Archivi categoria: modeling

Working with Models: A Beginner’s Guide

Running a shoot from start to finish can be pretty demanding—working with creative staff, managing your camera, adjusting settings, directing, and ensuring that everything is going smoothly. It can be pretty daunting with the prospect of trying to handle all of this right?

One of the more challenging aspects when starting out can definitely be getting comfortable working with the model(s) on a shoot, and how to ensure everyone comes out happy and satisfied.

In this article I’m going to tell you:

  1. The principles and attitudes behind successfully working with models from all walks of life;
  2. How to talk to models, and how to get over that initial nervousness of being a director on a shoot;
  3. How to treat models on and off set to ensure a solid and strong professional relationship can be developed.

I have also created a video which outlines everything in this article. Feel free to watch or alternatively read on.

So let’s go!


Note: this article has been written from the perspective that the majority of models I work with are female. Everything in here applies to men and women, but it has been written from the mindset of working with female models.


Preface – Getting into fashion photography from other backgrounds

Chances are if you are reading this you may be interested to get into the world of fashion and portrait photography. You might be a fashion enthusiastic, you might want to get published in a magazine, or you may simply want to get incredible shots of people. Hopefully it would be all three of these.

“But I have only shot wildlife and landscapes before!”

Join the club! I have a background of shooting exactly those things, and suddenly came into enjoying shooting portraits when a friend of mine asked me to pick up the camera and get a basic photo of them for their Facebook profile. I had no clue as to how to direct or work with models back then but I snapped a photo, and loved it. From then I decided I’d give this whole portrait photography thing a try.

That was two years ago!

One of my old photos from 2010 – as you can see it is very different from what I usually produce nowadays, but this was where I came from!

So don’t fret if you haven’t got the background, we all need to start somewhere, and in this article I’m going to give you a thorough breakdown of how you can effectively work with models.


Part 1 – Fundamental principles of working with models

Let’s lay a solid base here. Having the right attitude and personal principles in place is essential. The following principles are what I abide by, and what I feel makes the whole experience of working with a model professional, personal, and fun!

Principle 1: Models are people too!

This is perhaps the biggest point I want to highlight. You have to remember that models are people too. These are people who have hopes, fears, anxieties, and dreams just like you or anyone else. They are not soulless objects, nor items without motivation. These are people who want to have fun, do the best they can, and be able to showcase some awesome work.

They can get nervous before shoots, worry about whether the makeup looks right, and overthink if they perhaps didn’t do a pose completely right. I’m not saying all models are like this at all, but these thoughts are probably more common than you think!

Please remember that! It is also important when we move onto Principle 2.

Everyone’s uniqueness is what makes them special. Models aren’t just items and objects you can move around; you have to remember that these are real people too.

Principle 2: The model’s comfort is your top priority, and they deserve your respect at all times.

I like to make a point of this again and again, and here I go again; on a shoot, the model’s comfort should be your top priority. By that I mean if at any point a model isn’t feeling comfortable with what is happening, the shoot should stop, and if the discomfort can’t be rectified immediately, the shoot should end. Period.

I say this for a number of reasons. The first is common human decency. Come on. If you are in an environment where you can usually easily stop what is going on, and someone isn’t happy, you should just stop. No photo is worth putting someone through something that could physically or emotionally hard them.

Nay sayers may say that this is me being over the top, but I can hand on heart say that I could turn away from any photo and be sure to capture another amazing one with the same team at another time.

Portrait and fashion photography should be fun! However, you always have to make sure that the model’s comfort is your top priority and that you make sure they are well looked after throughout the whole process.

The next reason is that if you have a model who isn’t feeling the shoot, and who isn’t comfortable, that is going to reek through the photos. If you are taking a photo of someone who doesn’t want to be there or isn’t interested in the shoot, you are going to see it in their eyes, in their posture, and in the end results.

Finally, one point to hammer home is that you should always ensure that everything that happens on a shoot abides by the rules of consent. That is ensuring that if you agree to do a fashion based shoot, you won’t be encouraging a model to remove clothing, or asking them to get into positions which are not in line with what was originally agreed with in the shoot.

This comes down to basic respect, and also (to put it bluntly) not being a sleazy creep who exploits models just so you can see a bit of skin. 200% not cool, creative, or in line with great ‘photography.’

Consent is one of the most important parts of a shoot; the photographs captured should be of a nature of which was agreed upon when the call was made for models. No model should ever be put into a situation that they did not explicitly consent to.

Principle 3: Realize that photographers have it easier than models in the majority of cases.

This may be a heated discussion point but I’m going to give you my opinion here. Photographers have it way, way easier than models do, in terms of what is expected, and behaviour.

