Importance of Professionalism in Modeling (and Everything Else, too)
Professionalism above all else.
One of the most common questions I am asked about my career is what I value in the people I work with. In the course of my job, I work first hand with photographers, brand representatives, agents, and models. And in every person I meet, I value professionalism above all other potential qualities. I’d like to talk a little bit about some basic expectations I have for the professionals I work with, and the standard of how to treat models for a successful business interaction.
What is professionalism? Merriam-Webster defines it as “the conduct, aims, or qualities that characterize or mark a profession or a professional person.” (Nothing like a definition that uses the root word in the explanation, right? 😂) There are a lot of tell tale signs of a professional person in the modeling world, just as there are usually some obvious signs of an unprofessional one.
Communication really does matter. How do you speak to the people you are engaging and potentially working with? Are you polite, courteous and to the point? Do you re-read your emails and texts before you send them to ensure that they convey the point you want, in a way that will be understood and well-received by your audience? I cannot stress the value of re-reading typed messages out loud to see how they will sound to the person reading them. Receiving a well-written, well-thought out message makes you, as the recipient, feel much more confident in working with the sender, than a half baked message where you can’t quite tell if the sender truly was ready to send that message yet- or if it was even intended for you at all. I like to know exactly what is expected of me prior to a photoshoot, so clear and concise communication prior to the shoot date is crucial. The more well-put together and comprehensive our conversations about the shoot are beforehand, the more confident I feel in our shoot, and the more smoothly things will go for everyone involved.
Another thing is basic business courtesy. Don’t call someone at 1 am about an upcoming shoot because you just had a brilliant epiphany in your sleep about wardrobe styling. If you would not like it if your job contacted you that late, then don’t do it to someone else. (Also, I work with a lot of people from all over the world, so make sure you double check changes between time zones before making that call.) Even though I LOVE what I do, and do it every single day with passion and love for my craft, I still need some sleep/downtime too. Also, be sure to discuss shoot expectations, booking policies, payment and any other important information PRIOR to the shoot. The responsibility for this falls on both parties. I always try to address all of the nitty gritty details prior to a photoshoot, but if you think of something and it has not been addressed or special circumstances dictate something about the shoot not following standard procedure, then BRING IT UP! Within reason, no questions are stupid questions during the booking process. It is far better to clear up any misunderstandings before the model is in front of a camera.
Also, respect professional boundaries and don’t take the model being down-to-business personally. Don’t get upset because you texted a model about something non-shoot related, and she is not answering you right away. I am friends with most of the photographers I work with, but I am very busy and work with a lot of people. These days, I work almost non-stop. Sometimes I don’t see my phone for 8 hours straight due to a crazy shooting schedule, and while I have a wonderful business partner who can help me stay on top of emails and business requests, personal messages often do not get answered until several hours later. This is NOT because I don’t care. It’s because ya girl is BUSY being the best model she can be, which is why you like her in the first place, so don’t take it personally.
This goes along with respecting professional boundaries, and I could talk about this alone for an entire blog post (maybe I will soon!), but don’t trash talk other models/professionals. If there is a specific issue that needs to be discussed because it may impact someone involved in the photoshoot you are planning, then discuss it as professionally and truthfully as possible, without embellishments or adding drama. There are certain people I don’t work with in this business for various reasons, and if I am asked to do so I explain I don’t feel comfortable shooting with that person. I often don’t give a reason unless I am pressed to do so or feel it is appropriate, and even then I stick to facts and keep it short. It’s great to protect others from having a bad experience by speaking up about someone who is acting in an unprofessional way, but it’s never a good look to rant and rave and trash talk a third party. The way I see it, saying that you won’t work with a person is explanation enough for most situations.
And for the love of Twiggy, (all hail the Queen 👑) do not question or push a models boundaries. This should go without saying but apparently it doesn’t. Ask the model her comfort zone before the shoot- while you are discussing ideas, concepts, the products you’ll be showcasing, etc. Models- be clear & specific about what you are okay with and what you aren’t. Do not say you are okay with something that you aren’t to avoid an awkward situation. Believe me it is 100000 times better to get any awkwardness out of the way during the preliminary booking process, than mid shoot, or to shoot something you don’t feel comfortable with to make someone else happy. Don’t do that. And if a model says no, that means no. No wiggle room there. Be respectful, be considerate and do not push. Don’t ask a model more than once just because you don’t like the answer you got. And if a model won’t do something you REALLY want her to, hire someone else that will. There are SO many models and it is never okay to make someone else feel uncomfortable just because you have a certain idea in mind or want a certain style of shoot. And do not EVER lie to a model and pretend to respect her boundaries, then try to push them afterwards or shoot her in a manner beyond what was agreed to.
There are so many more basic ways to demonstrate professionalism in this business, and I’ll explore more of them in future posts because I think it’s something that needs to be discussed. Some people have never booked a professional model before, and that’s okay! Basic human decency and overall, treating people as you would want to be treated, go a long way, both in the modeling industry and outside of it. And if you are reading this and think maybe you could stand to step up your professionalism game- then do it! We are all always trying to be better.