What Is My Motivation?

I’m definitely on a roll this week. Over the past couple days it has once again come to my attention that some people do not seem to understand that it’s possible to do the same thing (model/pose), while having different goals. My goals have always been slightly different than those of many other models and lately I am feeling even more “judgey-ness” because of that fact.

Really, it all comes down to money. I never got into modeling for money. My “how I came to be a model” story is complicated, but, basically, I first became interested when I was 23 because I was promised I could dress up like a “dominatrix” (as in a latex catsuit, corset, tall stiletto boots, etc). That never happened, but after that I started looking into a bit more and eventually found my first photographer and did a goth shoot. All I wanted to do was dress up and take photos. I wanted to create photos I thought were beautiful and I wanted to share those photos with the world. Even getting into nudes a couple months later, my primary motivation was originally just to create beautiful images.

Where things have always gotten twisted for me is where money became not only involved, but the end goal. There was a time when I pursued modeling as a primary source of income because I had nothing else and my “day job” wasn’t paying enough to cover my apartment, bills, food, etc.

But I quickly learned that taking shoots solely for the money darkened my passion for modeling. I was incredibly stressed. I would be in tears if I was even 5 minutes late for a shoot. I was devastated when I had a cancellation because I was dependent on the money. And it wasn’t a good fit for me to try to do something I loved with that hanging over my head.

So I found other ways to support myself and took paid shoots as they came for an extra boost and to pay bigger bills. I found Zivity and ended up paying a few pretty large bills that way. And that was wonderful for me because it meant I could shoot what I wanted and people thought it was worth paying for. That’s the perfect balance for me where money is involved with this passion of mine. And I’ve been mostly content in that balance for a few years now.

However, there are people who grumble and raise their eye brows at me because I don’t charge for every shoot I do, because I pose nude for trade, and because, quite honestly, every shoot I do isn’t “portfolio quality.” Of course I don’t like to be looked down upon. I’ve been doing this for 7+ years. I’ve been part of someone wonderful images. And mostly I have the respect of many others in the community both locally and up to internationally. I’ve worked hard to get to that point. But just because I don’t demand payment every time I shoot x or y or at all, people think I’m stupid or not doing right by myself or whatever else they think.

I love posing. Posing in itself is like a big, fat cake for me (I like confetti cake, so for me it’s that). I the actual act of posing, of developing a concept, of seeing the lights being set up. The resulting images are like my way of sharing that cake and that’s really important to me too, but sometimes the cake doesn’t really turn out well enough to share even though I had fun with it myself (shooting the images). Obviously, I’m going to try to be mostly selective and choose to have as many cake sharing opportunities as I can, but sometimes to get to those I have to try a few times, sometimes I have off days, or I work with someone whose ingredients/skills don’t mesh well with my own. That’s part of being an artist, part of being human.

That’s just my take on it, though. I’m totally okay with other artists doing it other ways, having different motivations and paths. But what irks me is when they act like their way is the best way and my way is wrong. Or when they tell someone else that there is only one “real” way or one “right” way. All of those things depend on your goals and motivations as a model. My way seems to work pretty well for me and it’s been shaped by my circumstances and where I live now. If I lived in a different area or if I were a different person, I’m sure it might be very different.

I firmly believe that payment does not make someone “professional.” Yes, you are far more likely to be paid if you behave professionally and are skilled at what you do, but there are unprofessional, unskilled people who get paid too. But even more importantly, there are people, like me and many others, who are models and photographers because we love what we do and our motivation is not money. Our motive is to create. Sometimes we may take payment or pay others, but we don’t let lack of payment bar us from creating with those we want to create with. And yes, we are lucky because we can do what we love and we earn a living some other way, so we don’t have some of the pressures that those who create art for money do.

Am I saying it’s bad to earn a living from modeling or photography? Of course not! I know many models who model as a living who are extremely talented and happy with what they do. I know photographers who are the same way. But I know others who come to hate modeling or photography because the push to earn money from it made them hate their craft. Some of them have quit. I know others who probably could make a living from it, but who choose, like I do, to create without it being their sole source of income. And I do still earn a good chunk of my income from my modeling, but I’m not solely dependent on it. We are all different. We should all be able to respect that.

If you enjoyed this blog post and would like to support my creativity, consider becoming a Patron on Patreon or purchasing a print or digital set from my shop.

What Is My Motivation? - Dekilah

That Pressure We Models Face

A lot of people reached out to me yesterday when I published my post “No more nudes? Let’s talk about it…” and I am so… relieved that most people understood where I am coming from and are supportive. What I am not so relieved about was the number of models who let me know that they feel very pressured to do “more” than they do as well.

Here is that portion of my blog post to get you caught up in case you haven’t read it:

“…there is always this pressure to do “more” and this feeling that no matter how nude I am, it’s not enough. People are constantly wanting open leg, more erotic work, girl/girl, flat out porn, etc. There are plenty of models who do those things, so if someone is looking for that, they can easily find it. But I feel like people actually press for it because they know I won’t do it and if somehow they pressure me into it, that’s an enjoyable thing for them. Why can’t people just appreciate what I do? Why is what I do not good enough? I’ve felt that way about myself for my entire life and it’s not something I want to keep enabling.”

As a model, I came to terms early on that people would ask me to do things I don’t do sometimes. It happens. For example, before I started posing nude, people asked me to pose nude all the time. I didn’t get upset about that as long as they were polite about it. I just said “no thank you” and moved on. Those times were not a problem for me.

However, I have had some photographers (and occasionally fans) who actually pressure me to shoot more explicitly than I am comfortable with. Notice that I am using the word “pressure” because they are doing more than just asking if I do or will. They say things like “I could make you so much more money if you’d just do this” or “I bet your fans would like you  more if you showed your pussy.” I had someone once tell me that doing this for the art was stupid when I could be making tons more money.

And it’s taken me some time to be able to put into words why this is such a problem, but I’m going to do my best now. As a model, I feel that what I do has value. What I do is pose. I create lines and shapes, moods, and sometimes characters with my form. Sometimes those things may be sexy or erotic, sometimes they may be raw, but I do what I do as an art form and as a source of enjoyment. At times it has also been a source of income, though now that comes more with my self portraits and photo sets on Zivity than being hired by photographers. But the “thing” that has value is my skill, perhaps talent, my experience, and my knowledge in what I do. It is not my body that I am “selling,” though I am hesitant to use that phrase, I cannot think of one more clear at the moment. If it were, I’d just be standing there looking down with no creative lighting, no composition, just me standing there the same way in every single photo. My body is part of what I do, but it’s not the sole “thing” and, in fact, is actually quite a small part of it compared to the rest.

With that said and as I am an artist who offers skill, talent, experience, and knowledge, I have limits and that is no different than anything else in life. We all have limits and we do not like them to be pushed or to be pressured past them. Sometimes, maybe, I might want to walk the line of a limit of mine. If I choose to do that I will likely reach out to someone to help me in that or, in my case, simply photograph it myself. But that is my choice. I decide when that will happen. That is exactly how I came to nude modeling. It wasn’t because I got so many offers I had to do it. It wasn’t because money was thrown at me. It was because I saw art nudes photos and I enjoyed them, and I wanted to be in them. I contacted a photographer who had let me know that if I ever wanted to shoot nudes, he would shoot them with me. It was a casual statement he made without any air of pressure or trying to convince me. And when I was ready, I did it.

When someone pressures me to go beyond my limits, especially when they try to use to guilt or flattery to do so, I feel immensely disrespected. I don’t feel disrespected because I think more explicit modeling is “bad,” and I don’t think it is bad, I just think it’s not within what I want to do. I feel disrespected because I am being treated as if my body is all there is and my limits, my skills, and so on are not any part of what I do.

If you enjoy my work, enjoy my work. Appreciate it for what it is, not for what you hope I might do. If you are a photographer and want to work with me, than do so because you want to work with me, limits, skills, talent, experience, and all. If you want something that I do not do, than find someone who does that willingly. They are out there and they will probably be happy to have your support as a fan or to work with you as a photographer… as long as you respect them.

I think this issue is one of the most common reasons why so many models, both new and very experienced, eventually leave the modeling world. We already feel we are putting so much out there that when we are asked for even more than we are comfortable giving, we feel unappreciated and begin to wonder why we even do what we do or begin to think that maybe we are simply doing the wrong thing for ourselves in being a model. I can only hope that most of the people who pressure us like this don’t have any idea of how much of an effect this can have on us, either immediately or over time. Part of the reason I am writing this is to try to increase the understanding of this problem and to encourage other models to realize that this is an issue outside of us. We are doing nothing wrong by having limits and modeling isn’t about posing in the most explicit way possible. It’s about creating images we are comfortable creating whatever our limits are.

I will finish by saying a very sincere thank you to the wonderful majority of people who I am honored to have worked with (and who I will work with), who take on the title as a fan of my work, and especially those who have sent me such wonderful supportive messages over the past few days. You inspire me and your support fuels my creative fire. You are awesome!

And as always, you are more than welcome to share this article on social media, to link to it, etc. I want these thoughts to ripple. I welcome you to write your own blogs on this subject, too, and I’d love to read them.

If you enjoyed this blog post and would like to support my creativity, consider becoming a Patron on Patreon or purchasing a print or digital set from my shop.

That Pressure We Models Face - Dekilah

Model & Photographer Trust and Respect Dynamics

One of the things I’ve learned in my years as a model is that the working relationship dynamic between models and photographers is very important. Although there are some general commonalities, it can often be unique from situation to situation and this is something that I thing warrants some discussion, particularly given some recent commentary I’ve read.

Models and photographers need to be able to trust one another to some degree. This can take time to develop in some cases which is why some like to do multiple shoots with the same model or photographer. If this is an option, I think it can allow for more exploration and development of concepts. But some of us only have one shoot, or at least only one shoot planned at the time, so we have to be able to develop that trust quickly, often partly through pre-shoot communications and checking references. This is also why I advocate following your instincts when you see red flags. If you cannot trust who you are shooting with, your shoot will very likely not be the best shoot it can be.

I feel that trust is often tested when new models work with more experienced photographers, particularly when younger and/or less experienced models work with more experienced, often male photographers. While I advocate that models should learn to say no, I also strongly believe that photographers should not push, pressure, convince, or coerce models to go past their limits. Trust can also be tested when a model and photographer shoot alone, and when a model wants to explore her limits. Unfortunately, we live in culture where models often feel that that photographer is in charge and “dominate” in the situation. This irks me quite a bit. Even if the photographer is more experienced, that doesn’t mean the model should feel that they can’t say no.

Along with trust comes respect and I’m not really certain which I would say comes first or if either is more or less important. Although I think we usually focus on the idea of photographers respecting models, I feel that the respect really should be mutual. I think if you respect those you work with and they respect you, a lot of the issues that we see pop up often (inappropriate behavior, flaking, etc) would be lessened quite a lot. I also feel that if you can’t respect someone, or if you feel they don’t respect you, it’s not worth shooting with them.

I think respect is something that often comes up in discussions about shooting nude. Asking someone to shoot nudes is not disrespectful. Pressuring or pushing them to do so is, but just asking in a professional way is not in itself disrespectful. I think that compensation is another topic that I think of when I think of being respectful. Asking someone to shoot trade is not disrespectful and neither is politely declining and possibly offering an alternate form of compensation (often rates). We all have to say no and decline at some point, just ask we’ll probably all be turned down for a shoot at some point as well. If we handle those situations professionally and respectfully, they don’t turn into bigger issues.

And again, although I think sometimes the issues we think of most often are those where we feel a photographer was not respectful to a model, but models should respect photographers as well. We need to understand that they are giving their time and talent as well. We should arrive on time and be clear and professional in our communication. Models shouldn’t alter images in any way without a photographer permission and should understand that generally photographers prefer to edit their own images (or to have it done by a retoucher or editor of their choice). And we should all credit each other when posting the images regardless of payment (unless some other agreement was made).

Now, I’m going to shift gears a bit… if trust and respect are in place sometimes the dynamic can become more friendly and/or playful. I experience this often when I shoot with friends. In those cases, I feel safe, I trust those people and I know they respect me so sometimes we tease each other, we make comments that might not be appropriate outside of that context, sometimes we experiment with shoots and try things that I might not be comfortable trying with someone else.

It occurred to me the other day that this more friendly dynamic that can come about is probably where some of the issues I’ve seen come from. Some people don’t understand that this is something that is developed and they assume that this behavior is appropriate with everyone when it’s not.

Modeling and model photographer are both jobs/hobbies/art that require you to work with other people and I think understanding these things is important to avoid complications and misunderstandings. I hope that this insight might be helpful and I’d love to hear your thoughts on this in the comments. You’re also welcome to share this. I think it’s an important discussion that we should all have.

Model and Photographer Trust and Respect Dynamics

How to Support Your Favorite Models

How to Support Your Favorite Models

People seem to “get” how to support creators of other sorts of art and other things they are fans of (anime, movies, actors, musicians, etc), but when it comes to models I kind of notice a gap. I’m not sure if this gap is because people assume models make a lot of money already or if they feel we should be offering our “product” (as in photos and such) for free, or if it’s something else altogether. So I wanted to share some behind the scenes information as well as some ways you can support your favorite models whether you can do so financially or not.

Why Do Models Want/Need Your Support?

Obviously, all models are different, but for those of us who really devote the time and effort into out modeling and who invest ourselves and sometimes quite a bit of our resources into it, this is at minimum how we earn part of our income. For some of us it’s the sole source of our income. Chances are if you’re following us and you’re a fan, we’re also somewhat of an “internet model” meaning that we do our best to maintain a fanbase, to have new content (photos and such) for you to see, and to interact with you. These are not normal model things that every model does. Not all models do this and those that do are actually using time that could be spent working or doing other things to maintain their social media, website, Zivity, Patreon, etc. You may not realize it, but some of us spend hours on these things. We also may shoot more of what we know you like or take on what are called trade shoots in which we don’t get paid, but we trade time with the photographer to shoot photos for Zivity sets, Patreon content, or just to share on social media.

And I’ll tell you this too: models don’t make that much money. Even the successful full time freelance models aren’t rolling in cash. I’m sure there are a few very, very rare exceptions, but for the most part models are living pay check to pay check (or shooting trip to shooting trip). And all of that pretty lingerie, gorgeous latex, and other wardrobe is not cheap. Some models may be lucky enough to have sponsors or to be able to borrow wardrobe, but most of us are expected to supply our own wardrobe for shoots. And on top of that, we can really only shoot in something once or twice before photographers and fans get tired of it. We usually learn to mix things up so we can reuse them, but we still spend a lot of money on wardrobe and that sexy skimpy stuff isn’t as cheap as you’d think.

In order for us to keep doing what we do, we have to be able to support ourselves and the things we need (wardrobe, makeup, etc). Some of us have day jobs or second and third jobs because modeling isn’t always a consistent income. This is why we can’t always just shoot whenever we want. Some of us may have another source for our living expenses income, but in order to keep modeling we need to make some income from it.

How You Can Support Your Favorite Models

Now with that explained, let’s talk about ways you can support us.

If you can afford it, most of us sell prints or photosets and a lot of us are on sites like Zivity and Patreon where you can spend a small amount ($5 or even less) to support us. I have over 3,000 likes on my fan page and if every one of those people pledged $1 a month, I’d be able to do so much! So even if $1 is all you can do, I promise it adds up. Most us offer special goodies that you can’t get otherwise for those who support us on Patreon and Zivity (and other sites). For example, I send out thank you cards that sometimes include mini prints and I also shoot lots of selfies that only my Zivity Backers and Patreon Patrons get to see. I also send out special goodies to those who vote on my Zivity sets since I get royalties from those votes.

Back to the prints for a moment: these are a great way to support a model (or photographer) you appreciate. It’s a one time purchase, unless you want to buy again, so it’s good for those who don’t like the idea of a subscription.