Let me explain. As a photographer, on average you have to put your trust in the model being polite, able to listen and dressed as agreed, as well as making sure they credit your work properly post shoot.

Models on the other hand have to trust that the photographer will:

  • Conduct themselves in a professional manner before, during and after the shoot;
  • Be polite and respect agreed boundaries;
  • Take photos that are flattering and suitable for the direction they want to head in with their modeling career;
  • Edit the photos to a respectable standard and not go overkill on the editing so it looks fake (unless of course that is the agreed aim);
  • Credit the model properly on social media;

As you can see there is a lot more expectation and trust needed from the photographer when it comes to shooting and processing a photoshoot. Fair enough, this also highlights the hard work a photographer has to put in, but consider the above as a mindset of the trust models will put into you.

Models can face a lot of unseen pressure when it comes to thinking if the pose will look right, if the photographer will conduct themselves professionally, and if they will also subsequently process the photos in a flattering manner.

Principle 4: Don’t be intimidated by the model, and the perceived fame of modeling and the fashion industry.

I say this in the most respectful way to everyone involved in fashion photography; don’t be intimidated by the fame or glitz of the fashion industry. You will work with models who are incredibly beautiful people, and whom you could find intimidating. Society always pens a lot of weight onto someone’s looks and of course you will be working with people who can sometimes be exceptionally good looking.

Why am I saying this? Because I want you to remember Principle 1: models are people too. You are also a person as well, and the fashion and portraiture industry is open to anyone who has the gall and passion to work professionally and create beautiful artwork for everyone involved. Heck, I used to do wildlife photography, and had a very, very loose grip of fashion before I started working in portraiture. However, I channeled the passion I had to learn more about it, and this is where I am now. You can do it as well. Don’t ever feel like you can’t, because that is complete bull.

As an example, I recently was fortune enough to shoot with the absolutely stunning Stefania Ferrario. Those of you who know her may know that she was recently voted Sexy Australian of the Year, is Dita Von Teese’s Australian Rep, has over 450k Instagram Followers, and over 200k Facebook Fans.

Now I’m not stating these facts to attribute Stefania’s only worth down to numbers, but more as a comment on how social proof and following can lead some people to think “I could never work with her, I’m not worthy enough”.

I can tell you first hand that Stefania is an absolutely lovely person. Throughout the whole time I have known her she has been nothing but fun, approachable, and so incredibly easy to talk to. Stefania, like so many awesome models, is also a real community engager, and has shot with a whole incredible range of fantastic photographers, from novices to industry pros.

Don’t be intimidated by these numbers; behind the fandom and well deserved following these models have lies a real person who has a real passion for the industry they work in (I appreciate I sound like the most broken record in the world right now).

Stefania’s incredible modeling career has been spurred on her being passionate, thoughtful, and engaged about what she does, and her love for creating beautiful art.

Principle 5: You should be aiming to develop a strong, personal, and professional relationship with everyone you come into contact with.

As with so many art scenes and industries, it isn’t always what you know, but who you know. I have seen photographers who don’t have the technical skills when it comes to shooting as some of the big name photographers, but they have a huge following and people will sing their praises constantly, because they put the effort in to build strong working relationships with people.

This can be anything from offering help to another photographer, trying their best to assemble a team so that they can get a model published in a magazine, or giving a recommendation to other photographers when asked about a potential job when you may not be available. The fashion and portraiture is stronger as a community, and people who take the time to help each other do not go un-noticed.

For example I once was contacted for a professional paid shoot because a model I worked with had told her friends that I gave her free advice on how to improve her iPhone photography. This conversation I had maybe took up about 5 messages over Facebook over the course of about 2 hours.

Building a good professional working relationship with models and other creatives will help you get noticed, and help better your reputation.

Saying that, you have to be genuine. People will always value others who are honest, genuine, and passionate. Don’t expect anything in return and do it because you want the community, of which you are a part of, to grow as a whole.


Part 2 – Best practices and techniques for working with models

With the above principles in place, you should now have a good mental base for now learning how to actually set up a shoot, and most importantly, how to communicate and work with models effectively.

The process of how to set up a shoot from start to finish can seen like a daunting task. However, once you get the fundamental process down, you’ll find it is a breeze from start to finish.

I want to give you a breakdown of how I work with a model at different stages of a photoshoot.

Arranging a Shoot

I’m not going to go into a heap of detail on where to find models here, but I will tell you that one of the most common ways to arrange a TFP (Time For Print) photoshoot, is by joining your local area’s Modelling Facebook Group. Trust me, unless you live out in the wilds, there should always be a local one if you search on Facebook; and if you can’t see one for your local area, set it up!

Here is how it usually works; you will go onto the Facebook group, and post something like:

Calling all models / MUA / creatives!

