How to Protect Yourself as a Model

Something that has come up a few times when working with models (especially on Model Mayhem) is there’s photographers out there who don’t always have the best intentions. I’ve heard everything from telling models it’s not a nude shoot and then asking for them to undress, all the way to asking them to get in a dumpster for an art project when it wasn’t previously discussed. Most models I’ve worked with have stories about photographers who have not been honest and upfront with them. You should do what you can to make sure something like this doesn’t happen to you.

But why should you take advice from me? I’m the photographer, not the model. I asked 2 popular, local models from ModelMayhem to share their tips to help protect you and help you learn what you should do. Here’s what they had to say! 

Elle Bea on Model Mayhem - Photo by Richard Majerski

Check references!

That is the number one thing that has kept me out of shady situations. Don’t ask a photographer to provide references, because they’ll obviously send you to people that they’re sure will give a good review. Message the girls in their portfolio photos. Be as thorough as you can. Don’t just go by profile comments saying “thanks for the great shoot”. I’ve made that mistake before!

Be VERY clear about what your limits are

Don’t assume anyone is thoroughly reading your profile page. Explicitly state what you will and won’t do to every photographer, for every potential shoot. Request that said photographer is also being as clear as possible about their intentions and what they hope to achieve with this shoot. I’ll typically ask photographers for other websites where their work is featured. I also make sure to do a quick google of their online handle.

Agree on a neutral, public meeting space

I think it’s a pretty good way to get a feel for your working relationship with someone before a camera and paperwork is involved. It’s also a chance to make sure you’re being heard. Sometimes text on a screen doesn’t translate the same way you’d intended. I very rarely bring an escort to a shoot. Some photographers have strict limits to this and that shouldn’t be taken as a red flag. Typically escorts, especially if it’s your close friend, end up being a distraction. The few times I’ve had people looking on, it didn’t feel natural. I would get self-conscious, but that is just me.

I do, however, frequently have someone give me a ride to my shoot, meet the photographer and agree on an exact time and location to pick me up before leaving. I think this has the same kind of impact as an escort without the capacity for interference. My driver will also be given all the information I have about this photographer and the location. My best friend is also a model. She and I frequently send each other text messages pre-shoot with a photographers full name, the location and the time and length of a shoot if it’s someone we’ve never worked with before. We’ve never ended up in a situation where we had to use any of this information, but it’s a good insurance policy regardless. And of course there’s the obvious one: Trust your gut. If something feels weird, don’t go through with it.  

Rancor on Model Mayhem

I would advise to always ask for a few references and actually check in with them.

Have a set of questions already typed up asking them about their experience with the photographer and don’t be shy about asking if they felt safe…

Take the time to read the photographers bio.

Check out their website and photographs and get a feel for their level of professionalism. Consider what they are putting out there and if any of it does not seem like something you would want your face, body or reputation as a symbol for then really think about if this is a good choice for you.

Tell people where and when you are planning to shoot even if you are bringing a friend with you.

Ask them if they can keep their phone handy in case of an emergency and have a plan worked out if something does go wrong. Check in with your state laws and if possible carry mace.

Listen to your gut

I remember feeling like if I said “no” to a photographer I was somehow missing a grand opportunity which is usually not the case at all. Listen to your gut! If something does not feel right just don’t do it.

Final Thoughts

You shouldn’t be worried about working with a photographer, you should be prepared. Ask questions beforehand so you know what you’re getting into. Most terrible situations for models and photographers come from improper planning and communication from both ends. You need to make sure you and your photographer communicate together well. And at the end of the day, if you do not feel right about a shoot for one reason or another, decline the opportunity or cancel. It is your right to do so. 

Using Format