For Models: How to Spot Bad Photographers

Models, especially aspiring models, have it pretty tough. They have to deal with fake agencies and casting calls, internet scams, creeper photographers, no budget “fashion shows”, and a slew of other time-wasters that hold them back. This article is going to cover one of the biggest time wasters of all: bad photographers.

When models are starting out, or want to add a new look to their portfolio, they’ll reach out to local photographers to get something going. Or, if the model has posted interest in doing a shoot online, hordes of photographers will contact them and offer up shoots. Since most models aren’t photographers or image experts, they can’t always spot a good photo portfolio from a bad one. Below is a list of other less-subjective red flags that models can use to prevent working with bad photographers:

1. They obsessively watermark their images

Look at almost any professional photographers site who does real commercial work and you won’t find any watermarks. A pro has already been paid to take his images and isn’t concerned with people using them as their profile pic on Facebook, and stock photographers know the odds of a photo selling actually go down if they watermark their images. When you see a photographer that’s obsessed with watermarking, you should steer clear. It’s an amateur move that’s a complete waste of time.

2. They’re only available evenings and weekends to shoot

If you’re dealing with a photographer who can’t shoot during the day, he hasn’t quit his day job, and photography is his hobby. If you’re looking to get pro shots, this will probably be a dead end.

3. He requests naked pics/selfies  

I know this is a pretty crazy one, but this is a real thing that happens all the time. Weirdo photographers will contact models looking to do a shoot and request naked pics so they can “review” them before the shoot. Their excuse is that they need to see what you look like naked to make sure you’re swimsuit material. If a photographer asks you to send naked pics, run. I’ve never in my life asked a model for naked selfies or pictures; it’s entirely unnecessary. A good photographer has work-arounds for models who don’t hold up so well once the clothing starts coming off, so no naked “reviewing” is necessary.

4. They’re totally rude and unprofessional

Whether it’s in messages or in person, if a photographer is straight up rude and verbally abusive to you, he’s an amateur. Every time we do a shoot we ask our models to tell us their horror stories about rude photographers they’ve worked with, and they always have one. Any photographer who tells you you’re incapable of doing the poses he wants, that you need to work out because you’re fat, and/or anything else that’s entirely insulting, you need to steer clear. One model told us that she had a shoot with a photographer who gave her a list of her “problem areas” on her body, and that he wouldn’t be using her again if she came to him again looking that fat. Behavior like that is unacceptable, so once again Rich and I stood there in disbelief and apologized for the conduct of the posers in our industry. If you’re on a shoot and the photographer talks down to you, starts body shaming you, or is being rude to you in any way, just leave. Say f%@k off, and walk out. I promise there won’t be any consequences, photographers like that have zero influence in the world of photography.

5. Their portfolio is perved out

If you want some tasteful shots done, check your potential photographers portfolios. ALL of them. If you post that you want to do a shoot, creeper photographers get sneaky by sending you tasteful looking photos that they’ve done, and a lot of models give the green light based off those samples. Don’t stop at what the photographer sent you, look them up. Check out their website, Flickr, Behance, Fstoppers, and any other links you can find that display their work. If you find that their biggest portfolio is all gross nude shots done in their apartment, don’t work with them. Slimy photographers will send you tasteful warm-up pics that they took before they tried to get their models naked, and they’ll try to do the same thing with you. This is a big thing in the world of amateur photography. There’s a lot of creeps out there who use photography as a gateway to women, so be careful.

6. They only want to shoot at their house/apartment

This is pretty self explanatory. Any photographer who’s going to give you agency quality photos has a real studio to shoot in.  However, this is something you have to feel out. A lot of wedding, newborn, and engagement photographers have legit workspaces in their homes, but if someone tells you they’re going to give you Nike ad quality pics and they send you to an apartment number, beware.

7. They offer up all the raw photos

Amateur photographers will offer to give you every photo taken during the shoot. Pro’s won’t generally do this because they don’t want to give you photos that aren’t touched up, or “retouched” if you wanna get all technical, and perfected in post. Look for a photographer who offers you a few touched up selects from the shoot. This means they really care about the quality of work they’re putting out there.

