Not all models flake. In fact, most don’t. But the flake rate with nudes can be higher than most, especially if you’re recruiting your models online. Sometimes it’s the photographer’s fault, for instance, for not giving enough details about the shoot until the last minute.
No matter where you recruit your models, a significant number of photographers complain about no-show models. I used to have the same problem, but not in the last several years.
In my experience, the following nine yellow flags precede 90% of all flaky models. By avoiding these situations you can avoid waiting for a model that never shows up. It’s been ages since I’ve had a no-show; more than 95% of my models show up.
No phone contact. Attempt a phone interview as soon as possible. If you can’t make a phone call happen, chances are a shoot is not going to happen either. Reduce flake risk by 15%
Here are a few tips I have on nude model booking etiquette that I’ve compiled. They apply pretty equally well to models and photographers. There are tons more, but this is what comes to mind right now.
Treat others as you’d want to be treated
Be upfront about your expectations
Be realistic about your expectations — don’t think you’re going to get everything you want out of every shoot
Don’t apply for a job if you don’t meet the published qualifications
Don’t take any flack; if someone is a jerk, politely retreat.
If you have to cancel, call ASAP and be honest.
Show up on time.
Don’t get upset if things aren’t going well. Either take it in stride or end the shoot if you can’t talk it out.
Marketing your work can be one of the most gratifying aspects of your photography experience, but it can also be labor intensive. In nude photography, it is especially important you have the appropriate permission from your models in the form of a model release that states how the photographs may be published.
A release is an agreement between a model and a photographer. The release can protect the photographer from claims of libel, slander, defamation, or invasion of privacy. It can also help avoid basic misunderstandings and give a comfort level to the use of a model’s photos, especially in the case of nudes.
Make sure you choose a model release that is appropriate for nude photography. See links at the bottom for samples.
As part of agreeing to a shoot, make sure the model understands your intended use for the photos.
Have the release ready after the shoot. Some photographers have the release signed before shooting, but I’m told this can put the legality of the release into question because the content of the shoot has not yet occurred at the time of signing, and therefore the model cannot take it into consideration.
Before presenting the release to the model, ask the model if she’s signed model releases in the past. If she has not, explain to her that a release is a permission form that allows you to use the images in the way you described when you arranged the shoot with her.
Present the release to the model.
Let the model know that she needs to fill in all blanks unless they are marked as optional.
If she has questions, do what you can to address them. It is rare that the model is not comfortable signing the release because permission to use the photos is something that should be discussed before the shoot.
Ask the model for government issued photo identification for proof of identity and age; make a digital copy of the ID with your camera.
Pay the model after she has signed the release. The payment is in exchange for her time and permission to use the photographs for the agreed purposes.
Here is a link to a sample of a basic nude model release suitable for printing and use as a basic agreement between you and a nude model. It is also a good idea to get a photograph of the model’s driver’s license for proof of identity and age. This release is provided “as is” without any warranty as to its usefulness for commercial work, completeness or appropriateness to your situation or location. Check with a legal expert regarding the laws of your particular location, especially as it pertains to nude photography.
Some photographers prefer to have the release signed before shooting, while others do it after. There is a chance that a release signed before a shoot may be not be legally enforceable since the model may not be able to consider exactly what photos she is releasing. I have the model sign the release after the shoot, and have not had a problem with a model release.
If you shoot models, you hate no-shows. Nude photography is no exception. Here are a few tips to help avoid wasting a bunch of time setting up for a model that flakes. Just one yellow flag doesn’t mean you shouldn’t book a model, but as you start to notice warning signs you’ll be able to get that “no-show” feeling before you actually commit to the shoot.
Look for models who have been shooting regularly and recently. You should see recent photos, from various shoots, over the last six months.
If the model hasn’t already done the kind of shots you’re planning to do, she may back out.
Get a phone number; confirm via phone 48 hours in advance – if you get no call back 24 hours before the shoot, don’t bother setting up.
If you’re booking really far in advance, make sure to touch base about a week or ten days before the shoot; people do forget things.
Avoid booking for times that are already hectic: holidays, finals week, when models may have other things planned or when things may unexpectedly come up.
Be wary of models who ask about money and nothing else; they may be booking several gigs and showing up to only the highest bidder.
Pay market rates. If the model finds out you’re giving her a raw deal, she may back out.
Try to size up how “together” your model is before booking the shoot. For example, if she plans to drive all night and sleep in her car to be ready for the shoot – you might expect a no-show.
Make sure the models see your work, and know how it will be used before booking the shoot. Having a killer portfolio doesn’t hurt either.
Be picky in selecting your models; choose them don’t let them choose you.
Be patient, sometimes legitimate problems come up; car troubles, love life, family, work, weather, health, monthly cycles, breakouts, etc. Even following these, you’re going to occasionally be frustrated by no-show models.
