6 Do’s and Don’ts on Working with Models

6 Do’s and Don’ts on Working with Models

A simple Google search will turn up millions of results on what photographers should do/not do when working with models. However, nine times out of ten, these articles are written from a photographer’s perspective, and the model’s voice is rarely heard. Well, today is your lucky day! I have jumped in to give you the model perspective! Whether you are shooting underwater, commercial, fashion, conceptual, etc., some of the same rules of etiquette apply across the board. 

This is my condensed list of what to do/don’t do when working with models:

DO: Bring the model a bottle of water. I’m not asking you to feed us a gourmet meal, or even provide snacks (Oreos work though!) however, a simple bottle of water goes a long way. I absolutely never expect anything from my photographer, but I can’t say I’m too upset when offered a chilled bottle of water. I highly recommend this for TFP in particular, when everyone is volunteering their time.

DON’T: Use sexual innuendos when giving direction. One time a photographer I was working with for the first time told me to “pretend I was making love to significant other” in order to evoke a “sensual” emotion from me. Uhhh… how about no? Although this may be the emotion you are going for, there are a hundred and one ways to go about asking for it, other than telling the model to pretend like she is having sex in front of a random dude.

DO: Ask, don’t tell. Recently, a photographer friend and I were shooting in North Carolina. He asked me if I would be willing to sit on this ledge and dangle my legs over this canyon, which was hundreds of feet below. Even though it was super dangerous, I agreed in a heartbeat. Had he have commanded me to sit on the ledge, hanging above my death, I’m pretty sure I would never have done it. Asking models their comfort level before instructing them to hit a pose is crucial and can absolutely make or break the shoot.

If you ask nicely, your model may risk her life for you ;)


DON’T: Spring nudity on models during a shoot. Talk about it during the pre-messaging stages. Ask the model what level of exposure she feels comfortable with. Don’t ever, and let me repeat, ever, ask the model during a shoot “now can we try it with the top off” or “what if we just moved that back a little.” If she brings up the idea, cautiously ask what she has in mind, and then you can slowly take it from there. Other than that, there isn’t even much I have to say on this point other than no, just no. Don’t do it. Not ever.

DO: Keep your end of the bargain. One time I did a shoot with a newer photographer and we discussed that it would be TFP, he would send me the edited images, etc. The planning stages went exactly like every TFP shoot I had ever done in my career. Well, guess what? Two weeks after the shoot was complete, he send me one image, and told me I had to pay him if I wanted the rest. This was never discussed in our original messages. He never said “I will send you one edited image and you will pay for the rest.” Communication between model and photographer is key. If you agree on something in the planning stages, it can be seen as unprofessional to bail out at the end.

DON’T: Forget to credit your models on social media. Social media is huge these days, and is just as important for exposure for models as it is for photographers. I cannot begin to tell you how many times I have seen photographers, some of them industry professionals, share photos without crediting anyone, whether it is wardrobe, hair and makeup, the model etc.  In the photo below, Brad Olson properly credit's his creative team perfectly. Crediting your team is the polite and professional way to act as a photographer in this industry.

Brad Olson demo's the perfect example of how to properly credit the team
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Victoria Yore's picture

Yes!!!! Fantastic advice! I always want to know what type of undergarments people want. And the robe is a super helpful idea especially for outdoor shoots :)

Scott Dunn's picture

I was wondering when the next "dont touch the model" or similar thread was going to be posted...

Its a nice article, but can you please rewrite this to at least display some equality? Not all models are female and not all photographers are guys.

Victoria Yore's picture

Yes! I really tried to keep it gender neautral, but looking back, I did use 'she' a few times! Thanks for the feedback!

Michael Rapp's picture

Great write- up, Victoria!
And one more addition from me: try to involve the model in the creative process. Unless it's a shoot with art director or a definite to- do- list from the client, getting the model involved makes this so much more a colaborative creative thing. You'd be surprised how many times the model (who usually has clocked a lot of on- set- time, too) brings ideas to the set you just hadn't thought of.
Sometimes little things, like acessories to a dress can make a huge difference to an image.
And by the way:
Never ever touch a model. Period. No excuses.

Victoria Yore's picture

Yes! Involving the model is a big one! Even if the model doesn't want to participate, it's nice to be asked :)

Anonymous's picture

Good fundamental info!

Mood Translator's picture

Why doesn't the model ever bring the photographer some water? It's not like you're the only one who's thirsty.

Gary Tiedemann's picture

Just be professional and relaxed and ask you would be surprised at what you can achieve