It's a Gut Game...
Whether you're a model, photographer or a studio space, your best friend will always be trusting your gut. Will it always be right? Probably not, but the 90% of the time that it is makes up for the 10% of missed opportunities... and let's be realistic, in this day and age, what genuine big opportunities need gut decisions unless you have poor judgement?
I'll never begrudge a model for not working with me because she feels something isn't right, or a photographer not trusting paying a deposit and therefore not securing their booking because they're afraid of scams by paying something in advance. It can be frustrating when they ghost you after communication sure, but then the majority of the times this happens it's down to them being flakey equally.. so again, that 90% is worth the 10! I'm more than confident that our incredible studio space and my quirks will be far more of a loss to others than vice versa, but I'm also sure it's happened to me legitimately before too. That's cool, no matter how innocent the situation, it is to be expected on occasion. Everyone has different chemistry and different ways of working, and it's always better to be overly cautious than get ripped off or put yourself at risk. So why have I chosen to bring this up now? I recently blocked a photographer from hiring the studio. There was no 'absolute wrong' committed by them while enquiring, but there were plenty of red flags! On the networking site Purpleport, if you have had an exchange with people and then they are removed from the site by an admin, you get an automated message as such, however it doesn't state the reason. Today that happened about whom I blocked... so always trust your gut!
So let's Talk Red Flags As suggested, we're all different, and I absolutely suggest you grab that fact by the balls and run with it as it'll make you unique and memorable, but more about that later. People with experience who have a more 'honed gut' will probably gravitate towards that, assuming of course you're the vibe they're looking for for a narrative and the natural chemistry doesn't find it annoying... but that's cool too! We're all different, and chemistry is a very real thing, from friends to family and not just with partners, some of your best work will be done with people who just get and understand your vibe, even if they're not on top of their game. You'll no doubt avoid people you find difficult too unless you fancy a challenge. They may be lovely in their own right, but they're difficult to you. These are very different from red flags.
So what were the red flags in my last enquiry? Too many poor questions.. These questions were answered on my profile regarding the studio. So tell me this.. if you're spending your hard-earned money hiring somewhere, are you doing so without research and having not bothered to look in to what's on offer that you need to ask silly questions? As a bespoke place too, do I want people that inattentive here? Simply put, No. Note, that this is different from people looking for reassurance about what they've read.
..that were poorly delivered. I'm dyslexic. I live with it, it trips me up, it can make me seem amateurish even if I do proofread (as my blogs probably show, ha ha), but again, knowing human conditions and seeing red flags are different. Let's not discount personality, as suggested before too. One is born out of either prejudice and/or chemistry, and the other is just a 'no'. These lines can be blurred, but you can often detect arrogance in one's delivery. In this case, every unnecessary sentence/question was finished with about 5 exclamation or question marks, and despite being a new photographer, there was no curiosity, fear or intrigue in how it was written, more a 'you will answer my questions that can't be arsed to read' vibe.
Arrogance A new photographer may be naive, but they shouldn't be arrogant regardless of life experience, in fact quite the opposite. They've probably learned to be open-minded and know there's others around them who will be more informed about a subject they're admitting to be new at regardless of their years. Not only will I, or the models at my studio not want to put up with their arrogant bullshit, but it suggests they'll turn up, not listen, do as they please, and all while not knowing what that is. Inevitably gear will be mistreated, and probably models will be too. Accidents happen, but i'm not wanting to replace gear over one booking, I don't need £20-80 that badly, and I want to offer a safe environment regardless of whether that model is booked in house here, or the studio is hired and they're bought in by that photographer.
General lack of experience and profile giveaways
Noobs aren't a problem, i'm happy to work with new photographers or models. With photographers, I'm happy help them set up but I try not to baby sit them. If they ask me for a certain set up, i'll help them do that exact vibe, but I won't spoon-feed them. There's no quick fix in photography, it's a combination of many little things adding up over time which then become your eye, your style, your vibe. If you're reading this as a new photographer and think you'll turn up to a tutoring session and overnight be a great photographer, then i'll hate to disappoint you, but you'll learn more from that disappointment then you ever will there! Don't get me wrong, you could find them useful, you may have a eureka moment, something you couldn't place your finger on but was explained in such a way it landed right, but you will not be a better photographer because someone told you how to do something you haven't frustrated yourself in to understanding! Anyways i digress. A lack of references and images in a portfolio can of course be a red flag. This is where arrogance and your gut comes in to play as lines can get blurred. I have a habit of weeding people out on my Photographer (not studio) profile by coming across a little arrogant to avoid silly enquiries... it doesn't work, i duno why I feel the need to do it. Those who are clueless rarely seem to be put off, it's those who look for it or are insecure, no matter how talented they are, that typically are. In this case, 'a mature student who is learning photography at uni' with very little knowledge or good communications skills, is a red flag. The statement of 'only girls can message me', or something along those lines is also pretty flaggy regardless of if you only shoot women... i mostly only do too.
