Networking and experience are also valuable, especially when you are new. But how do you know whether something is valuable to you in this way? You have to use your own judgment. It’s a combination of common sense, research, intuition, experience and good advice. Just because something doesn’t pay cash, that doesn’t mean it’s not worth doing. It often means this, but definitely not always.
So, some things are worth doing, and some are not. How do you decide? It’s worth bearing the following in mind. Again this is just my opinion and I hope it’s helpful.
To avoid paying acting extras or agency models for music videos and events, aspiring models are often offered ‘publicity’. Publicity is only worthwhile if it’s the right kind. If you are offered only ‘publicity’ then think very carefully about it.
Will there be any press photographers there? Any TV cameras? Who will they be filming? Where will the photographs and footage end up? What kind of photographers will be there? What is their interest in the shoot? Are they an up-and coming hot-shot, an established professional, a slightly bored local newspaper photographer for half an hour, or some random freebie like yourself? Random freebie photographers can be extremely talented, fabulous people, and they can also be talentless, crappy pervs.
Here’s an example: if it’s a music video for some new, very hyped artist, and they want 100 blonde girls in pink t-shirts, for two hours, for nothing, then you’re not going to stand out. There’s a very slim chance that there’s any point in doing this. It might be a giggle, but professionally, you might as well be a fart in a Jacuzzi. If you’re absolutely rock-solid the leggiest, blondest girl with the biggest tits in the room, then you’ll probably be at the front. That might be all it takes for you. Pamela Anderson was spotted by the cameramen at a sports event. But if you are that person, go see an agency now and screw being free tits.
There may be other things that make it worth your while. You might find it interesting, it might be fun, you could go with your mates and have a laugh…but professionally there’s little point. You could in the future say ‘I was in a music video with P Diddy’s nephew,’ but it’s not going to get you any work. Being one of a crowd doesn’t really cut it with anyone, and has practically no influence on whether somebody will want to work with you or not.
On the other hand, if some unknown artist wants one model for a music video, and it’s you, this might be much better for you in terms of ‘publicity’ than being one of a crowd. Depends how good the video going to be. Depends how well that band does their publicity, or how much the hotshot director is prepared to hype it. Research it. Look at their past work. It might be something that gets seen by thousands of people, or it might just look really good, and you can use it on your website or profile. Being the main model in a video of any kind is a great learning curve, and much more valuable to you experience-wise than being number ninety-nine in a room full of wannabees and randoms. Don’t be a starry-eyed noob. Be smart about it and do your research.
Just being in the same building as a camera crew is not publicity. Standing in the same nightclub as a celebrity sounds more fun than it usually is, so if you’re just being offered free drinks to boost the tit-factor of the place, then unless you really, really want to be there, unless you’d go even if you weren’t modeling then professionally, it’s not worth it.
Charity group-shoots, calendars, even car-washing. There are two types of charity shoot. There are charity shoots for the benefit of a charity, and there are charity shoots for the benefit of blokes that want to perv at girls and take pictures of them without having to pay very much.
Doing a shoot for a charity calendar for the first type is a nice thing to do. It’s fun, it’s for a good cause and it’s good practice and it’s networking.
Please, please think carefully about the ‘charity car wash’ type shoots. In the main, these make me do a little vom-vom in my mouth. I’m sure there are some that are good clean fun (no pun intended) and a bit sexy and stuff and well organised, but honestly, there are more dignified ways to give to charity and meet photographers, and get some sexy pictures for your port, than having a crowd of blokes pay to perv at you foaming up a Ford Ka in your tightest t-shirt.
As ever, this works for some people and not for others. If you’re OK with this idea (for example, if you’re going for the ‘SEX SEX SEX’ approach, as some models do because it works for them and they’re comfortable with it) then go for it, but don’t let your standards of what is normally acceptable waver, just because ‘it’s for charity’. This particular type of shoot is a group perv, and you are the pervee. You can’t un-take pictures and un-give people a first impression. I advise you, if you’re new to modeling, to give stuff like this a miss until you are experienced.
I sound like I’m really down on charity shoots now. I’m not. I’m just painfully aware that some people mis-use the idea of a charity shoot as an excuse for a disgusting perv-fest, and that the models get nothing out of it but unflattering pictures and unwanted attention from the wrong type of photographers. The wrong type of photographers are the ones that want to perv at girls for free, and actually believe that their shit picture of a girl washing a car in her bikini is going to ‘benefit her portfolio’. Will it fuck.
