There was a time when I was shooting regularly with models, bands and artists to help them create portfolios and promotional materials. I asked for no fee and I offered to produce a half dozen or so images they could use as they saw fit. It was a fun, enjoyable way to build my portfolio, hone my skills and meet some incredible people.
Then it all came to an end after two bad shoots. The first involved someone who turned up in a field without her hayfever medicine, an overbearing mother and an inability to take direction. The second saw a “manager” try and start directing the shoot and alter the terms after the work was done. Given I was asking for no fee and giving up considerable amounts of time I decided enough was enough and I stopped. It was no longer a hobby, it was work.
Looking back at these two shoots there are lessons I’ve taken away and turned back to when I’ve dipped my toe back in the water again.
Chaperones shouldn’t be “on set”
To build confidence and trust there are models who will insist on a chaperone coming alone, and this is not a bad thing. What is a bad thing is when they hang around during the shoot, distracting everyone or even starting to get involved in “directing”. At the outset I make it clear a chaperone is welcome to come along, make sure they environment is safe and they know where their friend / family member is, then leave the studio completely. If that doesn’t work we don’t work together.
Check the references
I know everyone started somewhere and not every model comes with a dozen references from top-flight photographers. But there are signs that someone isn’t as great as their images suggest. Being on a portfolio site for several months with no professional images, or having professional images without a reference are warning signs to me.
Don’t be afraid to stop wasting your time
One of the nightmare shoots was halted early, the other ran to its full time but wasn’t as productive as it should have been. In either event, the effort I put in was as much as was polite and professional but no more.
Keep your side of the bargain
No matter how pissed off you are make sure you keep your side of whatever agreement you came to. In both cases I stuck to the agreement I’d made and provided the dozen or so good quality images I promised. When “management” started trying to change the terms of the agreement I resisted robustly, even calling their bluff when threatened with court because “they owned the images to their artiste”.
Be willing to say, “this isn’t for me”
The bad experiences (and particularly my run in with “management”) were a direct consequence of my profile starting to rise. In both instances I’d been approached by the models concerned, and perhaps this was a sign that I was starting to lose control. It was also starting to feel more like work, with endless editing sessions, arranging shoots and so on.
Losing the feeling this was my hobby was the number one reason why I eventually called it a day and stopped shooting. Photography was supposed to be my hobby, my release from the daily stress of managing design projects with big budgets.