Letting Go of Feeling Judged

Some time over the last year or so, I was finally able to cut the strings of feeling judged for deciding I didn’t want to pursue a paid modeling career, at least in the usual sense, any more.

Letting Go of Feeling Judged

My Realization of the Problem

For years, I’d been struggling to find paid photoshoots in the Metro Detroit area. I felt like if I tried hard enough, I could find shoots. I felt like other people were booking shoots in the area or at least they were talking about it. I also remembered being told that if you try hard enough, you’ll find the paid work.

Slowly, I began to realize it just wasn’t going to happen for me. When I first came to that realization, I thought it was just me. I started picking myself apart trying to rationalize why I wasn’t booking the paid work I felt I should have been. I was being told I was great to work with, I had people from all over the world asking me to come to them to shoot, and I’d done very well before in a different area.

This was incredibly hard on my self esteem as a model and a person.

Not Wanting to Let Go

Modeling was the one thing I felt I was good at and that I could earn an income doing. My health and anxiety issues have always made a standard job a poor fit so as soon as modeling started to become a source of income for me, I had been thrilled. But I had moved, for personal reasons, from a market where I was very popular and hired often to one in a bigger city where there really wasn’t much work for me.

In my last ditch effort, I reached out to some model mentors and explained my situation. They all told me pretty much the same thing: they were staying booked by traveling and it seemed like I was doing everything I could as a local model. Traveling has never been an option for me so I knew I needed to find another path.

This was all incredibly frustrating considering the rest of my life was going very well. I was enjoying (and still enjoy) living in Detroit, co-producing events, and, of course, having finally found a supportive and wonderful romantic relationship.

Struggling to Find a Solution

Still, I craved that personal fulfillment and satisfaction. I also really felt I needed to be earning more.

I’d started a Patreon a couple years back and it was doing okay. I wasn’t really making much with it, but it was something and I had fun with it. I had Zivity, too, and I was making a little through that, but it had gone the way of explicit content that I don’t do.

At some point, I had a few conversations with other models, my husband, and maybe a couple friends and I finally started to realize that with all the agony it was causing me, pursuing modeling for hire was sucking the joy out of things for me.

I started to examine what I really enjoyed about modeling. It certainly wasn’t chasing paid shoots or dealing with fifty messages to only have one ever really pan out. I enjoyed collaborating with people, I enjoyed promoting my work, I enjoyed sharing my work, I enjoyed playing dress up, and more and more I was enjoying shooting self portraits.

I gave myself a timeline. I told myself that I would give booking paid shoots one last full effort and then after that I would let them go and focus on my Patreon where I was happy. I did give it a good effort. I crafted posts for local groups, I over-hauled my ModelMayhem and my website, I adjusted my rates, and I made an effort to reach out to photographers.

I ended up with a fair number of responses, but I was quickly pulled into the “wishy washy” aspects again. Photographers would seem interested, but then they’d fuss about my rates or they wouldn’t have access to a location to shoot. They weren’t willing to book the incredibly affordable studio I’d arranged opportunities to shoot at. I was being strongly reminded as to why I needed to get out of the cycle.

The Real Issue

And at some point during all of this I realized what was holding me back: I was afraid I would be judged as a lesser model if I wasn’t doing shoots for hire. It wasn’t about the money. It wasn’t even about personal fulfillment as I had thought all along. It was about losing the respect I’d worked hard to gain over the years.

Prior to being a model and becoming involved in that community, I’d rarely felt respected in any community, especially by my peers. I was always “so tiny” and “so shy” that people seemed to either avoid me or treat me like I was a child. I didn’t always hate it. Sometimes it was nice having others take the reins. But I was growing as a person and I enjoyed finally having a place where people were coming to me for help and where I was actually able to help them.

Helping others is a cornerstone of my personality. I enjoy it. It gives me purpose.

So the thought of losing all of that scared me.

How I Finally Let Go

But once I sat down and really thought about it over time, I realized that I was doing what was best for me. I was being practical. And also, why was I thinking that my experiences or my advice were any less valid because I was choosing a path that was right for me? If anything, I was following my own advice and letting go of what was no longer working for me.

I think that’s the key point, too: I let go of what was no longer working for me. Modeling for hire is fantastic for a lot of models, just as traveling is. Patreon has been wonderful for me, but that’s not the case for everyone. The point isn’t what I did, it’s why I did it and what the overall outcome was.

In my case, the overall outcome is a dream coming true.

