Please note that this was written in 2004 and much is no longer applicable today.
I wish I’d had a primer on this when I started so that I wouldn’t have wasted so damned much time ironing out various details with photographers and men who called themselves photographers.
Starting Out Online
Get a different e-mail address than the one you currently use, reasons for this being: you’ll get a lot of mail, which, if you reply to any of it, will very quickly lead to spam. Some people will Google your e-mail address to find out who you really are and what else you have done in life. Best to differentiate, always.
Use a “stage name.” If really attached to your name, keep the first name and lose the surname, or whatever, but don’t use your real name. Reason for this being people Googling you, and stalkers. Even if exchanging e-mails, people often reveal themselves to be creepy well into several days of communication, and if they have your real name, trouble can ensue. Don’t bother paying for an account on any modeling portfolio site. When you first sign up, a free account and recent photos you that you feel best show you off are all that you need. Oh, and your stats. The bio portion is really just for people to brag about how great they are; it’s essentially a cover letter for your modeling resume. No one really cares, and few people ever read it (sad but true – I wish they did read it, as it would save a lot of hassle).
In your stats there are places to check off what sort of modeling you want to do. Most offers are for nudes, porn and fetish, also sad but true. Certainly 90% of all paying offers are for such. If you are willing to do the aforementioned, state very clearly what you are willing to do in your profile. For example, if you check off some form of nudity, explain what you’re willing to show, what your limits are, etc. For fetish, keep in mind that there are LOTS of fetish photos you can do that do not include nudity, so, for example, if you’re willing to do foot fetish, check off fetish and then state “foot fetish, no nudity,” o whatever your limits are. Foot fetishists pay EXTREMELY well and there are tons of them out there, particularly, for some reason, in Pittsburgh. Also in your profile, state very explicitly whether or not you are willing to “do” video, ie, make a video or allow the photographer to video the photo session. If you check off “adult,” make sure to be explicit as to what sort you are willing to do: softcore or hardcore, b/g or only g/g, etc. Another very important thing is to state your policy on “implied” nudity. If you’re not willing to outright do nudes, a lot of photographers will still be interest in implied, which basically means that while the photographer may see your tits, ass, etc., they won’t turn up in the photos. Such examples would be naked and lying on your stomach, under sheets, in a bubble bath, or other forms of obscuring whatever you don’t want to be seen. (I generally have a “no cellulite or stretch marks” policy, for example!)
Until you build a portfolio of some sort (at least four pro photos for your OMP page at the least), most photographers are straight up not going to want to pay you for your work. They’ll want to do “TFP,” or Time for Prints. This also translates to Time for CD if the photographer uses a digital camera. Get some prints to build your portfolio and then see what you can get. It’s best to work with at least two photographers in order to get your initial profile going, in order to show you in two different styles. (Not just “casual” or “lingerie,” but the style of the photographers can translate as very different things, and two different photographers are likely to show two very different sides of you.) Most photographers who don’t do nudes or fetish expect to be paid by YOU in order to work with you. Nude and fetish photographers will pay YOU to work with them (and most will pay an inexperienced model with few photos as models are harder to come by in those fields). If you’re doing this for money, don’t pay anyone (duh) to take photos of you. A lot of people say that’s necessary to start out, but it simply isn’t, even if you don’t ever want to do nudes or fetish. Simply hit up an art school or other various novice photographers (lots of places online to look for those) who are looking for models for projects in exchange for copies of their photos.
State in your portfolio whether or not an escort (male friends are best as male photographers like to say that significant others get in the way of shoots by distracting the models, and female friends are often pressured into being one of the models instead of being an escort – it is very, very important to have an escort of YOUR choosing who will NOT be modeling with you, because if anything, well, legal should come up, they are able to be an actual witness instead of another directly involved party) will be present at your shoots. I state that an escort will always accompany me, but in all honesty, that’s mostly to weed out the majority of the creeps from the start. I just don’t have anyone, male or female, who can accompany me to most shoots, and as a result I have had a few icky in-person experiences (though nothing too severe). I really don’t recommend this, and I urge you to not do this, especially if you’re doing porn. A model was murdered just this past winter in Pennsylvania while meeting with a new photographer and his female assistant. Both the photographer and assistant are up on charges, and while actual murder is rare, sexual harassment is not. Frequency of worse things falls in between.
