With the increase of internet modelling sites such as One Model Place, Net Model, Model Mayhem and similar, it has never been easier to promote yourself either as a model or a photographer and there has been an explosion of want to be talent on both sides of the camera in recent years. Nowadays anyone with an internet connection and a couple of hundred £/$s can set up an internet account, go out and buy a professional looking camera and call themselves a photographer. Like any trade there are professionals, there are great amateurs and there are sharks.
For the sake of this article Im going to use the industry standard term; GWC (Guy With Camera), for the sharks. While I dont want to misalign anyone personally in the trade, it has been my experience that for every two professionals Ive met, Ive met a GWC only in it for the girls, the glamour and their own egos. Hopefully this article will help the new model to decide who is who.
Firstly, age is of prime importance. Any model under the age of 18 in most countries (including the UK and US) can only work to lingerie/swimsuit levels and then only if modelling for fashion or portfolio work unprovocatively. A model under the age of 18 can not work to topless/nude levels under any normal conditions. There are of course certain grey areas where artists such as Sally Mann and David Hamilton have blurred the lines and produced art nudes featuring underage models but to a court of law it would be hell to define what constitutes art rather than titillation. Best just to accept that an underage model cant work nude, ever!
A model under the age of 18 must always be chaperoned by an adult with the legal right to sign a model release form for them. In an industry with so much glamour attached it is the photographers responsibility to insure that he conduct himself in a professional manner and refuse to shoot an underage model unchaperoned. He, after all is the adult and has a responsibility to all children. As a photographer, always treat children with the same respect that youd want your own child treated.
As a model, adult or otherwise, having a chaperone attend the shoot is always a good rule of thumb, especially when working with a new photographer for the first time. If you feel something is amiss always trust your gut instincts. Even if it does feel right, It might not be. Remember that there are a lot of GWCs out there only too willing to prey on the naive, the desperate to get into modelling and the inexperienced.
Always check for references when approached by a photographer. Does his style of work reflect how you want to be seen as a model? (Do you want to be a fashion model or a porn star?) Does he have a website? (Is it a generic MySpace one or a domain?) Is his email address a generic hotmail address or does it link to his site? Can he supply references from previous models and will he let you choose who to contact from his past work? (Giving you a list of ten models and their contact details is preferable to him giving you his best mates girlfriends mobile number). Will he let a chaperone attend? (If not, run for the hills!)
Always let people know where youre going, preferably leave them with the shoot address. Always have your mobile with you charged and topped up if pay as you go. It is a wise precaution to arrange to let someone know when you get to the studio, that youre safe and all seems above board.
Before the shoot: Discuss modelling levels, that both the photographer wants and that you are prepared to work to. If the photographer expects an art nude shoot and you are prepared to work only to lingerie, say so and do not be persuaded or intimidated otherwise. If the location of the shoot changes at the last moment ask why. Is the photographer trying to get you to a secluded spot and prey on your vulnerability?
During the shoot: If a photographer is making you feel uncomfortable, say so. Do not under any circumstance go along with what he wants because you feel you must. Any professional worth his salt will be as aware of your comfort as you are. Unless pre-agreed beforehand due to difficult costume changes; corsets etc (ideally the job of the chaperone) never let a photographer touch you. If a photographer cant express his desires through lack of communication skills what are his camera skills like? A photographer should be able to explain what he wants. He should never have to touch you and if he is, he is probably getting off on it. If the communication worries you and the photographer is asking probing, unnecessary questions; Is this turning you on? as I have heard from one model. Stop the shoot, pack up and leave. You have a right as a model not to feel uncomfortable.
After the shoot: If it is a portfolio shoot that you are paying the photographer for and he asks you to sign a release form, you are well within your right not to. If it is a TFP/CD (Time For Print/Compact Disc) shoot then it is usual for a release form to be signed by the model. Do not give any more personal details on the form than seem necessary. Usually just your legal name if working under a modelling name, your address and your mobile number are sufficient. If you are under the age of 18 then your guardian/chaperone will also have to sign the form by law or else it is invalid.
Remember that a relationship between a model and photographer is usually business based. It is rare that a friendship needs to be formed, you can leave as friends but you do not need to be friends! Overly friendly contact before or after the shoot is often a warning sign that things are not quite what they seem. How many web site designers or graphic artists need to be friends with their clients? If you are having regular IM chats with a photographer that you enjoy talking to, thats fine. If the conversation becomes uncomfortable or intrusive block them. There will always be another photographer round the corner as good as if not better to work with. Friendships are made of course, people are people after all but be careful in the first instance. If a photographer turns up unexpectedly at your doorstep, let someone know, give them his details and ask him politely not to in future. If he apologises and leaves all is well. Some wont and expect friendships to become more. You as the model be the judge here.
Lastly; safety becomes before all things. Always, always, trust your instincts. The greatest photograph in the world isnt worth it if your personal safety is at risk. Be happy, have fun, make some great art, meet some great people but most of all be safe.