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.