Now, listed above are the general pitfalls we’ve seen and models have told us about, they aren’t stone cold facts or definitive rules. There’s a lot of college students, pro’s, and aspiring pro’s who do phenomenal work that seem to fit into some of the generalizations I just made, so don’t write off photographers based solely on this article. #2 is definitely going to cause butt-hurtedness for photographers who didn’t read this article in its entirety and missed this paragraph. It really comes down to models doing their research. Stalk their work, contact models the perspective photographer has worked with and get reviews, see if they work for/own a real photography studio, etc. and you should be fine.

If you have any other tips that I missed, please write us or leave a comment. We’ll update this article with any good points that I didn’t cover. I hope this article was helpful to you in some way, and thanks for reading!

Author: Caleb Morgan

Comments (50)

  • You are so awesome! I don’t suppose I’ve truly read through anything like this before.
    So great to find another person with some genuine thoughts on this issue.
    Seriously.. thanks for starting this up. This website is something that is
    needed on the internet, someone with some originality!

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  • Some good points and a few not so accurate points…..#2 is by no means correct….there are people who can only shoot in the evenings and weekends that produce top quality shots, some published some not. To say you need to shoot 9-5 to be a professional or otherwise it’s a dead end is ridiculous.

  • I thought this was a good read. As someone in front of and behind the camera I can get behind most of what was said here. Some seriously pathetic fucks on here though talking shit. You guys keep it up and ignore the jealousy.

  • How to tell if you should shoot with a photographer: look at their overall decision making.

    Like do they open a studio in a mall and then lecture others about how to run their business. A mall. The irony here us that neither of you two "photographers" had a studio space of your own before your mall space and Rich still has another job.

    Carlos Velez shoots half naked models in his garage from the top agencies in the state and has a port that looks infinetly more professional than you two inconsistent clowns.

    Good luck giving away your business to stay afloat.

    • The jealousy is strong with this one. Clearly photographers are so insecure that it blocks their ability to read. This article was intended to help models from shooting with someone who just purchased a camera and wants to creep out on models. If you are a pro, then good for you…you are doing it right. Yes we opened a studio in a mall, and before that we had a studio in downtown sanford. What does being in a mall have to do with anything? Oh no…you mean 100s of people will see our work daily? What a horrible idea! I noticed how you didn’t leave a link to your work. I would love to check it out. Let me guess…another internet tough guy…HAHA!

  • I will disagree with almost all you said. You are considering all photographers are male. I left the pro market so I am a hobbiest. I shoot at my home because I do not take clients. I only work with models creating my own work. Some people may consider my work perved out and if someone is not approaching me with respect I don’t feel obligated to return a respectful reply. This is my portfolio

  • It seems obvious from your post that your views are myopic on the subject of what too look for when hiring a photographer. You article is clearly stating that people should just not hire anyone but you because you don’t do the don’t of your article. I find this an arrogant way to persuade people opinion. I’m sure if you wanted to make a well thought out article you would have put more thought into it and the article may either end up being way too specific for people to read all scenarios you are referring to.
    1. Watermarks, there are times when can be bad idea to have and times when they are good to have. I personally feel that it’s best to have a client proofing session if you want the client to see all images and if a client wants there to be a watermark that up to the photographer or the specific contract terms.
    2. Schedule is schedule, why does time matter. I would love to even have shoots at 1am if a client wants. Just like if they want to shoot in the rain or snow storm, who am I to say no if I know there’s no risk to my equipment or health.
    3/5. Some photographers legitimately work in porn, I don’t. But yeah, there are many pervs. There’s also a big market of clients that are pervs too, so it’s not unreasonable for them to get work and that such requests for images are normal for those "pros". Though I don’t see it as necessary, unless whatever clothing or sex product company requests to approve the model with nude images. Selfies without hair and makeup do help show the canvas the makeup artist and hair stylist has to work with. I haven’t had a need to request nude images, but I do like getting recent images without hair/makeup done.
    4. Some pros are rude, arrogant or even stupid. You get all kinds. I’ve had clients that hired me for a shoot and the model they chose come either very different from their images or not doing a good job posing, and I’ve seen them either body shame or eject the model from the shoot altogether. There’s a problem with this from more than just the photographer but in the industry in general. I personally don’t like working with rude people and simply refuse work from even rude clients too, it goes both ways. This topic is an article in itself from event photography, portfolio shoots, editorial, etc…
    6. Some people’s homes are awesome, who know’s it could even be someone else’s home. The property could be semi-commercial/residential and may have a separate space for shooting, such as farm with a structure that is the size of a large warehouse next to a house or attached. However, I agree and disagree with you point for many reasons that I assume are obvious.
    7. Giving all raw images is just lazy. But sometimes if a customer pays extra for the raws, such as an ad firm with their only team of image editors, I’ll let them edit and choose the images. Though I’m weary of such agreements, as I do prefer full control of images, since people hire me for my work which includes my editing style and vision. This seems to be something a photographer is less likely to offer and more likely a client is badgering them to get until the weak-willed photographer gives in.