Pay Rates – Yes, No, How Much
There are no standard rates, contrary to what some people say. Every model and photographer has their own thing depending on their experience, talent, and limits. Feel free to set your own rates at whatever you want, but many photographers will turn you down if it is out of your range. Photographers in different areas will pay different things depending on styles, experience, cost of living in that area, etc. For example, a small town away from major metro areas will usually get low pay due to the photographers like not making any money on their art in their area, as well as lower paying day jobs. In a large metro area, pay will also be lower due to there being many more models (supply and demand). A small metro area, on the other hand, will likely get the most amount of money due to small town art scenes supporting smaller photographers, moderate cost of living and moderate pay scale. In NY, non-porn pays crap unless you’re fashion runway material. In DC the pay is mostly from traveling photographers, porn, and the occasional “book work” or “promo work” to lend your face to small alternative fashion, beauty, and lifestyle businesses. (Some places pay you to come to parties – just to show up at them and look good, mind you – but the parties are generally dull things at boring bars or clubs, at least here in DC.) I didn’t expect it but I get paid the most in Pittsburgh out of everywhere else due to there being a thriving art scene without a lot of fresh faces to act as models.
The above being the case, my general pay rates are as follows [Note these rates were as of 2004; please up your rates accordingly]:
If the photographer provides a stylist/wardrobe, $50/hr for partial nude, $75/hr for full nude.
If the photographer does not provide a stylist/wardrobe, $75/hr for partial nude, $100/hr for full nude. If I am expected to bring wardrobe or accessories, this should be discussed extensively ahead of time as to what items and in what styles I should bring and if I will be financially compensated for anything I do not already own.
Fetish pay depends entirely on the fetish, what the photos are for (personal “use,” publication, artistic purposes, resale – hint, personal collectors pay more, publication pays okay, resale only pays if one of your images sell – and stock photography, which rarely pays unless the images are a bit racy, and here you have to be careful… more later.)
Make sure to decide what rate of pay you desire only AFTER looking at someone’s other work. For example, I’m a real whore about this. If their product is nothing that interests me, I ask for the most amount of money that I think the photographer would pay (a great way to figure this out is when replying to their first e-mail, ask what THEY pay per hour – and please note this is very much an issue of phrasing, because there are photographers who will infer from your language that YOU are offering to pay THEM). If I like their product in terms of “yeah, it would be okay, but it’s not going to break my heart to not do it,” then I ask for a moderate rate. If I really like the work and think it would look good in my portfolio, I ask for a combination of pay and copies of a few of the best photos. The best combo I have found is to ask for $100 for two hours plus three individual shots of your choosing from the session.
Communicating With The Photographers
You will have to use your real name when signing modeling contracts. Always use your own contracts and have the photographers sign them! Don’t leave without an original copy with the photographer’s signature on the document. Using your legal name here is a must, so include a clause in your contract that states that the photographer will only use stage names and not your real name in association with your photos. More on contracts later.
Once a photographer has contacted you, make sure to run a background check on them. Namely, look at their OMP profile. Is their work something you want to associate with? How many different models do they have photos of? Look at their “Acknowledgments” section of their OMP to see if their models coincide with the acknowledgments. If so, that’s a good sign. If the photographer isn’t someone whose reputation you are familiar with through friends, scene, or whatever, then make sure to get three references from them. Your best bet is to choose three models off their acknowledgments. Use OMP to e-mail the models, saying you’re interested in working with so-and-so, who the model has linked to, and you would like to know what the model’s experience with the photographer was. A lot of models have started marking their acknowledgments as “Worked With” as anyone can leave an acknowledgment complimenting the photographer’s work. Note: there is no way to leave a public negative comment, so while some models mark “Worked With” in terms of “I worked them, they suck, and I won’t compliment them,” some only mark it to differentiate from random commentary – that’s why actually contacting the models is important! Some models have also started including an actual list of the photographers they have worked with in their profiles, and then putting next to the photographer’s name **** to indicate a bad experience (it says to e-mail the model for details) or *** to indicate that after however many months that photographer still has not fulfilled their part of the TFP agreement by delivering the photos. I try not to rely on references that come by the way of “contact this model, she’ll tell you about me” if I don’t know the model(s) because it’s so easy for photographers to only recommend the models they had good experiences with. Since I can’t bring someone with me, I always tell Will the arrangements in advance and leave a note with the photographer’s real name, the address of where the shoot will be, how long the shoot is meant to last for, and the photographer’s e-mail address/OMP number and web site. I also call him or the home answering machine IN FRONT OF THE PHOTOGRAPHER (and if it’s the answering machine, I act like it is him) to check in when I arrive and right as I am leaving. Maybe a bit overcautious, but it’s an old sex worker’s safety trick, and it’s kept me safe during work and one-night stands alike, so I swear by it.
