For every model, especially the ones like myself who use Model Mayhem to find freelance work, safety is a major concern when it comes to meeting new people for shoots. But does that mean we’re going to stop shooting? No. We’re just going to be smart about it and take caution. In this article, I’m going to outline some of the things that I do to ensure my own safety when meeting new people in the business.
1. Take a long, hard, critical look at the photographer’s online profile .
If you found the shoot opportunity in a casting call on Model Mayhem or a similar site, or if you’ve been contacted by a photographer and asked to work together on a project, you want to make sure that you study that photographer’s page from top to bottom.
Look through the portfolio. Are there a variety of different models and are they credited underneath the photo, with a link to their profile? It’s usually a good sign when the photographer/make-up artisit/stylist/clothing designer links the models’ profile to their photos, because a) it shows you that the models are real people – the photographer or other professional that you may potentially work with didn’t just steal the photos from someone’s page, otherwise the models wouldn’t be linked; it also shows that, b) this person has a network – they are established, at least in some sense of the word, and are not afraid to be open about who they have worked with. It’s also good thing when other models are linked because if your suspicious of this particular person, you can simply contact a model for a reference. Be sure to check out the pictures as well, not just who’s in them. If they’re mostly provocative/borderline pornographic, poorly edited, or otherwise extremely unprofessional looking, you may not want to work with the photographer. It could be just another “guy with a camera.”
Look through the online profile for links to other websites, online portfolios, and profiles. If the person you’re considering working with has a link to their professional page, business website, Twitter, Facebook, Google +, or anything else, look at each and every last one of those pages just as critically as you initially looked through their Model Mayhem or profile from the site on which they contacted you. Follow them on Twitter, add them as a friend on Facebook, and add them to your Circles in Google +. Now you can see what they’re up to from the day you start following them to the day of the shoot – and if it turned out to be a great shoot, they’re already a part of all of your social networks.
2. Read between the lines when communicating with anyone you may potentially collaborate with.
What are they asking you to do in the first place? If they want you to do something odd or something you’re not comfortable with, tell them no to that particular part or don’t work with them at all.
Did you say that you’re not comfortable with nudity or lingerie, and they’re pushing it by saying things like “How about implied nudity?” or “How about just a corset and lacey underwear?” If any photographer or other “professional” in the field is trying to push you to do something you’re not comfortable with, take this advice – move on and find a different opportunity with someone else! This is typical “guy with a camera” behavior, and even if this person is a real photographer, designer, or what-have-you, they’re clearly unprofessional. Do not work with someone who pushes you to do something you’re uncomfortable with!
On the other hand, if you told them that you’re uncomfortable with something that they were looking for and they still plan on using you for a different aspect of their project, they may very well be someone you’d benefit from working with. Just be weary, and trust your intuition.
3. Consider the location of the shoot.
If you’re making plans to shoot with someone you’ve only been in contact with online, it’s very important to consider the location where the shoot will take place.
Is the shoot going to be “on location” at a historical landmark or perhaps, a park? Shooting on location is usually one of the safer bets, as these places are often open to the public. If it’s an old dilapidated building, however, please take caution! Again, use your intuition. If the place seems a little odd, but it also sounds like a great concept and you want to go ahead with shooting, there’s no problem with that, just be careful. Consider bringing an escort.
Is it a home studio? Most of the time “home studio” means “I have a nice little room or corner set aside in my house and that’s where I’ll take pictures of you.” I know the opportunity may sound great, and I’m sorry to say this, but – this is creepy! Never, ever, ever go to a “home studio” unless you bring an escort. If the photographer/designer/whatever-the-person-does is uncomfortable with you bringing an escort to their home studio, say, “Then I’m uncomfortable with shooting with you in your home. I’m sorry, I can’t do it.” And please leave it at that.
Is it an actual studio? Studios are usually a good bet – the only drawback being that they’re almost always located in a bad neighborhood (cheaper rent), or anyway, that’s how it is in Philadelphia. When you get the address to this studio, you should probably Google it. Check to make sure that it’s in a busy area, not too bad of a neighborhood, or if the address is recognized by the search engine as a photography studio. If searching the address gives you something like, “South Studio” or “Photography Philadelphia” in any of the first-page results, that’s a really good sign that the opportunity is legitimate. But don’t just leave it at that – take that address, type it in on Google maps, and look at the “Street View” – it’s probably smart to check out the area before you head to the location.
Speaking of Google, this brings me to…
4. Google is your best friend.
Take just a few minutes to search for this person online. See what comes back both in the web results and the image results. Then search for the models, make up artists, and anyone else that they’ve worked with. Briefly look through all of these links, click on a few, and see where it takes you. See how these people appear to the rest of the world. If the photographer and their immediate network have a few professional looking results or links to other online profiles returned by the search, it’s a positive sign. You’ll want to re-think your decision to work with this person if they appear nowhere other than the site they contacted you on.
5. Always try to bring an escort.
If it’s okay to bring an escort to the shoot, it would be smart to do so. Ask your friends and family if anyone would mind coming with you to the shoot. Even if it’s not okay for you to bring an escort to the shoot itself, it does not mean that it’s not okay for you to have someone wait in their car outside the location. Again, ask your friends and family to see if anyone would mind sitting outside or in a lobby to wait for you. If it’s a paid opprtunity rather than TF, you may want to consider giving the escort a percentage of your pay for their time.
6. Bring something to protect yourself.
A little can of pepper spray or a small pocket knife is something that most people should be carrying with them in the first place, but if you’re not already doing so, bring one with you to meet this new person. Just because you have a pocket knife or a can of pepper spray on you does not mean that you’re planning on using it – it’s just a precaution! Do not feel “weird” about bringing something like this with you. Maybe you did all of your research and you’re bringing an escort, and now you’re thinking, “Oh, I don’t know if that will be necessary…” Maybe it won’t be necessary. Hopefully you don’t have to use it at all. But you’re meeting a new person from the internet, probably in a new place that you’ve never been to before, so just bring the damn pepper spray.
7. Let everyone know what you’re doing the day of the shoot.
This is a basic safety precaution for anything that you may do, but it’s especially important when you’re going to be shooting with someone new. Communicate with your friends and family by telling them what you’re doing and where you will be, at exactly what time you’re doing this, and exactly what time you’ll be done (if there is a designated end time). Give a person or two the address and tell them the photographer’s name. Post on Facebook and Twitter about the fact that you’re “headed to a shoot with so-and-so.” When you get to the location, tag yourself there on Facebook, and if you’re friends with the photographer at this point, tag them in the post as well.
Well, there it is, models. These are some of the things that I do to make myself safer when I’m getting ready to meet up with a new photographer from Model Mayhem. Don’t let yourself get stuck in an unsafe situation! Please take caution and use some of these tips! Otherwise, happy shooting and keep up the good work.
Cheryl Anne Molle is a paid freelance model who has been networking and finding work online for the past six years. Visit her site here for more articles about modeling.