Look at the work of the photographer(s). If it’s really awful, give it a miss. You don’t want loads of strangers looking at your badly-lit arse for an entire month. If somebody wants to make you look awful in print, they can at least pay you for the privilege.
‘Kindness of your heart’
Oh, this lonely old man is so interested in photography, and he’s a neighbor of mine, and he’s old and he looks after my cat when I’m on holiday, and he’s ever so nice. Could you spare an hour of your time? I’m sure he’d let you use the pictures.
And so off I trotted, in a modest but pretty dress, to do my bit towards making the world a slightly nicer place.
Arrrrgh. I wish I could say that this usually is a worthwhile thing to do. I wish I could say that it’s always lovely to help somebody out with their photography, without expecting anything in return. I wish I could say that it’s nice to make a friend, that you can maybe call up and ask about technical camera stuff, or to watch someone’s face light up when you have helped them to achieve something creative. I would like to say that it would be great for the older and younger generations to find common interests and reasons to interact. But this particular situation is dangerous territory, for a number of reasons.
I used to shoot with a photography student, a really nice girl that didn’t have the funds to pay for models, and wanted something impressive for her course. She was the sister of a mate of mine, and he was a really nice lad. We had mutual friends, and they all said she was a sound girl, and they were right. We worked together a few times, and I learned a bit about photography from her, and she got the shots she wanted for her course, and learned a bit of basic Photoshop from me. I also got to understand the challenges a person faces when they have to direct somebody for a photo shoot, and this was really useful. And we both enjoyed it. Definitely a win-win. Yay.
But I also shot with a ‘really nice bloke, a friend of mine, he’s lovely,’ and he was lovely at first, but ended up getting jealous of all my other shots taken by more experienced photographers, and eventually pretending to be a model and stalking me on the Internet, saying some very nasty, personal stuff to me and making me wobbly about trusting my lovely friends, for which I felt really guilty and awful. I couldn’t have seen that one coming in a million years, and I was really shocked when I eventually found out who it was. Anything I did to deserve that was purely in this person’s imagination. It was fairly horrible.
I’ve gotten chatting to a random bunch of students on the train, two of which were into photography, and one very sweet alt girl, like a little Souxie Souix with yellow hair that wanted to model, and one of the students had his camera with him. And I’ve sat there from Rugely to Euston explaining the basics of how to sit and stand, and what you do with your hands and face, and how to direct a model. And then they got up and took pictures of their wannabee model friend that was previously very shy, and the pictures were really nice, and she’s going to try modeling over the summer break. That was good fun and we all enjoyed ourselves.
But I’ve also been bored to tears and insulted to buggary by a lonely old man (a friend of a friend, ooh he’s lovely, he’s ever such a nice old chap he takes lovely pictures) who set his camera up, and then spent an hour trying to convince me that I shouldn’t model, because he was a devout Christian and he didn’t approve of it, and then it dawned on me that he actually thought I was a porn star. Even worse, my mate had dropped me off at his house in the middle of nowhere, and wasn’t coming back for two hours.
Can you see a pattern developing here?
The obvious conclusion, and I will probably sound like a cow, but I’m just talking about my own experiences, is that it was the old blokes that I had a less than positive experiences with.
The second pattern from these four experiences is that, on the ones I enjoyed, it was me and the other person or people getting along that inspired the shoot. It was me offering because I wanted to. It wasn’t somebody asking me for a favour.. It wasn’t me doing a Mother Theresa and helping the less fortunate. I wanted to, because I liked the person. Or because I knew the circle of friends this person was in, and I liked them, and I could work out what sort of person she was likely to be, and whether I’d be comfortable with that. And I was right, and it worked.
So if my experience is of any use to you, when you are faced with the question ‘Will you give up an hour of your time to help my friend out and make them happy?’ or ‘Will you do this charity shoot?’ is not ‘What’s in it for me?’ but ‘Is this likely to be a win-win situation?’ even if the only win for you is the pleasure of helping somebody, and not having to deal with any unpleasant bullshit.
