The Trait I Value More Than Anything in a Model

The Trait I Value More Than Anything in a Model

When it comes to working with models (whether it be aspiring or established), there is one trait that I value above all others. If you're thinking that I'm going to say cheek bones, freckles, or a specific hair color you're way, way off. 

I'm not talking physical traits; appearances are neither here nor there. When it comes to working with a model (male or female), above all else and at the very top of my list is one thing: punctuality. The ability to arrive on time will always be the make or break trait and skill that I look for. When I connect with someone able to arrive on time, that person is always going to be a first choice over someone with an established track record of tardiness. 

One might think that in such a competitive industry, this would be a basic requirement. Unfortunately, there are people who tend to accept “model time” (an expression used to describe talent that operates using their own clock, perpetually behind, rather than actual time) as just another part of the job. I can tell you right now that as you navigate your way through and move up in the industry, you will find fewer and fewer people willing to tolerate tardiness.


I tend to view punctuality as a reflection of an individual's dedication to their craft. Arriving on time shows me that you value the time of everyone involved; myself, hair and makeup artists, stylists, as well as any assistants or crew involved with the shoot (not to mention your own time). Though I certainly understand that life happens and there are just some days where in spite of our best efforts, everything that can go wrong, will go wrong. Family emergency? Of course people will understand, no one could hold that against you.

However, if your plan is to message a photographer ten minutes after a scheduled start time saying you don't feel well or your car doesn't work, I promise you we have heard that dozens of times and recognize a flake when we see one. Though it sounds harsh, I struggle to take someone seriously who can't arrive on time. I keep mental notes about who can and who can't show up. If getting from point A to point B on time is the unconquerable mountain in your daily life, this might not be the industry for you.

Leave a comment with your thoughts on the matter. Do you tolerate tardiness (keep it respectful, no trash talk)? How much slack do you cut someone before it becomes too much? If I'm showing up, I want to see that everyone involved gets the respect they deserve and it starts with being ready to roll on schedule. Agree or disagree?

Log in or register to post comments


Evan, you hit the nail on the head! Punctuality is my number one, whether models or assistants, and is a deal breaker for me ever having them back. I think it’s rampant in quite a number of areas in our society, and shows disrespect. I’ve even gotten to this point with clients, and will keep any retainer paid (if it is blatant behavior). Life is too short to put up with it, and hopefully it sends a message that it is unacceptable behavior. Cheers!

Evan Kane's picture

Thanks Stan, I think that as long as your pre-shoot consult or contract indicates that a retainer may be forfeited that's a good plan.

I always stress this point with prospective clients too, take your work seriously!

Matt Owen's picture

This was my first thought when I saw the title. Generally I'll give people 30 minutes, I can always find something interesting to photograph for that amount of time. But I won't adjust the end time because you're late - if we're scheduled for an hour and you show up 20 minutes late, well now you have a 40 minute shoot.

Peter Gargiulo's picture

Matt, you're kind to give 30 minutes!

Evan Kane's picture

I think that is probably the best way to go about it Matt. 30 minutes is a crazy long time, but if you're taking it away from the total time I think that works.

As long as clients know that the scheduled time is fixed and their clock starts at a certain time, I think that can work.

Dave McDermott's picture

I wouldn't mind waiting 30 minutes if its a location shoot. An extra half hour won't make much difference unless I'm on a super tight schedule. However its a lot more problematic if I have a studio booked for 2 hours as it reduces the amount of shooting time we have.

Out of interest, what do you do in the case of a no show or late cancellation? Would you be willing to give the person a second chance?

Musing Eye's picture

I made the mistake of giving a model a second chance when she last-minute cancelled and I had a two-hour studio rental. The professional who ran the studio advised against the second chance and he was right - she no-showed.

Dave McDermott's picture

Yep its frustrating alright. Personally I'd be willing to give a model a second chance if she gave me plenty of notice or if she had a valid excuse. Sometimes it works out fine the second time but that's not always the case.

Matt Owen's picture

I handle that on a case by case basis. If it's a TFP shoot I might not give a second chance at all, or ask for a deposit that I'll refund when they show up on time (that weeds out the flakes pretty quickly). It depends on how much I want to work with a particular person.

mark mil's picture

For us, late means we won't be working together again. Barring clear exceptions it shows how little value someone places on your time. Great article!

