It’s no secret – safety is a huge concern for any model. Working with someone new brings a fresh flurry of nerves every time. Having shared my own experience with assault, I’ve only heard other stories where the outcomes weren’t as fortunate as mine. Many situations are slightly uncomfortable and others are sketchy at best. What can you do as the photographer to make your model comfortable and at ease? How can you make the model feel safe?
Have Another Person on Set
Personally, it automatically sets me more at ease if I know I’m not going to be alone with someone new. Plus, I’ve found that having an extra person on-set is very conducive to the shoot! Put them to work; have them hold reflectors, adjust lights, create a breeze for captured movement, or carry equipment. Also consider having this person be a stylist or makeup artist. Assistance with appearance can also greatly reduce the model’s stress and you will be killing two birds with one stone.
Extend an Invitation for the Model to Bring a Plus One
I know there are differing opinions on boyfriends and significant others, but I believe it’s only proper etiquette to tell the model he/she is welcome to bring a friend, parent, or someone else she trusts. If you are one that prefers this person not be a romantic interest, just be open and honest. Express why this is your preference and share a past awkward experience that’s given you this perspective. Honesty is the best policy and being up front at the beginning will save misunderstandings closer to shooting time.
Be Sure to Give Privacy During Wardrobe Changes
This may seem a no-brainer, but I can’t count the times photographers have stood right outside as I’m changing in my car. If I know and trust the person well, a closer proximity during wardrobe changes usually doesn’t bother me. However, if I’ve just met someone that day, I can’t help but wonder if they’re trying to sneak a peek, or worse – grab a few photos.
The best thing to do is first ask the model if she’s okay to change and if there is anything she will need. After she says yes, verbally tell her where you will be and go somewhere else to give her some privacy. Be patient, some outfits may prove complicated and take more than a moment or two. During some of my past experiences, I’ve heard a few theatrical bangs or clanking of equipment coming from the other room as I change. I know these were for my benefit – and I’m not saying a photographer has to go this far – but quite honestly I appreciated the gesture.
I will note, however, that if I’m wearing a designer’s creations I expect I won’t be alone during the changing process. My worst fear is damaging a piece as I step in and out, ripping a seam, or breaking a clasp. Those garments have so much time and attention sewn into every stitch. I almost always ask the designer for help if they are present.
Be Clear About All Details
Don’t let the model feel she is being set up for any undesirable surprises. Let her know everything including (but not limited to) clear location progression, specific outfit choices, time frames, and posing style. If there will be anything expected of her that may be even remotely uncomfortable, let her know from the very beginning planning stages. For some models it can be uncomfortable to pose with a stranger of the opposite sex, no matter the context. If you have pre-determined a specific activity you for the model to do such as ride a horse, get wet, or walk in some very high-heeled shoes, let them know before they arrive. Do everything you can to remove the mystery of the process – leave that for the viewers of the final images.
Avoid Highly Discrete Locations for the First Shoot
Though the woods can be a beautiful place that yields a stunning look in photos, save this and other isolated locations for the models with whom you’ve already developed an established working relationship. I can count on one hand the times I’ve been in this type of situation with someone new and I will give you a good reason why – it’s terrifying. Even in public, terrible things can happen when meeting a stranger. Not only from the model’s perspective, but I’ve also heard of people posing as models online and meeting with photographers only to rob them. An isolated meeting place isn’t a good dynamic for either party. Begin with settings that are more public or close to civilization before you go adventuring to untouched locations.
Be Respectful of Boundaries
Take the time to ask your model if he/she has any tasks or poses that are out of the question. Let them know that their comfort is your utmost concern. If they have any stipulations that would infringe on your overall vision, it may be best to go back to the casting process. Never force or press your vision on a model that doesn’t feel comfortable posing the way you want. Not only is it unethical, but it will surely reflect poorly in the final photos.
Keep your model comfortable and let them know they’re safe. When working with someone new, perception plays a monumental role in this sense of comfort. Always strive for a safe and pleasurable shooting experience on both ends. And as always, take these tips to grow one step closer to that perfect shot.
Do you have any strategies you like to use to promote safety on-set? Have you ever had a bad shooting experience you learned from? Share them with me below!
Until next week,