I’m new to the fashion and portraiture world and am looking to set up my first shoot with some willing creatives! I’m 30, and have previously shot real estate and wildlife but am really excited to get into the fashion world!

I’d like to arrange a shoot with a natural boho theme in the local national park this weekend.

Please find below my recent work, and inspiration photos for the shoot!

My Facebook page is www.facebook.com/whoshothim if you want to check out some more or my work and a bit more about me.

Looking forward to hearing from you!

This instantly lays a good base for you to then arrange a shoot with people who will PM you in response, or reply to the request. From there you will want to see who replies, and if you feel the model is a good fit, you can get them on board for the shoot.

If you take the time to create a thoughtful and passionate post showcasing what you are all about, chances are you will get a good response and be able to start shooting with other local creatives.

So just some basic pointers for when you do talk to models for the first time:

  1. Use correct spelling, grammar, and punctuation. I can’t stress this enough. Please. If you can’t be bothered to spell the word ‘there’ properly, how can you assure someone that you can be bothered to edit their photos properly?
  2. Don’t be demanding. Remember that people do have busy lives, and the majority of people who do TFP shoots aren’t able to supplement their entire income with modelling gigs. If a model says they want to shoot but when you send them a message they don’t get back to you, leave it. Archive the message and move onto who is interested. This isn’t being mean but maybe they have changed their mind, or something has come up. Don’t blame, persecute, or harass people. This is unprofessional, rude, and just not appropriate.
    You can find out a bit more about the model in terms of what they have done previously, but keep it based around the job at hand. By this I mean don’t start asking personal questions about their private life, when not everyone is comfortable about that. Remember this conversation is about working on a photoshoot, not about how long they have been with their partner for.
  3. If you want to, arrange to have a coffee together to introduce yourself; however this isn’t necessary or possible in some cases. When I first started out, I did this with every model, as I wanted to show off my portfolio in person, and explain what I’m all about. This was especially helpful considering I didn’t have a huge portfolio, and nobody really knew me. I highly recommend doing this for photographers new to the scene. It goes without saying that you pay for the coffee as well.
  4. If a model doesn’t want to work with you, or isn’t available for a shoot, don’t take it personally. There can be a lot of ego involved in photography, and as per Principle 5, you want to make sure you are helping build a strong community. So if it turns out that it just doesn’t work with a model, don’t take offense. There may be a whole myriad of reasons you don’t know about for why they don’t want to do the shoot, or arrange a shoot with you.

The Day of the Shoot

So now that you’ve set up the shoot, here comes the big day; shooting and directing the model. It can see pretty daunting right? Well I have a great series of points here which showcase exactly how I operate, and how you can direct a comfortable, fun, and awesome photoshoot.

One of the more challenging aspects of a photoshoot can be how to direct a model. However, once you learn a few principles and techniques, you’ll find it a lot easier.

These little points are all based on basic politeness and decency. These are some of the key things I do:

1. Chat with the model

As previous mentioned, you have to remember that at the end of the day, models are people too. When I first meet up with a model on location, I will more or less always ask “How has your day been?”. This is a simple opener to help everyone relax and get into a chilled conversation.

2. Remember to compliment the model

Models will go to a lot of effort to get ready for a photoshoot, and there is nothing more flattering than a simple “you look amazing!” from the photographer. Don’t be fake about it, but obviously they will look incredible as you got them on the shoot, and this is a perfect little confidence and ego boost!

3. Ask the model thoughtful questions about their experience with photoshoots, and anything else that isn’t too personal.

People love to talk about themselves. This has been proved by a mountain of scientific studies, and of course every day life! You love to talk about yourself when asked a question right? I’m not going to lie, I do!

So when you are working with a model and in-between shooting, ask them questions about what they enjoy about modeling, if they have done any shoots lately with any other photographers, and if they have been published before. I do genuinely find these kind of chats interesting and have learnt a lot about the local fashion photography scene as a result!

If you are on good terms with the model, then feel free to ask other questions about how they are finding work, and if they have been busy; but only do this if you are on good terms as it can sometimes wander into the realm on ‘too personal’.

4. Do not touch the model or their clothing without first asking permission, and only do so if it is necessary.

Another key philosophy I have when it comes to working with models is that you shouldn’t need to touch a model on a photoshoot. I believe it can be a little bit too personal, and opens the possibility of photographers breaking boundaries and acting inappropriately.

Directing can be tough sometimes, and it does take time to get comfortable. However one thing I will always say is that if you are having a hard time trying to direct a model into a pose, do the pose you want yourself (yes, yourself!) and then get the model to mimic you. Not only does this work well, but also will probably elicit a laugh or two which eases the pressure off even more.

