Safe, Sane, and Consensual Model Safety

Human Interaction Boundaries

Interaction between a photographer and model is crucial and it comes with its very own set of rules. During most shoots, it's inevitable that something happens where a "normal/social/friendly" interaction would be for me to touch the model - move a hair, reposition an elbow, etc - but that interpersonal permission is not inherently granted during a photoshoot.

Part of being a model is knowing and setting your boundaries. It is vital for all models to know exactly where their boundaries are - and even more important that they are assertive in enforcing them. As a photographer, I will always ask what is allowed when it comes to interaction. For example, "May I fix that stray hair?" is a very common question. It's a little easier if the model brings a brush that I can use to adjust the hair, so I don't have to actually touch them. Given the nature of the shoot, it is paramount these boundaries be defined up front. If a situation arises where I might need to guide a model into a pose, I will always ask before even approaching. If nothing is provided by the model I will always have something to use to pose - a phone, a pen, even a lightstand if necessary - to further keep that boundary intact. I don't take that privilege for granted - and no model should let any photographer (or assistant, or anyone for that matter) get away with crossing boundaries.

Here is a great blog post by a well established and traveling model that can help models think about their own boundaries.

The reason this section is here is simple: over the years I have seen more models than I care to admit end up in really bad situations after or during a shoot with a new-to-them photographer, and it infuriates me. Because of that, I would like to pass on some basic tips for anyone considering modeling with any new photographer:

  1. Read the contract! Make sure both the model and the photography are in complete agreement when it comes to a) use of images b) image ownership c) image restrictions d) content restrictions. Far too often a model is talked into doing something they might not have wanted to do; then those images are used in ways not explicitly discussed (promotional or just public posts, etc). You can read my Model Release here.
  2. Bring an escort. If you have never worked with the photographer in question, regardless of references, bring an escort. Your safety needs to be priority #1. If a photographer tries to stop an escort at the door or before the shoot even happens, you need to reconsider working with them. A note about escorts though - it's best if they are not the significant other (unless that's the plan), and they need to understand they are not part of the photoshoot, unless invited.
  3. Be yourself! There's a reason why you chose the photographer - and likely why you were chosen by the photographer. Try your best to break through any "new person" jitters via email or in-person meeting prior to the scheduled shoot date. Be a professional, always, but my personal opinion is that a shoot should be fun and creative and free of social awkwardness if at all possible. An uncomfortable situation will almost never yield quality results.
There are plenty of online resources for models, but in my opinion, Daisy von Model has the best collection of thoughts, experiences, expectations and safety tips for models. If you're considering modeling, spend some time reading through her blog.
There are some good threads on as well.

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