6 Things Beauty Photographers Can Do To Avoid The 'Creep' Label

6 Things Beauty Photographers Can Do To Avoid The 'Creep' Label

As beauty/fashion/glamour photographers the quality of our work is often largely driven by how well we can tell the story of an intimate moment within the frame. A big part of being able to do this is by building trust with the model to ensure that she feels safe throughout the entire shoot.

Male photographers face a particularly difficult challenge as there have been certain photographers in the past who became notorious for their alleged sexual harassment. Models need to prioritize their safety and ensure that they are working with a reliable professional who is never going to take advantage.

Never Ask Your Model On A Date

I can’t tell you how often people I encounter comment about how lucky I am always hanging around beautiful woman and how I must get to go out on dates with gorgeous models all the time.

Their idealized vision of what they think a photographer’s life is like deflates quickly when I tell them “never.” One of the worst things you can do is to risk your credibility is by accidentally making a model feel like you are just using photography as a ruse to meet beautiful women.

There are billions of other woman in the world for you to ask out on dates but it is critical that you maintain a professional relationship with beauty models who you photograph. I suppose, if a model makes a romantic advance towards you then it is up to your judgment but certainly never make the first move.

Have A Man Or Two In Your Portfolio

A while back I found out that a models “momager” refused to let her work with me because she only saw women in my portfolio and felt that because I only photographed beautiful women that I must be some sort of predator.

I had never given it any thought before but that moment had jarred a thread loose so I began to tug. After talking with a wide variety of people it was clear that the majority do not feel this way. However, I did find that a relatively small percentage were very bothered by a portfolio only containing shots of women.

Offer To Supply A Makeup Artist

A big part of a model’s potential apprehension is a fear of being alone with someone that they do not have a rapport with. By including a makeup artist on the shoot not only do you drastically increase the potential quality of the final images but you radically assuage any feelings of discomfort that a female model might have about working with alone with a male photographer.

Never Touch Without Permission

As the photographer, there is really no need to ever touch a model, especially without permission. If something needs to be adjusted such as hair or clothing let the makeup artist or the model, herself, handle it.

I would even go so far as to say never even ask permission to touch, if there is a problem of some sort that the model wants your help with she will ask but never risk making a model feel like you are seeking “excuses” to breach her personal space.

Be Professional In Correspondence

No model wants to feel like a chunk of meat being drooled over by a hungry lion. When emailing, texting, talking etc always treat your model with the respect that you should afford anyone. They are a colleague who you are conducting a business exchange with, treat them accordingly. Don’t tell her how “sexy you find her” or to bring clothes to “show off her titties” instead show respect and use language that will make her feel comfortable that you are her ally, not the enemy.

If possible, avoid contacting models through extremely “personal” platforms. A cheeky message to her personal Facebook account isn’t going to inspire confidence. Nor will randomly texting a number you managed to find by poking around the internet. If the model doesn’t have some sort of public facing web status for you to use to contact her then ask a personal, mutual, friend/colleague for an introduction. If neither is an option ask yourself if perhaps the model, in question, isn’t making herself available to random photographers for a reason.

Make Sure She Knows Exactly What To Expect Beforehand

If you retain nothing else from this post make sure that you pay heed to this final and most important thing you can do to prevent shattering the trust of your model. Always be completely open and transparent about every aspect of the shoot.

I have talked to countless models who all have horror stories about “that one photographer” who completely misrepresented what would happen during the shoot. Anything from a radical change of style to being asked to reveal more than what was expected can leave a model feeling like the photographer harbored some sort of ill will.

The best thing you can do is always be honest. Things don’t always go as planned, if something needs to change about the shoot don’t wait until the model shows up to foist it on her. Instead, immediately let her know what is changing and verify that she is comfortable with the change. If she is not, do not pressure her to do the shoot anyway, instead adapt the concept in a way to insulate her comfort.

Bonus: Have Some Common Sense

In conclusion, I just wanted to point out that whenever a model begins feeling uncomfortable about a photographer the reason almost always is pretty obvious. Always take the time to think about how you conduct your shoots from the point of view of an outsider. Leverage common sense to ensure that you avoid doing anything that might harm a models trust in your professional conduct.

