This is a topic I've wanted to touch on for awhile now, and during the recent #metoo movement on social media, I saw some horror stories from local women about dealing with inappropriate behavior during photo shoots. I work with a number of women who model for many photographers, and some of those photographers are new and looking for models to practice on to build their portfolio, so they approach women and offer to shoot them for free or a large discount in exchange for posing for them. And some of them do not behave professionally. I've had way too many clients tell me about incidents that made them uncomfortable during shoots they've gone to with other photographers that should have never happened. From showing up at a location and feeling unsafe, to feeling pushed to reveal more skin than they are comfortable with, to being told inappropriate and disrespectful things during or after their shoot. I wish I could say that everyone with a camera that was offering shoots was a respectable person, but unfortunately there are some creeps out there just looking to take advantage of new models who are eager to please. No amount of free photos are worth your dignity or personal safety. I know that especially when you're a new model it's exciting to have a photographer ask you to pose for them, but just know that you are in charge of your image and how the photo shoot goes, and if you ever feel uncomfortable, you have the power to put a stop to it.
Here is a list of different things to think about when planning a shoot, whether it's with me or another photographer. If you have your own tip that you feel I missed, feel free to share it in the comments.
Watch for red flags in advance of the shoot. I've had a couple different clients tell me about photographers that have asked them to text or email nude or in lingerie selfies before a shoot. Any photographer who knows anything about posing doesn't need to see your body before the shoot, and if they're asking to, that's a red flag and you might want to question their motives. Now, perhaps if you are a model being hired for a specific paid job, or if a certain concept is being shot, a photographer might look for a certain body type and need some example photos before they decide to hire you, but in general if you are a paying client or have been offered a TFP (time for photos) shoot, there's no reason for this. Don't be afraid to set your boundaries in advance of the shoot and let the photographer know exactly what you are and aren't comfortable showing.
Use the buddy system! Take a friend along. Some photographers might have rules about this, like personally during certain shoots like mini sessions I don't allow men in the studio (because we feel our clients are more comfortable in an all female environment) or minors, for obvious reasons. But even then I encourage clients to bring a female friend along if it makes them feel more comfortable. If you're told you're not allowed to bring someone with you, that could be a warning sign.
Make sure someone knows where you are, even if you are bringing a friend. If you're meeting up with a stranger in any situation, whether it's a photo shoot, a blind date, meeting a stranger to buy furniture, or whatever, this is a good step for personal safety. Send a friend the photographer's name, shoot location and time, etc, so that you know someone is looking out for you.
Don't let a photographer say things to you that you wouldn't allow someone else to. Just because you are exposing yourself in front of someone doesn't give them the right to leer and say inappropriate things. You deserve respect and professionalism. If they are saying anything that makes you feel embarrassed or uncomfortable, don't be afraid to speak up and tell them so, or end the shoot. A photo shoot is professional situation, not a sexual one, and if you feel like a photographer is crossing a line, you are in the right to put a stop to it.
Ask questions! Don't be afraid to ask the photographer for references from other clients they have worked with, or reach out to friends and ask if they know anything. There are some local model groups on Facebook that you could probably get some opinions in too. Ask to see their portfolio so you can see what style they typically shoot and if it's something you're comfortable posing for. Don't be afraid to ask what the photos will be used for, where they will be visible, and if there is a contract that you will be signing and what it says.
If you ever, at any point feel uncomfortable, speak up! Don't be afraid to say "I'm not comfortable with that" if a pose or piece of clothing isn't your cup of tea. If at any time you feel that your wishes aren't being respected by the photographer, don't be afraid to pack up and leave. Any pro should be able to adapt to your wishes and give you beautiful, sexy photos at your own level of comfort, whether that means completely covered or fully nude, or somewhere in between.
Overall, just protect yourself. If you find yourself in a situation where you feel unsafe or uncomfortable, get out as quickly as you can. Even if something is offering something to you for free, you don't owe them anything beyond what you are comfortable with.
And because this is a photography blog, here's an old photo of our studio hair and makeup artist Katie Belle, looking awesome and protecting Tulsa.