I recently released a series of interviews with models talking about their careers, how to stay safe in the modelling industry and what photographers can do to make them feel safe and comfortable.

Interview with Jess May

This is a guide to safety for models. I’m sure there’s much more a model can do to stay safe but I wanted to list a few things that are often talked about.

You can watch the interviews by following the links:

If you have anything I could add to this guide, please send me a message!

Check their work

Make sure you check their work. This is a screenshot of my Instagram

If you are going to shoot with a photographer you yet don’t know, make sure you check their work. Is it of the quality you want for your portfolio? Does it look professional? Does the photographer have a professional website? Are models tagged and credited on their social media? Is their style something you wanna do? If they are asking you to shoot a certain style, is that prominent in their portfolio?

There is no point going to a shoot with a new photographer if their work is not up to your standards or their style doesn’t suit you or the proposed shoot. Don’t expect all photographers to have websites, of course. If you are working with amateur photographers, they most likely not have one. That doesn’t mean they are bad photographers or perverts, it just means they don’t do photography as their job.

Still, check their work.

Don’t think the photographer’s gender is a safety net

Yes I understand some female models might feel a bit more comfortable with a female photographer some times. And that’s ok and the models’ choice. But don’t believe for a minute that because you are shooting with a female photographer you shouldn’t follow as many steps to stay safe as you can. Yes there are more weird male photographers than female ones but there are also way more male photographers than female photographers, period.

I have had at least two reports of female photographers acting inappropriate towards a model. Nothing compared to the dozens of reports I had about male photographers, but then again, there are more male photographers.

Be very clear about your limitations

Tell the photographer/team what are you willing to do and what you are not comfortable with doing. If you let everyone involved what you will do in the shoot and what you will not do, you have more chances of not getting in a situation where you feel you have to do something you don’t want.

And if you do see yourself in a situation where you’re not comfortable, walk away.

Get as much information about the shoot as you can

Ask as much as you can about how the shoot is gonna go; who’s in the team? Is it just you and the photographer or is it gonna be a big team with hair & makeup, stylists, designers, assistants, etc. Check everyone in the team to make sure you are comfortable working with everyone involved.

What is the concept of the shoot, how is the shoot schedule? If more of a creative shoot, is there a mood board?

How is the photographer/team’s communication? Where are the images gonna be used?

Ask away so you don’t get any surprises later.

Do your research

If you’re not getting enough information to make you feel at ease, you should probably not agree with the shoot and pass. But if you still really wanna do it, do a lot of research. Who is the photographer? Who are all these other creatives in the team? Check who they worked with in the past and, again, their work.

Ask other models

Mixy S and I posing for 888’s sign with my photo of her face

As part of your research you should ALWAYS ask for references. Go to their social media and message the models they worked with before. I have never met a model who said they mind getting messages from other models asking for references. Models know the dangers of the industry and they are always ready to help. Just a simple “hi I’m a model based in XX and am organising a shoot with photographer X and I noticed you have worked with him/her so I thought I would ask you how it is to work with him/her as I haven’t met him/her before”.

Don’t ask one model, as quite a few! Especially the ones that seem like they only worked with this photographer once.

Take someone with you

Taking someone with you to a shoot is your right. If you haven’t worked with a photographer before and can’t get enough information about them and their reputation, take someone with you.

A friend, your partner, a parent, another model. But always let the photographer know you are taking someone with you. This way the photographer can be prepared (there could be space limitations for more people in the studio, or the location, etc). If the photographer says no to your request to take someone with you, cancel the shoot.

Some photographers might not like a “boyfriend” in a shoot and if that’s the case, say you’re gonna bring your friend. Every time you talk about bringing someone to the shoot, pay attention to the photographer’s reaction.

For example: I always agree and even encourage the models to bring someone to the shoot, but I limit to ONE person. I don’t care who the person is, but only ONE person. My home studio is quite small and the more people in here, the harder it gets to work. But I would never say no to that. Great friendships between me and models’ boyfriends started BECAUSE they came to the shoot!

Trust your instincts

If something feels out of place, it probably is. If during early communication stages you get a bad vibe from the person you’re chatting with, it might be a good idea to pull the plug already.

If you go to a shoot and don’t feel comfortable about something, trust.your.instincts!!!

Shoot in public places

Mixy S in a very public place

You should be ok to go to a home studio after doing all that due diligence, but if still not comfortable working with that photographer you haven’t met yet and you don’t have anyone you can bring with you to the shoot, maybe shoot in open public places first and even a few times before going somewhere you don’t know.

If something feels too good to be true…

If you get a message from someone with an offer that’s so good you feel you can’t refuse, you should be very careful.

Try to see it this way: if you’re just starting out as a model, why would someone come to you with an offer that looks like a fairytale, or just about to make all your dreams come true?

I have seen beginner models almost falling for the “I notice you and would love for you to come to America to model for our brand”. I mean, really? Do you really believe someone will find a beginner model on the other side of the plant and spend a fortune to fly you there to model for them? In America???

Speak up

If you are in the shoot and you don’t feel comfortable about doing what you are being asked, tell them. Some times someone in the team might ask or say something they believe is very simple without realising how uncomfortable that could make you feel.

NEVER be afraid to say NO

This is where most beginner models get caught up. They are afraid that if they say NO to something being asked, they will get in trouble, or not get any more work or shoots. And that is very wrong. If you are asked to do something you don’t want to, just say no. Again, maybe the people asking don’t realise you don’t want to do that, so tell them. If they ask again or start pushing, then it’s time for you to walk away. Don’t be afraid to do that.

And if someone says “you have to do it if you wanna make it as a model” it’s also time to walk away. That is something shady photographers used to do a lot (and a few still do) to try to get you doing something you don’t want. Well, it’s not true. You DO NOT have to do something you don’t want or feel you’re not prepared to do so yet, and you can still make it as a model. Making it as a model is about the look the industry is currently looking for (trend) and your attitude, not about how much skin you show in your photos.

Build a trustworthy network

Annaliese M, Mixy S, Alison W, Bruno Domingues, Sim L, Holly May, Chris E | Photograph by Naomi Joy Photography

Surround yourself by people in the industry you know and trust. You might know anyone at first, but as you start working with different people, stay close to the ones you like and feel comfortable with. The ones who’s work and attitude you like.

This way you always have someone to go to when you’re not sure about something.

Photographers you liked working with or heard amazing things about; hair & makeup artists working in the industry (they see more stuff than you might think); other models… find people you like and trust, and stick with them, let them know you’re there for them and they’ll be there for you as well.

Remember to always have fun!

Isobella M, wearing a strapless top and shorts for this image

I think this covers quite a bit, but if you have anything else I could add to the guide, let me know! Now go out there and find awesome people to work with and have fun!