The purpose of this article isn’t to scare anyone away from moving forward in their modeling career. The idea here is to help improve the safety of models new to the industry, and create a greater awareness of just how far someone will go in their attempt to cover up their true intentions. That said, please know that there are so many legit and professional photographers out there. You just need to be able to distinguish the good from the bad.
Wouldn’t it truly be great if the world was a totally safe place to live? Yes, of course. But sadly, there are lots of people out there with ill intent on their mind. In the modeling industry, there are more than a fair share of these people.
Models that are new to the field are at higher risk of crossing paths with such people. That being the case, the focus here will be mainly on that segment of the modeling community. However, all should take proper precautions prior to new photo shoots.
Not too long ago a friend of mine, a model who we’ll call, Zoe, received an offer to do a photo shoot with an alleged photographer who was claiming to also be the owner of a fashion magazine. He expressed to her how he was contacted by a former model he worked with, and how she said that he should “check this girl out,” meaning, Zoe. He gave the IG name of the model that referred him, as well as mentioned the picture where she left her comment. Zoe immediately checked out her Instagram account following the message, and sure enough, there was a comment by a young beautiful girl saying, “check this girl out,” tagging the photographer in the quote. So far so good.
The photographer then went on to invite Zoe to visit his website to “take a look” at the style of photography the magazine produces, and to give her some more insight on to what they could create together. He even sent her a link to a short film, depicting his accomplishments, that he claimed appeared at several film festivals.
To Zoe, everything seemed like it was heading in a positive direction, and somewhat legitimate. She had a model who appeared to be an immediate reference for the photographer. She thought, “if this girl is reaching out to him, she must have had an enjoyable experience with him.” Zoe also checked out the models Instagram account, and the Instagram account of the photographer himself, and they both had over 10K followers. Finally, there was the short film that highlighted the accomplishments of the photographer. She began to think it was all completely authentic, so what did she have to lose by setting up a shoot? But when she told me about it, none of it seemed to make much sense. Here’s why.
It appeared to me that the photographer was trying too hard to prove his legitimacy before Zoe ever insinuated otherwise. It looked as though he was using a tactic that I would only assume to be deployed by a con-artist (not a good sign). In Zoe’s case, the photographer was presenting information that he assumed would answer a lot of potential questions before they were ever asked, and before anyone started to have enough doubt to begin probing into who he really was. But because he presented so much backstory upfront, I felt the need to dig up what I could. I checked out his website, and the model that made the original referral, as well as his video. What I found was disturbing.
I discovered that the model was not a model at all. The “model” was the “photographer.” He created the model account using pictures that he found on the web. Something easy to discover by using Google‘s reverse image search feature; which I did. He also used an Instagram bot to build up an audience for this fake persona. He then used that account to leave comments on modeling images that he would direct to his photographer Instagram account. Then he would wait a few days and contact the model saying how he was referred to them by another model. I learned this by looking at the fake modeling account, and checking out the comments that the account was putting out. All the comments were directed to the photographers account saying the same, “check this girl out.” Coincidence? No. There were so many other indicators that the account was fake, I couldn’t possibly list them all.
As far as the Magazine website, that was all a facade as well. After visiting the website, I started to look through the blog pages and articles (all which had fashion related titles). I copied some of the text and pasted it into Google and found other instances of the same exact text. He simply copied and pasted someone else’s works it into his own website. The images on the site were also a collection of images from across the web. Again, I used Google‘s reverse image search feature to find them.
Finally, the video never appeared at any of the claimed film festivals. The photographer simply made the video himself and used a few of the branding logos from the festivals as the intro to his video. WTF? Why would anyone go through such great lengths to prove that they were someone they just weren’t? Well after showing everything I found to Zoe, she did let me in on a piece of the puzzle. The photographer claimed that he was starting a new magazine to compliment his other publications. Yes, of course it just happens to be a much more “artistic” magazine expressing the beauty of nudes.
This person, by his actions, could only be thought of as having ill intent. There would be no other reason to be so deceitful. He simply wanted to lore girls into doing nude photo shoots by playing a “bait and switch” game. Who knows what else he may have intended, but I’m speculating that it would have been a very bad experience for Zoe if she had fallen for the ploy.
So how do you protect yourself from people like this?
