Being a model (part 1) - my philosophy!
Being a photographic model.
Ohhh, this is going to be a controversial blog, I can feel it - so I better get in a disclaimer early! Also, there are some of my provocative and divisive images included as you scroll, so here's a double trigger warning. Always double tap; Zombieland taught me that.
Over the course of this two part blog, this will be MY opinion, MY outlook, MY philosophy. In part 2, I'll use a (not so, as I actually do this) hypothetical scenario, and I'll talk through how I'd go about it on a networking site, mostly for the purpose of booking a new studio day model that I don't know. In that example we'll use Purpleport, because love it or hate it, it has the best interface, plus you're going to get a wide mix of professionalism shall we say. The reality is it could apply to any number of sites (or even agencies for that matter) where you're just scrolling through endless faces.
You are the product
If you're working commercially, you're going to have a brief and be looking for quite specific key factors. I'm using the royal we/you're etc here, so by the way, this also all applies to photographers with aspirations beyond their years. Anyways, these specs will of course change from job to job - you either have the right 'look' for that job, or you don't. As shallow and throw away as that sentiment is, it is what it is; a creative director's mental image. Are you really going to lose sleep comparing yourself to a fantasy you've constructed about someone else's fantasy that you have no way of envisioning? It sounds silly when read it like that, right? It's not a great idea, is it? It might be inevitable, and/or it may also give you the fire in your belly to kick on, but only you will know whether you're capable of enduring it. Ultimately, only those who want it enough, will! In life, we typically get what we prioritise. Whether we can make a success of it or not could be circumstance, knowledge, or just dumb luck - but hey, you only have one to live, so prioritise what you want to achieve!
Naivety is also a beautiful thing when starting out, and possibly down the line too as you look for bigger and better opportunities. Dream big and think you're good enough! Do, please, do! Just don't kick off with rejection. No one ever changed their mind after you tried to convince someone that their mental picture is different from what they know it to be because you've constructed a fantasy of your own. Now add in to the mix that theirs is probably from a vastly more experienced place, and thus is factual and relating to the individual scenario.. so no, they'll be like, "I knew I made the right decision about cra' cra' over there, let's blacklist them". Several years down the line, you'll remember it one night in bed while blushing in to your pillow as your now experienced mind catches up and realises just how out of your depth and unrefined your eye/knowledge was. However, that naivety will keep you going after getting knocks, and it'll get you that necessary experience when you think you're better than you are. Your hunger will get you the necessary knowledge. You'll choose to grow and get better, or at the very least, you will find your niche, and it will cement your style as something that you like to create and/or stubbornly as you convince others to recognise that in you too - no creative changed anything by falling in line.
It's Hollywood baby
Let's stick the boot on the other foot. You're casting a movie. You're going to pick the man or woman of the moment, the heartthrob, the best actor to portray the role as you envision it, or maybe even just the one you have the most confidence in to bring it to life with their creativity. That's all we want when we put someone in front of the camera. In this scenario, we're of course assuming they'd accept the role, and that you have the budget for them. Equally, they might want the role, but you don't - I reject people all the time for studio days because it's not logistically viable in terms of what they want vs what I'm willing to charge photographers in North Wales. It's not personal. We're both adults, we can discuss and choose to move (or not) on our rates as we see fit and feel comfortable - it happens all the time. It's well documented in Hollywood that even A-listers move on their rates to accompany other actors if they really want the role alongside them, love the project, or think their counterpart is too important to lose for said project. Your only choice really is if you want to be the guy/gal making the demands, or the one living their best life doing as they please.
Is TFP bad? This is why collaboration is huge in the industry, and is obviously the reason why TFP exists. Two people might be drawn together, be on the same wave length, share a similar goal, style or aesthetic, and therefore want to create together. Maybe it's mutually beneficial in a business sense aside from creative expression, or maybe they're just living life and both are on the same page enough to just kill some time doing something they love, and of which they also consider to be a more productive day than sitting on the couch. It doesn't have to be rocket science. If two people don't want to give their time to each other.. they won't. I repeat, you are adults who are capable of making your own decisions. There are plenty of fictional industry standards pushed by one clique as successful and as the way to act and present yourself that are completely useless to the opposing clique who got all their achievements and breaks by doing the polar opposite. No one is holding a gun to your head to do anything. There are way more secure jobs out there you could be doing than being in one that you hate so much you wouldn't do for free if the circumstances were exciting enough for you. I bet your ass there are plenty of creatives out there bigger than we'll ever be, and with more money than we'll ever have from the industry; creating on their own watch together. If it's commercial, and they're getting paid, demand a slice of the pie, if it's not, and you want to do it, enjoy the ride.. bolster your portfolio.. make a new friend.. enjoy living. It's never their choice, it's yours.
It's not Hollywood baby
A model should be able to act the hell out of a narrative with just the right amount of nuance for a stills image that it's neither understated nor overacted when captured as a single moment in time. I had a conversation with someone into videography many many years ago who didn't have a clue about lighting, who proclaimed that stills were obviously easier than video. Ironically, despite their lack of lighting knowledge, in terms of a massive production as a whole, they may be right, but in reality, in terms of delivering a single product; I'd argue it's definitely not! A moving image has a rolling narrative, so it's very easy to buy in to the whole picture that is unfolding in front of you. Things are happening, you've got a soundtrack, sound effects, the narrative is often obvious, whereas a single moment summing everything up that is frozen in time to be critiqued to within an inch of its life, and all while having no other distractions to aid its story.. not so much.
