Welcome back! It’s time for another episode of things that bug the hell out of James! In part one, I discussed a bit on how photographers should conduct themselves when working with models. Remember kids, only YOU can prevent Creepers! In part two (or part the second if you’re feeling whimsical), I want to talk to the models from a photographer’s viewpoint.
Models, the elusive creatures whose only job is to show up, look pretty, and vanish from our lives like flatulence in a hurricane; oh how we covet you. You become our muse, our canvas, and sometimes you become a real pain in the arse. Just like there is a separation between “Guy’s with a camera” and photographers, there is a difference between “People who like their picture taken” and models.
Surprising as it may be, being a model is more than just showing up and looking kind of nice; it actually takes hard work and talent! You are a salesperson of your image (but not in a Red-light District sort of way), and as a salesperson it is up to you to make your product look its best. Now before you start typing the hate-mail to me in your head, let me say that being a model does not mean being a certain height, weight, bust-size, or whatever. I hate the terms petite model and plus-sized model; a model is a model plain and simple. On the flip side, just because someone took your picture once and said you looked pretty doesn’t make you a model.
As a photographer, there are a few things that I expect from people claiming to be models. First off, you should know the basics of posing, and you should be able to run through a series of poses without the photographer having to coach you. Second, know how to follow directions so that when the photographer does need to pose you, it doesn’t become like a bad game of Charades. Third, do not step in front of a camera without makeup. You may have perfect alabaster skin and naturally full eyelashes to the naked eye, but the camera will find all of your flaws. Most importantly of all, do not expect the photographer to “fix” you in Photoshop. Don’t wear a dress that accentuates every unflattering fold of flesh, don’t wear that hooker-pink lipstick, and don’t expect the photographer to make you look like the Queen of Shiva when in reality you look like a bag-lady. Photoshop takes a ton of time, and if you show up to one of my shoots looking like you just rolled down a rubbish heap, I’m going to send you packing. On a personal level, I am against body shaping and age regression in post-production. I have a 5 year old daughter, and I refuse to be part of the problem plaguing self-image today. I have the expertise to make you look 50 lbs. lighter and 15 years younger, but that does not mean I should do it. Everyone has a beauty inside them, and it’s my hope to find it and capture it. I will produce images of you in the most flattering way possible, but they will be of you – not a younger, fitter, idealized version of you. I have no problem working with a size 13 model, and I will make beautiful images to the best of my ability and I will proudly take credit for them.
While we’re on the subject of model selection, let’s go ahead and get some ego bruising out of the way. Just like every other human being, photographers have personal tastes. What one person loves, another is bound to hate. There are certain people that I like on a personal level, but do not want to photograph. They have a personal style that doesn’t jive with my personal style, or their “look” isn’t right for the shoot I am trying to do. If you are at a group event and a photographer declines to photograph you, don’t go bat-shit crazy. Making a finished image is not as easy as pressing the shutter release button; each image can take between 10 minutes to multiple hours in processing. Processing is an art-form in of itself and if the photographer didn’t want to photograph a certain model or outfit to begin with, their heart won’t be in it and the images will suck. As artists, Americans, and human beings we have the right to choose what we create, and just like a model can say no to doing nude work, photographers can say no to activating that shutter. Respect our choice like you want us to respect yours and we’ll all be happy campers.
I will go over the truth and misconceptions of copyright and image usage rights at a later time, but right now I want to touch on model releases. Long story short, if you expect me to give you copies of my images, I expect you to fill out my model release form. Oh the bane of my existence that is the Model Release Form. It seems like such a simple thing: photographer takes photos, model fills out and signs a model release, photographer (sometimes) gives model copies of the images for their “personal” (quote for emphasis) use. Why is it so hard to obtain this dastardly defying document? Perhaps it’s the misconception that signing the release will come back to haunt you in the future. In actuality, most model releases protect the model from their likeness being used for pornographic or provocative (i.e. anti-abortion/pro-choice, LGBT rights, etc.). From the moment the light hits the film or digital sensor, the photographer owns that image and can sell the image rights to any buyer they want without consequence, whether you sign a release or not. The fact of the matter is that a photographer does not need the release unless they are using it to advertise themselves in such a way that it looks like the model supports them. Now, normally a photographer will get a release at the time of the shoot or before delivery of the images as a way to make it easier to license the images in the future. Ultimately it’s up to the person using that image, like an advertising company, to obtain that release and if they use an image that was taken 10 years prior, it’s a major PITA tracking the model down. Please just take the 3-5 minutes to fill them out and sign them, it really is a drop in the bucket time-wise of what the photographer has to spend delivering even one final image to you.
Lastly, I’d like to address the “amateur” or aspiring models. Please don’t let this essay discourage you in the least. If you don’t have much experience working with a photographer, let them know beforehand. If time is not a constraint, most photographers would be more than happy to work with you and help teach you. Seek out established models and ask them to mentor you. Do your homework, and look at the quality of a photographer’s work before working with them – if their images are crap, the things they teach you will be crap. Like any other commodity, you get what you pay for. Sometimes that payment will be monetary, sometimes it will be making connections in casinos in Oklahoma, and sometimes it will be learning how to be better at what you do.
Until next time, remember this: alcohol, weed-eaters, and mechanical bulls slathered with Jell-O don’t mix!