One of the first few questions I ask every model is “Where are you going with your modeling and what do you expect to get out of modeling?” This tells me quite a bit about you as a model and ambitions as a model. Keep in mind by this time, I will have looked at several images of you (professional or unprofessional) and have determined that you have a potential as a model. After this question is asked, I look at who you have worked and determine what kind of pay you may have had. This also tells me a few other things: a) the number of people who you have worked, b) and what kind of images you want to have taken of you (I also ask this question, too, to see if it lines up with what I see of the images that are out there of you).
Some of the problems that I see of models who are working their rear ends off include many of the following:
a) Lots of work with many photographers, in almost everyone’s book, and nothing unique in that work. These are models who go to several meet and greets, shoot with just about anyone who asks them, frequently they will shoot things that they aren’t 100% comfortable doing, and have little or nothing to show for the work that they have put into modeling. They accept TF* for any assignment, and the next photographer is ALWAYS going to give them their next break. In reality, these models are often considered past their prime and will often times be considered by modeling agencies that the model has been “over shot” with the many images of them that are out there. These models rarely benefit from the trade – the model getting few usable images and the photographer often getting something they can use. If you are in many photographer’s books in a single geographic area and none pay you, you have become a “right of passage” model. There is no possible way you will get paid to shoot with a photographer in that same area. To keep from getting into this rut, a model must be selective with the photographers who they work. Ask yourself: will the photographer add to your book or will it be more of the same? Where will the images be used? What are the goals of the shoot? Often, this particular model is one who responds to photographers who send out casting calls like “Wanna shoot? I have today open.” or “Model didn’t show up, so I will shoot with the first model who gets here”. The point is that there is little or no planning that occurs and most models get the same images over and over if they get anything at all. Ask yourself if you jump at almost every opportunity offered, travel at your own expense, and do whatever is asked of you when a photographer calls? This is probably you. Keep in mind if you are modeling as a fun activity and to not really go very far, you probably are fine with this kind of arrangement.
b) I see many expensive shoots, but know the photographers who shot the sessions didn’t pay hardly anything. Frequently, these are referred to as “vanity models”. If you are modeling to make money, this is what will do just the opposite… you are just digging yourself deeper into a hole. As a model, the cost should be equal or less than the photographer’s costs to do ANY concept. If yours are more, then you need to evaluate how much you really want to spend and realize this is costing you a fortune. Clothing for a simple shoot usually runs around $200-250 on the more conservative side. Makeup, if you have to pay for it, is frequently $30 or more per look with a minimum number of looks. Often, there may be additional charges. Most photographers will require you to sign away all your rights to the images captured, and you are paying everything for the session. This is great for your first few sessions and to learn, but over six months from when you start, you shouldn’t be paying a lot for the images that are created of you. If this is who you are, ask yourself if these are your concepts or the photographer’s? If they are yours, then the photographer will often claim the concepts are theirs stealing your credit. You need to stand up for yourself and make sure that the photographers you are working realize your value. Money you spend in modeling should show a direct return on your investment, or it is a worthless investment for you.
c) Models who post almost every image captured of themselves are yet another type of model. For every look at a shoot, you should have no more than three images released to the public. Why? Because by showing so many, you are showing you don’t know how to select good images and that you are serious about working. This also tells me that you are someone who thinks that all photographers do is press a button and do very little preparation for their shoots. I also expect this type of model to want 200 or more images edited by the end of the week when my trade is for significantly less images. I can’t and won’t edit that many images. Worse, when you tell me that “everyone else edits this many for me”, I can only think that I am not everyone else, I produce a significantly higher value product, and the work that isn’t paid isn’t going to use more than 20 hours of my time in editing (half a work week). Expecting more is unreasonable.
d) The model who does sexual favours to get a session with me is still yet another type. If the first contact with you is that you will do some sort of sexual favour for me if I do a shoot, I block you from contact, and mark you down in my book as someone who I should never work. Why? Because modeling isn’t a way to have sex, date, or do anything else like this. There used to be a rule in the industry that if you were dating someone, you can’t be shooting them as a model. You could if they were your child or wife, but just not your girlfriend. Why? It is called undue influence and that there are other social factors impacting what you will do and how you work with the photographer. This is a business – modeling isn’t a dating service or prostitution service.
e) The model who has worked a few sessions with one photographer and expects $100/hour to work with them. While I applaud a model who is willing to do this, that model has to know that most people with any experience will see that the model isn’t worth that rate, and choose to work with other models. To me, I take this as an insult, and then that model also goes into the list to never work because of unreasonable expectations. Know your rates have to be reasonable and commensurate with the experience and fan base you bring with you. Remember, modeling is about selling something. Your portraits aren’t worth much by themselves. But images that sell products and services command top dollar. Even in Indianapolis, there are models who get paid $2,000 per day for their work. The difference is that those models have worked hard to get where they are, constant showing up even when sick, worked hard to learn to model, and always give photographers what they want. They also bring a solid fan base to view the images and advertisements that are generated (keep in mind that fans are counted in groups of 1,000 fans and by the percentage that you influence).
What should you be taking away from this? Evaluate ALL your modeling opportunities and make sure that you can benefit from them. If you can’t, you should be paid something for the work you do that compensates you for your time and contributions to the session. Networking and experience are not something that can be monetized by you as a model, and shouldn’t be the only reasons you are doing a session. If you have a contract with a company for $25/hour every few days, and someone offers you $200/hour (max of three hours) for work that would get you fired from the the $25/hour job that provides you with your living income, you should seriously pass on the short term opportunity. If you are paying for the session and giving everything you have to the session, then you should be getting equal or better credit from the images captured. You need to get something of value from every session you do.
Getting back to “Where are you going with your modeling and what do you expect to get out of modeling?”, stop to think about your goals and where you expect to be with your modeling career, what you do currently as a model, and the image you project as a model. Know that paying jobs depend on this.