Modelling IS a job. Modelling IS a talent/skill
As suggested above, believe it or not, modelling is a job and a talent for a reason, and being attractive isn't enough. Some people may not turn heads walking down the street, but they just shine in front of the camera. A decent model has a talent and has most likely practised their emotional ranges and poses - even if it was just originally as a fantasy in front of the mirror like you used to sing in to a hairbrush as a kid. This will then accumulate in to experience, and naturally you'll start understanding how lighting interacts with you and how to best present yourself. Being a model isn't just saying I want £30+ an hour to stand in front of a camera because you're paying for my time. Sure, someone will pay it at some point, especially if you shoot nude and lingerie, but that doesn't make you a model. These days, every girl is posting lingerie images on Insta, and as digital photography gets cheaper and anyone can have a crack at it, you're inevitably going to get plenty of guys who just want to shoot you in lingerie or less.
If you're not a model and with no intentions of ever being... STOP comparing yourself to people who have been lit in a flattering manner, are posing in a flattering manner, and are being retouched in a flattering manner. You don't feel compelled to compare yourself to Lewis Hamilton when you get in a car to buy groceries, so there's absoutely no reason to believe you should be comparing yourself to a set of professionals in the modeling industry.
It's a models' industry!
It's a 'models' industry, but I guess that comes somewhat down to how you quantify a 'professional' model, aka, a professional being someone who gets paid for any job of which they give their time? Photographers don't get paid to be bad, average or indifferent, but models often do. Photographers rarely get paid to indulge in their hobby either, so is it a "I get paid to stand around looking miserable with no conceivable ability to act/pose", or is it someone who shines in front of the camera, who hypothetically speaking doesn't even have to be getting paid? I'd say the latter each and every time. Professional to me is an ability to do, not a loophole title based on a man made construct. I do often find it laugable some of the arrogance of those who consider them selves to be professional and who want to demand ludicrous fees, especially those who reply to TF castings asking to be paid when they weren't even in the running to be considered. Sure, I'll pay you for your experience if you pay me fore mine.. however my experience is three times as long, with possibly tens of thousands pounds worth of equipment that I've actually cared enough to learn to use, and in a studio that is a commercial space on top of my fee - so how much is it you owe me? Again, photographer or model, it's your choice who you work with, no one elses. Move on, and get over yourself.
Is an influencer a Model? An influencer can be paid to 'model' on Instagram, but they aren't necessarily a model. If you stuck many in front of a proper camera, and with lights, and where they'll have to have range, tell a story, produce consistency, and all while in a room of stangers.. you'll probably watch them freeze up, be stiff as a board, and fall a part! They take 100's of selfies in pretty window light taken on an iphone, or get their partner/friend to snap that supposedly perfect moment of selling a fake lifestyle, and then pick just one for Insta. A photographer and model does somewhat of the same for say 6 images for a spread, but they're working on extracting quality and conistency to be able to present them to an editor for a choice in nuance. Professionally speaking, an insta pic is worthless outside of Instagram. A lot of online creators have decent equipment these days too, but probably can't use it to it's potential, or rely heavily on fast AI post processing that destroys the quality of the image in any kind of decent resolution.
However, an influencer could be a great model too! Some love photography and have made an effort to understand it, or for the sake of their content they've surrounded themselves with people who do. Think back before the Insta age. Just how many kids were savvy enough to understand a little about good light? Influencers have grown up surrounded by it, it's like these 3 years old who pick up ipads and can recode them while you still can't even find the app you want on your phone. That singing in front of the mirror with a hair brush starts paying off unconsciously. It also doesn't mean that those who shine in front of the camera have taken the time to unserstand what is going on with the gear either, they just may have 'it' in terms of personailty an nuance.
Again, let's flip the script. Try to get a model or photographer who isn't interested in being an influencer or a social media whore, and watch them not understand how to manipulate it commercially. Prime example.. me! I can't be doing with being that contrived and fake. Deleting posts that don't get enough likes - how fucking sad. You've gota take me or leave me. I'm going to smash out the content I want, and you can either come for the ride, or not. Now however, that poorly background focused shot which is poor in print but is looking great on a tiny square on insta, has reach way beyond an award winning image. Being an influencers is a learned skill and talent too. A different one. Another case and point. How annoying is a Mr Beast video with the ridiculous edits and screaming at the camera, yet they guy is a legend of YouTube! He can manipulate the audience and YouTube algorhthm to the point of helping many other creators grow their own platform on it.
What I'm saying here is, when it's all laid bare (I had to tie that picture in some how), it's you as the product or the creative story teller that will inevitably draw comparrison and need to be strong enough to ride it. There's a million grey areas, personal preferences, sub genres (and so on), so the idea that you are obliged to be a part of everything under that umbrella isn't going to end well. Appreciate your originality, and accept it's limitations. There will always be people that don't need to comment on social posts that will, but if you're applying for castings/jobs, that is exactly what you're asking for. A castings sole purpose is so the person with the vision can compare you to the others applying to see who is the best fit for the narrative/idea/concept etc etc etc in their eyes. It's not an exact science, and assuming you can hold your own in front of the camera, ultimately you will appeal to different people's quirks and preferences. It doesn't mean you're not suitable for other modelling jobs within the industry as a whole. In this day and age it is only becoming more and more of a subjective industry as more people try to be inclusive, more PC, and all while every Tom, Dick and Harry thinks they're a photographer or model regardless of ability. It's a viable hobby and money maker for amateurs. I've seen people thrive who are perfectly average, and that's just fine - fair play to them for creating their brand that works for them! Just don't be that annoying jumped up arsehole who kicks off, be the one who wants to get better and prove them wrong. Again, even if you don't realise you're a little clueless from naivety, that will eventually lead to invaluable experience and knowledge. Being self aware will be critical to understanding your niches and will save you a lot of heart ache, but don't be scared to put yourself out there, or you'll stay here; in a pipe dream.