So you are seriously looking into becoming a model, you’ve browsed the net for inspiration, practiced in front of the mirror, done some research on photographers, and now looking to arrange your first shoot. Whats missing? – Safety.
Whether you are a total newby to the creative world, or had more experience this post is about becoming a model and keeping safe.
To start off its worth answering a few questions.
Is Modelling Safe?
Yes, most of the time its safe with millions of shoots every year conducted by pro’s and hobbyists alike without issue, but there are always the exceptions.
From what I have observed where played out in public view;
Some are caused by a failure of communication, where by both sides may not be singing from the same hymn sheet.
If I could describe this it could be one of a few things, the first being the extent of work being done, which the example of the icy maiden you can see in my portfolio, we literally painted the girls hair with makeup! we suggested we might be doing something with the hair but the route was not decided till the day and was a bad example on my own part admittedly.
Thankfully it was not an issue for Lucy, though it did take multiple washes to get out.
The other most notable of failure of communication I could point to my beach shoots. Whereby someone might expect to be covered in chiffon vs actually having notable skin on show. Its something I tend to point out and use the words “bikini” when casting models for such jobs but the wrong words can really train wreck a shoot.
So obviously asking questions is important.
Another, and frankly more dangerous though thankfully not wide spread section are the ones that advise a particular shoot that is fully clothed, then try to push the model to shoot genre’s they are not comfortable with, the example being nudes and in some cases pornography. Which I have no doubt reading some people will be kicking back from the screen screaming WHAT THE HELL.
To my annoyance and much of the industries, it is a thing.
Finally there is the obvious abuse of power which is the inappropriate actions towards your model, touching, groping, take your pick you dont go to a photoshoot expecting to be molested. It is exceptionally rare, and you can find the cases of it listed in the news, and I hope that those are the only cases.
OK, thats failures and abuses at shoots, what about other con artists?
Sorry to tell you, but half the agencies out there are SCAMS. And I put that in capital letters expecting some attacks from said scammers but its true, and what’s alarming is it’s perfectly legal! Let me explain:
Agencies that want money to be put on the books, or money for a photoshoot with their photographer before being put on the books, are cons.
I have worked with, and for agencies in many branches of industry and non pull this stunt with you except in the world of modelling.
Agencies, make their money changing a photographer like me, say £70, and pay you £60, that is an agencies model of money making and with that it should be obvious that it encourages them to generate business, to hire you out, to actually get you work. If they take all the money off you upfront? wheres the motivation? what some charge for those services of being on the books far exceeds what they earn hiring you out. Just saying.
To add to that something which goes against my own business, is that you can learn to model on the job.
I have seen proper agencies be quite crafty asking about the job and whats involved, quoting and no doubt assigning some one relevant to the task, and where lesser risk (like me shooting for a personal thing rather than a massive commercial client) will send some one with lesser experience, which is OK. They might not admit to it, but if they are wise I expect they would in the interests of the model and business in general.
But my offering is there as a experience, you get something out of it, which is a mixture of tuition and a stress free environment and images to take home, where you might get no photos to take home when you get paid.
OK some agencies are scams, but what about places like Star Now?
Places like this, are advertising companies and portfolio hosting, if you think of it like the Yellow Pages (does anyone use them any more?), you pay fees for use and advertisement. As it stands a lot still allow you to host your portfolio and skills totally free, only taking fee’s if you apply for, or get work.
And even taking those fee’s into account, you will save a massive amount on what a dud agency will be charging you.
So where does keeping safe come in?
Well now I am going to cover a few things that will likely leave you looking at me like you do your overprotective mum and tell them not to panic, you’re a big girl (or boy, or which ever way you identify) and know what you are doing, but we parents say these things because they work!
- Tell your family where you are going!
It seems pretty obvious, but tell people where you are going. As you might guess I work on location the majority of my time. I dont own or want a studio but even if I did I expect you to give the address to someone you know and trust. In the case of being out on a craggy rock somewhere I always inform my models where it is (as close as, as some involve a short amount of hiking down a cliff face).
- Try and get as much info about what is expected of you before going.
I have covered a few reasons why this is important, but it also give you a clause that should you be pushed you can say clearly “this is not what I agreed to” and walk out.
- Struggling to understand the intended result? ask for a mood board.
You might see I have a pinterest account, I literally have dozens of boards for so many ideas and many I only hope to get covered before I kick the bucket. They are a good point of reference when communicating with someone about what I have in mind.
They are a contentious subject,and rightly so as I have had a few bad experiences from them knocking me over for fun to trying to steal my equipment.
But where you are uneasy, working with someone you dont know, and especially if you are some one young (kids>teens through to 20’s I include in that), then they are an asset to your safety. Just pick a good one, because although I can identify with bad cases I have found a good chaperone will help out with the shoot, even holding my lighting and helping to carry equipment.
This is a tricky one as not everyone everywhere has references readily available, but if you can you can check up on the background and experiences of other models on previous shoots.
- If you are uncomfortable, let them know.
This harks back to failure to communicate. Some things can be resolved easily and without issue with the passage of words to effect. If you feel uncomfortable (an example being my abysmal jokes, though inappropriate ones would be a better example), let them know. If they behave in other ways like touching (some do in failing to have the words to advise posing, trying to move you like a mannequin), again let them know, as they should learn to work with words and directions.
- If they continue after asking them to stop, walk away!
I recall a report in the papers, not long after I moved to Ayrshire about such a case, or rather several to the same photographer. In this case victims of sexual abuse.
All who put up with it thinking it was a job and acceptable and staying silent for a long time. Simple answer is dont.
Get up, walk away, learn from it. If its physical report it.I’ve been the victim of abusive employers thinking it was part of the job when it wasn’t, and frankly nobody should have to feel horrid doing a job for anyone, end of.
I should count my blessings that in these cases, it was merely verbal. I cannot comprehend the feeling of being physically abused.
- Phone numbers, ways of identifying.
Half the models I meet, its the first time I see them so to find me they need a few things; a phone number, a way to visually identify me, a specific meeting point, and a time.
As it is I have a stockpile of funny hats to wear, I use the work car that would you guess has the company name on the side, mobiles are a necessity as things can and do go wrong be it traffic or otherwise thus the importance to keep everyone updated.
And note that phone numbers should again be passed on to either a trusted friend (say you are a student at uni and you dont come home), or family. If something goes wrong it’s a point for them to trace along with the other information you pass on.
- Promise you the world?
They say if it sounds too good to be true? I have seen some promised massive deals, trips around the world, endless buckets of cash. Like certain celebrity billionaires they play on their name and their contacts and all you have to do is exactly what they tell you.
Seriously, dont, dont believe it for a minute.
Unless they are employing you directly, like some photographers do with a good track record of running workshops (Google John Denton for an example) it’s hot air.
Its like me claiming my name carries weight and will reap benefits at the mention. It won’t and I say that having been a photographer employed directly by tourist boards, it’s even on my advertisements but its not a selling point in any way. The skills you bring are, and always will be.
By now you should be armed with knowledge and advice on what to watch out for as a model, and what to do should the unlikely instances come about.
I have tried to be as comprehensive as I can from the position I reside in the working relationship between creative professionals.
Or put in lamens terms, my views are made up of conversations with models and my experiences as a photographer.
I have no doubt at all I will have missed some things and could include others, and come the time of learning this knowledge I will happily pass it on for the future reference of all aspiring models out there.
I welcome conversation so if you have any questions around this you can email me and I will try to get back to you in due course.
Whilst you are here also check out a few other blog posts I have about modelling: