Every since the creation of basic chat rooms, there have been a lot of media coverage about the dangers of speaking with, and meeting up with people met on the internet. Stories of paedophiles and people who have alternative motives than what they state have been prevalent in the news for many years. What we can deduce though, is that victims are never only a specific demographic. Children, teenagers, adults, men and women, old and young, have all been targeted at some point by people who have used their computer as a smoke screen.
Of course, we aren’t trying to say that speaking to someone on the internet will lead to bad circumstances; we are just reiterating that you should never be complacent and think that “it’ll never happen to me”, as those who have their guard down are the ones who, unfortunately, end up in the news.
Check their references
Because of the internet, and the many portfolio websites that exist, the number of people who have turned to modelling has skyrocketed. The same can be said about photographers too; high-quality cameras are reasonably priced these days, so a lot more people have turned to photography to help with their income, or to use it as a creative outlet. Now, because of these two factors, the potential safety issues have also increased, as the internet allows people to create a false identity.
When you’re first starting out, it can be really excited to start booking your first jobs, but no job should ever be worth your safety. If you have been contacted outside of an agency or portfolio website, always ask for references. This shows the photographer that you’re serious about your professionalism and safety, and that you will be checking up on their previous work. If you’ve been contacted via a portfolio website, then you should hopefully be able to see all of the other references left by other models and creatives.
If everything seemed fine during your initial correspondence, but after meeting at the location you start to have a very bad feeling, never hesitate to walk away. You’ll know the difference between nerves and being scared. Always be sure that you have an adequate means to leave the location.
Bring an escort
The rise of the internet has created the need for escorts to sometimes be necessary. Before the internet, models would usually only be booked through an agency, and would usually be booked by established photographers. This added a greater level of safety and also meant that both parties were known to each other. Bringing an escort with you to a photo shoot adds a substantial level of protection, and will give you peace of mind, so that you can focus on the work at hand.
Having said that, even though there are absolutely no negative reasons to bring an escort with you, it’s a bit of a controversial subject, as they are predominately unnecessary. A lot of people will probably find it a bit insulting that you didn’t trust them enough that you felt like you had to bring someone along with you, but at the end of the day, your safety is more important than the photographer’s feelings or ego. There are a lot of ways to fake references, via fake accounts and email addresses, so for new models just starting out, it’s always advisable to bring an escort with you for the first few jobs.
To save on the awkwardness, don’t introduce your friend as an escort, but make up an excuse as to why they are with you. Anything from, “…is interested in becoming a photographer/model”, to “he gave me a lift here, and is giving me a lift home”.
A lot of photographers won’t like having an escort in the room during the photo shoot as they’ll say that it distracts the model, or them, from working properly. This is a fairly valid point, so it’s advisable to have your escort in the next room, or outside, etc., rather than actually with you during the shoot. However, if the photographer isn’t happy about your escort just being near, then it’s probably a good idea to bail on the shoot altogether, as there is no trust on either side.
Models aren’t the only ones at risk, photographers are too. In the past, models have wrongfully made allegations of sexual assault and rape towards photographers, so trust really does need to go both ways. Photographers can sometimes use their own escorts, in the form of bringing a professional makeup artist, or creative, so that there is a mutual third party. This is especially useful for first-time shoots.
In an ideal world, none of this would be at all necessary. Unfortunately though, it just simply is not worth the risk, as a few individuals have, and will likely continue, to ruin this great profession.
Safety tips for turning up to photo shoots
The following is a list of what we feel are necessary tips in securing your safety, when turning up to a photo shoot:
- Write down the photo shoot location, as well as the photographer’s name and phone number, and give it to someone who you trust (friends, family).
- Let your trusted friend or family member know roughly your expected time back. The best course of action is to notify them when you arrive at the location, when you have left the location, and when you have got home.
- Always fully charge your mobile phone, and be sure to bring a charging cable with you. 9/10 times the location will have somewhere that you can charge your phone too.
Enough cash to grab a taxi, if you should need to leave hastily.
- Bring your own drinking water with you, and only accept drinks that are unmistakably sealed, or from a tap that others are using.
- Look at a map of the surrounding area of the shoot, so you will have at least a little basic knowledge of the area. Google maps works great for this purpose.