I’m still working on it, but I now enjoy every shoot I do. When I collaborate with others I feel like I can guide the shoot just as much as the photographer does. When I shoot self portraits, I can shoot whatever I want and know that my Patrons are supporting me. In fact, some of my odd little experiments have ended up being among the most popular among my Patrons. Instead of the emotional drain of dealing with wishy washy photographers, I get to seek out new Patrons and talk about all of the things I love about what I do. Of course there are times when things get a bit frustrating, but I still feel solid in what I’m doing and I’m no longer literally in tears about my creativity.

The Take-Away

My take-away from this experience was that there is no one path in modeling or any kind of creativity that is standard or the best. The best path isn’t the one I took, though I do believe it was the best for me. The best path is whatever works for you. It takes time to figure that out and that’s okay.┬áThe first step is acknowledging the problem, then you can start to work towards a solution to fix it.

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Photographer Advice Blog Post

Sending Introductory Messages to Models

Let’s talk about sending introductory messages as a photographer. One of the top complaints I hear from other models, and one I have myself, is that photographers don’t seem to have a good understanding of what to include when they message models for the first time. Photographers, when you message models you want to make a connection and to communicate well so you can hopefully schedule a shoot. This blog post was written to help you write more effective introductory messages and to increase your responses.

Sending Introductory Messages to Models Before we jump in I do want to say that this blog post is meant to help photographers understand what models are looking for. We often get a ton of messages and sending concise, well-written messages will put you further up the list to get a response in most cases.

Do keep in mind that these are tips based on my experiences and what many other models have voiced to me. However, they are not rules, merely suggestions.

Tip #1 – Be Clear That You Want to Shoot

There is no need to send a message saying “Hi” first and then wait for the model to respond, then send another message saying “How are you?” before you let the model know why you are getting in touch. Instead, try something like this to start off your message:

“Hi, [model name]. How are you? I was wondering if you’d be interested in shooting with me…”

I promise you that models will appreciate the time saved! You may also notice that you get more responses because you’re not being mistaken for a random person trying to chat the model up.

Tip #2 – Be Upfront About Shooting Trade

This one is simple: tell the model right away if you want to shoot trade. Don’t assume they’ll assume you want to shoot trade. I think we’d all much rather know where things stand with compensation and many models will ask before discussing other details anyway. If you’re upfront, you’ll save time.

Tip #3 – Give The Model Basic Details

If you have details such as a date, time, location, concept or style, etc, please include them. You don’t need to write out a long, detailed message, but you should cover the general details that you have. Here is an example:

“… I’d like to shoot glamour lingerie with you at my studio in [location] near X and Y. Are you available any time this upcoming week?”

Unless you only shoot one specific concept, you don’t need to send a long description of the concept. Most of the time a brief description of the style(s) you’re interested in is fine. You can always cover further details if the model is interested.

Tip #4 – Include Your Portfolio Link

Please, please, please include a link to your portfolio in your first message to the model! This may well be the number one thing models say they wish photographers would do in messages. Even if you have images on your profile or you’re contacting them from your photography account, it’s still helpful to include a link where they can go see examples of your work.

Tip #5 – Avoid Negative Commentary

Don’t be condescending about the model’s current portfolio or speak negatively about others we’ve worked with. I know some photographers do this because they think telling the model they need to update things will make them want to shoot together. That’s rarely the case.

I’ve experienced this and have spoken to other models about it specifically. When you do this our first thought is usually “Oh, they’re trying to convince us to model for them by making us think our other work is bad.” If you absolutely think you can help, try something more like this: “I think I could help you add some new stuff to your portfolio” or “I’d love to help you add to your [glamour/fashion/cosplay] portfolio.” Those sound helpful, not condescending, which is key.

Tip #6 – Don’t use text speak or slang

Text speak is fine for casual messages, but you should treat your introductory messages to models as professional communications. It’s incredibly annoying when someone we’re expected to take as professional ends all of their sentences with “lol”. And maybe I’m just out of the loop, but I get a little confused when photographers start describing their style as “lit” or “woke” or whatnot. I suppose this one depends on your audience a little bit, but I’d say in general text speak and slang are best avoided.

And remember…

These are just suggestions and you should decide which, if any, will work for you. Each time I offer advice on this topic I get a handful of photographers who want to argue with me.

“Well, that stuff doesn’t apply to my situation!” or “What about this very specific scenario?”

In these cases, use common sense. If you know something won’t work for you, then don’t do it or adjust it to fit your situation. These are tips, not absolute rules. However, these tips were written based on many, many conversations with my fellow models so they are researched and confirmed by models to be what they are looking for in most situations.

Sending Introductory Messages to Models