In short, the odd red flag may equal a quirk and require the benefit of the doubt, but several is a no!
Let's talk blurred lines, quirky and, generational differences Now worth a mention too is that there's a lot of people who are completely harmless, who may be of an older generation where over complimenting younger models and reverting to outgrown references that are a little crass may come across a bit negative. Or some people, like my self, just may have really quirky ideas and like quirk and kitsch as an artistic expression and use being a provocateur (as an artistic output in an image, not in person) to challenge people's opinions. Nine times outta ten, these kinda things will be somewhat clear in pre comms, but that's not always the case for studio days where things can be a bit adlibbed with loose ideas thrown together in real time. Some times people are just in it for a hobby that they wish to never progress, and just because we live, love and make money from it, doesn't mean it's their aim. They could just be happy photographing half naked women, are a bit lonely and enjoy the social time, or simply they love capturing the aesthetic of the female form... it certainly makes up a good proportion of paid gigs for models.
If you're too overly cautious, it's easy to read people wrong with whom you don't quite understand. Ultimately, it comes down to this; as long as the models are comfortable and exercise their right to say no to any idea, and the photographers are respectful and show enough photographic chops that they atleast care about their camera and results.. each to their own vices, we're all human and unique after all.
So let's talk the shoe being on the other foot.. Having said all this, when I first started shooting I was very conscious of communication and what should and shouldn't be said, and what may have resulted in me being ghosted while assuming the problem could lie in my approach rather than them just being a bit crap and disrespectful. If anything these days, I really don't care, I'll just be me! Of course i'll reel in certain objective things like crude humour 'til I get to know someone better, but I won’t hold my tongue and speak differently. I will always reply to messages unless they're too ridiculous as I don't believe in not answering and leaving people hanging if it's just a no. That's just arrogance to me. You're unlikely to get any opportunities I'm offering in the future if that's been your past form. I also used to hate turning people down, I still do to a degree, but there's so many people disillusioned with themselves, it's impossible not too piss someone off no matter how polite you do it... so you may as well be honest. People respect honesty, even if they hate you for it. It's better to be respected and hated than just merely hated right? I've had people block me for saying no, then unblock me and wish me luck like some stupid psychological warfare or acknowledgement that they've fucked themselves over more than they have me by merely ensuring that I haven't got to say no to them again and not to deal with them in the future. That's bliss! It saves me the guilt of constantly turning down the same faces who don't quite get the hint.
So now let's add in to that people who simply may just not be the right fit for the part you're casting, even if they're really good! Unfortunately being a model is very personal, they are them, they're selling their look, or at the very least a persona and look they've created and wish (or not) to have judged accordingly. A lot of models who have big reps can seem very intimidating to photographers, certainly new ones, i've had models laugh at me when i've made that revelation to them! Despite thier social media bravado and fierce business and networking skills on sites (and ability to try and weed people out by being a lil arrogant as a defence mech.. see my reference above), some of these models are the most shy, koi and insecure people you can meet too, and part of their love of modelling is challenging themselves, and the self confidence it brings them.
However, some may ask you why you've turned them down while not really wanting to know the answer, or just throw their toys out of the pram like they're suddenly the worlds the best actor who is right for every role and in turn get to dictate to you, the director, what you're looking for just because they get plenty of terrible paid work, so they must be old pro's. Inevitably people will take it to heart and get offended by being judged depsite it being a part of the job description and them doing it being their choice.. i mean, there's no words, it's like turning up to a football match as a professional tennis player and being like.. 'i must play, i'm a pro sports person, how dare you compare me to Messi!?' Just look at Usain Bolt's short lived 'soccer' career... that went well!
Anyways, the Moral of the story... It's a gut game! Look for red flags, be humble and open minded, but not so much so that your brain falls out and you can't stand up for your self. If someone doesn't like you and you can't get something together because the chemistry aint right... who cares? It'll only be the rare occasions that a person was on your must work with list anyways, in which case you've probably dodged a bullet because your judgement was clouded.