editing – none is by automation or batch processing. This reflects in the quality of the image where you can see the eye socket clearly, skin having texture, and there is very little blurring of the image. When the image is enlarged to an 11×17 size, it is clear that time has been taken and the craftsmanship in editing the image.

A little more than a year ago, I worked with a relatively new model and did a test shoot. She did an excellent job, and I was interested in working with her again. I pre-edited a few images, and asked her to choose 10 more to edit. She provided me with a list of approximately 100 images. I indicated at that time that I never do that many images and that the ones over 10 images would be done if/when I had time and I did a few more that I thought were excellent images. She was provided immediately with 10 images from the session. In the mean time, we collaborated on another project and I also provided a number of edited images from that shoot, too. In this other case, it was an art project with a group and there are different restrictions on the images and how they were to be used and released. I don’t remember how many images were in that set that have been edited and that she has been made available to her.

At around the one year mark, she wrote in a very rude and demeaning way that she still hadn’t gotten any of her images and that she was still expecting the 100 images from the test shoot. I checked and she had received 21 images from the test shoot and everyone from the art shoot received images from that session (some received as few as 6 to others who had close to 40 due to what they wanted and the number of images that were taken at the shoot that I choose for editing). I was then told I haven’t given her any images and that I asked her to choose and she choose this huge number of images (approximately 100). If you ask any model who has worked with me, I will ask them to choose 10-12 images from the shoot to edit. No professional photographer will spend more than 20 hours on a TFP test shoot for a model, but this model expects to get around 100 images from every shoot. The industry standard is three looks and five images from each look shot (and the makeup and hair is the responsibility of the model). Keep in mind that during these shoots, the agency often provides incredible makeup and hair for the models in their agency, and the models have excellent skin – that minimizes editing time significantly and why the “five minute rule” came about.

What you never want to do is infuriate your photographer unless you are very justified (ie-an unwanted sexual advance or something as bad) and you are being well within reasonable. If you do infuriate the photographer by being unjustified or unreasonable, you will probably never see the images unless there is a written contract. Further, you never want to renegotiate or tell a photographer their business. Worse, tell them their time means nothing to you and you expect them to put in almost a month’s time working on your images. What ever you do, you keep this discussion private until you want to burn all bridges and contact with that photographer and the people that the photographer knows. Once it goes public, the game is over for everyone and there aren’t any resolutions except unhappy people. Always know the number of images they will give you BEFORE you do the shoot.

In rare cases, photographers will work more with certain models over other models during a shoot. Sometimes this is intentional, and others unintentional. That is par for the job when you accept it. I do my best to work with every model equally. What I find is that many times the more experienced and better models get a lot more images for the same amount of time. If the discrepancy was intentional, then you know that is probably someone who you don’t want to work in the future. And, if the few images that they give you are horrible, that pretty much seals that photographer’s fate with you working with them again. If you do go back and shoot with them, you have set a precedent that it is ok to treat you like this and you will accept this type of behavior from them. The only recourse as a model is to not work with them again.

Know that test shoots and TFP are a time to get variety of images for your portfolio and not a time to get a lot of images showing how “pretty” you are. That isn’t why a photographer does a TFP shoot with models. If you expect more than 25 images, you are doing the shoot for the wrong reason. You should only want the best images from the session. Besides, you shouldn’t have more than one image in your book from the session, and maybe no more than three from the same session with the same look in your online portfolio. If someone says they will give you a large number of images, you should be asking if their quality isn’t good or what is it they want from you? By quality, if they shoot on fabric backdrops, does it have wrinkles in the final image? Is the colour balanced and not green or magenta? Are the people’s skin smooth, plastic Barbie Dolls or blurred beyond recognition? What about dark circles under the models eyes? Are the images just fun images or will they be used for something? I have mentioned in previous blogs that you need to take a look at the images that the person has shot, and make sure you fit into those kinds of images. You should also make sure that their reputation won’t hurt you, too.

I have talked with several professional photographers (and a few models who have modeled for quite some time) and very few give more than 20 edited images from TFP shoots that were tests, and several charge for them when they are larger than 500 pixels on the largest end and without a watermark. If you want more than this and it wasn’t in writing, you have to wait for them to give them to you or you can ask nicely and see if they will give them to you. Know that some photographers may take up to three or four months to deliver them to you, although most I talked with have said they try to get them to the model within two months. Stay cool and don’t attack or show your frustration unless you are willing to burn your ties with them. If you were paid for the session, you shouldn’t expect any images (your pay was your images).

If you are a photographer, keep your cool and try to work something out that is reasonable. When all else fails, then you sever your ties with that model. If they continue, you let others know your experiences. There isn’t much more you can do when someone is unreasonable and doesn’t want to amicably resolve a problem. You don’t want to cause more harsh feelings, but trying to resolve it will only do exactly this.

Edit [23 Jan 2014]: Several local photographers and models have mentioned that I should have mentioned in the above post that I bring the outfits, jewelry, props, and high end makeup at a test shoot like this. In addition, we spend an hour to two hours going over makeup and what is good photographic makeup. In some situations, I have a licensed and very experienced makeup artist and hair stylist. We also shot this session in my studio, and not at a local location like a park. During the shoot, we go over posing and start working on showing what gives the best images for that specific model. This session is usually 4 to 6 hours long.

Posted in: Modeling, Photography