Far too many models – the vast majority female, I'm sorry to say – have at some point in their career been stuck with a "photographer" who was really just a dangerous creep. (One of these bastards recently scored a conviction on two counts of sexual assault after several models stood up for themselves, which is what got me thinking about this post.)
Whether you're a professional model, doing a bit of art on the side or hiring someone to get some nice images of you for your own use, here's some essential safety advice.
- Bring a trusted friend. You shouldn't trust your safety to someone you don't know. It's standard practice to bring a friend (or a bodyguard, or a hired ninja if you prefer) to look out for your interests during a photo shoot. All professional photographers expect this, particularly for the first shoot with a new model and for boudoir or nude sets. If your shooter raises a fuss about you bringing a friend, just get back in the car and head home.
- Check for credibility. Full-time professional photographers should be able to provide references. Part-time artists (like me) probably won't have a client list to share, but you can often still pick up warning signs from their Web presence (someone's writing style gives away a lot about their intentions) and by looking them up on industry forums such as ModelMayhem. Creeps quickly develop a reputation, and might change their online identities frequently to compensate; credible professionals tend to stand by their brand for many years. One really easy warning sign is a photographer who never gets photographed; we shouldn't expect models to do things in front of the lens that we aren't comfortable doing ourselves.
- Set your firm limits in advance. A lot of women (and a few men) will do a photo shoot hoping to push past some of their psychological barriers, and in the right environment, that can be very empowering. Before you go, though, decide on exactly where you will draw the line. If you're in a boudoir shoot, you might decide "I may try being nude, but absolutely nothing pornographic" – say this to yourself, and stick to it. You can always do another shoot later if you decide your comfort limits might have changed.
- No Touching. "And the photographer shalt not touch the model" is a holy commandment in this field, to be bent only on occasion (and with permission) to adjust hair or to fine-tune a pose. Any hints at sexual contact are a "shoot's over, I'm heading home" thing.
- The Release. Most photo shoots involve a model release agreement of some kind – a piece of paper clarifying the photographer's right to use your likeness commercially. I recommend that the model should read the agreement, and ask any necessary questions about it, before the shoot begins. Surprises at the end are no fun for anybody.
- Don't be afraid to leave. If your street sense tells you something creepy is going on, don't second-guess it. A photo shoot should be a comfortable, respectful and professional environment. If it's not, you are completely within your rights to just walk away – and don't feel shy about calling for police backup if you think you might need it.