    Generally, your vague article needs a revision. I’m not good at writing so I’m ok with my comment being ripped to shreds for any writing errors. Also, you can’t always trust the stories you hear from your client’s bad experiences as they are often exaggerations or lies as a result of some other bad experience such as not wanting to pay more for additional editing work so why not rip apart that photographer’s reputation (based on what I’ve heard from others; it’s a vicious cycle these "stories").

    I do like that you ask your client’s about their past experiences. It is important to build rapport and trust and find any biases they may have so you can overcome them and have a great shooting experience.

    • "If you’re dealing with a photographer who can’t shoot during the day…"
      The operative word here is ‘CAN’T’. It doesn’t say ‘chooses not to’. Lol it’s like photographers have selective reading disorders.

  • 1 Sometimes watermarks detract; this is more bad marketing than bad photography. 2: Hardly a litmus test as you state later. 3: Usually a red flag; if its for a figure shoot a request for a portfolio is reasonable. 4. Have to agree; this should also apply to the tone of blog posts. 5. ok. 6. Well, that rules out (at times) Edward Weston, Annie Leibowitz, and tons of city-based photographers fresh out of art school.

  • first off, i don’t want to come off as some of the other RUDE commenters on this article. thanks for posting your opinion and i’m glad i read it. i don’t EVER work with models, but here are some of my thoughts 🙂

    watermarking – i hate watermarks. i think they are a sign of insecurity and just overall takes away from the image.

    limited availability – this doesn’t directly mean you are a bad photographer. you could have other aspirations in life outside photography. i have limited availability because i’m a student and sometimes have to turn down photography work because of that. correct me if i’m wrong but i think you may not like it when people call themselves a professional but just do photo work on the side. I hate that. its misleading to clients and a disservice to the industry.

    nudes – that is weird. it shouldn’t matter what their body looks like. if you won’t shoot someone because they are too fat then you are not a nice person. its also a disservice to society.

    perved out – RED FLAG…i think that is pretty straight forward 🙂

    meet at home – like you said, totally depends on the shoot

    raw files – its like sitting down at a pizza place for dinner and buying the raw ingredients

  • Watermarking – I don’t ever do that. In my opinion it ruins the image.

    Availability – well some people work more than one job. That’s not a good reason.

    Requesting nude photos – If it’s a nude shoot and I want to make sure this person doesn’t have an ugly body – it’s totally ok. If the model is shy and won’t do it she doesn’t get the job. Simple really. Now if you request nudes for a non nude shoot then yeah that’s wrong.

    NYC rent is high I shoot at home. You don’t like it, it’s ok, I have clients that don’t care where I shoot. I think it’s much more dangerous to meet a stranger under the Brooklyn bridge. LOL

    If you know where someone live that actually makes "you" safer. So that’s a stupid point really.

    Offering what you offer is a silly point really. It’s none’s business but the shooter and the model’s what they agree to.

  • Your an arrogant fucker.

    Well, excuse me asshole. Photography is fucking expensive. You go to work more than one job to make it up for buy equipment. I am sorry I wasn’t born with a silver spoon in my mouth you! Most models expect to be paid. I am not going to quit my day job to go poor. I agree that some of your mentions about creepy people asking for nude selfies. Yes that is unprofessional. Also if your rude to the model. That is also a no no. But what really ticked me off was the availability. Maybe you should rethink your article because you sound like a fucking douche bag.

    • actually you are being arrogant. yes, photography is an expensive hobby but its an extremely cheap profession. an amazing photographer can run an extremely successful business with only $10-15k worth of equipment (if that). on the other hand, think of a plumber for example. he has to buy a truck just to transport his tools. that alone is probably $25-30k and its an empty truck. You don’t have to be fed with a sliver spoon to be passionate and grow your talent over time. it has taken me YEARS to be able to buy what i have and it all pays for itself very quickly when you can generate income from what you love.

