We may move like a cat, but we don’t have 9 lives. In an industry with an overwhelming revolving door of talent and newcomers, it can be hard to weed out the psychos and perverts from the professionals. It’s best to be safe than sorry when dealing with casting calls, jobs, and Photographers. No matter how beautiful you are, the last place you’d want your headshot posted is on the news over a tragic murder or rape. Life has no guarantees, but we can take some precautions to avoid dangerous situations. Here are my top 10 safety tips for models:
1) DO YOUR RESEARCH
Before you accept a job or meet with a Photographer, check them and their company out on Google, first. It’s free, fast, and convenient. Do they have any reviews? How do their photos look? Is their portfolio posted? Website with company information? There are a ton of talented Photographers who are in the midst of building their portfolio and may not have a website up, but they should have an online profile with Model Mayhem, Facebook, or One Model Place, etc. that showcases some of their work. If they’re a ghost, meaning they have nothing online-zip, zero, then pass. It’s just not worth the risk or time. Use that extra time to find a Photographer who is already online and is serious in networking.
2) USE YOUR REFERRALS
The easiest and safest way to find a Photographer to work with is to simply ask your model friends. Not only will they refer you to legitimate people, but they’ll also give you the “ins and outs” of working with that particular Photographer-whether or not he/she shoots nudes, fashion, lifestyle, etc. how fast they shoot and edit, locations they use, and their professionalism. Knowing how a shoot may go based on how someone works is an advantage-you’ll know what you’re getting into.
3) TO USE A CHAPERONE OR NOT?
This can be tricky. Personally, I’m not a fan of chaperones because I find it a distraction for both myself and the Photographer. My theory is that if we can’t work alone together, then we’re not working at all. Now, I have seen it done and know Photographers who don’t mind chaperones, but I think if you DO decide on bringing one, that you should discuss it beforehand with the Photographer. Be prepared to give them a reason for it and be honest…maybe it’s your first photo shoot ever and you’d feel more comfortable having a friend there for moral support? Or maybe you’re a little hesitant on the type of content you’ll be shooting? Either way, communicating these concerns ahead of time will make the shoot go smoother. You may even find out that just having this conversation with your Photographer can clear up a lot of concerns so that you won’t be needing a chaperone after all. Or you may offend them and end up not shooting-that’s okay too. Which brings up the profiles I’ve seen online where Photographers rudely use exclamations in expressing, “NO CHAPERONES, BOYFRIENDS, DRAMA, SINGLE WOMEN, ONLY, etc” in their ads. RED FLAGS! Look, both parties have the right to accept a chaperone, or not, but all within tact. I perceive ads like these as being unprofessional and a little scary. Do they have hidden agendas? Why would it matter if I was single or not? I’m here to model, not date. This isn’t Match.com mofo. If you both can’t come to an agreement, just move on.
Sometimes, a Photographer will want to meet with you before a shoot to discuss ideas, the project, wardrobe, and to meet you in person. I think these meetings can be helpful in allowing everyone to show their personality and define their vision so that the actual shoot day is fun and breezy. When meeting in person, though, especially for the first time, make sure you’re at a public place. DO NOT visit them at their home or hotel. A studio is okay if it’s a public building-meaning it’s not their living room by day turned studio by night. Offices are okay, too but I just always suggest and prefer cafes for pleasant meeting places.
I knew a model who once showed up at a Photographer’s hotel room to shoot and he whipped out a Kodak disposable camera. Fortunately, the story has a good ending-she left without shooting and learned a valuable lesson in due diligence. No matter how many precautions you take, if a Photographer shows up with anything but professional equipment, get the hell out of there. You wouldn’t be able to use any of those images in your portfolio anyways-this is not amateur hour.
If you’re hired to shoot in a wedding gown and there’s only a neon g-string laid out for you when you get there, pack your stuff and head on home. If it wasn’t in the original agreement between you and the Photographer, then you have every right to leave the shoot. No remixes here. Also, Photographers will usually have you sign some sort of model release agreement. Usually, this states the rate of pay for the job, your address (tax purposes), your age (please be legal), and your signature outlining that you agree with the terms set forth. READ through the entire contract and if you have any questions or concerns, state them to the Photographer. You do have the right to cross out or add anything to the contract, but if you do, make sure to get their signature in compliance and get a copy of the agreement before you leave.
7) DURING THE SHOOT
If at anytime you begin to feel uncomfortable, you can always leave. First of all, you look like a deer in the headlights-not cute, and second, there’s no reason you shouldn’t feel safe. Either make an excuse that you don’t feel well, apologize and excuse yourself from the shoot, or tell him/her why you’re uncomfortable. Maybe the temperature inside is too cold for you? Or that you’re too hot? Do you need water? A break to eat? All legitimate reasons to check yourself and the situation before leaving.
8 ) PHONE A FRIEND
ALWAYS, always, always, tell or text a friend when, where, and with whom you’ll be shooting and when you’re expected to be done. This is NEVER EVER negotiable.
9) THERE’S NO PLACE LIKE HOME
Just as you would never invite a stranger from the streets into your home is the same reason why you’d never let a new Photographer shoot at your home. Now if you’ve worked with them before and trust them, or know plenty of models who have, then it’s up to you to make that decision. Just remember that inviting someone to your home where you lay to rest every night is only a good idea if they aren’t stalkers.
10) USE COMMON SENSE
If it doesn’t feel right or sound right, skip it. There’s a multitude of professionals out there who are legitimate and will help your career soar. Don’t ever settle for something that’s not right for you. Life is way too short and I’d rather see your face in bright lights for a long, long time.