Monday, August 6, 2012

Ground rules

Christopher Lee Donovan [who's fucking awesome], New Hampshire, 2011
Sometimes at shoots, photographers [usually newer photographers] have asked me nervously what it is that they should avoid doing so as not to alienate/offend their models.

The answer to that is easy--common courtesy--but also a bit complicated, since standards and opinions are wildly different from model to model--but in general, I don't think it's something photographers should have anxiety about. At least, not any more anxiety than anyone else would have about treating any professional relation well. Models are included in "anyone else", of course--models shouldn't get to be jerks, either.

As long as you try to be courteous and communicative [communicative is a big, big, big one--don't spring surprises up on the model when she GETS there: "Oh, by the way, I was hoping to do erotic work," or "Oh, by the way, you should have worn long pants, we're going to a tick-infested location," or "Oh, by the way, I hired a body painter--what do you mean you have another shoot right after this one?" Tell her all of that shit BEFORE the shoot].

I think it's important for models to be able to stand up for themselves given the inherent risks [and bullshit] of the profession--but I also think it's important for models not to offend too easily. But some are more sensitive to certain things than others, of course.

But there are some subtler things that simply haven't occurred to some photographers, so for the benefit of both photographers and models [at least I HOPE this list might benefit someone], I'm going to list a few things that are good precautions to take if you don't know what will/won't offend a certain model [obviously if you know her better and KNOW what she does/doesn't mind, then following some of these guidelines may not be necessary, but they're a safe starting point for a first-time shoot]:

0. If you want to explore an edgy concept, let a model know BEFORE you schedule a shoot--first thing--and accept "No" if it's her answer.
Here's the catch: this applies EVEN IF you've seen a few erotic photos of her before--or even many. If she doesn't explicitly market herself as specializing in "erotic nudes" or "adult work", then don't assume she'll be down to do anything, anytime. Maybe she's got a new boyfriend, or trying to redefine her image as a model, or discovering religion, or whatever.
Generally, it's a good idea to suggest edgier concepts with models who have ALREADY met and worked with you at least once--they've already got a gauge of who you are and how they feel about you, and are more likely to accept.

1. If you're having her wear something, please, please make sure it's clean.
I was recently asked to put on some lingerie by a photographer, and when I took a look at it there were some...ahem...leftovers on the panties. Not something I particularly wanted to slide into. And the photographer reacted to me pointing it out to him by BLAMING THE LAST MODEL who had worn it and being all grossed out. Don't do that, either--it's not HER fault--just fucking wash it! Jesus! The end. Would YOU want to wear some other guy's skid-marked underwear?
I'm not a huge stickler for hygeine--other than lingerie/panties, as long as a garment doesn't completely reek, I don't care whether it's been washed--but I know some models only like clean wardrobe/bedsheets/etc., and will only wear tights that have just come out of a package.
Same goes for make-up, by the way--if it's been all over one model's face, you're probably best off just giving it to her. Make-up can accrue some nasty bacterial shit. Some models care, some models don't--but it's just respectful and plain NICE to not push the model into an uncomfortable position if she DOES happen to be one who cares. Just ask her to bring her own makeup, or get some cheap shit or a make-up artist. Or go makeup-free [I'm not wearing makeup in about 80% of my photos, and no one seems to mind]. The alternatives are endless.

2. When it comes to flattery, be tactful.
Many models like it when they're told they're pretty and so on [some don't, but whatever]. I am never offended when someone makes a nice offhand remark about my appearance and says I have nice hair or a good figure or whatever. That's all fine and dandy.
But please do not ANALYZE a model's anatomy out loud during a shoot--you wouldn't do that to the barista at your local coffee shop, so don't do it to a model you've just met, either. Just because she's agreed to pose nude doesn't mean she'll be any less uncomfortable/annoyed/whatever if you decide to rip off your filter. Please do not start comparing a model's boobs, out loud, to the boobs of other naked models/women you've seen. It's creepy, it's rude, and--trust me--no one cares.
I've been told, "You've got the best boobs of anyone I've shot!" and I've been told, "You know, you've got an INTERESTING look, but I don't think you'll attract much of a market as a model," and everything in between. And in neither case were the comments at all necessary.
Criticizing other models doesn't make it any better: "Your abs are hot! You wouldn't believe all these models who come in and they look thin in their photos, but they've got these fucking tummies on them..." I cannot stress how little I care about the presence or absence belly fat of other models--and it makes you sound like an asshole, frankly.

To be continued in my next entry [Monday] an auto-updated entry, because I'm going to be backpacking in Yosemite and will be civilization-free for a glorious eight days! Booooo-yah!

I'll even be modeling a bit while I'm there. Hah. 8B

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