In all of the 100+ photoshoots I’ve done, I only probably had to touch a model once or twice, and that is just because a leaf was caught in their hair and it was easier for me to remove it for them. In this case as well, I told them “there is a leaf caught in your hair, would you be ok if I got rid of that?”, and only when a “yes” came back, I’d do it.

If you have an idea in your head of the specific pose you want a model to emulate, there is no better way than to do the pose yourself so that the model can mimic you. There should be no reason to touch the model, unless the model has explicitly agreed to it and it is necassary.

5. Tell everyone on set that you will need five minutes to scout out the next shot before setting up

This was probably one of the biggest game changers for me when I learnt how to do fashion photography. With so much rushing around and perceived pressure, it is so incredibly easy to rush around and try to get a hundred shots in ten minutes.

Simply stop and tell everyone that you’ll need five minutes to get an idea for the next shot, and they can relax. People will be more than happy to find another few minutes to relax.

6. When it comes to directing, if you try something and it doesn’t work, don’t stress

Directing was a big challenge for me when it came to my first experiences with moving a model into place, and setting a scene up. After doing over 100 shoots I can honestly tell you do not get stressed or worried if something doesn’t work out.

So what do you do if you pose someone and it doesn’t look great? I have the solution. Simply tell the model to ‘relax’. This will put them at ease, and stopping the pose, hitting the reset button and allowing you then to take a few minutes to reassess what you want to do next (as per point 4 above).

Please trust me when I say that I have had a whole ton of posing directions which didn’t work before getting that one pose which did work. Don’t let it get to you, and above all just take your time.

Directing models can be tough, and you will find that sometimes that a pose you think looks good in your head, won’t play out so well in real life. That is part of the creative process, and I can tell you that it is completely normal and happens more times than not! However, this is the learning process, so don’t give up and keep trying! The above pose we got after trying three other poses, and it was great to finally capture this moment.

7. If the model is going to be changing half way through the shoot, respect their privacy and give them time and space to change

Yet again I feel like I’m wandering into OTT territory here but if a model is going to be changing outfits through a photoshoot, you need to give them privacy. I use a pop-up changing tent which I got from eBay for about $100 and it works like a charm; alternatively if you are shooting in an urban area see if there are any restrooms nearby.

If none of these are options and the model needs to get changed out in the open (for example in a forest or in a car), then tell them you are going to give them privacy and leave the immediate area until they say it is all good to come back.

Bottom line: be respectful.

8. Welcome partners, friends, and family on the shoot

This was mentioned in my post about the importance of crib sheets for a shoot, but in my opinion don’t be afraid of offering the opportunity for family members, friends, and partners to come along on a shoot.

There are a few reasons for this.

Firstly, models may want to bring along family, friends, and partners for support. As I’ve touched on, it can be a pretty nerve wracking experience sometimes, and that moral support may mean a lot to the model. Not only that but it is a legal requirement for any shoots with under 18 year olds, that a parent signs off the model release form; this means it is more or less granted that parent will want to be on the shoot as well.

Secondly, and this is incredible important for more boudoir based shoots, they may want people there for safety. I once heard of a photographer who set up an erotic shoot with a model, and when told that she wasn’t allowed to bring her boyfriend to the shoot, the photographer stated that it was because ‘his male energy may interfere with the shoot’. Complete and utter rubbish. I’ve never had male energy be responsible for damaging my camera, nor for producing sub par shots. The entire premise comes across as creepy and inappropriate.

Now, one point I will make is that just because people come along doesn’t mean that you should also allow the shoot to be derailed by these familiar faces. I always say that the model can bring people along, so long as they respect that it is a creative shoot, and that the directing should be left up to the photographer.

I’ve experienced times where friends have said “maybe you should pose X this way?” in regards to setting a scene up. This may happen, and if it does a friendly “thank you, but for the moment I just want to make sure we get some awesome shots for X so we may try that later” will do. This isn’t being rude, it is just asserting that you are the one who has the experience in portrait photography and know best for the model!

Saying that, there may be some good suggestions as well but at the end of the day don’t let people interfere too much.

Friends, family and partners can all provide great moral support for any models who are on the photoshoot, and should always be welcomed; as long as everyone respects you taking the creative lead.

9. Remember to do your model release forms

A vital necessity for all TFP shoots is that a model release form is completed. Model release forms are vital for a legal point of view, ensuring that the model agrees that all images taken are your copyright, and this also acts as evidence that you did a TFP shoot. If you want to get published, Magazines will require this as well.

I use the Snapwire app for iPhone, which is unbelievably free. It is fantastic, and has a model specific agreement that can be altered if you wish.

For Android I used to use ‘Easy Release,’ although it does come with a bit of a price tag.

It is easy to get carried away with the shoot and call it a day at the end, but you need to make sure that you get this done.