My opinion is: Take opportunities. Put yourself out there. Work with people of all abilities just for the fun of working with them. But beware lonely old men that take pictures of landscapes. If somebody asks you to work with some old guy for an hour, be careful that you’re not there to just ‘cheer him up’ i.e. look pretty, be sexy and talk to him for an hour. Yes, people actually think like this sometimes. “Oh he’d love a nice young lady to visit him and take some sexy pictures for an hour,” Bloody well screw that, you’re a model, not an escort, and a bloody unpaid one at that. If you want to cheer up a nice old man by having a cup of tea with him in a cafe and talking about the war, that’s great. That’s a nice thing to do. More people should do that. But not draped over a chair in your Saturday night pulling dress. In other words don’t mix it up with photography. It will get weird.
It is my opinion and my experience that old blokes that don’t have experience with models often get the wrong idea. What idea they might get is a bit of a mystery, but it often involves a dash of wild imagination and speculation, and a few daft assumptions. I’m sure this isn’t accurate for everybody, and I’m sure there are older guys that would love to take some nice shots of a pretty model, and learn how to make people look nice on camera, and aren’t going to get all possessive or disapproving, and would really appreciate this kind of favour. I’m sure there are older blokes that would make brilliant glamour photographers, and take fantastically sexy pictures without getting the wrong idea & being inappropriate and wierd. But I’m personally never going to do this particular kind of favour again*. Which is a shame, because I like being nice.
*Since the first draft of this article two months ago, I did it again FML. My mate asked me to do a two hour portrait/casual shoot with me for her elderly neighbor, with best of intentions. You know, portraits holding a bunch of flowers and stuff. He asked me to do cartwheels with no knickers on amongst other things, and told me nothing would be seen if he shot from ten feet away. I told him I was 32, not 13. Which is a polite way of saying fuck off you old perv. And I’m rubbish at cartwheels. Anyway, my mate was a bit mortified, and had no idea that would happen. Ordinary, otherwise sweet old gents can turn into complete dickheads if they think they can smell free flange. Not everybody can compute the idea that somebody that does sexy photos isn’t a sexual exhibitionist or a nymphomaniac. That’s the general public for you. Don’t ever forget that not everybody gets this.
Another example, just briefly, of a time when a favor was a definite lose for me, was when I agreed to model for a local creative type, who was doing a photography project with a friend. It sounded like a very important project for them, and it appeared to mean a lot to both of them. I thought this person was OK, and had no reason to think otherwise.
They wanted us there all day. I roped in a good-looking friend for this project too, and when we turned up, we were royally naffed around all day, spoken to like crap by the hot-shot ‘photographer’ and they didn’t even get us a coffee.
Professional politeness aside, a coffee or a sandwich goes a long way when you’re giving up a whole day for a shoot, and travelling to the location at your own expense. It sounds petty, but it’s basic, normal manners on a long shoot to offer the idea of refreshments at some point, even if it’s only an 80p cup of coffee from a burger stand.
A shoot that should have taken ninety minutes took all day, and they were trying to get me to act inappropriately with my friend. I looked like a complete idiot in front of my friend, told the photographer to fuck off (which is absolutely not me under normal circumstances), flounced out of the place (again, very much not me normally) and I later found out that this person’s words to his friend were “Yeah, I can get this model down for nothing. She’ll get her tits out and everything,” (I did not!) and I was very pissed off about the whole experience. Lesson learned.
If you want modeling to be your job, whether full time or part time, don’t let yourself be exploited and naffed about. We all have different skills, and sometimes we can use them to help somebody out. But just like the electrician who is asked by a friend of a friend ‘oh, would you mind just looking at my neighbor’s Hoover, it’s stopped working,’ and is expected on their day off to dismantle the thing, sod about with it for an hour, go home for parts, come back and get it working, sometimes it’s a nice thing to do, and sometimes it’s just a bit of a piss-take.
Don’t be put off networking, and don’t be put off being nice. Being generous with your time, your experience and your beauty will bring you rewards in all sorts of ways. But don’t allow yourself to be pissed around and exploited either. If someone gives you the impression that you’re missing out big time by choosing not to work with them for nothing, don’t lose any sleep over it. Modeling, just like life, is full of opportunities. The best and most influential people do not need to beg, threaten, or lie. And never be afraid to ask yourself “What’s in it for me?” even if the answer is just:
“Helping someone out just because I can makes me feel good,”
Be selective, be honest and be true to yourself, and you will find the right way to move forwards.
That’s my bit of philosophy for the day! I hope it was helpful, and has given you some food for thought. Please feel free to leave constructive comments below. All comments, including the challenging ones are read and appreciated. Thank you for reading.