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Modelling Advice - From a Freelance Model

Just a couple of snippets from my experience.

By Maura DudasPublished 4 years ago 13 min read
Image by Lucas Colyer (@wizardofthelens IG) - look him up he's so talented !

I have actually been thinking about writing and filming something like this. Writing one for Vocal and then maybe doing a vlog or something once I have enough material.

I started modelling a few years back. I did a big two year gap between restarting and I haven't stopped since then.

The boyfriend of my former classmate asked me if I would model for him. So I said yes. Previously I was signed with an agency but thy weren't very professional. They managed to send me to a casting where they would have needed tall, icy blondes with a Nordic look and then I showed up with dark eyes, dark hair and curvier than they would have liked. Parting ways with them was not a question after this.

Well anyway my experience in the UK modelling industry has been pretty much on the positive side. Other than the fact that they've made me swear off walking a runway for charity or doing many things for charity ever again I believe I did not have that many noxious experiences.

Going to list a couple of things that might be beneficial for newbies here:

1. Safety first

Does not matter how appealing the project is or how well paid it may be. If the proposition rings alarm bells feel free to say no.

There's one very important thing about the modelling industry. It is exploitative to the end if you let it. It is predominantly older men and younger women collaborating in more often than not a one-on-one session. Perfect scenario for your worst abducted in plain sight nightmares to potentially take place. So the three principles of preparation I have learnt are as follows:

1. One cannot do enough research of the photographer. Most will reveal their true self via contacting you. They will ignore the levels you specify (levels mean how undressed you are willing to be, basically) or push them in a direction you're uncomfortable with. Or invite you to their home-studio without offering to meet you first in a public space. If they don't suggest meeting you first at a place where you are both comfortable with, I advise you to do so. They might refuse or not but at least you pertain the agency in both scenarios. Some might offer you different tiers of money for different levels to get you to do something you are not comfortable with.

2. Ask other models they have worked with beforehand and inquire what their experience was. Again, you can't do enough research. If you still hear those alarm bells ringing after the third account you have heard you can still say no. I found it a good indicator of whether a photographer is going to be alright to work with from the amount of engagement previous models exhibit on their social media platform. Look at whether they comment or like their images. It will be a sign of a good relationship between photographer and model if there is regular back and forth between models he has worked with.

3. Always say no to what you are uncomfortable with. Always. Please, never feel like you have to please the photographer. You are doing the shoot for yourself. There's no room for level-pushers in the industry any sort of behaviour that makes you uncomfortable or violates your personal boundaries which are continued after having specified those boundaries are harassment. People who put models in that situation need to be called out on it and dealt with appropriately.

As a sub-section I would mention intuition. It has helped me a lot in accepting work and differentiating between what projects to accept. Unfortunately sometimes even I did work where the alarm bells got louder and louder until the end (catwalk shows are one of these). The thing is you will feel the difference between a great shoot that you enjoy and an awkward, clumsy one where you just don't get along with the photographer.

It is their job as well to establish a rapport as quickly as they can - if they are true men of their craft - to be able to make the most of the shoot and your potential. Now, don't get me wrong just cause they should ideally accommodate you that does not mean you get to be a downright bitch to them. It's a two-way street. New photographers will especially be nervous or won't be good with instructions as they probably learnt their skills on a course where they are likely to have models who are more experienced and do their thing with minimal instructions. I do believe honesty is a good policy here. If you need more instruction because you are not familiar with your angles just ask. And now I segue into my next point...


So the stereotype of photographers working in a studio with a massive fan screaming stuff Austin Powers would say is a tiny bit skewed. I'm sure there are some caricatures like that walking the industry (trust me, it isn't as hard to imagine as you'd think) but they all work differently. Most of them do it in silence and give very few instructions or some would rather show you what they'd like than tell you.

Feel free to be a part of a shoot! Suggest things and ask them if you could see some of the shots during the shoot as you may learn a lot about your angles and posing that way. Ask if one pose is better than the other. Do not be afraid not to know if you are just starting out. You learn on the job and trust me, selfies don't prepare you for much.

By feel free to be part of a shoot I also mean if you have some ideas - express them. After awhile you will learn what looks better on camera. I, for example know that I have short thighs therefore my legs won't look as long in certain poses. The wider stance I take the more it compensates for my lack of leanness. Incidentally, since the fashion world, despite many recent changes and developments, still favours willowy goddesses this makes for a better picture more often than not. So don't shy away from saying you'd like to try another pose or that you would like to try something on a shoot. Most photographers welcome creative input given in a polite fashion and in the name of creative productivity.

They will usually give you feedback however not tons. If you are unsure do ask for some affirmation as some of them might be so engrossed and in the zone that they absolutely forget to give any feedback let alone praise.

Saying that most photographers don't talk while they're working is somewhat of a controversy however they really do not chat too much while shooting. In the breaks however... I regularly end up somehow redeeming the world on a whole day of shooting. One takes a breather and ll sorts of topics come up from cake to Brexit and from the current state of education to old music videos. Come to think of it some of the photographers I know are the chattiest Cathys but I'd rather have them than awkward silence on a three-four hour or whole day shoot.

3. Confidence

Listen. You do not have to be 100% confident. You do not have to love yourself 100%. Most of us do this because seeing yourself through someone else's eyes helps you diminish your flaws as from someone else's perspective they're not even noticeable at all. It is a refreshing new look at something you have seen before a hundred times. Good images give a great insight into a more objective view of yourself and allow you to see you through another person's literal lenses.

There were times when I told a photographer not to publish an image because I don't like how my legs look on it to receive a baffled response from them saying they haven't noticed there was anything wrong with them, they were paying attention to the composition as a whole. The same happened when I sent an image to my boyfriend where I was not too happy with how my stomach looked asking if I should publish it at all. He simply replied 'Why? What's wrong with it?'.

