My last shoot with a model—whose patience and willingness to explore her and my artistic scope was a very pleasant and creative experience—also brought with it somewhat of a shock. I had to drive her from Brisbane City to our home, which is in the Sunshine Coast Hinterland, as I was going to do a lot of interior shooting and aircon was a definite bonus, given the temperature and humidity still lingering despite it being March.
This gave us time to talk and get to know each other a bit better. I also casually asked her to please remind me to get her to sign the Model Release form I had prepared for our work.
In response I got a blank look and, after a moment of two, a hesitant question as to what I was talking about. Some more querying brought to light that, despite a significant number of TFP shoots she had done, she had yet to encounter the concept of a Model Release, and much less signed one.
This is, to say the least, shocking. More than that, actually. I asked her about the kinds of TFP work she'd done—she's from overseas and wanting to gather a local portfolio, so that's all she'd done—and, predictably, most of it was your typical 'body' shoot. Pretty girl, possessed of great natural elegance, in bikini or or otherwise scantily-clad, and usually on a beach. Oddly enough, many TFP models appear to expect nothing more, especially when they're getting started and just want a portfolio.
I've been fortunate that those who replied to, and followed up on, my call for book cover models, are quite different; each in their own way, but they all have that certain something extra that will eventually take them ahead of the pack. In that way I count myself very lucky for having found them and been able to work with them.
However, the young woman sitting beside me in the car didn't have a clue about what a Model Release was and why she should have signed one—and read it carefully before signing! So I explained it at length and when the shoot was done, we had two signed documents, one for her and one for me.
An outline of my policy regarding shooting and Model Releases is available here.
Advice to Models
Never ever—under any circumstances and no matter what you're being told, and whether you're paid or not—go on a shoot with anybody calling themselves a 'photographer', without, preferably in advance, having read and signed an Model Release, clearly spelling out the terms of the shoot and the rights to the images, and possibly payments, that will be taken of you.
If you do, you only have yourself to blame for any exploitation of the images taken of you, and over which you will have ultimately no control. You'll be better off not going on that shoot, even if it looks like you're missing out on a great opportunity to get some portfolio images. Think of the long term and don't let yourself be suckered by weirdos hiding under the label of 'photographer'.
Any photographer, male or female, who doesn't produce and get you to sign, either on hard-copy or electronically, a Model Release, is almost certainly one or all of the following:
- Just plain unprofessional. (And that's the mildest epithet I can think of.)
- Stupid. (Because ultimately Model Releases also act as protection for the photographer!)
- Creepy—and should probably be avoided at all costs, especially if the shoots are of scantily-clad women.
Be warned. Be wise. Some apparent benefits really, really aren't worth the potential risks.