This weekend, I'll be one of 6 photographers leading a statewide modeling workshop.
I'm SO fortunate to be in a position in which I can be a part of this workshop and I count my lucky stars on a daily basis. We'll be working with, teaching, and holding photoshoots for attendees interested in learning about the modeling industry and who want to get started (and you can BET there will be a behind-the-scenes blog post about it!). Modeling is fun, exciting, and can lead to a thrilling and alluring career! You can be whisked away to Spain for a beachfront swimwear photoshoot. You can be called to fly to Los Angeles to model for Target, H & M, or Lululemon. You can also find fame and fortune.
However, you MUST be smart and safe in your attempts to get started in this business and build a portfolio. Here's how to do that!
Unfortunately, this industry is full of predators.
In a business full of eager, mostly young, very attractive people, there are a lot of shady individuals looking to take advantage. Just last week, a model I've worked with several times texted me screenshots of a Facebook message she'd received from a man who offered her $1,000-$1,500 to pose in swimwear and lingerie for him. He claimed to be a new photographer who really wanted to get started in the business and he really wanted to work with her. But it just didn't feel right. So she texted me and asked my thoughts.
We did a little digging into this guy's Facebook profile. He hadn't uploaded any photos, profile pictures, or made any posts since 2016. He also made a few other less-than-savory comments about the model's appearance throughout the conversation. I asked the model what her instinct was telling her. She said it didn't feel right and seemed too good to be true. I agreed.
Our example model gave a great example response; she reached out to someone she trusted for advice, she saw all the potential red flags, and she stayed safe. So with that, here are a few tips for you, you aspiring, soon-to-be-rich-and-famous supermodel!
1) Trust Your Instincts!
The biggest safety precaution to take is just that. If something doesn't feel right, don't do it. If something seems off, don't trust it. If it's too good to be true, it probably is.
It may come as an uneasy, pit in your stomach kind of feeling. It may come as a head-scratching kind of feeling. It may be something else, to you. But please, be in tune with your intuition and know how your body recognizes warning signs and red flags.
As a newcomer to the world of modeling and entertainment, you'll have to build a portfolio of great work. You'll do that by working with professional photographers. But how do you know who's a professional and who has ulterior motives?
2) Do Your Research!
If you want a career as a model, remember you're signing up for exactly what you asked for: a career. Careers take work and part of that work means knowing what you're doing and getting into. So, when looking for photographers to help you build your portfolio, go in-depth:
-Check their website(s). Any good and real photographer will have a decent website. Is it updated? Do the links work? Are there typos and misspellings? All of these things indicate lack of attention to detail and, while they may not indicate you're in danger if you work with them, it may mean you won't be getting the best results possible.
-Check their social media. In today's day and age, social media is king for photographers. It's how they market, it's how the display their work, and it's how they find new clients. A self-respecting photographer will have a pretty good social media presence.
-Check their references. The best way to get a feel for a photographer is to talk to other models who have worked with them. You can message models who are tagged on social media or you can straight-up ask for a reference list. If they resist or argue with you, ghost 'em. Move on to another option who doesn't try to hide their past from you. You'll be better off.
3) Don't go alone!
After you've done your research and found a photographer who matches your style, contacted them, and checked their references, it's time to schedule a shoot! Yay! But...don't think you're set for stardom yet. You still need to think critically.
One thing all up-and-up photographers will be okay with is your bringing an escort to the shoot. An escort should be a friend, family member, significant other, etc. Someone you trust and who will look out for you during the experience. Good photographers will be okay with this because 1) they care about how the images turn out, and if you (as a model) are feeling uncomfortable, it'll show up in the photos, and 2) extra people mean extra hands...and extra hands mean more help in carrying, moving, and adjusting things. Personally, I love when models bring friends to shoots!
Another aspect to consider is where the shoot is scheduled to happen. Nine times out of ten, I schedule first shoots in public places. I do this both for my own safety and the models'. I want everyone to feel safe and comfortable. However, there are times when a shoot in a public place isn't able to happen, either due to the nature of the shoot, time of day, weather, etc. If you find yourself in that case: use an escort or, at the VERY least, let a trusted friend or family member know where you are and when you'll be done. I also encourage you to tell them you'll text/call them at a certain time and, if you don't do that, they should contact the police. It may sound extreme, but it's always better to be safe than sorry.
In the end: if you use your head, you'll be fine!
This is not meant to be a scary, intimidating, or discouraging post. I love my job. Every model I work with loves their job. All of my photographer colleagues love their jobs. The truth is: the world is a dangerous place, no matter what line of work you find yourself in. There are hazards all over the place. I would never advocate for someone to NOT do something out of fear. Quite the opposite actually; I say go for it! Reach for your dreams and make them a reality. Just be smart about it. Always stay safe and live to model another day.