It hasn't come up in class yet, but the concept of "working" with models will, inevitably, raise its head , and Sam said I should discuss it here.
I've had the privilege of working with some world class models, and some models who had never been in front of a camera before. In this "semi-essay" I'll discuss my thoughts on the subject.
Akin to the "Everyone with a phone is a photographer these days" debate, many - many - people think they are models. They think it is about being moody in front of a camera and raking in thousands of pounds for their effort.
From some 300 shoot experiences, I beg to differ. A "Model" is a hard working creative person who adds to the project. A good model will add to the project, while a bad model can destroy it completely.
I've worked with maybe 6 models who I regard as "Excellent" and would work with them at the drop of a hat. About 50 more I would enthusiastically use again, and that leaves about 200 who I'd work with if the circumstances were right, and about 44 who I'd rather gnaw my left foot off than shoot with again. Blunt, but true, because I'm a blunt and truthful sort of person.
It sounds disparaging to say about 1/6th of models I've worked with I wouldn't work with again, but it's just a fact of life. Either "We" don't Gel, they're late or no-shows, they're arrogant, they only have one look, they expect control over the shoot (When it is not a TFP / collaboration) or any other reason that just makes it awkward.
Fashion and Glamour photography is a creative process, it involves ethereal processes that the photographer and model go through. If they are not in harmony, they won't create the best.
I suppose, at this point, I should explain what I am looking for when I cast a model...
Let's imagine someone has come at me with a project. Needs a model - who I can cast myself. Here is how I would progress...
Talk with the client about what they're looking for. Now, taking a leap of faith, let's imagine we've come up with a general outline of the physicality of the model. Remember, modelling is outwith the Sex Discrimination Act. I am quite within my rights to state I'm looking for a 5'10" female blonde with large, natural breasts...
As long as the concept fits my spectrum, I'll consider the casting process...
NOTE: I will not cast models who I consider to be unhealthily thin. My choice. My shoot. My rules.
I will fix a budget, and explore the "legitimate" modelling sites. NOTE (2) It is an unfortunate fact that there seems to be a "cycle" of the sites being flooded with escorts. A site that was great 10 years ago may now be virtually useless because "models" are simply escorts looking to make "extras" - And equally, some sites are filled with photographers looking for such "models," so that is a fact of life.
From there, I'll search by:
Levels: This is THE most important thing. I hear it all the time from models. They're booked for fashion, and the photographer is immediately after them to go topless, etc. THIS IS UNPROFESSIONAL AND UNETHICAL BEHAVIOUR AND IS NOT SOMETHING I CONDONE IN ANY WAY. If I need a topless (Or higher) model, I'll state it in the casting call. Simples. I'm not shy about it. In fact, I'll often cast for the next level up than is needed, so contingencies can be coped with. (Simple example. A model is doing a shot where her dress gets wet... Nipples show... OH dear. That might cause concern for a fashion model, but not a glamour model. Better to pay £5 an hour more than have half a day wasted...
Experience: The more experienced model that fits the budget, the better. This however, works well, because I find an experienced model "produces" more good quality work than a less experienced model in the same time. The online portfolio of the model will show her expertise (Or should). Look, see, read her abilities, decide. Someone with a few selfies on their profile will unlikely fill you with confidence, no matter how beautiful she is.
Cost: I seldom do TFP (Time For Prints) I believe a model should get cash money for her efforts, or at the very least trade of some sort. Cost vary. I always ask for 4 hour and day rates, because hourly is not long enough, and from four hours up, you usually get a discount. I WILL Do TFP / Collaboration if the model approaches me, but not for a set shoot, where I am directing the theme.
Distance: Some models can travel quite cheaply, but others seem to want a chauffeur driven Bentley everywhere. I will check travel costs, and offer those.
Those were the tangible truths to the business. Looks, Experience, Levels, Price.
From there, you need to explore the intangibles.
How enthusiastic is this model?
How creative is this model?
Can she be "made up" to look different in set from set?
Will I get along with her?
Will she get along with me?
Will I get the end product from her?
And, an important part of this comes down to SSC - SAFE, SANE, CONSENSUAL. This permeates all I do.
HORROR STORY: I occasionally "rig" for suspension (The model is tied and suspended from the floor). I can do it, or I can photograph it. I CANNOT and WILL NOT do both at the same time. Ropes can slip over pressure points and nerves, and the rigger MUST continually be checking for safety. you cannot rely on the model to vocalise their distress. It is one of the few times you MUST touch model. You must feel for cold spots developing, for numbness (Scratch her if you have to) and continually access her level of coherence. I can't safely do that while wondering if F/14 is the best aperture, and should I maybe move a light for a better effect...
I had a model who badgered me to do some suspension for her portfolios, and I repeatedly refused. Eventually, she went to someone else, who suspended her and took the photographs - and left her left arm paralysed for two years.
CONSENSUAL: I'll be honest with my models. Many photographers won't. They'll book someone for fashion, and try to push for higher levels. I don't believe in that because consent should never be exploited. Yes, the model has consented to pose for you - to her limits - but that does not mean you should coerce her beyond that.
HORROR STORY 2: A model I knew did a CFNM (Google it) with a photographer for a favour (and some extra cash to pay bills). It was intended as a one-off, but the photographer wanted it again... And again, until it was effectively a blackmail situation. She eventually outed him, but it had an effect on her and her family.
HORROR STORY 3: A model - who openly did quite high levels - was asked by a photographer to perform oral sex on him. She refused. Now, as we all know, not every image a photographer takes is glamorous or highlights the model in the best way (She might sneeze, have tummy folds, blink, etc.) and so he uploaded all of those photos to his page, and the model portfolios page, and slagged her off non-stop... The result was a severe dip in her (already fragile) mental health, and she committed suicide.
So, that is how I consider shooting with models. SSC at all times. Don't try to "push the limits" and respect her creativity at all times.
I am also Confident / Brash / Arrogant enough to not hide behind things. I'm not going to get embarrassed to do nude / Continental - or even hard core (Just not at Uni, thanks very much). BUT, I'll cast for exactly that. Not try and coax / coerce a naive young model out of her clothes under the pretense of "Art."
Obviously, there are different scenarios.
Within the Uni, most of the models I've met are inexperienced, and need directions and a level of control that I would put at "quite strict". I'll feed them concepts (Like the SCi-Fi shoot, where we discussed her being a cyborg from another planet, etc.) and the Zombie shoot. That is not a million miles away from how I would work with a pro. The differences would be in the additional creativity that the "pro" would bring. Her own ideas, her own facial expressions, her own outfits and thoughts.
I'm going to leave this here. I've booked models and studios for beginning of Feb, and I'm looking into making a short film about it...
Well. Here goes. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.