Establishing contact is usually the first step in recruiting a model. Contact can be established in a variety of ways. For example:
Cold approach (walking up to someone and introducing yourself)
A response to a casting call
A referral (someone you know, such as another model or photographer, suggests a new model)
The Cold Approach
The cold approach is often a very effective method (when done correctly, as many as half can result in a photo shoot). When making a cold approach make sure you select the location, a suitable candidate, and pick the right time. More of the selection process later, that is a different topic.
I’m often asked how I’ve convinced so many women to pose nude. The answer is: I don’t. There is no need to. The women I photograph are willing to pose nude before they even know I exist. The first nude shoot I did was a total surprise to me. The model just took her clothes off and stepped in front of my camera, ready to model. She simply assumed I wanted to photograph her nude.
The fact is, plenty of women want to pose nude for photographers, so you don’t have to convince them to. Not only have I photographed plenty of nude models, but they’ve shared with me their reasons for choosing who they pose for.
Some ideas to think about:
Almost all women who are comfortable with their appearance will enjoy being photographed.
The vast majority of the above women would be interested in posing nude at least once in their life.
Almost no woman would pose for something she considered truly embarrassing.
The observations above are based on my experiences and conversations with models. The notion that would surprise most readers is the second one. Among women who are physically fit, highly attractive, and enjoy being photographed, most would be confident enough and interested in posing nude one or more times in their life. The key concept is that they would do it at least once. So what about the rest of their lives? The times that are not one of those times they wanted to pose nude? Consider that women who model are being approached many times to pose nude; they sometimes say yes and other times say no. Although you don’t have to convince someone to pose nude, most models are discriminating about for whom they pose. You have to convince the model that you are worthy of working with.
Many women, many styles of nudes
Another reason a woman won’t pose is if she doesn’t feel attractive. Either she’s never felt confident enough to pose nude or she doesn’t feel attractive because of some temporary reason. Temporary reasons can come and go quickly or they can last a long time. For instance, if a would-be model is experiencing a problem with her complexion, she might avoid posing all together. It’s not that she doesn’t normally feel up to posing; but rather, her resistance is just temporary.
Sometimes external factors, such as what others may think of them, come into play. This could be judgment from religious people or family, or the envy of friends, for example. Worrying about the opinions and judgments of others is based on her self-confidence and feeling attractive. Many models are confident enough not to care that others may be judgmental or envious of them. Sometimes models are relieved to discover that their family or friends are supportive of their aspirations to model nude. Other times, they just choose to follow the beat of their own drum. This transition is usually a one-time event; once a model comes into her own and decides to pose nude, she has come to terms with outside opinions. So finding someone willing to pose nude is easier if you can find a model with nude experience.
Sometimes, a woman doesn’t know she’s ready to pose nude until she sees a fantastic image and is inspired to pose for a similar photo. Sometimes the image she sees is mine; sometimes it may be yours. In that case it’s likely she’ll seek out the specific photographer in hopes of getting the results she wants. Maybe it’s a sexy image or maybe it’s not sexy at all; maybe it’s deeply artistic or maybe it’s downright shocking. Different women don’t always agree on how they want to be photographed. A model’s self-image will not always fit with your assumptions of her, so you need to ask and listen. One woman may say yes to posing for sexy pin-ups and no to posing for more modest, artistic nudes. The point is your model imagines herself in the final image and that’s why she chooses to pose. However, if the model doesn’t think you can create the image or listen closely enough to her to understand her point of view, then she won’t pose for you. Hiring is a two-way street. Both employer and employee must have a common goal.
Having a varied portfolio can really help in this department. Stack the deck in your favor by showing a variety of your favorite nude styles in your portfolio. Remember your portfolio is intended to showcase the kind of images you want to continue to create. This will help recruit models that are amenable to your style and genre.
Many aspiring photographers ask me what to put in a portfolio. The answer all depends on your goals, but a pretty common goal is to recruit more models to shoot. Some photographers find it especially tricky to recruit models to shoot nudes, and often the portfolio is the weak link. I often see portfolios that indicate that the owners should have asked somebody for some advice, so this is for those who have not yet bothered to ask anyone.
What to include:
Recent photos (that usually means the photo is less than six months old when you add it. Try to remove anything that has been in your portfolio more than two years).
Photos that look like what you want to shoot. That means post models that you would work with again and in poses that you want to shoot.
Variety. If your portfolio is all of one model or one location, you will not look very accomplished or versatile. Show your entire range, within reason of course.
Consistent quality. Each shot should be as strong as the next. You can ruin nine good photos with one bad one. There is no need to include everything you have ever shot.
What not to include:
Stuff that is racier than what you normally shoot. If you normally shoot implied nudes, there is no reason to frighten off models by posting a bunch of full frontal or erotic shots.
Other people’s work. Only post your own work. Do not post other photographers’ images, saying that you would like to do “something like this.”
Tiny images. This offence is more common than it should be. Anything less than 600 pixels on a side is way too small.