However be confident enough in front of the camera to be able to establish a relationship with it. Modelling is as much role playing as anything. You are not the person worrying about their less than perfect skin or flabby belly in their sweats at home anymore instead you are the cosmopolitan world-trekker conquering Soho on the streets of Central London in a pair of high heeled shiny jet-black boots. You get to hide and show yourself at the same time. Another you.

Being in front of the camera does blow up your flaws to a degree but helps you gain confidence in yourself as well by highlighting other aspects of yourself that are prized in the trade ; how hard-working you are, how creative you are, how good a conversationalist you are or how much of an overall mule you are when they are asking you almost impossible things or are putting you through pretty rough conditions and you still prevail.

They do say it is thankless being in front of the camera but it gives as much as it takes.

4. Rates

You will, without a doubt, savour the name of those good souls who will read your bio where every piece of information about your trade and what kind of business you are actually conducting is described. My heart flutters every single time someone contacts me and after a few lines of introduction asks what my rates are.

The shortcoming of the industry is that people expect free work. No matter how good you are. No matter how long you have been doing it if you do not have the right connections you will not be deemed established enough. And being established comes with having worked with a lot of individuals up to varying levels. This usually includes, I'm sorry to say it, but having to be naked or in lingerie quite a lot. Now if you are fine with this you will gain quite a bit of following etc. and will be considered established and more of a household name.

In this world social media following also helps you get paid jobs but it definitely depends more on who you know. I usually get jobs through people you have worked with recommending you or them themselves using you for certain projects they have at first and then you branch out into unknown waters.

When however you get approached one must bring up the topic of 'I do not work for free'. My talent was learnt, I bring my make-up, my clothing, my own wardrobe as well and then stand around for hours doing some pretty heavy physical labour in heels and we have not considered travel costs and time for travel then.

I do love it when the client has a studio, fully stacked with clothes, has a make-up artist, does my hair and all I have to do is turn up and be patient and then work my ass off for two or three hours(sometimes a whole day). It does bring me joy when I get transport too and/or food.

I have had photographers however who asked me to do time for prints (work for free receive the images as and then told me to figure out the theme, bring clothes, bring myself all made up and also choose a location because he does not want to bother with it. Needless to say I politely told him I am not doing everything by myself and if he conducts his business this way I don't think I'd like to work with him anyway.

There's also the people who will actively try and bargain with your hourly rates. Which is fair enough if they do not have your usual rates but this can be presented in two ways. One is the polite way of this is the 'this is all I have, I really appreciate your work, would you consider giving me a discount' and the other is the 'I'm not paying you cause you aren't worth that much money'.

It will be music to your ears when someone starts with 'What are your rates?'. Because while time for prints is absolutely great if you are building a portfolio from scratch, the fact of the matter is, that it does perpetuate unpaid labour in the industry. While not everyone of my clients paid with money instead they provided me with connections or opportunities one cannot pay rent with either. Be discreet, accept others explanations but do not at any rate do anything that feels below your dignity money-wise or just in general.

5. Ego

I mean photographers, man...They are a whimsical bunch. I am predominantly going to mention their persona but going to mention your ego and where it should be as a model, too.

Now, don't get me wrong there are some absolute sweethearts in the industry. So polite, they look away every time you change positions in lingerie just in case something you don't want them to see falls out.

And then there are the chauvinist a-holes who think people are props. The man-children who go from zero to a hundred if something you did serves your own personal gain and not theirs and will go as far as to employ slander on social media. They will tell you to eff off just because you told them you work for money and not magazine publications and exposure. Some of them might have good intentions but the worst organisational skills.

Yes, you both are there to gain some mutually beneficial results. We should not, and i think this applies to most walks of life, forget to be humans and people towards each other, though. By this I mean they cannot treat you like dirt just because they pay you. The same goes for models who are more established - you still need to be a person and not a persona.

Fame does not have to make you cruel or disrespectful. I have heard of a very young (under 18) model who is infamously difficult around my area. Since as a freelancer you're not in an agency area the parents, overwhelmingly and predominantly mothers, who want to live through their children will pop up. This mentioned individual has the pushiest mother who somehow bestowed upon her the worst convictions about what she deserves in this industry. Apparently she's notoriously difficult to direct or prep on a shoot. She was allowed to be rude and disrespectful to people who were on hair and make-up duty and yet people still work with her. I suspect because of her aggressive mum and to avoid conflict.

I hope it is needless to say that this is not an example to follow. Being hard-working, nice and humble will honestly get you further. However do not misconstrue this allowing yourself to be a pushover. This industry will scar you if you are one of those people who cannot say no. You will get into a situation that you aren't comfortable with or you endanger yourself somehow. There are many a cautionary tale people can tell you after working in the industry for a month, trust me.

Why do it then? - I hear you ask.

Because you will meet like-minded, amazing people. Who will become your friends and who will give you a boost everytime you work with them. The fact that most of the people you meet are pretty established in their own field and are for the most part pretty educated hard-working artists. Least but not last because it is hard making friends as a woman with the qualities you have if you are good enough to look great on camera. Connecting with other models if you have very limited ways of gaining new friends is absolutely marvellous. They will share similar stories to yours, they will support you to the end of the world and back, they will be your firewall against the scary side of the industry. And they will be hard-working, diligent creative women who you will be glad to have made the acquaintance of.

Plus, you know the money ain't bad once you get it going.


About the Creator

Maura Dudas

Studying Psychology, getting angry about issues on the web, addressing social conundrums concerning humans that surround me. And just pointing out my subjective majestic opinion. :) Film buff, artsy, reader - I do art too @morcika96

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