Advice for Aspiring Models
I have met many of you who are either Rookies (less than 12 month and 24 shoots) or looking to get into modeling. Many people out there are more than willing to give advice. Friends, family, school crossing guard, the cashier and WalMart and so forth and they have NO idea of how things work. I’ve been doing this for 15+ years and I still dont know everything. What I have learned, experienced and observed I’m going to share with you. So you will be getting MY 2 cents as to how I do things throughout this. This goes for those of you who plan on having a fun hobby or if you’re one of the VERY SELECT FEW who can turn it into a bill paying, make enough to retire on career or somewhere in between.
Experienced models and photographers, because your experiences are different than mine, PLEASE feel free to email me if you have other helpful advice. Please keep everything positive and beneficial. Thanks!
First things first... SAFETY! You will hear all about the photographers who get out of line, get too handsy, make inappropriate comments, make you uncomfortable in general. Here is how to avoid those situations to begin with.
RESEARCH any photographer you plan to work with and this includes me. Ask them for references. Follow up on those references. See who else they worked with they did not give. Do they credit (tag on social media) the models? If not... why? Do they allow you to bring a helper or MUA/H? (will cover this in more detail later). You do not have to ask them directly, you can go behind their back to do your homework. Talk ONLY to those who have had direct contact or communication or have worked with the photographer. Do not give an ounce of weight to hearsay. Once you have talked to several models and you feel good about it, then book your shoot. If not, then politely pass for now. Never burn a bridge!
Professionalism. Rookie or Veteran you want to be looked at as professional in your conduct. Poor communication, showing up late (15 mins early is on time, on time is late), putting the blame on others, making excuses in general, gossiping... these are all things you do not want to be associated with. If you have 5 shoots coming up over the next 10 days, you want to make sure you know what is going on with each of them, if there are any changes on your end that will cause you to miss one or more then let the photographer(s) know(s) ASAP.
You’re to always show up shoot ready. If you’re to have your makeup and hair already done, then it should be. If you have an MUA provided, then clean face. Hair should either already be styled or clean and ready for the stylist. Nails should always look good and properly colored for the shoot. Do NOT show up to a shoot with your nails looking like shit.
ALWAYS assume that any image you shoot will find its way to the internet. If you’re shooting nudes or clothed or bikini or lingerie’ or you’re shooting erotica with another model... it will find its way to the net!
There will be exceptions with some photographers and an example will be this: I have a standing rule that in some cases when exposed shots are not planned and they happen by accident or the model decides to try them, then I give her time to decide if they are to be used or not. Since they were not part of the original plan, I’m not giving them consideration without her approval. Once the content of a shoot is agreed upon as well as compensation for those involved, it should not be changed without the consent of everyone involved. This goes both ways. If you agreed to do a nude shoot and then for whatever reason you changed your mind, then dont show up expecting the photographer to accommodate. If everyone agreed to do bikini with zero exposure, dont let the photographer change it to implied/topless/nude. Dont try to jack up your rate (if one was agreed upon) and dont let them either.
Do not bring anyone to a shoot who is not vital to the shoot if you can help it. If you do bring a helper (I HATE the term escort) to your shoots, the photographer needs to know this prior to booking. They need to know they are there to help when needed. Carrying bags/gear, playing lookout when they need to, could be an MUA/H, could be watching your jewelry placement, hair, wardrobe and to not interfere with the shoot otherwise. They just need to know they are there to help out when needed. They should also be supportive of your modeling. (Personal opinion- If you feel you need a bodyguard to go to a shoot due to a questionable photographer, dont do the shoot. I dont care how good you think he is if you feel your safety is in question)
Questions- When approached by ANY photographer about shooting, there is a list of questions you should have on hand that they should have no issues answering for you:
1) What are the images for? Could be portfolio, submission for publication, a third party client. No matter what it is, you need to know what will happen to those images.
2) What is the content/genre of the shoot? Could be a number of things from Fashion to Glamour to Art. Could be from clothed to nude. Could be alone could be with another model or more. They should be as detailed as possible as to what will be expected from you.
3) What type of compensation are they offering? Images only, monetary, combination
4) When/where will the shoot take place? Studio or location
5) Are you allowed to bring a helper?
There are no right or wrong answers, only honest ones. Based upon this info, you will decide if you have other questions or if you want to do the shoot.
A photographer asks you to do an erotic nude shoot with another model. They have no experience shooting them and neither do you. IF you agree to do the shoot (after looking over non related images they have shot) this is what you will end up with... images that may or more than likely may not be usable for your portfolio. If all they offered was images, you will end up with nothing but a not so good experience. This is one of those cases where you should asked to be monetarily compensated. This would hold true with ANY photographer shooting a genre they have zero experience shooting. They want to learn, they should be HIRING models who are experienced and learn from them.