Flash presentations. Unless you are trying to make your work unsearchable, stick to JPG images; not Flash.
The hardest shots to get; unless they truly yielded the best results. Just because you were standing on top of a flaming school bus, balancing on one foot, and tripping the camera shutter with your teeth does not mean that the resulting photograph will be interesting. Save good stories for story telling time, put good photos in your portfolio.
Self-portraits. Unless you are both a working model and working photographer, save the self-portrait for your “about me” page.
Recruiting a model for figure work can be tricky, even for someone who has been photographing artistic nudes for a long time. To better introduce the concept of recruiting, I explain the core recruiting activity in terms of five stages. They are:
If you skip or rush through any step, you risk not getting the booking. This happens to many photographers and they wonder if it has something to do with the model. In many cases it is a matter of not completing the process. Many photographers fail to secure bookings because the skip directly from establishing contact to getting commitment.
Establishing contact means meeting the prospective model and exchanging contact information. Just handing out a business card is not establishing contact. It is important to have the model’s contact information so that you do not have to rely on her to retain your information and follow up. If you make contact online, the exchange of a return email address is usually automatic.
Building interest is an often overlooked step. This can be as simple as showing some portfolio pieces to the model but it should involve more. You need to let the model get to know you a little bit. Nobody wants to work with someone until they gain a comfort level.
Overcoming objections is something photographers often engage in, but seldom in the right way. Objections are usually requests for more information or confusion about what you are proposing. The faster you attempt to get a model to commit, the more confusion you will encounter. The first step to overcoming an objection is to recognize it. Then you need to let the model know that other models had the same question. Finally, you need to explain how you will make things work out.
For example, a model might object because she does not feel she would know what to do as a model. If a model says this to me, I let her know that this is common among many new models and more than half of the models she sees on my website expressed the exact same concern. However, once they did a photoshoot, they found that it was easier than they thought it would be.
Finally, you must ask a model to committo booking a specific time and location. If you rush the model to commit, she may agree just to delay having to deal with you. You want a true commitment. A good first step in getting a commitment is to ask the prospect to come to a face-to-face interview.
I hope to write more on the above four steps in the future.
In general, I avoid using slang for body parts, especially if it’s considered vulgar. When talking to models or describing my photos in writing, I sometimes struggle for the right words. I’m not looking to be politically correct or please everyone, or I wouldn’t make nude photographs in the first place. However, it is important to show respect to your model and not make her uncomfortable. Of course the words that are considered acceptable or vulgar vary from person to person, region to region, and over time. Continue reading Talking About Body Parts to a Nude Model
This article is for photographers who want to get the most out of a photo session with a nude model.
1. Begin with realistic expectations based on your experience, the models available to you, and your equipment. Expect that your work will evolve creatively and improve technically, but at a moderate pace as you learn and grow.
2. Make shooting arrangements with a model. Preferably choose someone who you’ve already met and who has experience modeling nude or at least has experience modeling.
3. Make sure the model understands specifically what you want to accomplish from the shoot. Show her samples of the kinds of images you want to achieve. Images speak volumes more than words can. Preferably these images are from your own work, but if you’re beginning you might want to use examples from magazines, etc. If you plan to publish or distribute the nude images, make sure the model understands and agrees to this.
4. Make your own notes about what poses, props, lighting, backgrounds, etc. you want to use.
5. Agree on a location for the shoot. Make sure to consider privacy for the model, climate control, and availability of electricity, natural light, or any other requirements for making your photographs. Make sure adequate backgrounds will be available at the location.
6. Agree on a time for the shoot. Make sure to consider time for travel, makeup, setup of equipment, or other preparations. Discuss preparation time with the model so she knows to allow enough time to arrive promptly.
7. When you meet the model at the shoot location, greet her and make sure she has everything she needs: a place to put her stuff, a place to check makeup and hair, water or other beverage, etc.
8. When you start shooting, begin with clothed shots to warm up. This is especially important if you’ve not worked with this model before, or if she’s not especially experienced with nude modeling. Progress slowly towards nudity to maintain the model’s comfort. Don’t progress too slowly, as this can be frustrating or seem silly to a model who is ready to pose nude.
9. Direct the model verbally; avoid physical contact and limit your proximity to the model especially when she is nude.
10. If your model is new to nude modeling, make the first nude shots side or back shots until she is comfortable with more revealing shots. There is no necessity to progress to more revealing shots unless both of you want to.
11. Keep shooting as you direct the model, even if the poses are not exactly what you want. This will help keep the model’s confidence up. Continue directing the model verbally and shooting until you see the poses you want.
12. Try a variety of poses. Don’t be afraid to experiment. Keep in mind that only the best shots need be used later. Refer back to your notes about what poses, backgrounds, light, props, etc. you want to use.
13. When you’re done shooting, have the model sign a release and get a copy of her government issued photo identification (including date of birth) if you plan to publish the images. Some photographers prefer to get the release signed before the shoot.