10. Do not drink before or whilst on a shoot

I’m saying this because I have heard more than a couple of incidences where this has happened. Do not drink before a shoot to give you ‘dutch courage’ to get over your nerves. I have this as part of my crib sheet for models as well, and it is extremely rare that people do it but regardless, you should never be encouraging or taking the consumption of alcohol at any part of a shoot.

The only exception to this would be at weddings and events of course, but when it is a professional one on one session with an individual or couple, I don’t recommend this.

I have heard of these incidences once from a model who said she smelt the whiskey on a photographer, and second from a photographer who admitted he did this to get over nerves. We all get nerves in some form of another. I still do sometimes; but you cannot drink to try and solve this. It is not only potentially dangerous, but also sets a bad professional standard for the shoot.

If you want to get over your nerves, I’d suggest meditation before a shoot, or just run with the feeling and you’ll eventually get over them the more shoots you do. I know that isn’t the best advice when starting out but trust me, the energy and creative stress from nerves is actually a good thing!

Whilst it may be tempting to get over your nerves with a bit of help from a drink, it can potentially cause a lot of problems, as well as being unsafe and unprofessional. The confidence to work on a photoshoot comes from your own confidence and experience with learning from the ups and downs of doing a photoshoot.

11. Have fun

At the end of the day, you want to make sure everyone who is on the shoot has at least some fun! We don’t do photography because it is a chore (well I don’t!), but because we love to create beautiful images and experiences for people! My photography is my creative outlet in my life and I adore doing shoots because of how much fun they are, and the end result that is created from everyone working together.

Fashion and portrait photography is a social hobby / business, and so you should enjoy yourself, and find fun in the small directing mistakes you make, the comedy in a pose you joke around with trying, and the pleasure in getting that photo that makes you shout “yes!” as soon as you see it pop up on your screen.

We all do photoshoots because they are awesome fun! It’s an experience unlike any other, bringing together a team of creatives to create something beautiful to showcase our unique ideas.

Final Comments

Working with models can be challenging. Directing can be challenging. However, life is just a series of challenges to overcome, and you know deep down that once you get over a challenge, you can revel in the satisfaction of perfecting your craft, and the next big challenge that lies over the hill.

In summary, you should now have an idea that:

  1. Models are people too, and may be equally, if not more nervous for a shoot;
  2. The model’s comfort is your top priority, on and off set;
  3. Chat and engage with the model and other creatives – people love to talk about themselves, and having a relaxed atmosphere can help everyone on set feel much more comfortable which will always lead to better photos;
  4. Directing can be tough but there are ways to deal with it – remember the take a break rule which eases off the pressure from yourself so you can revaluate what you want to do next in the shoot;
  5. Encouraging and being part of a strong community is the best way to build professional working relationships with creatives.

Thanks for reading! Let me know if you agree in the comments below, and tell me about your experiences getting into fashion photography!


About the author: James Harber is a fashion and portrait photographer from Canberra Australia. Originally starting his journey into the world of photography in with Kodak Film at a young age, James has since expanded to shooting primarily fashion photography. He’s a big advocate of education and positive attitudes in the photographic community, and enjoys helping others, especially when it comes to understanding how to process photos. To see more of his work, visit his website or give him a follow on Facebook and Instagram. This post was also published here.

Models, Beware the Warning Signs of Creepy ‘Photographers’

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For the second time in as many months somebody has tried to use my images to lie to models about their photography. Because of this deception, it’s certainly no giant leap to accuse these individuals of ill intent, especially if they are actively lying to models in their first messages of contact.

Over the weekend, I received a concerning email from a model who is familiar with my work. They’re allowing me to share their story, but I will change the model’s name in question to “Sue” for the purpose of this article.

It started when the model Sue was contacted by a lady on Facebook who goes by Jess Nicholl (perhaps a fake name?) who photographs under the name of Jess Nicholl & Michael Hunter Photography (perhaps a fake business?). The conversation began as it usually does, but then Sue asked to see some pictures that “Jess” and “Michael” had previously taken. Jess sent some shots and that was when Sue first realized something was up: they’d sent pictures taken by me, and Sue recognized them right away.

The above images were sent to Sue as images of models 'we've worked with'. Although the wording is clever in that it doesn't specifically state these images were directly taken by them Sue spotted the shots were not theirs and it was enough of a warning sign to prompt her to thankfully investigate further.
The above images were sent to Sue as images of models ‘we’ve worked with’. Although the wording is clever in that it doesn’t specifically state these images were directly taken by them Sue spotted the shots were not theirs and it was enough of a warning sign to prompt her to thankfully investigate further.

Jess then requested that the shoot details be finalized via email with her partner “Michael” (I don’t know if this was a security risk on Facebook for them or whether moving to email was just a way to introduce ‘Michael’). Once Sue had finalized a date via email, Michael then started to request images of Sue.

