When preparing for a career in modelling, thoughts of personal safety tend to get bumped down the list.
But when starting out, any offers from photographers or clients can be overwhelming and it’s easy to let your common sense take a back seat. However, it’s during these initial assignments and bookings that things can go wrong – unless you go prepared.
First off, the basics: whether you’re going to a casting or an actual booking, take your mobile with you and make sure it’s fully charged with plenty of credit. It’s not only in case of emergencies, but for when you find yourself running late, or worse still, get lost. If you are already signed with an agency, store their number on your phone. If you’re flying solo, a smart phone is a good investment. Not only will you be able to find phone numbers while on the go, don’t underestimate the value of being able to google maps when you’re hopelessly lost. Harness technology to work for you: in a tricky situation, it can be your best friend.
When preparing to travel to an unfamiliar location for a casting or shoot, do some groundwork first. Look up the venue and plan your route beforehand, allowing for traffic (especially during peak times) and delays if you’re using public transport.
If possible, take some cash for a taxi, and if you’re really unsure about the journey, do a dress rehearsal. Travel to the venue a couple of days before, at the exact time you will be going on the day itself. It will not only give you a chance to scope out the venue, but will ease any travel stresses on the day itself as you’ll already know where you’re going.
It should go without saying, but wherever you’re headed, tell at least one person where you’re going, and crucially, when you expect to return. Even sending a quick text when you’ve reached your destination and another when you’re about to head off home isn’t a bad idea either. It may sound OTT but it’s essential that as a working model, you take your personal safety very seriously.
If you are invited to a shoot at a venue other than a professional studio (eg: a home studio or hotel), take a friend or relative with you. A professional photographer won’t mind you turning up accompanied, although unless you’re under 18, don’t expect to have your friend sitting in on the sidelines cheering you on!
Always check venue details when dealing with a photographer / client you haven’t worked with before. Any client or photographer that is reluctant to offer up such information should ring serious alarm bells in your head. Any legitimate client / photographer will be happy to pass on and confirm details, so don’t feel self-conscious about asking for them. They will take your attention to detail as a sign that you’re taking the shoot seriously before the first picture has even been taken – not bad as first impressions go!
Of course, awareness of safety also means knowing who to trust and who to be wary of. Especially as a new model, the amount of information you’re expected to take on board can be exhausting. If you’re in the position that you are receiving offers from photographers via email, again you can use technology to help you.
Check the email address carefully. Are they using a free email service (eg: Yahoo or Hotmail)? While it is entirely possible that a legitimate photographer has a Hotmail account, it is more usual for a photographer to make contact with models and clients via a business email address. If this is the case, they often include a link to a website of their work: go on, get nosey and take a look. It will not only give you an idea of what the photographer is like, but who they’ve worked for in the past. Don’t be afraid to check credits and do a little sleuthing. Again, no legitimate photographer will be remotely offended by you taking a closer look at his or her credits. In fact, if you like what you see, you can even score brownie points by mentioning a particular set of pictures when you meet. There isn’t a photographer alive who doesn’t like hearing that their work is appreciated.
If a photographer sends you a vague email with no substantial detail in it apart from the shoot itself, be on your guard. Normally photographers will quite readily list their previous experience and credits as a matter of course. If they are a relative newcomer to the industry they will probably say so. If the email you’ve received is suspiciously vague and you can’t get any further information, it may be time to do some fact checking. In these cases, always trust your intuition. If the situation feels wrong, don’t ignore it: do some research and equip yourself. In the world of modelling, knowledge is power.
Assuming you’ve checked and the photographer is the genuine article, what’s next? It’s always a good idea to check the terms of the deal being offered to you. Sometimes you will be offered something called a TFP (Time for Print) deal. All well and good, but what does this mean?
This is where a photographer and model reach an agreement where instead of payment, the model gets a set of prints for his or her portfolio, and the photographer gets permission to use the photos for their own portfolio and publish them for commercial purposes. No money exchanges hands, but it is pretty much a win-win situation.
There are no standard terms for a TFP shoot, but these guidelines are a good place to start:
- After the TFP shoot, the photographer will ask the model to sign a release form. This is a legal document agreeing that the photographer can publish and use the photos.
- In exchange for this, the model gets a licence, granting them use of the same photos for their portfolio (told you it was a win-win).
- Finally, if you are under 18 at the time of the shoot, a parent / guardian will have to attend the shoot and sign the form on your behalf.
You should also be aware that the photographer will be responsible for handling additional costs such as location permits, plus studio and equipment rental. That’s why with TFP, a photographer is allowed to recoup their expenses by being able to use the photos for commercial benefit.
With all TFP deals, models are expected to meet their own transport costs and make these arrangements themselves, but if you get a stellar collection of shots for your portfolio that leads to paying jobs, that’s no bad thing.
Starting out in modelling can be a daunting prospect, especially when you’re not sure about what your responsibility is and what isn’t. Prepare and plan: do as much research as possible as this will help you be clear on when you’re being offered a great deal and when you’re being taken for a ride. If you’re really stuck, Models Connect has a section on how to avoid modelling scams at http://www.modelsconnect.net/modelling_agencies/scams.html
Safeguarding yourself personally and financially is crucial if you’re to avoid some of the pitfalls of this industry. But if you’re ever unsure about what to do, listen to that little voice in your head. It’s trying to tell you something very important.