I have hired models numerous times to work on my portfolio and other projects. It is a common problem that they flake – that is not show up; usually with some bizarre reason that they need to cancel last-minute and sometimes without any notification at all. Flaky models make working on projects difficult, time-consuming and sometimes expensive.
I do not know why models can be so unreliable, but many have even come unreliable in trying to set up a shoot.
To be fair, my statements are based on working with models directly through common industry web-sites where photographers, make-up artists, models and other related persons can interact. I hope that models through an agency are more reliable, but they are significantly more expensive and some agencies are difficult to use.
For some recent travel, I posted a “casting call” on industry sites for a photography concept I have been working for about a year. I described in detail where the shoot would be, pay rate and other terms for the shoot. I received several inquiries to the casting call and I communicated with every one of them, acknowledging their expression of interest and the current status of selection.
A couple of the interested models didn’t have pictures within their portfolio that would show that they were the proper choice for the concept. I messaged those persons requesting more information and a different picture be supplied. Nothing weird, just trying to gain the knowledge I need to make an educated selection.
One model provided the extra picture and information without issue. Another promised to do so, but didn’t follow-through even after I attempted to contact them again. The others never responded, living up to the flaky models reputation early in the game.
At this point, every interested model has been given detailed information about the shoot plus my full name, e-mail address, web-site and phone number. I even provided profile information for my wife, who is also a model as well as my assistant and would be on location for the shoots; advised that escorts are welcome and invited a phone call.
My wife and I reviewed the portfolios of each person that responded, along with what information I was able to obtain beyond the profiles and portfolios. We made our selection.
Knowing about flaky models and the short, incorrectly spelled responses we received from this model, we decided not to communicate to the rest of the respondents that our selection was made; we wanted to wait a couple more days to iron out the details with our selection.
She didn’t respond. After giving a few days, I sent a follow-up message through the industry site. She hadn’t wanted to give her personal information until we agreed on the shoot, which I was respecting but that meant I could only reach her through the website.
Her profile said that she was traveling presently, but my communications were made prior to her travel and her travel announcement did not mention that she wouldn’t have internet access. What modern hotel does not have internet access; especially in North America. I sent one more follow-up message.
A week had passed, so I sent a new message explaining that I was withdrawing my offer to hire her. Apparently that touched a nerve and she decided to respond finally, that same day. Three short, rude messages with a number of spelling and grammar errors.
We moved on.
Planning for some issues, we had our second and third selections decided already.
I sent a message through the site to our second selection letting them know that we have decided to hire them for the concept. After a few days of silence I finally get a response that the location is too far from them.
She knew the location before sending me a message of interest. Whatever – we’ll chalk that one up to flaky models.
It is a good thing that I started this whole process nearly two months in advance. I was starting to run out of time.
Notification was sent to our third selected model that I would like to hire her for the concept. A few days passed before I sent a follow-up message. After another week, I sent a message withdrawing my offer to hire the model.
None of the other models met my needs so I sent a cold-call message to a couple of models in the area that meet my needs for the shoot, in hopes they are interested. No luck on them. Casting call cancelled.
I had accidentally forgotten to notify one model of the status of the shoot. She reached out to me and we agreed on time and compensation for the shoot.
Although the model showed an hour late, we had fun with the shoot and I was able to get some lovely pictures for my concept.
Another Casting Call
One year prior to the last casting call example, I was traveling and thought it would be a perfect time to try my new concept and I placed a casting call. Detailed information was given in the casting call and I received a few responses.
My wife and I reviewed the respondents and their portfolios. One of them stood out and would be perfect for the concept. As a bonus, I was somewhat familiar with her work as she had been in a couple local workshops which I trust the organizer.
I reached out to the model through the site letting her know we would like to hire her for the shoot. She responded promptly and everything was arranged, including exchanging contact information.
She let me know that where I was shooting was a bit far for her and she requested a small amount of additional money for her travel. No big deal; it was reasonable.
I sent a reminder a couple of days before the shoot and included my cell phone number. We would meet her in the lobby to get acquainted, handle the release and compensation, then we’d go into the studio. She replied; everything was good.
Day of Shoot
I’ve got the lighting and other equipment set up for the shoot. My wife and I go to the lobby to meet our model a few minutes early to make sure we were there when she arrived. I sent her a text message suggesting an easier way to get to the location and telling her where in the lobby we were.
Half an hour later, our model hadn’t showed up yet. I tried calling the number she gave, but went to voicemail after two rings. Tried again several minutes later with the same result. After an hour we gave up. Flaky models.
Fortunately, my beautiful wife is also a model and my favorite to photograph. With everything setup and the space paid, I shot her instead and finally my concept was born.
Perhaps they were busy and hadn’t seen the message yet
The site shows when the message was read by the recipient. I know within reason when the model read the message. They simply chose not to respond.
Models Get Creepy Requests All the Time
I get this. My wife being a model has gotten some scary sounding requests that we didn’t like. Simple courtesy, send a “No, Thank you.” and move on.
In each of these cases, everything was outlined in advance including my personal contact information, location and references. I even allow escorts – which most photographers do not allow. I want the model I am hiring to be comfortable.
The pay wasn’t enough
The pay amount was provided in the casting call from which they responded. The model knew before contacting me how they were being compensated and negotiations are agreed by both photographer and model before booking.
My Feedback to Flaky Models
This is a business proposal/transaction in which professionalism is a must.
Read the details of the casting call/proposal. Don’t simply respond to a casting call without looking into the location or deciding if you are willing to accept the pay outlined only to reject an offer for paid work due to your own ignorance.
Communication is key to any success, even when negative. Instead of ignoring people with whom you initiated contact, simply let them know you changed your mind; perhaps provide some constructive feedback as to why you changed your mind.
Continuing on the last point – proper use of the English language avoids confusion in communication. Using abbreviations and incomplete sentences is not professional and tends to allow misinterpretation of mood or intent.