Friday, June 15, 2012

Being Professional with the UNprofessional

No matter how professional you are-- No matter how diligent you are -- we all end up with situations that require delicate handling.

Keeping a good and professional attitude is incredibly important in creating opportunities, increasing income, and retaining a healthy local market.

BEFORE THE SHOOT TO AVOID PROBLEMSThe most important aspect of dealing with unprofessional behavior and uncomfortable situations is avoiding them in the first place. It is your responsibility to protect yourself.
  • Carefully check references : Check references out of the photographer’s portfolio, rather than asking for them. 
  • Make sure a photographer's shooting style, matches your own : Look over the photographers portfolio, this should give you a good idea of the genres and cloth/nude ratio they enjoy. Basically, if the photographer’s work feels creepy or weird to you, shooting with them will likely result in your feeling very awkward (at best). You want to get the best images possible thus you should be as comfortable as possible!
  • Be clear on what is and isn't being shot : When discussing the shoot, be incredibly clear on what the shoot will involve. Use clear, technical terms like “labia”— don’t use euphemisms; “Artistic nude” means a hundred different things to a hundred different people, and if you don’t do open-leg nudity, you need to be clear on that.
  • Ensure that you and the photographer understand the interests and expectations of the shoot : Make sure you not only express your limits, but get a blatant idea of what the photographer is expecting from the shoot. If a photographer is not willing to be blunt about what is going to be shot then you may want to rethink working with this individual. Lack of clarity can lead to unworkable sessions or unusable images due to mismatched expectations. If a photographer or client is refusing to be clear on these aspects of the shoot, that’s another warning sign of a situation where they may try to “sneak” in something you’re not comfortable doing.
  • Discuss compensation beforehand -- The agreement should be solid & clear : If you’re paying for portfolio development, find out exactly what you’re paying for. If it’s a trade shoot, you need to be sure you agree on exactly what you’re trading for. If you are the one being paid, make sure the client knows what they’re getting and how much it costs. Do not assume they already “know how it works”, as different expectations will lead to conflict, and makes for bad business.
    • If you are being paid, and that is all you requested, you shouldn’t expect to see the photos, and you should be appreciative if you receive them.
    • If it is a TF* agreement, and you did not agree to a number of photos (e.g. “you’ll get three photos” or “you’ll get at least one photo per look”), you shouldn’t expect more photos to come after you’ve received a single one.
    • If you don’t like what the photographer gives you, just don’t work with them again—you won’t be able to force anyone to do something they don’t want to do, and you’ll get a bad reputation if you try to. Remember no one double checks a bad review!
    • If you’re being paid and you quoted $25 an hour for a two hour shoot and never discussed travel time, but then had to drive three hours to get to the location, bringing it up after the fact may result in the photographer compensating you for some or all of your time, but your options have not changed for enforcing these rates. Just like before the shoot, you can either agree or not agree to the shoot (meaning you can leave and end it) -- simply beginning the shoot process does not mean you can make someone pay you.
I’ve been involved in perfectly comfortable shoot discussions about everything from anal sex to politics. I’ve found that learning to gracefully change the subject when I’m offended is the very best option. If you’re getting upset (or they are), avoid yelling or even debating the topic -- just bring the conversation back to the shoot and then to a new topic. Stay friendly, and avoid getting angry. If you have become upset and aren’t able to calm down after the subject has been changed, you're in the wrong profession.

