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.”
#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.
#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.