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WTF, Photographers?!?

I've had the pleasure, over my 25-year span of doing figure photography, to work with several professional models. Working with pro models is great because they already know what they're doing, and "directing" them is a breeze. There are drawbacks (it's a little bit harder to get "natural" expressions and poses, though not much, really), but I've found that my time working with them has been quite productive and quite fun.

But one aspect of working with pros that is ... "worrisome" I suppose is the right word ... is when they tell tales of how they've often been treated by other photographers. Now, I'm sure none of these stories they tell are in any way the norm, but the fact that they happen at all is appalling to me.

For instance, one model tells of a time she was asked to climb a tall rock and pose atop it. Not bad on the surface of it, perhaps, but it was also 50 degree weather (that's 10 degrees for those of you outside the U.S.) and pouring down rain, and she had to ford a chin-deep stream to get to it! And after all that, the photographer didn't want to pay her because the rain fell on his lens ruined most of his shots. DAFUQ?!? Dude, your bad planning does not excuse you from paying the person you HIRED TO DO A JOB THAT SHE DID AND THEN SOME!

Several models have mentioned being called to a shoot only to discover that they're not the only model present. Now, perhaps that doesn't seem like a big deal, but I mean, come on! If there are going to be more people at the shoot than you previously discussed, it's only common courtesy to notify everyone! Plus, some models have ... shall we say "adversarial" relationships with other models. (I've even heard of an American model who calls the ICE on any non-U.S. model she encounters on the grounds that they're "working without a visa".) What if the two (or three or ten or twenty) models you've hired don't get along?

Then, of course, there are the all-too-common tales of models being stiffed their fee, having passes made at them, being asked to do something on a shoot that they specifically say in their profiles or on their one-sheets that they will NOT do (like porn), being asked to work longer than they were hired for, being booked for all-day shoots where food isn't provided and NOT being informed of this ahead of time so they can make other plans, and other kinds of generally discourteous behavior and just plain NOT THINKING!

I have friends who are photographers, and I'm certain that they all treat their models well, but for anyone else reading this who might be a photographer (or a model, as something to show to prospective photographers), please...

Treat your models with respect, courtesy, and professionalism! This means doing the following:

  • Pay the negotiated fee in the agreed-upon way at the agreed-upon time
    Don't write a check when the model expects cash. Don't hire the model for three hours, shoot for one, and then expect to only pay for one. If the model expects payment in advance, pay the model in advance!

  • Tell the model what the shoot will involve before booking time
    It's not enough to say "this is a studio shoot" or "this is an outdoor shoot". You need to be specific. How many photographers will be there? How many models? Will there be crew, such as make-up artists, hair stylists, wardrobe people, or photographic assistants? Will the model need to do anything dangerous, like climbing rocks or swimming in the ocean or sitting under an ice-cold waterfall? If the shoot is going to be a long one, will you provide food and drink? If the shoot is going to be in the desert, are you bringing water and sunscreen? If the shoot is going to be in the snow, are you bringing coffee and blankets? Perhaps most importantly, if there are going to be other models present, how are you going to expect them to interact? Everyone (well, almost everyone) loves a good picture of two girls kissing, but, as with everything else, ask in advance if they're okay with it! Otherwise it gets awkward and uncomfortable for everyone.

  • If the shoot is going to involve food or animals, ask the model about allergies
    It will not be fun if you book a model to do a shoot with a bunch of cats and then have to transport that model to the hospital for anaphylactic shock.

  • Don't hit on your models!
    Unless the model is your girlfriend/boyfriend or husband/wife already—or you're really good friends for whom that kind of banter is normal—it is NEVER appropriate to make sexual suggestions, or even to flirt, with your model. Even if you find yourself seriously attracted to your model, just don't go there. It will not end well.*

  • If you ask the model to do something, and the model says no, accept that answer and move on
    No one likes a bully, but all too often I hear of photographers essentially bullying models into doing something they don't want to do or are uncomfortable with under threat of not paying them or, worse yet, ruining their reputations as reliable professionals. If you're the kind of person who would do this knowingly and willingly, then you're scum. But sometimes you may not know that what you're asking or the way in which you ask it can come across as threatening, especially if you continue to press after the model has said no. Treat every "no" as final.


This is obviously not aimed at photographers who actively seek to treat models poorly, but I'm sure that those kinds of people are rather rare. This is aimed instead at photographers who just don't know any better. And guess what? Now you know better!

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*Yes, there are exceptions to this, just as there are exceptions to everything. DO NOT EXPECT THE EXCEPTIONS! They're called "exceptions" for a reason!

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