I have a little form that I send to photographers to try and make the intro process run faster so that I don’t waste an hour responding to e-mails only to realize they want something I cannot or will not give. Most photographers rarely actually fill it out – I wish they would, but what can you do? I get frustrated with the many one sentence replies to eight questions, and in all honesty, I tend to brush those people off as their lack of detail not only bugs me but makes me feel as though they are not approaching me seriously and professionally – it may be porn, but it’s still meant to be professional, whether it is amateur or not!). This is the form:
- When contacting me, please include the following to ensure a faster response:
- Your full name and name of production company if applicable;
- Date, time, length, and location of proposed project;
- Description of assignment, including whether a stylist and make up artist will be provided;
- Your desired purpose for the photos;
- Web site with samples of your work in the style in which you desire to work with me;
- References from other OMP or genre established models;
- Your desired compensation for the project.
I always use my own to attempt to keep from motherfuckers trying to jerk me around with copyrights and delivering my images in a timely manner. Every reputable photographer I have worked with in this manner has complimented me on the contracts and thought they were great; they have not had a problem using them. When there is enough of an opportunity, I e-mail the contract to the photographer before the shoot so that we can go over it and make any necessary changes. It is important that both parties agree with all points in any contract (duh)! If using their contact, ask to see it BEFORE you start shooting, but don’t sign it until AFTER you are done. If you feel uncomfortable with the shoot, don’t sign the contract and they can’t legally use the images (I’ve only had to do this once). If you don’t like anything in their contract, cross it out and get the photographer to initial your changes.
Contracts are lifesavers and you can put any manner of detail in them. The first page of mine is pretty much the standard Photographer Release that you can find anywhere on the web, except the language is altered to make it a Model’s Release. I have also included a clause about never releasing my legal name (at least it’s an attempt for protection and legal grounds to sue upon release of your real name if you ever want to a public career). The second page states that the photo shoot is in exchange for X (TFP, combo, or pay, with room for exact details), and allows ample space to describe the shoot. It is important to describe the shoot as you may authorize photos from one shoot to the next with this photographer under this contract! Therefore, if on another occasion the photographer obtains photos of you that do not match the description in the shoot, the photographer does not have any legal rights pertaining to those photos without an accompanying release. The release (contract) also states who has ownership and copyright of the photos and what purposes the photos may be used for. I state that my photos will not be sold as or to stock photography agents, companies, dealers, etc., to ensure that there will never be any photos of me in lingerie in a City Paper sex line ad, or as a poster girl for “Don’t risk it, get tested for herpes!” on billboards across the street from my father’s office!
After a few e-mails, arrange to meet in person with the photographer before the shoot so that you can make sure there is a comfort level. As immodest as I am, there have been a few times where my nudity made me uncomfortable due to the environment of the shoot, or words or actions from the photographer. Those times were all ones where I did not meet with the photographer prior to the shoot. If meeting in people is impossible due to time or travel constrictions, at least have a conversation on the phone before scheduling the shoot.
At The First Photo Shoot
When you get to your first gig, a lot of photographers will ask to see photo ID; some may copy it or take a photo of it. This is standard procedure to cover their own asses in terms of underage models.