Okay, so what about for those of you who can’t do the financial support thing?

Share our work on Facebook, reblog us on Tumblr, tweet about us on Twitter. Basically, tell people about us. But please don’t download our photos and re-upload them without giving us credit. It’s much better for us if you share or reblog something we’ve posted so it’s easy for people to find us and we really want new fans to find us because even though you might not be able to financially support us, you might share us with someone who can. Likes and (positive, thoughtful) comments and things like that help too.

And I’m not saying that you have to share or reblog every thing we post, but if you see something you like, pass it on to others and help us out.

We love what we do and we want to be able to keep doing it, so do us a favor and show us a little (or a lot of) support, pretty please!

If you’d like to check out Zivity, here’s the link for that. And here is the Patreon link.

My Personal Modeling Code

My Personal Modeling Code - Dekilah's Blog

Back when I first started modeling, and especially when I got into posing nude I made myself a promise that I would do my best to stick to my code of ethics and that I would never sell myself out for the sake of making money/more money. Mostly it’s been an easy promise to keep because I am so driven by my personal code that I’m not often even tempted.

However, I’ve certainly had it suggested to me by multiple people that I should make alterations to parts of my code in order to become more successful, especially financially and as an “internet model” with a fan base. Here are a few examples:

  • People have suggested I be more flirty because fans like models who are flirty.
  • I’ve had multiple people suggest I pose more explicitly.
  • I’ve even been told I should start drama with other models so I can rally my fans.

That’s just a short list, but I think you get the idea. And here’s where I’m about to do that whole getting really honest thing I’ve been doing lately… But before I do I want to make it very clear that what I’m about to say pertains only to me and my ideals, my code, and how I choose to live my life. I’m not saying that it’s right or wrong and I’m not saying that people who do things that I don’t do are wrong or anything else. I’m saying that for me personally, I’d feel like I wasn’t being true to myself if I did the things I don’t do that I’m about to elaborate on. Okay, with that said…

I’m not flirty (or at least it’s not something I try to be). I might be friendly and sometimes playful or sarcastic, but the idea of purposely, knowingly flirting with people to get things is just not something I do. I am nice, I am open and honest, and I do enjoy getting to know lots of people. If someone is going to support me, I want them to do so because they like what I create, not because I’m leading them on. Also, I’m really horrible at flirting.

Moving on to the posing explicitly thing… I’ve thought about it. But every time I do I remember what happened the one time I posed just outside of my limits and how that’s sort of haunted me ever since. I’m not ashamed, but I’m not proud of the photos either and they really just remind me to stick to my guns. I’m a pretty good art nude model and a decent glamour model. I have a style that works for me. If people don’t like that, that’s okay. And sure, I know I’d probably have more fans and sell more sets and all that if I posed more explicitly but I’d also feel really weird and awkward. I doubt I’ll ever change my mind, but if I do it will be because I’ve decided it’s something I want to do for me and my creativity, not something I’m doing for more fans or more money.

Now let’s talk about that fun drama-starting bit. Why in the world would I want to spend my energy initiating a fight with another model? I spend time trying to cultivate at least somewhat of a friendship with most models I meet. It’s bad enough that we’re always getting compared to each other. And I get it, people like drama. But I think that’s one of those things that dies down and then you’re left with nothing. I’d rather my fans “rally” because they love my work and what I do.

I do work hard at what I do and sometimes I do wish it was more profitable so I could do more and buy more pretty stuff to wear and all that, but I do okay. I can look at what I do and feel proud of what I’ve accomplished. I’ve never been a traveling model, I’m super short, I have health issues, I don’t drive, and all this other stuff, but I’ve done pretty good. I’ve built a solid reputation, I’ve made friends, I’ve made art, and I’ve made people happy. The fact that I make any money at all is kind of another layer to a cake that’s already pretty good.

