Guest post by Laylarc: How to irritate models (I fart on your jaffa cakes)

Take half a look at Laylarc‘s profile notes, and it won’t take you long to figure out that 1) She’s funny as hell and 2) This chick’s got balls. Oh, and maybe she knows what she’s talking about when it comes to modeling. I’m a long-time fan, so I was extremely pleased when she agreed to write for the blog. 

I fart on your Jaffa Cakes
How to irritate a model
A few years ago I worked with an amateur photographer who couldn’t say lingerie, and instead of simply saying underwear or knickers and bra, kept insisting that we do some ‘Lannnjeray’ shots. 
It’s hard to describe how irritating this was, but I’ll try: It was like when you have toothache, and it hurts when you put your tongue on it.  But you have to put your tongue on it every now and again, just to check that it still hurts as much when you put your tongue on it.  Do you know what I mean?
It was in this way that I kept getting him to say ‘Lannnjeray’ during the shoot, seething and shuddering with rage at his every mispronunciation of the French word for posh knickers.  By the end of the four-hour shoot I could have cheerfully garroted him with my thong.
It wasn’t really the ‘Lannnjeray’ that irritated the shit out of me.  The truth is, this guy was on an: ‘I’m a glamour photographer I am!’ trip, and I was a bit jaded.  If you want to know why I was jaded, please see Aimeeboo’s article.  After twelve months of modeling, this was pretty much the story of my life.
You won’t hear the following from working models.  Not ones that wish to keep working anyway.  So this article is dedicated to all the smart, sensible, hard-working models that have, at times during a shoot, suppressed the overwhelming urge to delicately remove one stiletto and whack the photographer in the face with the pointy bit.
It’s also dedicated to the awkward, bumbling, often but not always loveable buggers that decide to take up model photography. 
Before I get really brutal, I’d like to point out that I loved being a model.  I loved the process, I loved the adventure and I loved, loved, loved working with amateurs and creating images.  I like nearly all of the photographers I worked with as people.  I would actually stop and piss on most of them, if I found them on fire by the side of the road.  Most of my shoots were wonderful, and I’d get home buzzing and happy, with a huge smile on my face.  But it’s human nature to remember the negative in high-definition Technicolor.  Believe me, some of these incidents are acid-etched into my memory.  They weren’t traumatic; they were just really bloody irritating.
Being irritated isn’t intrinsically terrible.  But to a model, particularly an art model, that has dedicated her time, her youth and her fleeting beauty to creating art, and helping others to create, it’s really bloody frustrating.  Basically, we arrive open-hearted and willing, and it’s the irritating stuff that puts a barrier between us and you. 
You’re killing us, you’re making us shut down, when what we really want to do is to push you to create great stuff.  I can rant about how irritating you guys can be, and it can be as funny as hell, but if you think about it in this way, it’s a missed opportunity and rather sad.  It’s the spirit of the faux-pas, rather than the actual events that I hope to get across.  In a nutshell, it’s this:
Even the nicest, most well-meaning guy can come across as an irritating, creepy prick when confronted with an attractive girl in a bikini.  The most important skill you have to learn as a model photographer, is not to be irritating and creepy.  Stop fiddling with the camera and read this.  It’s funny (probably only to models) but it’s not a joke.
As a newbie photographer, you’re bound to innocently piss a model off sooner or later.  It’s not the end of the world.  We just don’t complain about it as much as you guys do, because it affects our chances of getting booked.  Ahhh, sweet revenge.
In the spirit of everyone getting along with everyone else, here is a list of things that piss us off:
Stop being scared of us.  Don’t go to pieces when we walk out the changing room in a thong.  Pull yourself together and don’t be a dick. 
This applies only to a few, but it’s worth kicking off with.  Being sexy, sensual and beautiful for the camera is not the same thing as being horny.  This might come as a shock to some wannabe glamour photographers.  Especially those under 25 years old, or those that have been married for five million years.  But as a rule, we’re generally not horny at all on a shoot.  This might sound obvious, but it’s amazing how many former noobs have admitted to me that they were actually nervous.  NERVOUS that a model might get so turned-on during a topless shoot that they would try and have sex with them. 
Errrr, no.  We don’t want to have sex with you.  We’re not thinking about having sex with you, we’re not considering it, and we’re not even worried that you’re thinking about having sex with us.  We just want to take some photographs please.  Why don’t you stop holding your camera as if it’s a bomb that might go off, and concentrate on getting some bloody good shots.