You have total say as to who you shoot with and as to what you shoot with whom. You do not have to say yes just because you were asked. NEVER let a photographer talk you into something while at the shoot. They should always respect your boundaries that were set in stone prior to. If there were grey areas to explore, then you still have the final say when they are crossed.
Communication- Every photographer agrees that this is extremely important. Some shoots are booked a day to a week out, some may be several weeks to a couple of months out. If anything on your end changes that will prevent you from making your shoot, you need to relay this to your photographer as soon as possible. Most of us are understanding to a degree. But showing your ability to maintain communication shows a level of professionalism that can be respected
Once at a shoot, if at anytime you’re made to feel uncomfortable by a photographer for any reason, there are steps to take:
1) Let the shooter know that their words/actions are making you feel uncomfortable. This gives them notice they are and the opportunity to make sure it does not continue and you can complete the shoot. It could very well be just their personality is more out there and you could be more reserved. As long as they do what they can to make sure you feel good about the shoot, no harm, no foul.
2) If they refuse to make corrections or just make excuses, there is no rule or point of etiquette that says you have to stay for the duration of the shoot. You can grab your things and leave if you wish. If you were being compensated monetarily, then make sure you get your money for the time served
3) If you were uncomfortable during the shoot but stuck it out til the end, ALWAYS at some point let the shooter know this. Let them know what words/actions they displayed you felt were inappropriate. As long as you make your attempts to be professional in these communications and upfront with them, they should do the same.
4) If the shooter is a douchebag and tells you he can do as he wants, not to say anything he’ll ruin your career, starts talking trash about you, wont give you your edited images (if they were part of your compensation)... keep full records of this and tell your side of the story with your proof.
Compensation- Everyone should be compensated from a shoot. Could be images, wardrobe, food, all expense paid trip to Europe... something. As an aspiring model who is learning her craft dont even start to think about rates. Your compensation for your time (if doing a tfp shoot) should at least be images from each set and some sort of learning experience to help you grow as a model. The number of images (as well as anything else being promised) and the time frame you should expect them should be discussed prior to booking the shoot. Do not expect every photographer to shoot tfp with you. When you have a seasoned, experienced, talented photographer and you’re a new, aspiring model, ask yourself “What do I bring to the table he/she doesnt already have or can get from someone more experienced?” Never hurts to ask but until you gain experience and start developing your skills, just dont expect it. In fact, you may end up paying a few photographers to get your portfolio started. Once you do get a level to where you can quote rates, PLEASE do not quote “Stripper Rates”. Basically this means you charge more for shooting with less clothing. Unless your skills improve with less clothing, your objectifying your body as being worth more than your talent that you have worked so hard on. Have a rate based upon your skills and if you want to negotiate them, then do it.
Learn your craft- Just because you’re pretty and have a nice body does not make you a model. To be a model you must learn to model. Ever watch ANTM? Tyra will tell ya.. “Model Head to Toe”. She says to even when doing head shots! Ok, enough Tyra. You need to know the genre(s) you plan on modeling and how to pose and emote. You need to know what to do with your hands, how to find your light, where to focus your eyes, how to stand, sit and lay down as a model. You cant rely on photographers always telling you what to do. What I suggest to new models is to study yourself. You can best do this by getting a copy of each shoot you do*. Look at each frame. What could you have done differently to improve the shot? Then move to the next one repeat. Then on your next shoot, apply those changes. The biggest issues I see are the inability to emote (or limited range of emotion), how to pose the hands gracefully and forgetting you have a lower half and just changing the upper have when posing on your own. You can practice in the mirror or take a lot of selfies to work on emotions. Watch YouTube videos of ballet, Tai Chi, interpretive dance and anything that has movement to work on graceful posing.
*MOST photographers will not release you a copy of the shoot. Many will sift through them and only show you the best of the best so you never see your mistakes (or theirs). Some will with the promise you do not post an unedited image on the net.
Know your specs- Every model needs to know her height, weight, measurements clothing sizes. These should be checked (updated when need be) about 2-3 times a year.
Model Releases- Although they are all worded a little differently, they all say basically the same thing... The photographer owns the copyright to the images and you’re acknowledging that. They could list your rights as well as for usage of the images. Most have you read, understand and sign them before a shot is taken. If you have questions about anything in it... ASK! Never get caught up in the moment and blindly sign one. Some may have clauses in there that totally screw you out of compensation for commercial usage.