All of that being said, I have had to take a look at what I do and remind myself that what I do is worth something and it’s okay ask that people pay for some of it. I still offer videos and lots of photos for those who enjoy my work but can’t afford to buy anything. However, since Patreon has come about I’m really enjoying offering exclusive stuff to those who have become generous supporters of what I do. It’s very satisfying to me to know that there are people out there who feel like what I do is worth their financial support. I also love sending out prints purchased from my Etsy shop.

I love what I do and I greatly appreciate those that support me via Patreon, purchasing prints, voting on Zivity sets, sharing my work, commenting on my posts on social media, and sending me kind messages. Other models may debate me on this, but I’ve got the best group of fan friends around ^_~

My Thoughts on “Real” Models

One “trending” topic I see over and over in online discussions about modeling is the idea that only some of us are “real.” People say things like:

“Real models are published.”

“Real models don’t pose nude.”

“Real models always get paid.”

“Real models don’t do this.”

“Real models always do this.”

“Real models don’t shoot this genre.”

And I see this for photographers too. People want to assign being “real” to those who shoot certain styles, who use certain equipment, who have certain training or goals, etc.

I think it’s all foolishness. Why in the world do people think it’s upon them to decide who is “real” and who isn’t? Modeling and photography are both creative. They are subjective (meaning each person sees each creation differently). There are certain techniques and technical aspects that may be generally accepted as “good” such as types of lighting and having images in focus, but in the end we all have personal tastes. And even if we can all agree that a photo is “good” that doesn’t make that model or that photographer more “real” than those who created an image that fewer people like.

Similarly, I can completely agree that some models are more skilled at posing than others. Some have a more versatile or sought after look. Some may behave more professionally or take things more seriously. But they are all real. Good or bad, skilled or not does not equal real or not real.

What I think it really boils down to is that some people feel threatened by others, some people need to be able to say they are better than others to supposedly increase their perceived value, and some people are just focused on the money (or rather, how they feel someone else is “taking” money from them). And by the way, I really dislike the idea that people think that other people take money from them. If you want to earn money, you have to offer something that people in your market want to pay for. You can be absolutely fantastic and if your market isn’t able to pay or isn’t interested in paying for whatever you offer, you have to understand that and either change what you offer or move yourself to another market. And if someone else is getting the work you want, then you find a way to compete by making yourself a better option, not by tearing the other person down. Moving on…

I’m not saying I don’t understand how some people feel discouraged or slighted. I’d be lying if I said I never felt jealous of another model or if I said hadn’t come across a model who made me question how they were so popular, but I can’t remember thinking “They’re not a real model.”

Being a model is something you do. You can do it well or you can do it poorly. Sometimes skill and experience are factors in a model’s success and sometimes it’s more about look or even just who you know. You’re still a model. You’re still modeling. You’re real. Focus less on being real, because you already are real, and focus more on improving, on enjoying what you do, and on your creativity.

I think models and photographers need to stop feeling so threatened by each other and stop trying to tear each other down to make themselves look good (and that actually doesn’t work so well). We also need to stop supporting people who do this, stop agreeing with them, stop pandering to them. I’m not saying you have to like or work with everyone or anyone. I’m just saying we should respect each other and be okay agreeing to disagree or just look the other way if we see a style that we don’t care for. Let’s not feed those who troll for comments on these things. If we must respond, let’s show them kindly that we don’t agree with their generalizations and negativity.

Just a bit of a final note: I’m not saying everyone who wants to be a successful model can be. Obviously that takes hard work, networking and, for models, it does mean you’ll need a look that works for your market and the genres you want to shoot. What I am saying is that anyone can model if they can find photographers (or artists) who are willing to work with them.

I do realize that my opinion is just that, my own opinion on this topic. I also realize that I may not have a popular opinion on this. Maybe once upon a time I had a different opinion (I honestly don’t remember that ever being the case, but I don’t remember everything), but this is how I feel now and I feel strongly about this. I know not all areas are like this or it’s not as big an issue in some areas, but in my area it runs rampant and it’s going to take a lot of us to put a stop to it.

