6 (Respectful) Ways to Reject Models

6 (Respectful) Ways to Reject Models

Ahhh…..rejection! Everyone has experienced rejection many times in their life, but it is especially prevalent in the fashion and photography industries. I’m sure you have been rejected as a photographer before, whether it was by a gallery, publication, or model you have wanted to work with. I can safely say that if I had a dollar for every time I experienced rejection as a model, well, you get the picture. I have been rejected by some of the sweetest photographers, who unintentionally made me feel like I should never have reached out. Similarly, some photographer’s rejection tactics needed some major fine tuning and left me feeling fed up with how some people in the industry tend to act. As a model, I 100% understand that I will be rejected 9 times out of 10. It is completely okay to say no! Saying no is healthy! But it should be done with professionalism, tact, and respect. 

Want to reject a model request? Do so politely and professionally so you don’t completely sever the relationship. Here’s how:

#1) Hear models out. Try to let models know that you are hearing their request by using words like “I completely understand.” Maybe they are a newbie, maybe you aren’t taking requests, or maybe the model’s look just doesn’t work for you. No matter the case, try to remember to be respectful and let them know you heard their request. Responding with an immediate “no” will make it seem like you already wrote them off without a second thought.

#2) Focus on what you CAN do. Maybe you don’t want to work with the model, but know someone else who would love to! Maybe the model is new and you are more well-connected to casting calls. Maybe you know other photographers who would LOVE a model to practice their TFP work on. Whatever the case may be, once you reject the model, tell him or her what you CAN do for them. This is a nice little way to say “I’m sorry I can’t work with you at this time but I still care about you.”

Your suggestion or referral can open up a world of possibilities to models!

#3) Be gentle and offer explanations when asked. It is important to be real and upfront with prospective models, but in a kind and understanding manner. If the model asks why he or she is being rejected (as we sometimes do), feel free to give constructive criticism. When I was starting out, I was rejected by photographers and told that I needed to work on utilizing all the different muscles in my face. That little piece of advice helped me to focus on an aspect of my modeling that needed improving.

#4) Turn a negative into a positive. If your cause for rejection is because of a timing issue and you would be willing to work with the model in the future, let him or her know! Be honest and upfront about your reason for rejection, but assure them that you will keep them in mind when your schedule opens back up.

When I first approached him, TJ Drysdale told me he didn't have time in his schedule to shoot and to check back in a few months. When I revisited the question down the road, he was open, and our professional journey began.

#5) Give a reason models can understand. As a model, nothing is more exasperating than hearing “your look just won’t work for me,” without being given any specifics. I have spoken to many well-established photographers as friends and colleagues, and all of them assure me that even if a model’s look doesn’t work for their style, they will NEVER use this as an reason for rejection because it leads to tons of confusion on the model's part. Some options: “I am not looking for models at this time,” “I do not have time to take on any free work,” or “I would love to but….” IF you must tell a model that their look doesn’t work for your style, please provide them with specifics. Is this something that they can improve upon? (For example, if they improve on their posing and come back a year later looking like a pro, would you be more willing to work with them?) Or is there something about their facial or bone structure that, no matter what they do, cannot and will not ever be fixed no matter what they do? If you leave it as a blanket statement, models may take it as they just aren’t good enough and will keep coming back. If you kindly explain why, we will get the picture and understand that it will never work between us.

#6) Decline with gratitude. You never want to burn bridges. That newbie model may get signed by a major agency and you and that model may end up being a match made in heaven. He or she may be your future realtor or nurse, you just never know! When rejecting, always put yourself in the shoes of the other person and empathize with them.

There are literally hundreds of ways to politely reject models, and I've covered just a few in this post so you all don't have to read a novel! Let me know your tips for rejection in the comments below.


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Peter House's picture

I always say that at the moment I am too swamped to take on any more work, but I'll gladly keep their info on file, and if any projects come across my desk that fit their description I will reach out.

Michael Kormos's picture

After the casting, we call back the agencies and request our favorites. I don't think I've ever had to deal with a rejection. I would think the agency communicates that to their models.
Then again, we photograph children :-)

Scott Spellman's picture

In most cases, it is important to be polite and leave open the possibility of future work. However, most busy professionals also don't really have the time to give real detailed reasons for large castings. In many cases, its simply a matter of liking another models look better.

Victoria Yore's picture

The focus of the article was more when a model reaches out to you and you don't want to work with that person, not exactly large castings. I completely agree with you that nobody has time for explanation when it comes to large casting pools!

Scott Spellman's picture

My strategy is a little different. If I see a model with great potential who I think will appeal to my clients, I will work on a portfolio photo shoot in trade. If they are no right for my portfolio, I send them my regular rates for model portfolio photo shoots. Its only in a case where I feel a models look or reputation would not be something that I want my brand connected with that I decline politely or suggests another photographer.

Eric Mazzone's picture

It's all about being respectful of others. Respect that they want to work with you and that they respect you enough to ask to do so. Being nice about it up front is only proper. If you're rude, word will get around and you will end up begging for work. At the worst you'll have scared off a new model who might have been big or sent someone away who really needed a moral boost even if being turned down for now keeping them open for possible future 'work' might be what they need to hear at that moment.

Anonymous's picture

My initial response to model inquiries is to always thank them. If I reject them, I try to be polite and ambiguous on purpose. There really is no upside to blurting out my thoughts if my opinion is not asked for. Doing so is more likely to cause offense rather than to help anyone out. It's up to the model to press for details if they really want to know.

Chris Adval's picture

Depending on the request. I got many requests from models to hire them... which to me seems odd, but I guess its no different than going door to door to sell stuff no one has a need or use for. But as for TF project work then I'd consider it by checking out the model's portfolio, experience, etc. and be professional. But coming to me asking for money I think I ignore those or teach them to not knock on my door.

Chris Adval's picture

#5... What I do is explain I want to work on my fashion port but do lack the looks around my region and explain it to them I need to achieve X, Y, and Z looks to impress A, B, and C potential clients.

Bruce Walker's picture

This is very well stated. Great advice!

Jose Luis's picture

If its for a shoot- why reject them at all? Ive always found this approach is best ... "Yes, I would absolutely love to shoot. I think we would get a great result. I would love for you to be the boss and we have a total focus on giving you amazing portfolio images in the styles you prefer. I have a few different rate packages and more details are at joseluisphoto.com (rates section). I have a couple open spots left this month- do you prefer X date or Y date. To reserve the date for you I just need to collect your deposit and then we can start planning out our shoot together!" In other words as a policy .. don't test. If you are really so in demand that you are having to reject models from shooting for test or trade so much than you have a marketable business. Charge everyone. Then when you find a few that are AMAZING and you have compatible interests with THOSE are the ones you test with and recommend for client work.