Oh, and here’s a helpful tip:  Thinking about lighting, composition and F-stop thingies stops you getting a boner.  OK?  Now relax.
You’ve been a photographer for eleventy-billion years?  Well so what?  Nobody ever says ‘Oh Bill’s been doing this for years.  We don’t even need to look at his photos.  They’ll be brilliant.  In fact Bill, don’t bother with the camera.  Just stand there and look at stuff.  Bill’s a photographer you know.  You should see his art nudes.  What that man doesn’t know about putting rose petals on fannies isn’t worth knowing,”
Photography isn’t like guarding the Queen.  You don’t get any kind of recognition for long service.  You’re not automatically better because you’re older than the collage kid with the second-hand SLR.  You’re not entitled to any special respect or awe, because you started growing your beer belly when the model was still in nappies.  It makes no difference whatsoever, and we do not give a flying fart.
There’s a porn studio near where I used to live.  A local photographer mate of mine used to joke about the shenanigans that went on there.  He said if you shined one of those special torches that the police use to detect traces of semen onto one particular set (somewhat disturbingly, this was the set that strongly resembled my Gran’s bedroom), it would light up like Blackpool illuminations.
Well, a similar thing happens to your photographs when you tell us how great you are.
While we may like and appreciate your wonderful photography, because you’ve just told us you’re amazing, each & every flaw lights up like a spunk-stain on a flouncy duvet.  Particularly flaws to do with models, as in you not communicating with the model i.e. the bits that you should have fixed before you clicked.  The more you bang on about being fantastic, the more we’ll notice that kind of stuff. 
Pssst, I’m going to tell you a secret now.  We don’t just stare down the glassy bit.  We do actually look at lots of photographs as well.  And nobody we consider awesome has ever felt the need to tell us how great they are.
Talking over the model when she’s speaking is something that only newbies do.  Particularly on the telephone when you’re discussing the shoot.  It goes a little something like this:
“…I can bring some….”
“Oh yeah bring some lannnjeray, bring some shoes, bring some straighteners and things for your hair.  Bring some dresses, and some of those short things that aren’t dresses, what are they called?  Skirts?”
“…I work up to nude, but I don’t…”
“Oh well I’m not interested in all that stuff no.  I don’t need to see a model’s fanny.  Not interested.  No sireee!  No fannies for me.  Don’t need’em.  Can’t use’em.  Don’t like’em to be fair.  I’ve always thought they looked kinda sore to be honest.  Weird looking things…”
And while we’re on the subject of chunnering away without noticing that the model has slipped into a coma, we certainly don’t need to hear a long, overly delicate monologue about how you’re definitely not going to rape us or wank yourself inside-out over the photos after the shoot.  We get it.  Gross.  Shut the fuck up please.
Perhaps the most damaging assault to the model/photographer/let’s get some great photos relationship is pretending that ‘models’ are a species unto themselves, and you are some kind of special anthropologist that understands their baffling little ways.  Even thick models resent this.  They might have more interesting things to do than look up the word ‘patronising’ in the dictionary, but it’s perfectly clear when they’re rolling their eyes at you behind the photographer’s back.
When I’ve just split up with my long-term partner & moved to the other end of the country, I’m understandably knee-deep in Wolf Blass, Kleenex and Ben & Jerrys, and I mention to you that I’m going through a break-up so I’m not accepting bookings this week, I’m not expecting a violin concerto.  I’m being honest & responsible, and talking to you as an adult.
Saying ‘Oh you models, always breaking up with your boyfriends,’ in reply to this virtually guarantees that I’m going to spit in your tea during our shoot.
Saying ‘Oh you models, always on your ‘phones’ when I’m answering an email about a booking, or talking to my friends at the barbeque I’ve missed to prance around in Lannnjeray for you for ninety minutes, while on a break, or during unpaid travelling time is really fucking annoying.  If I’d already spat in your tea, I would probably fart on your Jaffa cakes for this.
Haggling over the fee for no good reason can be very irritating.  There are good reasons to negotiate.  Parking, distance, hours, levels, this is reasonable stuff.  But the fact that you just fancy paying £40 less than the stated rates isn’t a good reason.