Then, 11 minutes later, Michael requested images of Sue in her underwear, following it up with a statement that really made my skin crawl: “…or should I find another model?”

It’s a nasty little threat that insinuates that failing to send underwear pics could result in Sue losing the shoot. Below are the screen captures I have from the conversation between Sue, Jess and Michael.

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Now, there are a couple of ways to look at this. Firstly I’m sure there are photographers who would argue that if you were shooting a lingerie shoot that you’d require said underwear pics up front. Personally I don’t think that Michael went about this in anywhere near the right way, and adding “or should I find another model?” is just a perfect example of how not to be professional.

Secondly I’m sure there are experienced models out there who are screaming “red light!” at the absolute deluge of evidence to suggest that Jess and Michael are the very personification of dodgy.

Either way, Sue, spotted the warning signs with the suspect images and Googled both of their names and found no reference anywhere to photographers by these names shooting anything anywhere in the UK. As a result, she confronted Michael about the stolen images and called him out as a fraud.

Neither Jess or Michael have yet to respond to Sue, and she has either been blocked or profiles and accounts have been deleted and taken down.

Whether you felt Jess (if Jess ever really existed) and Michael were real and just incredibly unprofessional and stupid, it would seem that their response to being confronted could be perceived as proof enough of their guilt and ill intent.

We live in a digital age of photography and connectivity, and rightly or wrongly it’s the norm for models to visit a photographer’s home for a photo shoot — I know I for one have photographed a lot of models in my home. But to others outside of our industry that seems like complete madness. A young lady attending a strange man’s house alone?! Surely that is a recipe for disaster?!

Well the good news is, 99% of the time it isn’t at all and that’s firstly because most photographers are good people, and secondly, with a little knowledge and experience, any model can spot a fraud a mile away.

Not too long ago I was informed of another  little parasite on Model Mayhem operating under the name JHicksStudios and using my images to set up photo shoots with new models. This sort of thing sickens and terrifies me: I shudder to think what his real intentions are for setting up photo shoots with young girls.
Not too long ago I was informed of another little parasite on Model Mayhem operating under the name JHicksStudios and using my images to set up photo shoots with new models. This sort of thing sickens and terrifies me: I shudder to think what his real intentions are for setting up photo shoots with young girls.

All models start somewhere and remember that at some point even the most experienced models had zero photos in their portfolio to begin with. So what are some of the things to look out for when starting out in modelling to give you the confidence to get some great first shoots under your belt? Here are some tips that new models can bear in mind when organizing their first shoots:

1. Do a Search

Simply Google the photographers name. If nothing comes up then this should be your first warning sign.

2. Ask Questions

Ask your photographer questions: ‘what type of lighting or setups will we be shooting?’, ‘what kind of styling are you looking for?’ and ‘what sort of makeup do you think will work best?’. If all you’re getting back is ‘whatever you think looks best just bring lots of lingerie’ then this photographer might require a bit more research.

3. Ask About the Concept

Ask the photographer to send you example pictures of the ideas they’re looking to achieve. Remember when somebody says ‘I want to shoot boudoir’ images this could mean anything from suggestive well-lit black and white shots to Playboy centerfold imagery. Make sure you’re both aware of what to expect from the shoot.

4. Meet in Public First

If you decide to arrange a shoot then you could also get them to meet you at a public place like collecting you from the train station or stay in your car until you’re happy they seem to be who they say they are. This is not ideal but it is something to consider if you have the option.

5. Bring a Chaperone

One alternative or additional option I hear a lot is to bring a chaperone to your photo shoot. This is a personal choice but in my opinion, if you don’t trust them enough to go alone, bringing one other person with you doesn’t help you trust that photographer any more.

In fact it means you haven’t done enough research in my opinion to decide one way or another. Also in my experience having a chaperone in tow can make for an awkward shoot. Yes, I know there are lots of cases where it has been fine, but the reality is, if you don’t trust the photographer enough to go alone, you probably shouldn’t go at all.

6. Talk to Prior Models

Reach out to other models who have worked with the photographer in the past. Message them directly, mention that you’re starting out, and get them to give you an honest and private opinion.

We all know how saccharin social media and online communities can be and even though there may be a ton of models who are praising the photographer on a public forum, there has been occasions where the private story has been a different matter altogether.

7. Use a Model Community

Use a model community site like Purple Port. They have a community of models that have worked with more well-known photographers and you’re sure to find plenty of good ones that have a great track record.

If a photographer screws up on this type of network, then everybody knows about it very quickly indeed. Purple Port is by no means perfect but it does at least allow for positive feedback to be left by people who have worked with the photographer in the past. No, you can’t leave negative feedback (a site initiative to avoid any knee-jerk witch-hunting) but the absence of positive feedback is often proof enough of their experience level.

