We can 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 difficult to weed out psychopaths and perverts from the professionals. Better safe than sorry when it comes to auditions, jobs, and photographers. No matter how beautiful you are, the last place you want your headshot published is in the news about a tragic murder or rape. Life has no guarantees, but we can take some precautions to avoid dangerous situations. Here are my top 10 model safety tips:
1) DO YOUR RESEARCH
Before you accept a job or meet with a photographer, first verify them and their company on Google. It’s free, fast and convenient. Do you have any reviews? How do your photos look? Is your portfolio published? Website with company information? There are plenty of talented photographers out there who are in the midst of building their portfolio and they may not have a website but they should have an online profile with Model Mayhem, Facebook or One Model Place etc. Showing some of his work. If they’re a ghost, which means they don’t have anything online: zip code, zero, then approve. It just isn’t worth the risk or the time. Use that extra time to find a photographer who is already online and who is serious about networking.
2) USE YOUR REFERENCES
The easiest and safest way to find a photographer to work with is simply by asking your model friends. Not only will they recommend you to legitimate people, but they’ll also give you the “ins and outs” of working with that particular photographer, whether you’re shooting nudes, fashion, lifestyle, etc. how fast they shoot and edit, the locations they use, and their professionalism. Knowing how a session can go based on how someone works is an advantage: you’ll know what you’re getting into.
3) USE A COMPANION OR NOT?
This can be tricky. Personally, I’m not a fan of chaperones because I find it distracting for both myself and the photographer. My theory is that if we can’t work together alone, then we’re not working at all. Now, I’ve seen it done and I know photographers who don’t mind chaperones, but I think if you DO decide to bring one, you should discuss it with the photographer beforehand. Be prepared to give them a reason and be honest… maybe it’s your first photo shoot and you’d feel more comfortable having a friend there for moral support? Or maybe you are a little hesitant about the type of content you will shoot? Either way, communicating these concerns ahead of time will make the session go more smoothly. You may even find that having this conversation with your photographer can clear up a lot of concerns so that you don’t need a chaperone after all. Or you can offend them and end up not shooting, that’s fine too. Which brings up the profiles I’ve seen online where photographers rudely use exclamations when expressing “NO ESCORTS, BOYFRIEND, DRAMA, SINGLE WOMEN, ALONE, etc.” in your ads. RED FLAGS! Look, both parties have the right to accept a chaperone, or not, but it’s all within tact. I perceive ads like these as unprofessional and a bit scary. Do they have hidden agendas? Why would it matter if he was single or not? I’m here to model, not to date. This is not the Match.com mofo. If the two of you can’t come to an agreement, move on.
Sometimes a photographer will want to meet with you before a shoot to discuss ideas, the project, costumes, and meet you in person. I think that these meetings can be useful to allow everyone to show their personality and define their vision so that the day of the session is fun and joyful. However, when meeting in person, especially if it’s the first time, make sure you’re in a public place. DO NOT visit them at their home or hotel. A studio is fine if it’s a public building, which means it’s not your living room during the day and turns into a studio at night. Offices are fine too, but I always suggest and prefer cafes as nice meeting places.
I knew a model who once showed up at a photographer’s hotel room to shoot and he pulled out a Kodak disposable camera. Fortunately, the story has a good ending: he got away without shooting and learned a valuable due diligence lesson. No matter how many precautions you take, if a photographer shows up with anything other than professional equipment, get the hell out of there. He wouldn’t be able to use any of those images in his portfolio anyway; this is not the time for an amateur.
If you’re hired to shoot in a wedding dress and there’s only a neon thong ready for you when you get there, pack your things and go home. If it was not in the original agreement between you and the photographer, then you have every right to leave the session. There are no remixes here. Also, photographers will usually ask you to sign some sort of model release agreement. Typically, this indicates the rate of pay for the job, your address (for tax purposes), your age (be legal), and your signature indicating that you agree to the stated terms. READ the entire contract and if you have any questions or concerns, let the photographer know. You have the right to cross out or add anything to the contract, but if you do, be sure to get their signature and get a copy of the agreement before you leave.
7) DURING THE SHOOTING
If at any point you start to feel uncomfortable, you can always leave. First of all, you look like a deer in the headlights, it’s not cute, and second of all, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t feel safe. Make up an excuse that you don’t feel well, apologize and excuse yourself from the session, or tell him why you feel uncomfortable. Maybe the inside temperature is too cold for you? Or that you are too hot? Do you need water? A lunch break? All legitimate reasons to check yourself and the situation before you leave.
8) CALL A FRIEND
ALWAYS, always, always tell or text a friend about when, where and with whom you’ll be filming and when it’s expected to end. This is NEVER EVER negotiable.
9) THERE IS NO PLACE LIKE HOME
Just as you would never invite a stranger from the street into your home, that is the same reason you would never let a new photographer shoot in your home. Now, if you have worked with them before and trust them, or know of many models who have, then it is up to you to make that decision. Just remember that inviting someone over to your house where you sleep every night is only a good idea if they’re not stalkers.
10) USE COMMON SENSE
If it doesn’t feel right or sound right, skip it. There are a multitude of professionals that are legitimate and will help your career soar. Never settle for something that doesn’t suit you. Life is too short and I’d rather see your face in bright lights for a long, long time.