  • A lot of people are so butt hurt. This is an editorial article in what she or an outsider thinks is professional. If you’re confident in your work who the fuck cares. I too think big watermarks are ugly and distracting and I am a love design. But no logo is going to make a photo better. I’m confident enough to let my photos stand alone. The image should speak for itself.

  • I work a day and night job and then do photography on the weekends as well as nightlife photography. I get paid and published so….. #2 is garbage. I have also been to some photographers houses that have incredible studios built in them so once again…. Bs

    • I agree with you…..I work 50 hours / week at my regular job and only have time in the evenings and weekends for portrait shoots….just because you don’t shoot 24/7 doesn’t mean you can’t produce top quality images.

  • So wait?? Who wrote this article? I’m surprised daily by so called know it alls in the area of photography. Ran my studio from my home for years and had pro models come and work many times over. Can’t hack it as a full time photog? I do. But I know MANY pro photogs who have day jobs and yes once again have a 8 to 5 they go to. In fact I can name many famous photographers who do their art on the side and I also know famous photographers from the past who did the same. Again i will state the writer of this article is a full blown idiot who is wet behind the ears and knows nothing of the reality of being a real photographer or the reality of the industry these days.

  • What idiot wrote this article?? I’ve shot for over 30 years. I’m an artist!! This is MY work, my work of art. I fully intend to ALWAYS sign my work, add my copyright. All my models know this and better yet I’ve been published with my watermark on it. Who is Gods name is the idiot who wrote this article??

  • 1: WRONG
    Back in the days of film there was usually gold or silver even white overlays that would go in a corner of the photo to let people know WHO shot the photo. OR the photo was signed by the photographer because – SURPRISE photography IS art and it is copyright to the Photographer. Per the comment earlier "Well starry night/Mona Lisa isn’t signed", bad example because copyright laws did not exist till the 1970’s for art. REAL commercial art on a photographers page DOES have watermarks. if you’re talking published it’s in the magazine, the name is printed therefore no need for watermarks! When you see a published photo in magazines and such that is the finished product and the contract has been signed, in that contract is the information that the image is owned/co-owned by the one who purchased it.
    Look at their portfolio, if they have a watermark it should match their name/business name. You can ASK for non watermarked photos but that depends on your contract and your photographer. Look at their portfolio.
    2:WRONG, but right on the butt-hurt, rather, bend over sweetie.
    "Why should I pay that much when I can have my grandma/friends cousin/sister’s older ex boyfriend do it" If you’re a "Pro" you’ve heard this.
    Digital age has DESTROYED most photographer’s ability to work off of their photography alone. Some are successful but many companies known by 90’s or older kids remember school photos and Lifetouch started to go downhill in 2011 and had to struggle to stay afloat. Many of my school teachers in photography were once film photographers put out of business by the digital age. A Denver photographer whom is high end, fantastic quality and professional still works 40 hours repairing car windows.
    Do you know why some not super OMG top of the line photographers have two jobs? Because aspiring models can’t afford to drop $300-$600 on head shots. Do you know why Photographers that are decent and trying actually charge maybe $20-100, because you’re their client and he or she understand you’re both strapped for cash.
    Look at their portfolio, do they produce work you can both afford and like?
    3: CORRECT,
    oh something right! In fact if he OR SHE (Because women like me are photographers as well) asks for rude or uncomfortable photos you might want to start heading for the hills. A west coast photographer is now under legal investigation because of said questions and demands.
    This is someone who got a fancy camera and thinks they can do the thing and ask people for free nudes. This is NEVER OK!
    4: Correct, least I am hoping more will do this! Walk off of they’re being verbally abusive. If someone says they’re "Professional" they need to act like it.
    Flip side if you’re wanting to become a "Professional Model" please act it princess/prince.
    And no, there will not be consequences, some drama I’m sure. Sadly their influence in the photography world is unfortunately a little larger then someone like that should have. It’s the name of the real world, don’t put up with it, don’t be rude but do walk away and protect yourself.
    5: Correct and Wrong:
    Here is why this is wrong: as an aspiring model you should already know that you need to see their portfolio.
    Here’s why it’s correct: If a photographer approaches you look for what REALLY MAKES A PROFESSIONAL: Do they have an understanding of lighting, composition, can they touch up, do they work with more than just woman, do they have a finished portfolio that appeals to you? ECT!
    6: saying correct for reasons of safety!
    Are you paying for the studio? There will be open studios just about anywhere, the cheapest here in Denver is $80 for an hour. Are you willing for fork over the money to pay for that studio space AND your photographer’s time? That said, keep yourself public or bring a friend. If their portfolio has their pictures with their watermark on it, then yeah they might give you Nike quality from their apartment but don’t count on it.
    Predators snatch up a large camera, throw it on automatic and wait for their prey. Err on the side of caution, unless it’s a house studio that’s right there on bling and yelp with those star rating of little miss Jane Doe loving her family photos, do NOT Go.
    7: YES
    And moreover… DO NOT ASK FOR THE RAWS if you do, the photographer should look at you like you just asked for their underwear. When you hire a photographer, a PROFESSIONAL QUALITY ONE, you are hiring their skills/their schooling/their experience and their finished product.
    IT IS OK TO PREVIEW PROOFS. oops said a fancy old school word "Proofs" This is back in the day when negatives were laid out and exposed on paper and you got a preview of what the photographer shot. We did this to 1: get an idea of what your tastes were 2: let you get excited for the photos 3: eliminated us hohumming over which was best. There were other reasons but I didn’t pay that close attention in class.