Model fees have already been covered in this blog.  So let’s just say, there is an awful lot of fuck-arsing around that we have to do to get bookings, and to travel to places with big, heavy bags full of stuff.  We are not bald tyres or garden walls that need repairing.  We are people, with stuff to do and lives to lead.  We like modeling, but why is subsidizing your hobby all bastard morning suddenly my fucking problem?  I’m sure your wife is relieved to have you out from under her feet for half a day, but I’m not the idiot that married you.  If you can afford a camera, some lights, Photoshop, a computer, a car and parking, you can pay a model’s fee.  Stop being a tight-arse.
We do not want to hear your entire, excruciating philosophy behind the unique and special way that you alone take photographs.  Particularly if it involves the idea that you only shoot blondes in gold bikinis for the art.  We get it.  We don’t mind.  In fact we don’t care.  Shut up.
Amateur photographers sometimes bafflingly tell models to not pose at all.  Apparently they like natural photos, and imposing a blanket ban on arching your back suddenly achieves this.
No it doesn’t.  But I suspect this approach is often more about trying to throw the model into a tizzy so that you can capture some ‘real emotion’.  Sometimes it feels like the photographer is just trying to establish control or dominance by stopping the model from doing what she’s hired for. 
This really does just piss us the fuck off.  Seriously, we groan inwardly when we hear this.  Look, you’re not freaking us out.  You’re not going to get raw emotion or a natural feel, because you’re not working with us, and therefore we’ve shut down.  You might as well get a sack of potatoes from the corner shop and photograph that.  At least it won’t give ‘harmless prick’ as a reference.
I want to capture the real you,”
That’s just weird.  Is this is a portrait shoot then?  Oh you want to capture the real me, when I’m rolling around on a sofa in my pants in full makeup, like I do all the time.  And you don’t want me to pose, so I’ll just squash my legs against the sofa and not worry about giving the camera more than one chin.  Top banana.
I don’t like my models to be uncomfortable on a shoot,”
It’s basically a choice between looking shit-hot and being uncomfortable, or being comfortable and looking shit.  We’re models.  It’s not fucking rocket science.  I’m not a doll and I will not break.  And if I feel uncomfortable with anything, physically or otherwise, please credit me with enough gumption to say so. 
IT IS A MODEL’S JOB TO BE UNCOMFORTABLE.  We bend, we stand in the cold, we ache, we suck bits in and stick bits out.  This is what we do.  Please stop interfering and let us do our job.
Oh, and ‘my models’ sounds creepy.  I shot at the home of a very well-to-do photographer in the country.  As soon as I entered the building I saw lots of black & white nudes with their fannies tastefully arranged in shadows.  “I see you’re admiring my nudes,” said Mr. Photographer.  He made it sound like he had a herd of nude models munching straw & rolling in dung round the back of his shed.  Weird.  THIS SOUNDS WEIRD!  You own the split second that you captured in your photograph.  We are not yours.  Not even metaphorically.  Fuck off.
So with all these terrible ‘thou shalt nots’ I’m spouting, is there anything you can do right?
Yes there is, and it’s very simple.  Concentrate on the shot.  Not the model, the right kind of concentration towards the model comes from concentrating on the shot.  Yes, it’s amazing and impressive when a model rattles off a million poses in five minutes, and you do feel you have a duty to keep up.  But unless you’re a couple of professionals shooting for a magazine, it’s boring & pointless for both of you. Models only tend to do this when they’re bored, or when they’re in ‘work mode’.  Neither of which, as an amateur, is any good for you.
So if you want to work with a model successfully, do your homework.  Choose what kind of shots you want to do.  Don’t try to copy the professionals on TV, barking ‘yeah babe that’s lovely’ at a model in front of a blank white wall.  That’s fantasy-land.  It doesn’t work like that.  Coronation Street isn’t a documentary, and proper photographers don’t go click click drop your strap love, magic.
Instead, look at photographs before the shoot.  Rip pictures out of magazines.  Look at books.  Sometimes it’s as simple as saying ‘I want this kind of pose, but with that kind of lighting,’.  Or knowing that you want to experiment with something.  Or trying to re-create something just for fun or practice. 
We know.  We understand.  We’re patient.  We spend our lives sitting in studios waiting for photographers to finish fucking around with lighting.  We want you to take your time.  No honestly, we do.  Five minutes.  Ten minutes.  Twenty minutes even.  Whatever.  We want you to think.  Not about us, we’re just fine thank you, and if we’re not, we’ll tell you. 
Think about your shot.  Get it right.  Learn something.  Improve.  Talk to the model.  Listen.  Get better.  That’s why we exist.

