If you are looking to make a start in the modelling industry - even if only as a hobby - then there are some unspoken rules which you are really going to want to avoid breaking. The problem with unspoken rules is just that - how are you supposed to know what to do if no one ever tells you? Here I have assembled a list of some of the things that you do not want to do in the modelling industry if you want to succeed. While not a comprehensive list, these are the things that could prevent you from having a career in modelling before you have even started.
1. Don’t Let People Down
This is one of the most important things that you have to bear in mind when you begin modelling, and you should continue to observe it throughout your career. As a photographer, I am often booking models, make up artists, and even clothing labels or stylists on a TFP basis. For those who don’t know the lingo, that means Time For Print, or in other words, you’re working for the images and not for pay. For some models - even those who I have agreed to pay travel expenses for - this seems to translate to “casual work”. Some will not turn up on the day, and will not even leave a message to say that they have a sick aunt or can’t start their car or whatever other excuse they could easily have come up with. How big of a problem is this? Well, if I want three models for a TFP shoot, normally I’ll book six. That’s how big.
But what happens to the people that let me down, without bothering to so much as send a message? First of all, I’m never going to work with them again, even if they are the perfect fit for an upcoming shoot. Second of all, no one else at that shoot is going to work with them again. Third of all, in the future, I will on any appropriate occasion mention their names and talk about how they let me down to warn other people of them. Finally, if there is any way I can leave public negative feedback for them, I will do it.
Can you imagine what kind of an impact this might have if you do it with the wrong photographer? “TFP” does NOT mean amateur, and a lot of big name photographers will do test shoots before shooting the real campaign, whether for a magazine editorial or an advertising run. Word spreads fast in fashion, and if you are known to be unreliable, no one will touch you. Outside of big cities such as London and Manchester this is even more true, as a smaller pool of creatives means more likelihood that before long, everyone in your area will have heard about you. It screams “unprofessional”, and also “I don’t really want to be a model.” A simple message on the morning of a shoot is a must, and even then you should consider to yourself whether you really could manage to get there after all.
2. Don’t Waste Peoples’ Time
When I post a casting call, I can expect to get in the region or 30 or more messages from models all vying for what may only be one position. The first thing I do to narrow people down is to test whether they have actually read the details of the casting call - and it would surprise you to know how many don’t bother.
Here are some examples of ways models have wasted my time after fully arranging a shoot: announcing the day before that they cannot travel to my location and did not realise how far away it was; asking for payment even though I have clearly stated it is TFP; asking for travel expenses despite not knowing how much it will cost them to travel; cancelling because they didn’t realise how long it would take to travel; refusing to have glitter put on their hair despite the shoot being advertised as “glitterbomb”; turning up at the wrong place and expecting me to come and get them (even though I don’t have a car); deciding to quit modelling without telling anyone; and the list goes on…
I also frequently get messages from people saying something along the lines of, “Hi, I saw your casting is TFP. If you don’t manage to find anyone, my rates are £100/hour and I’d love to be involved”. Honey, if I don’t want to pay anything at all, I’m certainly not going to be paying you £300+ for a decent shooting time. This kind of message is not winning anyone a shoot.
If you’re applying for a job, read it once and then read it again. Unless you know when it is, where it is, and what pay is involved the first time, those should be your first questions. A lot of modelling sites have a “message history” function, so it’s not like I’m going to forget that you’re the one who wasted my time and forced me to recast a shoot at the last minute.
3. Don’t Be A Prima Donna
Even if you’re Kate Moss - and you are certainly not Kate Moss - you are still there on set to do a job, and particularly if you are being paid for it, now is the time to be humble. You do not make demands - I had one model who insisted on taking a break every ten minutes for coffee, and who sent back that coffee to ask for it to be made again with a different amount of sugar, despite the fact that she was sitting next to a guy who was having half his body painted and who did not complain once about not being able to move. If you are difficult, I won’t want to work with you again!
You also have to do the job that you signed up for. Remember the one I mentioned above, who didn’t want glitter in her hair? That’s what she signed up for, and if she didn’t want it, she shouldn’t have accepted the job. If the casting says nude or implied nude, you better be comfortable with that. If the job requires you to stand outside in the cold in December wearing a tiny designer dress, then it’s time to man up and embrace the cold. Your shoot team should look after you to a certain extent, but being a model does not mean that the world revolves around you all of a sudden. “Model behaviour” might be covered widely in the press, but that doesn’t make it normal or accepted. When you’re on set, you’re a professional, so you need to act that way.
This applies for the rest of the team too. The people who are friendly, easy going, and hard working are the ones that I always want to work with again, and when that paid shoot comes around, their names might be on top of my list.
4. Don’t Compromise Your Limits
That being said, there is one thing that you have to be careful of, and that’s being pushed into things that you don’t want to do. By now most of you will be aware of the controversy surrounding Terry Richardson, who is alleged to have coerced several models into appearing nude or engaging in acts of a sexual nature during photoshoots. How could something like this happen on so many different occasions?
The sad fact of the matter is that a lot of models can feel as though they have to do whatever is asked of them, even if they are not at all comfortable with it. This is not the case, and it’s also worth considering very deeply whether a career in the industry would be worthwhile if it was the case. If you do not want to do nude shoots or implied nude, make that clear. If a photographer asks you to do it anyway once you reach the set, tell them no.
If you are not sure, the best policy is to take a chaperone with you to the shoot. This can be an older family member, a partner, or even just a friend. A reasonable photographer should be fine with this.
5. Don’t Let Fear Prevent Success
When you’re taking part in a photoshoot, you only have one chance to get it right. If you later decide you could have done better, it’s too late! That is why it is important to go all out on the day. If you’re shooting on location, there may be other people around who are not part of the team - in this case, it’s important not to feel shy or let that hold you back.
Similarly, you may be in situations where you are cold, or hot, or have to get dirty. So what? If it gets the perfect shot, then it’s worth it to feel uncomfortable temporarily (so long as you do not have to go past your limits, as above). A model who has a can-do attitude and is willing to try just about anything to get the shot will certainly be appreciated and respected by a whole shooting team. Not only that, but the next time a “difficult” shoot comes along - which may come attached to a big pay cheque - your name will be remembered.
These simple rules will prevent you from making big mistakes as you begin your modelling career - and are not to be forgotten in the future either, no matter how far you go.
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