My Thoughts on "Real" Models - Dekilah

Models & Photographers and Marketing (plus other stuff)

Models & Photographers and Marketing - Dekilah's Blog

This is something that is on my mind quite a lot and something that I was prompted to think of once again this morning. Please do note that this is being posted via my personal blog and is NOT considered part of my advice as it’s purely my opinion (though I absolutely stand by everything I’m about to say). I just don’t feel that personal opinions like this are really advice.

As a model or photographer or really anyone who does or makes anything, you have to have some kind of marketable skill or product that is viable in whatever market you are in. This means your rates/prices have to be competitive, you have to spend time marketing, doing research and continuing your education, honing your skill or improving/updating your product, and networking with others in your field.

I’ll admit that there have been times when I’ve struggled to remember this myself, but I’ve always adapted eventually and finally I’ve come to terms with the fact that modeling doesn’t need to be a full time job for me to continue doing it. It’s okay to model as a part time job, for a bit of side money, or even purely as a hobby. I don’t feel that whether a model is charging or not should have any bearing at all on their “worth” as a model to others in the industry or to fans. In other words: Just because a model isn’t being paid doesn’t mean he or she is a lesser model than someone who is. And just because a model does get paid does not mean they are somehow better than those who aren’t or don’t. What makes you a good model is your professionalism, your modeling skill, and the quality of the work you turn out.

Moving on… Not every model or photographer is going to be able to make money from their modeling or photography. Aside from skill, there are so many other factors, most notably the ability to offer something your target market sees as valuable, the ability to have competitive rates, professionalism, and likely a somewhat flexible schedule. You can be awesome at what you do, but if your target market doesn’t see your service/skill as something they want to and can pay for, then you’re not going to get very far.

And this brings me to photographers. If you’re a photographer and your target market is models, you’re going to have a struggle ahead of you. Models are usually young people with lower incomes. They don’t have hundreds of dollars to spend on shoots. And, quite honestly, most freelance models build their portfolios by shooting trade. You may or may not be able to give them better photos than they’ll get doing trade at this moment, but if they don’t have the money (and many of us simply don’t), then using guilt-trips, accusing us of not “investing” in our careers, or other negative tactics aren’t going to get you very far and they make you look inconsiderate and rude. Also, to those of us that know a thing or two, they also make it look like you don’t know your market very well or that you’re trying to “trick” newer models into shooting with you with promises of boosting them. If you can give them phenomenal images in genres that benefit them, great. Otherwise, you need to find a market that actually supports what you do. This is why so many photographers shoot other things like weddings, senior portraits, etc. That’s where the money is.

And the same goes for models. You can’t expect every photographer to be willing to pay you. Unless they are successful at selling prints or making other money from photos, they aren’t likely benefiting financially from shooting with you. Most photographers who pay models do so in order to build their portfolios, or to create images to sell themselves. But there are plenty of very talented photographers who shoot for art or as a hobby who aren’t making a penny from it. You can demand to be paid all you want, but if you want to keep updating your portfolio, you’re probably going to need to shoot some trade as well. And if you are charging rates, keep in mind that the people who hire you are probably not going to be the best photographers in the area and they aren’t generally obligated to give you photos afterward unless you specifically agree on such.

Another thing: just as being paid doesn’t make you “better” automatically, shooting/posing as a hobby doesn’t make you “worse.” I’m a tiny bit tired of hearing people go on and on about how you’re not a “real” photographer or model unless you get paid (or published). Those people are usually looking for ways to try to make themselves seem worth more and apparently their work isn’t doing that for them. I don’t care how much someone gets paid or who they’ve worked with. I think what really matters is their work, at least when comparing to other models and photographers. Obviously marketing and such comes more into play when you’re dealing with “the public,” but I still believe if you feel like you need to knock someone else down to bring yourself up than you must not be as good at what you do as you’re claiming to be.

Modeling and photography are creative, artistic things. They are subjective. They can be “commercial.” They can be “just for fun.” I prefer to surround myself with those who, no matter what their goals, are respectful of others no matter what they shoot and what their goals are. If your marketing, be it for paid work or trade, art or advertisement, can’t be based on your skill and quality without having to include you down-talking others, then I firmly believe you’re doing it wrong.