    There are a lot of people who do their own research and truly know what they’re talking about. Where there are a lot of good points to this, I’m saddened that though yes #2 was a real cheap shot to get hits, I’m sure the writer will be butt-hurt over my responses and LEAP to defend. You should because the biggest thing that should have been highlighted was glazed over like a donuts. That big neon sign for an amateur photographer? THEIR PORTFOLIO. That’s how you spot someone who’s amateurish or does not have a keen eye for what you need and how you want your finished product to look like.
    So my #1 tip you really missed the ball on: look at their portfolio, research their name and see what comes up.
    And #2 in my world of learning: Pros have model releases and paperwork, be SURE to read over it and understand it BEFORE you sign!

  • Telling it like it is

    Hmmmmmmmmm a lot of opinions here, by an anonymous writer. If you thought your article was worth publishing, why didn’t you sign your name???

    • It appears the new update on our site doesn’t automatically post the authors name with the article anymore. My name, CALEB MORGAN, is up there now. Just look at it…so bold, so daring, so triumphant!

        • Great. Now I don’t know what to do. If I don’t put my name on the article it’s worthless, but at the same time it will stand on it’s own. I never thought a paradox of this magnitude would happen here, like this, today.

          • Telling it like it is

            I’m glad to see you’ve signed the article you wrote, you should have recognition for it Caleb. But isn’t that a little contradictory to rule #1 in your article? Because a photographers images are no different than your article!!!

  • A professional will also charge the model in most cases unless they agree on something. Whether the photographer wants to add to their portfolio or wants to be nice is really the only time a pro will not charge. I have quit doing free shoots 3 years going now. Photography is my full time career. If the photographer gives you a rate and you cannot pay them, do not get angry. This is his/her career. Move on and maybe find a photography student. You can still find very good student photographers. That being said, a is still not professional.

    I hope this has been useful.

  • 1 is totally untrue. Have you ever seen a piece of art in a gallery without a signature, I do not watermark my commercial work (paid for) but testing work is always marked. #2 is also untrue, you may be lucky and get to shoot with the next famous photographer when they are starting out.

    I do not know who wrote this article but he/she is misinformed,

  • Actually a lot of models can only shoot nights and weekends, not just photographers. Also not entirely helpful since a model that’s unable to tell the difference between a good photograph and a bad one is also likely unable to differentiate between a tasteful watermark and an obtrusive one.

  • No need for all these tips. How to spot bad photographers easy look at their portfolio. Their portfolio is the only determining factor of whether someones work is good or bad.

  • Pros not having watermarks on their images is old school. Yes they aren’t worried about use on facebook, but without the watermark with copyright information there is no protection from those who wish to use the images commercially. I have had many images used and I have won every challenge because I have the watermark present. Let’s not give bad advise to new models coming into the industry.

  • Great tips however, #2 is kinda BS IMO. Just because I work a 9-5 doesn’t mean I can’t produce high-quality work. I’ve got a shitload of student debt and live in a very high-cost area. Judging a photographer based on doing it full time or not is purely anecdotal. I know plenty of studios that produce absolute garbage and it’s a full-time gig.

    • You’re 100% correct. There’s a lot of photographers #2 doesn’t apply to, which is why I mentioned that one specifically at the end of the article as something that’s a toss up. However, a lot of the bad photographers out there have day jobs because they can’t hack it in the professional space. Like, at all.

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