Other modelling websites like Model Mayhem have colossal communities but don’t offer the facility to leave any feedback about specific shoots. If you’re planning shoots on there, then directly message the photographer’s previous models to find out more.


The main reason I put this list together is because I know when you’re starting out as a model, it’s tricky to get experienced photographers to work with you. As a result, you end up working with less experienced photographers who don’t always have a strong reputation in the industry or a lot of testimonials. Be smart like our model Sue and spot the frauds long before you organize anything.

Remember: most of the photographers out there are just trying to get experience with photoshoots just like you are. They have no ill intent and most models go through a career without incident at all. These pointers are there to give you the best possible chance of a successful shoot and highlight some things to look out for when starting out.


About the author: Jake Hicks is an editorial and fashion photographer based in Reading, UK. He specializes in keeping the skill in the camera and not just on the screen. You can find more of his work and writing on his website, Facebook, 500px, Instagram, Twitter, and Flickr. This article was also published here.

Stock in Trade, or: Why It’s Important to Read Photo Modeling Contracts

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As photographers in the United States, we hold the majority of power when it comes to our images. We automatically own the copyright to all photos we take, we are the ones who register our photos with the U.S. Copyright office, and we are the ones who license our images to clients, publications, and even the models in the photos.

That copyright, in addition to the model releases we obtain from our photographic subjects, allows us to have a substantial amount of control over what we can do with those photos. This can sometimes create a moral ambiguity as to how we decide to publish those photos, blurring the lines between what is right and what is ethical.

Five years ago, one of my good friends, Sarah, decided to enter the fray into professional modeling. She had a knack for costuming and was starting to land some gigs as a trade-show model here in Las Vegas. Knowing she would need to have some sort of portfolio to start getting a wider variety of paying modeling jobs, she sought out several local photographers and offered to do some trade shoots with them as she had some new, creative outfits she wanted to be photographed in.

One such photographer took her up on her offer and they did a photo shoot together with her wearing a custom-made showgirl outfit. When she showed up to the shoot, two things happened. She was first asked to sign a model release, which she did. The second was that she was never given any form of usage license agreement.

She was new to the industry and didn’t know what to ask for from the photographer and she never bothered to ask where the photos were going to be used. She just assumed it would go into his portfolio like they would in hers. They did the shoot and the resulting images were satisfactory.

A few weeks later, she received a handful of retouched images and she thought that was the end of it. What she didn’t know was that long thereafter, the photographer opened up accounts on some stock photography sites and put the photos up on them for sale.

Over the next year, Sarah Jane put her writing skills to good use and started a blog, which quickly started to get a huge following around the world, of people who were infatuated with the crazy stories of a Las Vegas model. That’s when the emails started pouring in from her fans.

The first was a photo of her in her showgirl outfit, surfaced from, of all places, London, England. A fan saw her photo appear on a sign advertising a local casino. She couldn’t believe it! How did her photo appear in a sign for a casino over 5,000 miles away?

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Then it happened again! Another fan sent her a screenshot of an iPhone app with her likeness on it in the same showgirl outfit.

Astonished, she realized that the photographer was selling her images online through a stock photo website. Being new to the industry, she had naïvely assumed that since she had not been compensated for the shoot, he would not be able to monetize the resulting images — her assumption was that stock models are usually paid at least a nominal fee for their services.

This is obviously not the case, and had she taken the time to read the model release the photographer had her sign at the beginning of the shoot, she would have realized that even in the case of Trade For (TF) work, where neither party is paying the other, a photographer has every right to use the resulting images commercially.

Over the course of the next five years, she kept seeing her photo show up in the strangest of places: on a DVD cover for a low-budget film, on an Amazon E-Book cover, and countless other places.

The photo in a magazine.

The photo in a magazine.

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The photo in an online game show question.

The photo in an online game show question.

The photo on a party ad.

The photo on a party ad.

The photo on a postcard.

The photo on a postcard.

Every time she saw it, she cursed her stupidity in having failed to read that modeling release… but nothing would prepare her for the coup de grace yet to come.

Now I’ve known about this story for quite some time, and I’ve even joked with Sarah that we should do our own shoot and let me submit our better quality photos to all the big stock sites just for spite and she always laughingly said it was a brilliant idea, and that we would split the profits. We had this project on a back burner for the better part of a year, but then something very unexpected happened. There was a major trade-show in Las Vegas that both of us were working for different clients. In one case I was taking photos for a trade-show booth and in her case, she was greeting attendees in another.

