Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Ground rules [part II]

Photographer and fellow model CarlyErin O'Neil from when I last visited her and Ted Wulfers in Los Angeles, 2012
Continuation of last entry's rant. 8]

3. Keep in mind that traveling models often operate on a tight schedule.
In my experience, most models while traveling consider a "three-hour booking" to mean "the clock starts when I walk in the door, and ends when I leave" unless otherwise specified in advance. There's pressure, when traveling, to book as productively as possible--we're far from any secure home base and we may only be in your city for a couple days, having paid airfare or spent a lot of time and money on driving.
I've had photographers leave me in their homes or studios so that they could go run errands, or who have taken phone calls that weren't urgent...and then return, assuming that I'm going to stay later to make up for the loss of shooting time. Unless we're on an extremely flexible schedule [like I'm crashing at your place and have nowhere to be for the day, and a way to entertain myself], I'm not. In many cases, I CAN'T, whether or not I want to, because I have another appointment after yours.

"Three-hour booking" doesn't mean "three hours in front of the camera"--unless I show up and you instantly whip out your camera. You're paying for my time--how that time is SPENT is your choice. I show up to a shoot, ready to be productive for the entirety of the shoot--I don't get on the Internet or take phone calls.
If you MIGHT need more time, say so: "Hey, I know we said three hours, but I might need a bit longer--can I pay you for a three-and-a-half hour booking instead of four hours?"
If there's a very long commute/hike involved or a lot of preparation, that's PART of the shoot time you're booking me for. I may be happy to negotiate my rate to something lower if a large part of the day will consist of being in a car or going on a nice hike or sitting around getting dolled up--but I DO need to know in advance how long the ENTIRE shoot will take [especially for things like make-up--so that I don't wind up having another shoot scheduled for later that day with a photographer who wants me to show up with a clean face]. Or maybe you think it'd be nice to get a meal together before/after the shoot--that's totally fine, and of course I won't charge you rates to take me out to lunch, but I STILL need to know about it, in order to see if my schedule can account for it.

4. Let the model know in advance about tag-alongs

Fairly innocent mistake--and personally I am almost never bothered by this, because usually the people who come along to a shoot are really awesome, whether models, photographers, assistants, spouses, designers, etc.

However, some models are not comfortable with being surprised by extra company. Think about it: she's a girl, traveling alone, possibly without her own transportation, meeting you for the first time, and you drive her to some location and there are a bunch of your people there and she's alone and now she has to be nude and model effectively while they all watch.
And I WILL say that I have had a couple of incidents where a photographer brought a friend whom I really, really, really wished was not there. Bringing another photographer is fine with most models, but some models have different conditions or different rates for shared shoots--and some models just plain don't like it, period, so clear it with her first. Same goes with bringing another model--I love meeting other models. I DON'T love showing up to a shoot where some model is there, and it's assumed that I'll be down to do erotic work with him/her, even though nobody asked me. Don't assume anything!

And please use good judgment--if you have some buddy who gets overly excited about the idea of you photographing naked women, do NOT help a brother out by suggesting to him that he tag along to your next shoot so he can witness some T&A in person. Especially if he manages to scare off all the ladies when you two go bar-hopping together. He may think you're awesome for it, but the model probably won't.

5. Don't touch the model without her permission.
I feel like this one should be obvious, but sometimes even the most well-intentioned photographers breach this without thinking about it.

Some models are fine with you adjusting them, and perhaps even welcome it. Others absolutely do not want to be touched, which is not too hard to fathom: you're alone together, likely in a place familiar to you but foreign to her, she's nude, and she's trusting you, so take extra caution to respect her boundaries.

It's really, really important to ASK [not TELL--none of this, "Hey, I'm going to just brush some dirt off your butt, okay?" and then doing-it-before-she-has-a-chance-to-answer bullshit]. And don't just ask her once if you can move her foot and assume that her saying "yes" is a green light for you to later adjust her however/whenever you'd like. Ask each time.

Try to avoid making adjustments, anyway--if you start offering to brush her hair off her chest when she can just as easily do it herself, or to bend her leg when she can just as easily do it herself, it generally comes off as you trying to come up with excuses to touch her, whether or not you mean it that way. If she's in a compromised position [like she's in the PERFECT position except for one tiny thing that she can't easily adjust on her own, or she's tied up or something], then of course it's reasonable to politely ask if you can make the adjustment.

But here's another way to think about it--part of working well with models is in YOU learning how to give good verbal directions to them. Giving direction is not something that comes naturally to everyone. How can you cultivate that skill when you're just reaching out and yoinking things into place, instead of communicating?

I'm hoping these all sound like commonsense ways to handle working with someone for the first time--it's basically all like that. If you are honest, open, and considerate--and respectful of a model's right to say "No" to anything she's not comfortable with--then there should be no problems [at least not on your end--I can't speak for all models, but the ones I've met generally tend to be pretty cool ladies].

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