Finally, ask yourself: “Do models tell me after shoots that they felt very comfortable shooting with me?” Not all models will be vocal about positive experiences but enough should to allow you to feel confident that your manner of creating an environment of trust is working.

Ryan Cooper's picture

Ryan is an mildly maniacal portrait/cosplay photographer from glorious Vancouver, Canada.

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rules are made to be broken....

three people do not like my sense of humor lol

Fool's talk on its face. If uncomfortable, the female model will likely show her state of mind in the resulting photographs. My experience tells me so, apart from any rules.

My suggestion to induce comfort in the model: Ask the model to bring a girlfriend to the shoot if she wishes. She may decline but the opportunity to do so may produce the effect of comfort for her knowing the photographer's openness to a third party at the shoot.

As to the rules of photography, learn, understand, and apply them religiously along with the concepts, techniques, and principles of photography.

Yes, situations may arise which seemingly call for a deviation from the advised practice of photography. Go with these situations, of course.

Some beginning photographers, however, suppose (and foolishly so) that the act of breaking the rules of photography constitutes by itself an act of creativity. Instead, the expression of creativity in photography naturally happens during the advised practice of photography. After all, doing photography necessarily involves the both the conscious and the sub-conscious perception of the photographer, as well as the use of light and equipment and the selection of subject. Human intelligence also directs the process of photography. Hence, to paraphrase Shakespeare, “Creativity will out.”

don't worry serious guy. I wouldn't be in business if I made a habit of making my clients and subjects feel creeped out.

Your client pool is not your dating pool, obviously.

This article could have been a lot shorter if it had said "Study how Terry Richardson works with models and do the exact opposite!". Just kidding. #IHeartTerry

no, you're onto something lol

And all of the other top earning photographers (male and female) in history. Lol.

Most of these fit into a general respect for others. Be that a photographer or just a person in line at the grocery store check out isle. I think if you have to be reminded of these rules you shouldn't be taking glamour photos or dealing with others without supervision.

You'd be amazed at how many models I talked to had horror stories when writing it. I guess common sense isn't so common. ;)

I think times are changing, as well. There is a very delicate line of communication these days (too delicate, perhaps). Because of the 1% who abused this industry, the other 99% have to suffer, and be totally non-fun, suppressed, and self censored. This used to be fun.

The doing of photography in relation to others requires some social skills, for sure. We might even postulate that a social dummy will limit his photographic opportunities.

One of my favorite videos ever!

OMG. Thanks for that! I needed it.

I used to get asked out by models all of the time and I never thought they were creepy. But some of them were definitely slutty.

"You'd be amazed at how many models I talked to had horror stories when writing it. I guess common sense isn't so common. ;)"

I'm not shocked at all. I have been through similar circumstances with too many models to count over the years. That's why my mentor, Daniel Kane, taught me almost eight years ago the number one rule in Model Photography is ... NEVER TOUCH THE MODEL!!! He drilled that into me and I have preached it myself all too many times. And all too many times I have been told to "Shut the F**K UP!!!" I was once told by one photographer that, "It is okay as long as you know what you are doing!" Uhhhh, okay. NOT!!!

Thank you for writing this article to once again confirm this is what should be done by everyone. Model Safety & Security should be of TOP PRIORITY.

Yes, I tell my female subjects that I cannot touch them as a matter of professional etiquette.

But what to do if, say, a stray hair falls across the face of the subject?

Answer: Keep a clean, large, handheld mirror nearby and ready. Have the subject use it to adjust the stray hair.

Creeps will be creeps ;)

I've dated a few girls who I only knew because I photographed them. YMMV

Not great.

do on to others... and so on.
In my humble opinion: if you lack the basic skills and good judgement to interact with people on a professional level: dont do portrait photography.

Most of the horrorstories stem from the same jerkiness and asshattery one finds in any workplace enviroment i think. People who think they have a position of autority and think they can use that to their advantage.

Yes, a female model does not serve as a member of the photographer's harem.

Nevertheless, how many times have we read of a photographer becoming romantically involved with one of his models, and then their later marrying? Of course, a natural, mutual attraction may've existed leading to this happy outcome.

Don’t tell her to bring clothes to “show off her titties”? You mean I've been doing it wrong all these years? :D

Kidding. But I did LOL as I read that.