We happened to see one another in the parking lot and decided to walk in together. As we entered the massive Las Vegas Convention Center we were greeted by a 3-story tall banner with her showgirl image emblazoned on it, welcoming the attendees to the convention.

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As I was laughing, she was screaming a wide variety of four-letter words and immediately afterward, she turned to me and said, “OK, that does it…we need to do that photo shoot NOW!”

A week later we went into the studio and we got some amazing images. This time we did a much larger variety of photos involving different props, poses, etc. It was an awesome shoot, and I’m now happy to say that our photos are now on several awesome stock sites and sales are doing well.

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Even if the sales were non-existent though, it was still worth the work just to have this story to tell, but this gets me back to my original point behind the article. The original photographer with whom she worked had all the legal rights to sell the photos as stock images for profit, as he held the model release, but is what he did the morally right thing to do?

Complicating this particular instance was the fact that the model considered the photographer to be somewhat of a friend, and in her ignorance assumed that their shoot had been nothing more than a fun collaboration, with neither party having commercial usage rights. Any photographer who has ever sold stock images will tell you that it’s pretty unlikely you’ll become a millionaire selling a few stock images online, but from the point of view of the model, she felt like a putz.

If he had paid her a nominal stipend of even $25, she would have felt she had no right to complain… no matter how many bizarre places her photos popped up.

Some can argue he had every right to do what he did, and legally that would be 100% accurate. But was it the right thing to do? That’s up to you and your moral compass to decide. Just remember though that the next time you involve others with your photo shoots, that maybe forsaking a few bucks in profit from selling the photos and sharing some of the pie with your model is the better thing to do than go the greedy route.

You never know, she might just do a better shoot with a different photographer just out of spite!


About the author: Adam Sternberg is a photographer based in Las Vegas, Nevada. He has been working as a professional photographer there for over 15 years, and his photos have been published in a number of major magazines. You can find more of his work on his website and connect with him on Facebook.

This Crazy Software Extracts 3D Objects from Photos with a Few Clicks

If you were wanting to have your mind blown today, the video above might do it. It’s a demonstration of a piece of 3D object extraction and manipulation software that made its debut at SIGGRAPH 2013, and it may just offer a glimpse into the future of photo manipulation.

The software was developed by Tao Chen, Zhe Zhu, Ariel Shamir, Shi-Min Hu and Daniel Cohen-Or, and even in its infancy it’s capable of some pretty amazing feats.

Throughout the demonstration, 3D objects are quickly and easily extracted from regular old 2D photos using a “3-sweep” method: two strokes to define the profile of the object, and one along the main axis. Depending on the complexity of the shape, sometimes parts have to be outlined individually, but the result it always the same: the software pulls an editable, movable 3D model straight out of a 2D photo.

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As the video goes on, the examples get more and more complex and impressive. Once outlined, each bit of the above telescope is scaled and altered at will, and the whole thing can be tilted, turned and shifted on every axis.

That’s not to say that the software is anywhere near perfect. The software’s current limitations mean that certain objects don’t scan in as well, and the texture of the extracted model often looks a bit strange. Still, there’s serious potential here.

It’s like taking Photoshop’s Content Aware Move feature and dramatically increasing its capabilities. Not only can you select and move an object within the 2-dimensions of the photo, you can alter, duplicate and edit in three dimensions as well.

Check out the video at the top to get an idea of what the software is currently capable of, and afterwards, drop us a line in the comments to let us know how you see this being used for in the future.

We Are Unlike You is a Modeling Agency that Looks for Characters, Not Models

We Are Unlike You is a Modeling Agency that Looks for Characters, Not Models unlikeyou

When the term model is thrown around, there’s a fairly typical image that probably comes to mind for most people. In the male department, six-pack abs or a clean-cut look might fit the bill. And the female department more often than not involves the descriptors tall and slender.

Modeling agency We Are Unlike You isn’t interested in any of that. Like the UGLY MODELS agency we shared with you a little over a year ago, they are more interested in representing unique “characters.”

The agency is based out of Berlin, and according to the description on their website, they “don’t just offer tremendous looking individuals, but real characters who don’t just look the part, they feel and act it too. Because it’s simply who they are.”

We Are Unlike You is a Modeling Agency that Looks for Characters, Not Models unlikeyouheader3

Their roster of models is selected from among “professional burlesque performers, drag-acts, dancers, musicians, cabaret artists, and stand up comedians” whose style is 100% unique.

The hope is that the models themselves will act as inspiration for the photographers who may want to put them in front of the camera: “We want to inspire photographers, creatives, casting and booking agents to create images, develop stories and ideas that will feel as passionate, quirky and authentic as our people.”

To find out more about this quirky modeling agency and browse through the myriad characters they represent, head over to We Are Unlike You website by clicking here.

(via Laughing Squid)