Evan Kane's picture

Thanks for the comment Mark, I agree. There are some exceptions of course (emergencies obviously), otherwise it indicates a casual care-free element that I don't think is appropriate in a professional circumstance

Rodney Omeokachie's picture

The trait I value the most is professionalism. I can't stand a model whose lazy, easily distracted, and just not bringing their A-game in general. Contrary to popular belief, it's not the job of the photographer to make the model comfortable or productive during a shoot. It takes two to tango in portrait photography: the photographer brings his gear, expertise and time while the model brings her personality, acting/ modeling skills, time and maybe wardrobe. Pro or not, it's a waste of both our time when a model shows up unprepared, tired, disheveled, shy and devoid of any real contribution. Pro or not, once you commit yourself to a project, put some effort in at least to make it worth the while of the photographer. Suddenly, the onus falls on the photographer to be the life of the party and make miracles in 'post' just to arrive at something decent. I find unprofessional models irksome.

The relationship between a model and a photographer is exactly the same as that between a seducer and his/her victim. Each person feeds off of the other. If one person is not participating, if one person has to carry the weight of the whole process, it becomes a chore. And I have been in enough chores to know how that affects the outcome of a shoot.

Evan Kane's picture

Thanks for the comment Rodney, I agree with your initial assessment.

I will say though that the statement, "The relationship between a model and a photographer is exactly the same as that between a seducer and his/her victim" definitely doesn't feel right. I disagree with the metaphor and I think that it has unwise implications.

I don't see interaction with people (male or female), be it client or model, in that sense at all. I really don't think that there is a place for the words seduction and/or victim in photography when talking about a professional relationship.

Rodney Omeokachie's picture

Let's not get carried away. The analogy is simply that photography involves relationships, the chief being the relationship between the photographer and his/her subject. For any relationship to work, both parties have to bring something to the table and carry their own weight. One-sided relationships don't cut it. And I don't appreciate it when a model expects the photographer to do all the work.

I get that my seducer/victim analogy may be a bit underdeveloped but let that not distract from the finer point I'm trying to make.

That last paragraph is....creepy af. I can't imagine seeing the dynamic that way.

Rodney Omeokachie's picture

See reply above

stir photos's picture

unfortunately, i do tolerate folks being late sometimes. i've been late before; i get it, sometimes shit happens. but i think the spirit of the article is the sort of lateness from models that's blatant and/or cavalier. i once had a model 40 minutes late by the time i got her on the phone, i was peeved and she knew it, but you know... so next time we shot, i picked her up! this seemed like a good plan, but alas she was "running late" and asked me to wait, which i did, BUT i was sitting there with her BF whom i think is a dick. haha... i mean he was cool, offered me a beer, small talk, blah blah blah... in the end, maybe i should stop being so accommodating, but from the amateur perspective, i don't find it too annoying, particularly when i wasn't paying her for her time and vice versa.

in the professional sense, i can't imagine folks finding much work with a reputation of being late though...

While I agree punctuality is high up there on important traits to have to be taken seriously, for me the most important one is communication. If I'm trying to set up a shoot, it shouldn't take 5 messages of "did you get my last message...have you been able to check your schedule what do you thing...etc etc". I'd much rather prefer someone to tell me to f off immediately, rather than not responding or waiting 3 days for a "let me check my schedule". Part of communication is also day of shooting - if they're running late (assuming valid excuse)...ok, life happens, but tell me, rather than just showing up late with no warning. During the shoot, if you don't like something, or have an idea, say something. It can make the results that much better if everyone involved is involved in the conceptual development. But if you stay silent, you have no ownership. In my book, communication is the cornerstone of professionalism

Robert Wilson's picture

Indeed! ..responds to a casting call...then day before shoot...oh..I work at 8:00am, I thought it was at 8:00pm (casting call says 8-11AM).

Alex Cooke's picture

My conducting teacher always says: "If you're early, you're on time. If you're on time, you're late. If you're late, you're fired." Words to live by.

Evan Kane's picture

Wow that's awesome. I haven't heard that expression before, I love it.

Yes. A phrase I know all too well! I'm always early to a fault. People appreciate punctuality. My personal quote is: "I'm always early. If I'm late, I'm dead."

I'd rather be 3 hours early than one second late.

Robert Wilson's picture

Punctuality is a subset of a broader requirement that I expect: honesty (Punctuality, cheating on your timesheet, etc.). Trainability is a close second (adapt to conditions, "get it", etc.). Many years into my career I reluctantly added a third requirement: safety (there are people out there that just fundamentally are a menace/danger to themselves and others...they would walk off a raised stage because they're not sufficiently aware of their surroundings and the implications of that lack of awareness).

Arun Hegden's picture

Perfect article for the moment for me.
I had a shoot some hours back, and i had given time 4:30-4:45 for the model and she arrived by 5:30. The initial talking for getting a comfort zone took around 15-20 minutes. We hardly got 30 minutes to shoot after which the day light was over. Wouldn't really feel like shooting again with the same model.

Dani Riot's picture

punctuality is always important, especially when usually a location has a certain time limit. There are always rare genuine reasons for being late though, so I wouldn't automatically give them a black mark.