No matter how ridiculous you think it is, bring a bag of supplies with you. Several changes of clothes, hair products, mirror, full make up, make up remover, accessories, aspirin and any other medicine you ever find yourself using, nail file, tweezers, maps, plenty of spare change and emergency cash, umbrella, raincoat, small towel, any props, concealer!!!, small sewing kit, bottled water/juice/energy drink, fruit/protein bar/little snacks, fully charged cell phone, a changing robe or gown, slippers, fully charged digital camera and laptop if you have them, blank CDRs, at least two copies of your contract, your calendar/Palm/whatever, two pens, tampons, moisturizer… I just named most of the things I can think of that I have ended up needing off the top of my head due to emergencies and whatever else. Other things should be added at will.
Drink lots of water the night before the shoot (even if the shoot is the following evening). For at least two hours before a shoot, do not wear tight clothing or anything with an elastic band such as socks, tights, panty hose, undergarments (no shitting), or strappy shoes. The clothes WILL leave a mark on your skin, particularly if you are moving around or start to get nervous, because your skin swells when hot. If you do end up with marks, the best way to get rid of them is to take a hot shower and massage the marks under the water. When you get out, massage a nice cream or moisturizer into them, and drink more water. Everyone’s skin varies, but even my gimpy body returns to normal after 30 minutes of the above.
Arrive to the shoot with your hair and make up done; your photographer will appreciate this immensely. Touch ups on set are fine, but don’t get there thinking you’ll have a mirror and enough time… usually not.
Don’t expect any privacy in terms of changing your clothes. Another sad but true, as most places (at least in my experience) and photographers are used to not only a lack of inhibition but also quick changes, and of course, nudity, nudity, nudity! I’ve only had a few photographers watch me (in an unprofessional manner) while I have been changing or during a shoot, and they are not the norm. In most cases, there is just one room and nowhere to change (count your blessings if there is a modesty curtain).
Find out before the shoot what the location is like, and be sure to check the weather. I have lost count of the number of concrete floors in an unheated or under-heated space that I had to stand naked on for hours before I learned to find out in advance. This is why slippers and robes are good (not just for modesty!). Also keep in mind how hot photography lights are if you are lucky enough to be working with a photographer who uses them! Bring water, wear sweat proof makeup, bring a “sweat towel” and even a small fan if you think it’ll be necessary, but make sure to check that the place you’re shooting has electricity! On the reverse side of the coin, I once ended up at an indoor/outdoor shoot in 40 degree weather, and we didn’t figure out where the one working electrical outlet was until halfway through the shoot – two hours without a space heater! You don’t want this to be you; all the models and photographers got sick right after the shoot. So check in advance, and if there’s electricity and the weather is extreme, seriously consider a small fan or space heater.
After The Shoot
Two weeks is a reasonable amount of time to have your photos if you’ve done a TFP. (Make sure to get paid at the shoot if you’re getting cash, and don’t take checks!) I prefer shooting with photographers who use digital cameras so that I can get my photos right away onto my laptop (tell them in advance to bring their camera cables). This saves the hassle of trying to track down photos and photographers later on.
Treat after a shoot like a date – if it went well, follow it up with an e-mail saying thank you, had a good time, blah blah blah, feel free to use me for references, etc. If it didn’t go well there’s not really any need to follow up.
Don’t leave OMP feedback until after you’ve received your photos.
Other Things To Consider
I recommend getting a PO Box. You need to include an address on any contract, and if you’re not receiving pay or photos on site, then they have to mail them to you (meeting in person to get the photos is rare). For conditions of privacy, anonymity, safety, etc., a PO Box is a beautiful thing. Never use a work address. I discourage a home address due to safety reasons. A PO Box is also great if you move a lot or are planning to move at some point in the future.
Most contracts want a phone number. I generally leave it blank. No one’s ever had a problem with that.
Don’t give anyone your social security number. Photographers do not need to ask that. This income doesn’t get claimed on taxes (particularly nudity or porn!) unless you are with an agency or are pursuing it as a full time profession, so don’t worry about it. If a photographer wants your soc, tell them to suck your dick.
There are lots of different model portfolio sites for lots of different things: art, nudity, commercial modeling, etc. Most of them are free. I’m sending a list of those as well. It’s best to pimp yourself out to as many places as you can handle. Just make sure that you are able to run background on photographers from every place you look at, and make sure none of the sites publicly list your e-mail address. They should all launch a form in order for people to contact you, and the form should not show where your e-mail is being delivered to.
