Don't Be a Creepy Photographer

It should be that it goes without saying not to be a creepy photographer. Sadly, there are creeps out there and our profession is a "good fit" for a pervert trying to look at young women. That being said, we need to be extra careful to make sure we maintain our good reputation.

This is a disturbing story about a photographer who was spying on underage girls via dressing room in his home studio. "Home studio" sets off alarms for some folks right away, but there are many good photographers who have home studios. Commercial space is expensive, and with the massive influx of new photographers in most cities each day, it's become tougher to maintain a studio space. So it's OK to have a home studio, just be sure you pay some extra attention to some things that may be perceived as creepy.

Here are some helpful tips to make sure that you maintain a good image and as a whole, that keeps the entire industry from being lumped into a stereotype. A few bad seeds really can spoil the entire crop.

  • Don't work alone with a female client/subject, especially if you are a man. Also never deny a girl being able to bring someone to a session. I've heard many photographers don't particularly like boyfriends on set as they are often quite distracting to a model. That's fair. The way to approach that is to explain why boyfriends aren't a great idea, and ask them to please bring someone else, but insist they still bring someone. Always insist on this.
  • Be mindful of girls changing, especially on location shoots. Try and offer as much privacy and comfort as possible.
  • While complimenting your subjects is good for their confidence, especially during a shoot, make sure to think about how your compliment may be take. Even if you had no creepy intent you could still be taken wrong, and it could come off totally different than how you meant it, especially from a young girl's perspective. This is one area where a female photographer shooting a female subject has a lot more flexibility and can get away with saying things that coming from a man would be inappropriate. You can still make appropriate comments, just take an extra second to think how they may be perceived.
  • This one should go without saying, but don't ask a model to shoot and then suggest nudes or something different than what was discussed beforehand. I have had many girls come to me and say "xyz photographer did that" and really creeped them out.

I find it really disturbing for a man to be spying on underage girls like that, not that spying on any girl's dressing room is OK, but the creep factor is multiplied in this case. If you see or know of someone doing this, absolutely be sure to contact proper authorities as these type of "no physical harm to them" type of crimes often escalate into full-blown attacks or abuse. I really hate seeing this type of thing in our industry, let's all do our part to keep things above board.

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Alexander Petrenko's picture

Don't work alone? So, I have to find a nanny for every business portrait I make?

Robert Nurse's picture

I think the gist of the article is about men photographing women: particularly younger women. If your female clients shoot with you often, you may not need a "nanny". But, if not, it's a good idea to have someone with you just for the sake of covering YOU. The advice above is sound. I've shot nudes before. But, with ONE particular model who's an adult and actually models for a living. Even when I first photographed her, I brought along a close female friend to sit in. After our relationship developed and she realized I was all about the work, did we subsequently do shoots alone. Whenever I shoot women, I always give them idea samples of what I envision before we shoot and NOTHING ever deviates from what we've discussed. If the samples include nudity or partial nudity, I leave it to them to choose. If she wants to try something, fine. Otherwise, no way, no how! I just want to avoid the "creepy guy" reputation.

Bill Larkin's picture

That's exactly the way I work. I do have some that I work with that I know personally now, and that's fine because we are comfortable. Bottom line, be and act professional and make your model feel comfortable and of course, never press for something more than what was discussed. I'm quite surprised how often this occurs.

Robert Nurse's picture

Good article! Before shooting my first fine art nude, it was suggested that I bring someone along just in case. So, I brought a close female friend. That advice was sound then and remains so.

Glenn Weaver's picture

"Don't work alone with a female client/subject, especially if you are a man"

As a legit photographer who shoots fashion (albeit not particularly well) how does shooting one on one make me a creep? Is having someone else there the only thing holding me back from abusing a model? Or maybe I just wouldn't abuse one anyway..?

Christian Santiago's picture

So just because I have a penis and a home studio I need to have a shaperon for my shoots? Talk about a generalization. Does one perverted photog have to spoil the whole bactch?

Bill Larkin's picture

The point was that sure, you may not have bad intentions, but what is the view from the girl's perspective. It's about how we present ourselves and sometimes the way we see ourselves is different from the way a young girl might see us.

