Models, especially aspiring models, have it pretty tough. They have to deal with fake agencies and casting calls, internet scams, creeper photographers, no budget "fashion shows", and a slew of other time-wasters that hold them back. This article is going to cover one of the biggest time wasters of all: bad photographers.
When models are starting out, or want to add a new look to their portfolio, they'll reach out to local photographers to get something going. Or, if the model has posted interest in doing a shoot online, hordes of photographers will contact them and offer up shoots. Since most models aren't photographers or image experts, they can't always spot a good photo portfolio from a bad one. Below is a list of other less-subjective red flags that models can use to prevent working with bad photographers:
1. They obsessively watermark their images
Look at almost any professional photographers site who does real commercial work and you won't find any watermarks. A pro has already been paid to take his images and isn't concerned with people using them as their profile pic on Facebook, and stock photographers know the odds of a photo selling actually go down if they watermark their images. When you see a photographer that's obsessed with watermarking, you should steer clear. It's an amateur move that's a complete waste of time.
2. They're only available evenings and weekends to shoot
If you're dealing with a photographer who can't shoot during the day, he hasn't quit his day job, and photography is his hobby. If you're looking to get pro shots, this will probably be a dead end.
3. He requests naked pics/selfies
I know this is a pretty crazy one, but this is a real thing that happens all the time. Weirdo photographers will contact models looking to do a shoot and request naked pics so they can "review" them before the shoot. Their excuse is that they need to see what you look like naked to make sure you're swimsuit material. If a photographer asks you to send naked pics, run. I've never in my life asked a model for naked selfies or pictures; it's entirely unnecessary. A good photographer has work-arounds for models who don't hold up so well once the clothing starts coming off, so no naked "reviewing" is necessary.
4. They're totally rude and unprofessional
Whether it's in messages or in person, if a photographer is straight up rude and verbally abusive to you, he's an amateur. Every time we do a shoot we ask our models to tell us their horror stories about rude photographers they've worked with, and they always have one. Any photographer who tells you you're incapable of doing the poses he wants, that you need to work out because you're fat, and/or anything else that's entirely insulting, you need to steer clear. One model told us that she had a shoot with a photographer who gave her a list of her "problem areas" on her body, and that he wouldn't be using her again if she came to him again looking that fat. Behavior like that is unacceptable, so once again Rich and I stood there in disbelief and apologized for the conduct of the posers in our industry. If you're on a shoot and the photographer talks down to you, starts body shaming you, or is being rude to you in any way, just leave. Say f%@k off, and walk out. I promise there won't be any consequences, photographers like that have zero influence in the world of photography.
5. Their portfolio is perved out
If you want some tasteful shots done, check your potential photographers portfolios. ALL of them. If you post that you want to do a shoot, creeper photographers get sneaky by sending you tasteful looking photos that they've done, and a lot of models give the green light based off those samples. Don't stop at what the photographer sent you, look them up. Check out their website, Flickr, Behance, Fstoppers, and any other links you can find that display their work. If you find that their biggest portfolio is all gross nude shots done in their apartment, don't work with them. Slimy photographers will send you tasteful warm-up pics that they took before they tried to get their models naked, and they'll try to do the same thing with you. This is a big thing in the world of amateur photography. There's a lot of creeps out there who use photography as a gateway to women, so be careful.
6. They only want to shoot at their house/apartment
This is pretty self explanatory. Any photographer who's going to give you agency quality photos has a real studio to shoot in. However, this is something you have to feel out. A lot of wedding, newborn, and engagement photographers have legit workspaces in their homes, but if someone tells you they're going to give you Nike ad quality pics and they send you to an apartment number, beware.
7. They offer up all the raw photos
Amateur photographers will offer to give you every photo taken during the shoot. Pro's won't generally do this because they don't want to give you photos that aren't touched up, or "retouched" if you wanna get all technical, and perfected in post. Look for a photographer who offers you a few touched up selects from the shoot. This means they really care about the quality of work they're putting out there.
Now, listed above are the general pitfalls we've seen and models have told us about, they aren't stone cold facts or definitive rules. There's a lot of college students, pro's, and aspiring pro's who do phenomenal work that seem to fit into some of the generalizations I just made, so don't write off photographers based solely on this article. #2 is definitely going to cause butt-hurtedness for photographers who didn't read this article in its entirety and missed this paragraph. It really comes down to models doing their research. Stalk their work, contact models the perspective photographer has worked with and get reviews, see if they work for/own a real photography studio, etc. and you should be fine.
If you have any other tips that I missed, please write us or leave a comment. We'll update this article with any good points that I didn't cover. I hope this article was helpful to you in some way, and thanks for reading!
Author: Caleb Morgan