Sometimes a photographer will begin to shoot content that you are not interested in being involved with, without asking and giving you the opportunity to decline. Sometimes this is because they shoot more graphic content with others and simply forgot your limits (honest mistake), and sometimes it’s because they are “slyly” attempting to gain images you didn’t agree to do.
--It is important read the model release carefully; you don’t want to accidentally agree to something you’re not interested in doing.
  • Learn your angles to know what they’re aiming at : Knowing what angles will generate what shots will help you spot more sexualized shots (upskirts, implied nudes, inside your colon etc), you can notice and say something. Attempting to get photos removed or deleted is not only a near impossible task for a model, but it’s a hassle and creates a lot of drama. Do everything in your power to simply avoid that situation in the first place.
  • Changing your pose to prevent shots you don’t want to be taken : If you notice just one attempt at something you may not be comfortable with, simply change your pose to match the angle in a way that you’re comfortable with; it may have been a mistake and I recommend that you assume it was. If you notice repeated attempts to catch something you don’t want to have a photo of (nip slip, or vagina shot, or whatever your limit is that the photographer is pushing), politely but firmly reiterate your limits. If the photographer continues to push your limits, end the shoot. I’m comfortable repeating my limits as often as it is required, and I’m confident in my own ability to avoid graphic photos, so it takes a lot for me to leave, but your own comfort is what is important and you should not keep yourself in a situation that makes you uneasy.
  • The photographer is obviously ignoring your limits? Leave! : If it has become obvious that the photographer is just ignoring your limits on purpose, and you are not comfortable staying, then end the shoot and leave. Do not yell. Do not argue. The only explanation that is required is, “I don’t feel like you are respecting my limits/our agreement. I'm going home"
If something happens that would be grounds for sexual harassment at any corporate job (and makes you feel like you’ve been gravely disrespected), or seems threatening physically, but you don’t feel like it was sexual or physical assault, just leave. Don’t “chew them out”, or even feel a need to explain yourself if you’re not capable of doing so calmly. Leave the explanations for once you are safely out of the situation and have had a chance to calm down.
  • What to say after or when leaving : You do not need to explain yourself beyond a short “ made me incredibly uncomfortable and I feel/felt like I needed to leave”, and I would recommend avoiding speaking ill of the person, or going into the person’s character. Do not reschedule or put yourself into a situation with that person again. If there are more people involved with the shoot, and the person that harassed you is not the one directing the shoot, immediately find the person that is directing the shoot (or whomever hired you), tell them quickly what happened, and that you are leaving. Discuss later.
  • You don’t have to continue afterwards and neither do they : The individual directing the shoot may ask the person that harassed you to leave instead, but it’s up to you whether you still want to continue the shoot after that. Also, don’t demand that they do so. If you’re feeling harassed, you leaving is the first option (in my experience if the situation wasnt bad enough for you to leave-- its not enough for them to leave), and you're the only one that you can demand or control.
  • When you’re sexually or physically assaulted you leave and call the police : If you are sexually or physically assaulted, leave if possible and call the police. Do not stay near the person, do not threaten them-- do not even speak to them. Cease all communication with the person that you feel assaulted you. Apologize to anyone else involved with the shoot after the fact, and offer a reschedule with them if you’re comfortable with it, but remove yourself first and foremost. If you feel the need, ask anyone and everyone around you for help in contacting the police or helping you leave, but do not ask them to handle the person that assaulted you.
LEAVING A SHOOTI’ve already discussed details relating to when and how to leave a shoot, but I feel it’s necessary to give specific focus to the act of leaving, as a lot of thoughts, feeling, doubts, etc. pop up regarding leaving a business agreement.
  • You can leave whenever you want, for any reason, just know the consequences : Leaving is always an option; no one can make you do anything you dont want to do! Understand that your relationship with that client is ended at that point, and that any agreements you made regarding photos or payment is forfeit if you don’t follow through with the shoot. Of course, these repercussions should not be enough to keep you in a bad situation. The moment you feel disrespected, uncomfortable, or feel that someone may be dangerous, and you don’t feel capable of resolving it or doing so calmly, the most professional thing to do, and self-respectful thing to do, is to remove yourself. (As my grandfather used to say, "No one likes a hysterical woman")
  • Knowing that leaving is a valid option provides clarity of thought and action : Use this as a last option whenever possible, as it burns bridges, and the goal is to avoid extreme situations and handle mild ones with grace, but do not think it ever stops being an option for you. Knowing I can leave whenever a problem escalates actually helps me handle situations better, as I do not feel the need to force the shoot to comply with my limits. This easygoing attitude can actually keep things more comfortable for all parties, and the calm but hard limits make it easier for other parties to understand and respect them.
  • Accept responsibility for leaving : If you do leave the shoot, realize that the other party may not be impressed with your maturity and professionalism in leaving (though I promise they would if they realized that your other option was to create drama and conflict), so accept responsibility for ending the shoot. Explain that you were uncomfortable, and I would recommend giving them permission to use whatever photos were taken for their own use (unless the photos were the reason you became uncomfortable, and only if you feel ok doing so). Decline any offers for a reschedule politely, as it’s not a good idea to put yourself in the same situation twice. The other party may not respond or act professionally, and may be upset; this does not mean it becomes a good idea for you to follow suit. Be the bigger person. Politely end contact.
  • How to make amends with those “Hanging to dry” : If you left a shoot and there were other parties left “hanging to dry” by your departure, explain the situation without placing blame (don’t create drama, just give them an explanation for why you left), and ask if they’d like to reschedule with you (for free if you were charging them), while replacing the party with whom you had an issue. If they don’t, be understanding and apologetic.
 DONT “PUNISH” PEOPLE FOR THEIR BAD BEHAVIORYou may be tempted to seek retribution by publicly explaining what happened, or “outing” someone. This is not only a bad idea, but unprofessional! You will look overly dramatic, and lose you potential clients. No one else has any reason to believe you over your client, and it’s possible that some understandable situation occurred on their end that caused the problem.
  • I don’t recommend “Do not recommend” lists : It is also tempting to put a “Do Not Recommend” list on your profile. I don’t recommend it, for all the reasons above. It’s dramatic and does more to hurt you than it does to help you. The only option that I would recommend is networking. If you have relationships with models in your area, sharing information about the people you all work with will help you avoid these situations, and if you have experienced something already, you can help them avoid it.
Drama is more toxic than a single instance of unprofessionalism!

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