The search engines on OMP and other sites yield great finds, though for some reason not all photographers come up on the searches. Looking at both model and photographer profiles and then following links to other members is the best way I have found to discover the people I want to work with. Livejournal also has some okay communities for photography and modeling.
If you plan on featuring your modeling information on a web site, keep an eye on what information you post on it. For a while I had things other than modeling specifics on the same site as the modeling, and I started getting a lot of creepy e-mails from people who read the writing on my site. After those little peeks into my soul, many of them felt it was okay to ask me on dates or out for drinks, proposition me, tell me that they shared my views on sexuality and that we would therefore have wonderful chemistry, tell me that my lover didn’t appreciate me so they were going to kill him and then fuck my brains out (you may recall this guy, dumud on Livejournal), or generally worship the ground I stumble over. Eventually I just ended up having to abandon my name in its entirety, pick a new one, and set up shop under that without having any ties between my “normal” life and my “modeling” life, except in private conversations with people that I know. Your mileage may vary, of course, but goddamn, if you can avoid it from the start, I encourage you to do so.
On A Personal Note / Summary
This really is hard work, especially if you want to be good at it, make money off it, or build a positive name for yourself.
I work myself into a bad pattern with it due to low self esteem; I don’t handle criticism well even when it comes in the form of a disgruntled “this is clearly not your pose,” “try covering your stomach/thighs/ass with your hands,” or “are you going to put on your makeup?” (when already wearing my makeup) comment from the photographer.
Most photographers I have worked with (seems to be a common trait, that or I’m just really shitty and communicating myself) seem to have a real problem communicating exactly what they want the model to do in front of the camera (exact tiny movements of the head to the left, no, MY left, no, down, no, a little more of a tilt…). I get frustrated by the inability to be articulate with commands very easily, and obviously, as the model, I can’t see what is working and what isn’t, so I don’t know what to change unless the photographer tells me straight up. I get discouraged at photographer’s little comments, when I feel I have put a lot of effort into something only to not get the desired outcome (photos or pay that is equal to the shoot).
Since starting to model again last year I’ve suddenly discovered at least twenty new things that I don’t like about myself that I never even noticed before, and now I find myself constantly thinking about getting countless plastic surgery procedures done in order to correct certain trite flaws such as the tiny beauty mark on my finger that looks like a speck of dirt.
For all the time spent watching my diet, rebuilding my wardrobe, worrying about zits and the shape of my eyebrows, “maintaining” my image (nails, eyebrows, moisturizing skin, exfoliating, shaving, hair, exercise, sun block, staying out of the sun, drinking enough water), suffering up weather conditions at shoots, sweating under the hot lights, having a physical relapse (fatigue; severe pain in knees, back, thighs, calves, arms, neck) after almost every shoot, following up on e-mails, keeping my info updated, juggling schedules, etc., I could be… well, shit, I don’t know, and I guess that’s the problem.
For all the fun that it occasionally is, and the even rarer but incredibly stimulating self esteem boosts and fanning of the ever burning erotic flame of exhibitionism, I honestly don’t know if it is worth all the negative aspects. As art, if it’s what you want to do, then, well… I’m of the school that thinks you have to suffer for your art, so I say go for it. As an income or a supplement to income, I find it to be an unreliable and extremely uncomfortable pain in the ass, but then, as a very ungirlie tomboy who has no idea how to do makeup or put an outfit together, it’s particularly hard for me. I’d like to be a girlie-girl, so I keep trying (and generally keep feeling like I just want to hire a stylist to give me a makeover and show me the correct way to make myself look decent).
Also, the money is DAMN FUCKING SWEET for what little the time put into it seemingly is. IE, a two hour shoot may yield $150, but in reality, probably a night of nightmares, an average three hours or so of prep and follow up work, and two to five days of physical recovery (the latter probably not being a problem for you) goes into it. Considering I only make $15 an hour at my “real” job, which generally only yields 10-15 hours of work a week, $150 additional is needed and appreciated. Any good photos for my portfolio are, at the end, the icing on the cake and a reason to celebrate. I wish in all honesty that I could do this with pure intentions, to not stress about it so much, to just enjoy it and get great art out of it, but it’s just currently not that easy. And the self esteem sky rocket that comes with a few good pictures is unbelievably addictive – far better than any other high I have ever had.
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