Hours of Idleness-A Photographer's Journey in St. Louis

For Models: A Note on Modeling Calls

Posted in photography, Uncategorized by Jason Gray on April 18, 2010

Today, the internet provides an unprecedented forum for creative individuals to find other like minds for collaboration. In photography, two essential factors, accessible tools and platform, are responsible for the explosion of content witnessable. This has resulted in an exciting amateur industry of fashion/glamour photography which culminates the potential inherent in both digital and communication technology. Sites from Model Mayhem and Flickr to Facebook and Myspace are the obvious beneficiaries. However, the easy proximity creates a deceptive notion or sense of security, and it is important for models, especially new ones, to understand that answering an internet ad, without answering certain questions for yourself, is akin to hitchhiking; you don’t know when or who will be taking you for a ride. For these men and women, there are a lot of inherent dangers (and there are dangers for the photographers as well). Models, looking for a break in the industry, or just for a creative outlet to express their craft, have already suffered all manner of injustices from answering these calls in the short time that they have been popular (see Model Causing Mayhem). So how can you better protect yourself? The answer is to prepare yourself. Here is a short checklist of what you should be doing before every shoot with a new photographer:

1. Scrutinize the ad. Does it provide contact information for the photographer, or a link to the photographer’s website, which should provide contact information? If it says respond for details, is the photographer’s information clearly given in the follow-up? (Note, the “Reply for details” ad is an iffy risk. On one side, the photographer may employ this tactic to make it more challenging for spammers to obtain his/her contact info; on the other side, the ad may have been placed by a spammer looking to get your contact info.) If a photographer’s website is provided, is the type of work posted the type you’d like to see yourself posing in? If the ad does not provide a full name and contact information for the photographer, yet asks for you to send your name, contact information or a photo of yourself, be skeptical and leave it alone. Never respond with your detailed contact information and/or a photo until you have determined whether or not the photographer’s style is commensurate with what you are looking to add to your portfolio. If something seems a little strange about the ad, yet the photographer has provided a clear reference as to their identity and you still find something interesting about their project, ask to arrange a meeting in a public place to discuss the details of the shoot. It can be an inconvenience to the busy photographer (especially one who does something else for their full-time job), but they shouldn’t deny you the request. Although I haven’t had to do this yet for my own work, I would certainly be willing to if it were to make my subject more comfortable about working with me. If they say “no”, well, then assume that your instincts were probably correct, and move on.

2. Establish what your compensation for the shoot will be, and what the requirements of the shoot are. If you are answering an ad for a TFP/CD, then determine whether or not you will be receiving an image or images with a watermark, and what use the photographer will grant you for the images. Personally, I always retain the full copyright, but I generally provide a disc with printable images for the model to use in their portfolio, and watermarked images for the model to post online. The focus of my work requires me to work with volunteers of limited experience, so I try and be understanding of how I expect they will want to use the photographs. If you have a specific intention for the use of your images, such as you want to use them to show your retouching abilities, establish whether or not you will be permitted to do so with the photographer, beforehand. If you are being paid for the shoot, expect that you will receive less in terms of copyright and image use, than in unpaid or trade scenarios; conversely, if you are paying for the images, make sure that you know how you wish to use them, and that the photographer understands that you may wish them to concede copyright (in this scenario, it might be beneficial for you to bring a contract for the photographer to review and sign). In terms of requirements, make sure that you clearly understand what the photographer expects of you for the shoot. If you think that you signed on for a bikini shoot, and the photographer asks you to pose nude, do not acquiesce! You should know beforehand what the shoot will entail, and if anything comes up while shooting that makes you feel uncomfortable, politely express to the photographer that you were not aware of whatever expectation is making you uncomfortable and that you’d rather not pose in that manner. If he or she is pushy on the subject, or won’t take no for an answer, then leave. Contract or not, if someone attempts to force you to do something that you didn’t agree to, and it makes you feel uneasy, then you have legal precedent to say, “No, I don’t want to do that”, and to remove yourself from the situation if necessary. However, all photographers aren’t sleazy dirtbags, and miscommunications do arise, especially in terms of contracts; so, be clear of what you will be getting from the shoot and what you will be doing in the shoot before arrival. It will save you and the innocent, but contract-ignorant, photographer many headaches.

3. Check the photographer’s internet persona. Look them up on Facebook or Myspace; Google them. Find out as much as you can about them in order to get a sense of their personality. In fact, this should probably be done before you sign the contract. For instance, you might find out that, despite you loving their portfolio, their work personality might be completely incompatible with your own. On the other hand, you should be understanding and flexible, in terms of this, to a point, after all, they do make images that you’d like to be in, but we all know a type of person that we would just rather avoid at all costs. Above all else, keep it professional. Since photography is largely a word of mouth business, it’s better to seek work with people who you think you’ll “click” with; too much bad gossip generated from an incompatible arrangement can damage your future prospects. You could take this a step further, especially if nudity is part of the shoot arrangement, and ask for the photographer to provide references. Again, I’ve never had to do this, except when I first started wedding photography, but I would certainly welcome the request and comply with it.

Shorthand version:
1. Scrutinize the model call for legitimizing information/ look at their work/ ask to meet-up in a public place ahead of time.
2. Establish what your compensation for modeling will be/ what your requirements are for the shoot/ analyze the contract.
3. Research their person online/ ask for references/ then sign the contract.

The main reason that I am posting this is that, in the relatively short period that I have been working with models, I have discovered an alarming number of them (mostly women) who have been taken advantage of on set. To me, this is unacceptable, and it generates a climate that inhibits creativity and collaboration. Not to mention, it is just a terrible thing for a man or woman to have to go through, and then carry with them. If you are new to the business, or lack experience, read this, and hopefully it will help. It is important to follow some of these steps even when dealing with agency-endorsed photographers (as Michelle Niemiec can attest in the article linked above). If anyone has any questions for me regarding this or needs suggestions for a difficult situation, feel free to send me an email; my contact info is at the top of the Hours of Idleness homepage.



2 Responses

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  1. curty13 said, on April 18, 2010 at 1:10 pm

    let’s do that straightjacket shoot. it would be awesome.

  2. […] For Models: A Note on Modeling Calls « Hours of Idleness-A Photographer's Journey in St. … […]

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