It's apparent that most of the horror stories we have heard are true. Even though I have never hired a model or been on a model shoot I have seen this in action. Ever seen how the models hired to work booths at photography shows are treated? Holy sh*t I hope they are paid well because creepy dudes let it all hang out in those situations. I saw a 50 something, overweight dude stand in front of a backdrop booth shooting the model with his Rebel and pop up flash for way, way too long at a show last year. Silent, a look of grim determination on his face. Portrait, landscape, portrait, landscape, chimp, portrait, landscape. I was creeped out and I was behind them. The poor model probably still has nightmares.

Step 1: Be good looking
Step 2: Don't be ugly
Step 3: ???
Step 4: Profit

Man! Hahahaha you're not leaving much choices there!! xD

I know a lot of creeptards who spend the whole session harassing the models. Beeing a gentleman these days is out of fashion.

The creep community really appreciate these pointers! Please fstoppers, do not become the next petapixel, stop with this crap.

There are some good points, but I would love to see this written in a less sexist fashion. Last time I checked, female photographers can act in just the same way - Do the same rules not apply to them, because they are female? Should male models expect any less treatment, because they are guys?

And how about some pointers for those models touching me with their bodies when they're looking over my shoulder at the pics I just took!?

what does that mean? what is there to do? (I'm sorry, were you being sarcastic or something?)

First, enjoy the physical contact. Second, bear in mind the ladies have their own social rules.

Here, the contact could mean the female feels attracted to the photographer; such happens. Or, she could just want to further the professional relation to obtain more modeling work.

And, the ladies know that their physical contact with a man may easily confuse him for the simple reason that virtually all men in these situations tend to think with their little head instead of their big head. Female body heat exerts a transformative effect on a male. Understand that all females early learn this fact about males. How well a male handles this situation will depend on his emotional and social maturity.

Life presents these exciting moments. What can a male photographer do?

One suggestion: Say friendly words and find something in the photograph to compliment; for example, the model's hairstyle may flatter her look in some way. Say so. Do your darndest to find something objective to say. This response will return the moment to the photographic activity.

Another suggestion: Link the camera to a computer that will display the photograph on the screen of the computer's monitor. This arrangement will keep the female at a distance.

They can but the odds of it leading to them being labeled a "creep" are effectively zero.

It's true. many top female models are lesbians, and a couple top female photographers are very "predatory" but powerful. I've seen it first hand.

Generally if you have great work in your portfolio, you don't even have to worry about being labeled a creep.

But you should have mentioned that respect is a 2-way street. As a photographer, you have a right to expect professionalism from the models too. If the model doesn't respect me or gives off weird vibes, I have no problem telling them to take a hike.

I find it offensive when a model implies that I am interested in anything other than the photo. It's usually the super inexperienced ones that think everyone on set is trying to hook up.

Yes, I have found some younger females have yet to learn how to manage their sex appetite. A real man will know how to handle himself diplomatically in such situations where a forward female presents herself.

As one example, a young female indicated she wanted sex adventure with me, an older man. She relayed the message with words and a nude snapshot of herself through a mutual female friend. She threw herself at me. (She even wanted to do my brother after seeing a photograph of him.) Yikes!

Thankfully, I have learned that a kind but clear response smooths the moment. I told our mutual friend that she was not my type. She accepted my response in a good spirit.

We already had a respectful relation before this moment. So I had some experience with her enabling me to say the right words.

Yes yes yes, so much yes to all of these!

I've been a photographer for 18 years. Still haven't hit it big, but plugging away. I shoot mainly guys, so the inverse is true for me. These are always good reminders, even though when a photographer / model interaction is free of any of these negative thoughts, and is organic, the work always turns out so much better.

Anyway, I got so sick of models and agencies that I took a year off. Literally couldn't take any more bs. Now I'm trying to line up a shoot for fun again, by directly contacting models through social media - and I've never felt like more of a creep in my entire life. It's not like I'm making sexual passes at grown, strange men, twice my height, and half my age, but I just feel like such a freak. My intentions are 1000% for the love of the art, and platonic (a model would have to rape me for me to hit on them - lol). And I HATE dealing with agencies because they are such a-holes and creativity killers. Models have no idea how detrimental their own agents can be.... Just venting. Any thoughts? I think landscapes are in my future.