1. Do your research
It may seem daunting if you think you always must dig as deep as I did to uncover what I did, but that isn’t the typical case you’ll come across. It should be easy to see if there are legitimate resources leading back to the photographer or company you want to work with. If you don’t find anything at all, that might not be a bad sign. You may just need to ask for further references, and then look them up as well as contact them. However, if you do find something negative, or something that raises a red flag, then you know to just move on.
2. Don’t be afraid to ask for a meet and greet at a public place to collaborate on the shoot.
· Meeting Up
This will allow you the opportunity to “feel out” the photographer, as well as get some more insight into their dedication level to create a well-planned shoot. You can learn a lot from the emotion conveyed through an in person conversation. Much more so than all other forms of contact. So, use that to your advantage in determining if you feel comfortable enough with them to book a shoot where you may be alone together. If they’re unwilling to meet, or say that they just don’t have time and would like to just book the shoot with you, then you may want to let that photographer know you’re not comfortable with that arrangement, and you won’t be able to move forward with them.
If you’re agreeing to be a part of a “trade for...” you have every right to participate in the artistic process of the shoot. I always ask what the model would like to do, as well as provide them with detailed examples of what I have planned. So, don’t hesitate to show samples of images you feel would make a powerful addition to your portfolio.
You can begin this part before ever meeting with anyone, as well as once you do decide to have a sit-down with them. Ask for previous samples of their work that best reflects what they’re going for. You can then use those images in a reverse Google search to see if it leads back to another photographer. If it doesn’t lead to anything, that’s okay. They might have never posted it online. But if it does come up as another photographers’ work, you know to run.
Getting images from them will also give you better insight into what they have in store for the shoot. For instance, if they say they want to do a bikini shoot, and then send images of implied nudes where the model is wearing a bikini bottom, that may be enough to show that they’re not being totally upfront. You may love what they send you, even if it’s not what you expected it to be. In that case, it’s up to you to decide if you want to move forward, but at least you know what you’re signing up for.
3. Request to see the Model Release Form Before Shooting, and read it THOROUGHLY
If a photographer plans to use your images for any publication purposes, they’ll need your release to do so. The model release form is a fantastic way to get a feeling for what that purpose may be. Serious photographers are going to have well detailed releases, so they know that they can use the works they create to gain notoriety, or sell. If a photographer insists you don’t need to sign one, there may be a problem there. So, make sure that’s part of every shoot.
4. Creating your own Model Release Form and Nudity Clause
There’s no reason why you cannot make your own stipulations for how your images are used. Professional models use their own release forms all the time to protect their images, both figuratively and literally. If you’re a devote vegan, you may not want images of you used in an ad that promotes the sale of meat. In that instance, you can add that to your release form. An example may be including a few lines in your release as such, “images may not be used to advertise or promote the sale, distribution, or any other public or non-public advocation of the harming of animals, such as in the promotion, sale, and/or the distribution of meat products, furs, or any other animal based products, or organizations tied to the harming of animals, both domestic and wild.”
You may also want to stipulate how images that portray nudity are used, as well as any images taken behind the scenes are treated. For instance, while doing an implied shoot, you may be fine with images that don’t show any nudity to be published, but what happens to the images that may show more skin than you would like? When I do implied shoots, there will always be a few images that are taken where something “slips” out. So, to address this, I have a nudity clause in my release that expresses how those images will never be used or seen by anyone. Not all release forms will have such a clause, so creating your own as an addendum to an existing release is a fantastic way to show photographers that you’re serious about your privacy. It may also be enough to deter anyone with ill intent, causing them to back out of the shoot.
5. Ask to bring a friend to your first shoot
Now you don’t always need to do this one. But when in doubt, whip it out… of course by that, I mean, the friend. There is absolutely nothing wrong with mentioning the want to bring a chaperone along for the first shoot you have with a new photographer. If you’re met with resistance, then I would suggest not moving forward with any shooting. There are too many great photographers out there to limit yourself to making compromises on your safety because the photographer you’re currently dealing with doesn’t feel comfortable with someone coming along.
There are so many ways to improve your safety. Being vigilant and making good decisions is key. Don’t get too excited about any opportunities that you neglect your safety. Remember, be professional, and look for professionalism in return. Anything less should set off red flags, and just one should be enough to avoid any future contact with that person.