Edit/Retouched Images- Once you receive your images do NOT alter them in ANY way without the consent of the photographer! When you run them through filters, crop them**, alter your appearance or any other number of things... you’re majorly insulting the photographer. You told him/her that the image was not complete and needed improvement. **We all know IG crops, FB crops profile pics and 99% of the time, we dont care. Just make sure the photographer is properly credited, especially if the watermark (if used) is cropped!
Hygiene- When you’re shooting in previously modeled clothing, especially lingerie’ and swimwear, be sure to ask if they have been properly laundered. NEVER assume! For further safety, wear a nude thong and use panty liners. No need in catching what the person in front of ya had just in case. Photographer cant deal with that, then dont use the items.
If you’re going to be shooting nude, be sure to keep track of your personal calendar. You do not want an accident because you thought you were good for another day. You dont want to show up bloated. If it is that time and you’re ok shooting nude (in some cases, bikinis and lingerie’), then snip and tuck the string to ensure it doesnt show up in any images.
Make sure everything that needs to be shaved/waxed is taken care. No one likes to fix three day old bikini and armpit stubble... especially for dark haired models.
For the record, body odor does not show up on camera! Most prefer you do not wear deodorant for a shoot to keep it off the clothing. Put it on afterwards
Hair should always be clean and healthy looking
Skin should be properly moisturized. Inform photographer of any skin conditions. By drinking proper amounts of water and laying off the alcohol, this should help out.
Do not show up with hickies! (yes it has happened to me!)
Wardrobe- Models are generally expected to bring clothing to shoots. Some photographers provide some wardrobe but not all the time. Some things you should invest in: Heels- black, white, red nude,. Closed and open toe
Boots- various styles
3-4 little black dresses
Several styles of jeans, shorts, skirts, dresses, bikinis and lingerie’
Also stock up on cheap costume jewelry. Try to not wear anything expensive to a shoot.
Most things you can get at discount and thrift stores. Then there are garage sales, Goodwill and so forth. There is also eBay and several Asian websites. Buy cheap and just get a little here and a little there. It will build up over time.
MODEL BAG- This is something EVERY model needs to have. What you keep in it can vary slightly but I feel it should contain at least the following:
Panties- bikini cut, lace, boycut and thong, white/nude/black
Bras- strapless (at least one), white/nude/black
Hairbrush and comb
Makeup with brushes
Nail polish remover
Flat and Curling iron
Shower shoes/ flip flops
Small bag for jewelry
New disposable razor and shaving cream
Baby oil and lotion
This is not an overnight bag. This is not your back up emergency bag. This is strictly for taking to modeling gigs. It stays with your car and only comes out to launder or restock and then back to the car. You never know when you might get a last minute call to go shoot and this way you’re ready to go and dont have to go home to get it.
Boyfriends/Husbands/Family/Jobs- This is a real touchy subject but one that needs to be addressed. When it comes to what you model, i.e., fully dressed, bikini/lingerie’, nudes/topless/implied, it needs to be YOUR call. What you do with your body does not affect anyone else. Dont believe me? Dont eat right and let me know which family member gains 20 lbs. See how fast you have to drive to get your BF a ticket. Go lay out in the sun and let me know how sun burnt someone else got. If they get embarrassed because you want to model nudes, then thats their problem.
Many will try to play the Respect card. Its really a Control Card. Respect is a two way street, control is a one way. They need to respect you and your decisions on what you do... or you can do what they want you to do. Its your call. Many models have to make a choice between modeling and the BF. The BF wins short term but I generally see the model back at it as soon as she dumps his insecure, immature, controlling jealous ass.
When it comes to a husband, you’re married. You’re one person. My own personal opinion is this: Y’all come to a mutual agreement of what y’all decide is best for the marriage. He has to give, you have to give. No one has full reign here. Then you stick to it.
Jobs- If your employer, the place you go to 40 hours a week or more, that pays your bills has an type of bullshit ethics clause (like teachers), then you abide by those rules! Do not jeopardize your livelihood for modeling
If you live with your parents or you have a BF who is totally supporting you, then yes, they do at this time have a say so as to what you do. Dont like what they have to say about it... move the hell out and support yourself. Problem solved.
Note: I used nudes as an example because thats what causes the most uproar. It could be modeling in general they could have an issue with. Thought modeling was gonna be easy didnt ya!? lol Seriously though, if you want to model, just as with everything else in life, you only get back what you put in. You go into it half ass or with an attitude, you will get nothing back. Treat it like its gonna be this or nothing (even though you know its just a hobby) and I promise you will have a great time over all.