Glenn Weaver's picture

Yeah but we're talking about (mostly) grown ass people that have had the chance to vet a photographer by their work beforehand. To see that they have shot models before, even contact those models to see what it was like. It's not exactly asking a random chic back to your place to get changed after the pub.

Anonymous's picture

Mostly good advice except for this:

"Don't work alone with a female client/subject, especially if you are a man. Also never deny a girl being able to bring someone to a session."

Sorry, I'm not Mike Pence. I'm a professional, I work with professionals and I maintain a professional environment. You would not bring a friend to any other job and the same goes for when a shoot. If the model really wants someone else present I'll suggest they hire a stylist I have worked with in the past if one is not already scheduled. I'm not having any idiot to stand behind me next to a pile of expensive gear that can fit into a pocket or purse.

I'd rather just get references.

Kirk Darling's picture

From what I've heard from a couple of recent clients, the gender/sex of the photographer is no longer relevant to the general advice to "have a third party present." It's apparently good advice these days regardless of the genders/sexes involved.

A B's picture

So I recently started checking this blog. Aaaand, well, wtf is this?
Most articles here are written for clicks, and would most likely do more harm than good to anybody naive enough to take them seriously.

How about this: Pay professional models professional wages through a professional agency. Be a professional photographer with a professional business and a professional book. All you horney model mayhem chain wearing cigarette smoking rebel shooting D-bags can go to hell

stir photos's picture

This happened to me a while back...

I was shooting with an assistant (really just a friend) and a model. Random dude makes his way to me and starts chatting me up... At first it was straight forward enough... "Oh, hi, this is a cool little set-up here, cool. Are you shooting for something?" My response was something like, "Hi, just a personal project, not really looking for any attention since we're almost done so, if you could just give me a few more minutes, that'd be cool, thanks." Here's what he said... hahaha....

"Yeah, no problem, hey ummm, the model looks good; Hey, umm, can I take her with me, I'm a photographer also and I'd like to get some shots at my hotel?"

Even if he wasn't a complete pervert, he was at least super creepy...

Jayson Carey's picture

THIS. There are a shitload of creepy photographers, way more than you even think. All you have to do is go on any city's facebook model pages and you'll see a ton of girls that would do anything to be a model working with dudes who only are doing scantily clad/nude shoots for no reason and with zero skill. There are even "classes" for these photographers that brings a group of them together to shoot these same "models" in bikinis or lingerie. It's super fucking creepy.

Simon Carter's picture

I'll add another one: don't refer to women as girls.

Sebastian Petersen's picture

Have the other side of the story, too: Once a female client hit on me and wanted a lot more than just photos. I declined and she throw a tantrum... Since that point I allways shoot new female clients or models only with my assistent on set.

Stephen Fretz's picture

Yup, women can creepy too. . Another good reason not be in a "your word against hers" situation.

Remember: the right a jury trial has effectively been abolished in the US. A DA can massively overcharge you to force you into a plea bargain. Google "trial tax" and suddenly feel very very paranoid.

Sebastian Petersen's picture

Good thing I live in germany, tho :D

Ann Quimby's picture

shocked that there are people that are objecting to this. it's a regularly recurring complaint that some photographers hit on their models. or worse. there have been photographers that have raped and murdered their models. that you can google. it's better for everyone if you take sensible precautions.

Bill Larkin's picture

Absolutely, I'm a little shocked too that people object. It really seems like common sense.

Nicolas Crevier's picture

Typo in the first bullet point: "please bring someone else, but insist they still bRing someone"


Bill Larkin's picture

thank you. fixed.

Don Risi's picture

I never, ever photograph a female, regardless of age, alone unless we've known each other for several YEARS. If it's someone I have never worked with before or don't know well, either I will bring a lady along or I'll insist the model bring a lady friend along. I've been doing this a long time, and I've never had a problem.

And for Alexander -- Yes, find a nanny for every portrait, business or otherwise. It's just the wise thing to do.

Krista Bergeron's picture

Just wondering, does anyone consider it creepy if you're a new photographer at 46 years old and facebook friend request every female model half your age even if you don't know them personally? Seriously looking for an honest, unbiased opinion here. Thanks!

Ryan Davis's picture

I don't think it's creepy, but I wouldn't imagine it would be very useful. I would expect FB to be even more flake prone than model mayhem.

Aaron Ashley's picture


Aaron Ashley's picture