Once in a while, despite our due diligence and training, we all end up in circumstances where we must handle a difficult situation. As a model with a wide range of experience, I have a large network of professional photographer friends and have seen first-hand how unprofessional my fellow models can be. Here are a few ways to handle a variety of sticky situations without compromising your reputation as a respectable industry professional.
The model agrees to compensate you but “forgets.”
First of all, I want to apologize and say I am truly sorry you are in this situation. One way this situation can be avoided is to ask for all money up front, if this is a paid shoot. Sometimes, the price can be high, and you agree on half before and half after the shoot is complete. It is your job as a professional business person to ensure you are paid early or on time. I know many photographers who are introverted, and asking for money can make them feel uncomfortable. If the final payment is not received at the shoot, shoot the model a message reminding him or her that he or she must pay. If you ask multiple times and receive no response, you have the right to take legal action, but many options are expensive and aren’t worth pursuing. In the future, update your payment policies so this is no longer an issue.
The model hits on you.
Sure, we hear tons of stories of creepy male photographers hitting on innocent female models, but what about the other way around? There are thousands of female photographers out there who work alone with models. Although this problem certainly isn’t strictly a female issue (men can be sexually harassed too!), it is a predominantly female issue. If a model is acting in an unprofessionally flirtatious manner and you are uncomfortable, be friendly, but decline their advances. It is not rude to firmly state your lack of interest. You must understand that “no means no” and if they continue to push your limits you are 100% at liberty to promptly end the shoot and leave. If the situations appears dangerous or you feel like the model may follow you home, call your mother, a friend, or in extreme cases, 911.
The model starts discussing something that makes you feel uncomfortable or upset.
Personally, nothing offends me. I come from a family of nurses and literally no topic is off limits. I love cursing, talking about religion, debating politics, and discussing sex. However, this is NOT the case for many people in the world. Maybe you are a very religious, conservative photographer and openly talking about abortion makes you uncomfortable. Perhaps the model is discussing something that is a trigger warning because of PTSD you have experienced in the past. Whatever the case may be, stay friendly and avoid getting angry. If something offends you, I have learned that it is best to gracefully change the subject. If you become upset or angry and the subject still hasn’t changed, excuse yourself for a brief moment alone, breathe, and explain that this isn’t something you will be discussing any further.
The model is trying to “sneak” something past you that was not agreed upon or you are not comfortable with.
Ever pose a model and then the second you get back to your camera, they already move? This may be the sign of a newbie who isn’t quite sure what is going on, or it could be an unprofessional attempt from a model to take charge of the shoot without discussion. If you begin to notice a pattern, by all means, bring it up to the model. If the model continues to disrespect your wishes, you have two choices: 1. To finish the shoot and never work with the model again or 2. To leave immediately.
Nudity makes some people feel uncomfortable. That is completely okay. I have seen MANY instances where shoots start off fully clothed, and end up with the model romping around in the nude. Maybe your husband/wife/significant other isn’t down with you shooting nude people. Maybe your religion doesn’t allow for it. Maybe you just plain don’t like it. No matter what, you are in charge of the direction of the shoot and have the ability to stop it at any time. If a model tries to pull something along the nudity lines that makes you uncomfortable, politely but firmly explain, and then reiterate your limits. If the model continues to push your boundaries, end the shoot.
If you must call off a shoot, the only explanation that is required is “I don’t feel like you are respecting my limits or the agreed upon terms. I am sorry but I just don’t feel comfortable but I need to go home. Thank you for your time.”
The model begins to harass you for edited photos the second you get home.
As I stated above, I am close friends with numerous professional photographers and I have seen so many unprofessional attempts from models to get photos it isn’t even funny! I’m sure you have experienced some situations in your day and it isn’t enjoyable. If a model is blowing up your Facebook or text messages immediately, respond to her/him in a respectful manner and tell him/her that you loved working with him/her and will let him/her know when the photos are completed. Of course, in many cases, this will not be enough to calm the model down. I have even seen models send "?????????" to photographers randomly for weeks at a time! If this continues, reassure the model you are working on their photos, and give an estimated time limit. If the model keeps harassing and messaging, don’t dignify these childish acts with a response at all. Finish editing, send proofs at the agreed upon date, and turn off your notifications in the meantime.
Generally, these situations can be avoided with stellar communication before the shoot, but life is unpredictable and it is better to be prepared. Do you have any crazy stories about unprofessional models you have worked with? How did you handle it? I would love to hear about it in the comment section!