Protecting Yourself as a Model
How to Keep Yourself and Others Safe
With the internet making it super easy to connect photographers and models, anyone can meet up with a stranger and have no idea what they’ll be like.
I’ve been working with photographers for over five years now (not even joking, I've probably shot with thousands), and have established a code for what determines whether or not I’ll meet up with someone. With the majority of photographers I meet being from online, it’s SUPER IMPORTANT I practice extreme caution always when scheduling shoots.
I’ll start this by saying: the vast majority of the people out there are amazing. So many of collaborations ended up in friendships and amazing memories (and some pretty cool art too) and there are tons of amazing photographers out there that greatly outweigh the bad.
However, there’s always a couple bad apples that can ruin it for everyone else, so by always using extreme caution you can prevent these rare, but serious, situations to keep the industry safe and fun for everyone.
By knowing what the red flags are, you can prevent a situation from escalating into something more serious.
Here are my biggest safety tips for aspiring models, moms and dads with daughters trying to get into modelling, and concerned friends. Although most of these are very rare situations, it’s important to be aware of what to do if one arises.
When a photographer contacts you, if they are serious, they will always do so in a professional manner. Even if it’s a DM, they should introduce themselves and let you know their intentions. If a photographer starts my sliding into your DMs with “hey,” “looking hot,” “sexy,” or “wanna collab?” I immediately disregard them. I know it may be harsh, but I've come to a point through experience that it's worth risking missing out on one good talented photographer by not responding, than having to tip-toe through a slurry of sketchy ones. A formal message is a good sign, but a conversational plain, “hey” or commenting on your appearance can be a red flag and personally I ignore those messages.
When talking with them, ask what they want to shoot, or what the plan for the shoot is. They may let you help plan it (fun!).
If you are under 18 and a photographer is asking to do lingerie or sexy shots, please report them as this is not normal. If you are over 18, be confident in saying what you ARE and ARE NOT comfortable in. If you are comfortable shooting lingerie, great. If you don't want shoot lingerie, tell them right away, and if they try to argue it or convince you otherwise, you likely should not work with them. A professional photographer will always be respectful of your boundaries and wants.
Be prepared to provide a portfolio for them, but they should never ask for nude or lingerie photos, even if they "want to see what your body will look like for the shoot" before it happens. If they do, block and report them. You should never be required to send promiscuous photos.
As you should be able to provide a portfolio to them, they should be able to do the same for you. Often their Instagram should be enough, but if some of the photos look off or like they may be using someone else’s images from online, don’t be afraid to ask for more. Be aware of people posing as photographers without a large Instagram following stealing others’ photographers images or stock photos from online to look like you took them. If they get defensive or aren't able to do so, that's a massive red flag. Keep in mind: it's easy to be able to screenshot another photographer's image and pretend they took it, so see if they can provide more from the shoot.
When planning to meet, ask if you can bring your dad (or another strong male figure, if you don't have one, even a friend will do in a pinch). Even if you don’t end up bringing them, a photographer should always feel comfortable with you bringing someone else there for your protection, especially if you are underage. Often, they'll respect you asking as it can show you're serious about the shoot. If they show apprehension to you bringing someone else to accompany you, I would cancel the plans and not go as this is not normal.
Make a plan. Organize in advance with them what outfits you will bring and where you will meet.
This is my personal favorite way to quick-check a photographer: Reach out to at least three models they have worked with (and tagged on their page) without telling the photographer, and ask the models how their experience was. Was he safe? Did you feel comfortable? Would you recommend him? How would you describe working with him? For the most part, girls will have your back. They don’t want you to be put in a bad situation and will give you an honest testimonial. If they’re glowing reviews, great. If not, don’t waste your time hoping your experience will be better.
Also note: Just because a photographer has a big following or is well known doesn't mean they're safe. Sometimes photographers will abuse their power in these positions and take advantage of lesser-known models so be aware of this and don't assume because they're successful means their a good person.
IF YOU GET A BAD VIBE, LISTEN TO IT. Intuition is your best friend. Follow your gut. If you have a bad feeling, listen to it and don’t feel obliged to carry through.
Okay, so he checks out online and you’ve decided to actually meet up.
I always always always recommend bringing a friend for the initial meet-up. Two is better than one, but sometimes this isn’t always possible.
If not, do this:
Share the full name of the photographer with a friend and when/ where you are meeting, and when you will be back. Always meet in a public place (not a house) and spend some time in public (for example grab a coffee to talk over details for the shoot) before you change locations. Don’t ever go anywhere private, secluded, or unknown for the shoot. If you need to drive to another spot, follow in your car, don’t get in theirs, and only do so if it was part of the initial plan.
Turn on “Find my Friends” so your friends can follow along to make sure you’re following plan. Have one of them call you if they notice it changes to check on you. Make sure your phone is charged and nearby always.
Have one of them scheduled to call you 15 minutes into the shoot as a check up. In this case it’s okay to lie and say it’s your mom and it’s an emergency and you need to answer. Have a code-word in case something is going wrong like, “I ordered it yesterday,” in the scenario you’re scared to say things are going bad with the photographer nearby and pretend you need to run out because it’s an emergency. If things are good, it’s still always good to have someone check up on you.
DURING THE SHOOT
Have fun with it! You can make your best friends doing shoots with them. If you have a gut feeling things are off, it’s okay to wrap things up and leave.
Be confident and always speak up. I’ve heard tragic stories of girls who were coerced into doing things they were uncomfortable with or regretted afterwards because they didn’t know how to say stop or know if it was normal.
If you’re not comfortable, say that out loud and confidently. Don’t be scared to say no, or if something isn’t in your comfort zone. If he asks for you to take clothes off and it wasn’t planned, say no and wrap the shoot up.
A photographer should never make any sexual advances on you. Ever. If he does, leave immediately and tell someone.
Stick to the plan. Speak up if you notice it’s changing. Text a friend to call you if you need a quick out.
A photographer may compliment you and be flirty to make you feel comfortable in front of the camera, but know when it crosses a line. Know your boundaries, be aware of them, and always stick to them.
If things escalate, call law enforcement if you feel unsafe or at risk. Protect yourself. If you were able to safely leave, always report the incident.
Lastly, if you had a bad experience with someone, tell someone. Understand it’s likely not just you in that position, and by sharing with other models you are protecting them from that individual. It’s nothing to be ashamed of, even if the photographer makes you feel bad about it or like it’s your fault, and you have power to prevent other girls from being in that same position.
At the same time, if someone is wonderful, tell others!!! Recommend trusted photographers to others so they know who to work with.
The photography/ modelling world is a wonderful sphere and can be so much fun to get into, whether you're planning your first shoot or if you've been doing it for years. The first step to having fun with it is protecting yourself so it's a safe environment for yourself and others. Follow this guide and you'll be golden.
Happy shooting! Be safe and have fun with it, I'm so grateful for all the wonderful people I've met with this, including my best friends.