8 thoughts

  1. Maybe it's just me, but the more model experience posts I read, the more I think I want to go and do something completely different, I would hate to think that just about anything you say and or do, does little other than piss models off, references to pronunciation, wanking material, spunk stains, I mean WTF!

    Yes I get some things can irk someone and that talking over a model is pretty stupid, probably annoying and well basically counter productive.

    It just makes me sad that so many models "seem" to have a hard time, and not enjoy what they do, I know any job can have its moments, mine can be hell at times , but in the main I like it, or I would do something else.

    Don't know really, all this stuff just leaves me feeling pretty numb about the whole working with models thing.

    Of the models I have worked with, I have never felt that they were unhappy, but maybe they were, if that is the case, I'd rather not make their life so bad by photographing them.

  2. The comment about "work mode" is interesting – I've had a few shoots with highly experienced models where they start running through sets of poses on autopilot, and it's slightly frustrating. However, Layla also complains about "Amateur photographers sometimes bafflingly tell models to not pose at all" – so what's the ideal solution? How can I try to get a model out of the rut without confusing or offending her?

    Funnily enough, this is one reason why I enjoy working with inexperienced models, as they don't tend to have any preconceptions or fixed "pose repertoires". It can be a bit slower, but it's much easier to get them into interesting positions. It tends to be the models who are in high demand, who I guess just get used to doing the same thing on every shoot, where this is a slight irritation!

  3. Funny but don't think its related to the actual business. Its more of personal frustration. Ok I agree Laylarc is a perfect human being and some photographers may feel unconfident and may say things to break the ice mainly for themselves rather than the model who is a very experienced and confident about her self and standing naked in front of the stranger(photographer) . Its because models have done this 100s time but photographer didn’t.
    Posts like these make the new photographers more nervous next time he is trying to get on with his job with an experienced model .
    I find this an interesting and funny read and also would like to say to Laylarc that you can expect everyone to be perfect and have a rant online about other people but world will not change. So nice try J
    First time I shoot a naked model I took my time to explain to her briefly what I want from the shot, feel free to stop me anytime and spent good 10 min to adjust the lights and told her what to do and said bye bye to her after making her full payment. She was unhappy that I am not friendly enough and too dry. But I am happy to have that comment rather than being too friendly and creepy. I do follow the first principal (Do Not Touch physically and emotionally ) of model photography

  4. Hi, and thanks for your comments guys. Thanks also for reading, it is a long article & I appreciate it.

    I'd just like to address a couple of points:

    Jimmy, this is based on my own experience and talking to other models. It is written for models, and it's not going to make them laugh unless I'm talking about stuff they can relate to. So I'm going to have to disagree on that point.

    I'm sorry if this post makes anyone nervous. Obviously I'm wildly exaggerating for comic effect, and anyone who is familiar with my style, whether they like it or hate it gets this. Nervousness about a shoot is something that everyone experiences. It is hard at first to strike the right balance between professional and friendly. This is something that experienced photographers learn, and newbies aren't experienced enough to always get right. This is a peek into what some models think. I can't claim to speak for all models of course, and I'm sure some would disagree with me. This is my personal take, based on me & my mates.

    I'm not expecting the world to change. Perhaps armed with a bit of insight, some photographers will avoid a couple of common mistakes and add to or maintain that great rapport with a model that leads to great photographs. Or perhaps they won't. It would be nice to think so, but that's not why I wrote it.

    Thanks for taking the time to write about this.

    Tim, when I say photographers tell a model not to pose, I'm talking about when a photographer actually stops a model from posing at all, and then points a camera at her. It's only happened to me about 3 times, but I imagine it's happened to lots of people once or twice. There is literally nothing you can do but stand there like a sack of spuds, and it's very frustrating. We don't understand what this means, and it's annoying, because we can't do our job properly.

    The only answer to this is to communicate with the model about what you want her to do. That is kind of the point of the article really – we're humans, not aliens. If you speak to us and listen, and have at least some idea in mind of why you hired us (I mean photographers generally, not you personally) then we can get that rapport going and get the shots you want.

    Sorry for any confusion, and thanks for your comments Tim.

    To everyone else – I've had a few PMs from models who like the article, but have wisely chosen not to say this in public! If you're a working model and you've enjoyed the article, it's probably best not to leave a comment. Feel free to contact me privately, but it's best not to bite the hand that feeds you.

    Thank you everyone XXX

  5. Hey! Fantastic stuff, I think
    this is my favourite post so far on the blog!

    As always Layla you are hilarious! I
    read it twice and laughed so much!

    Its so great because models can relate
    to these things you mention, exaggerated or not. Good on you for actually
    saying what most models think at some point, but are too afraid to say half the
    time for fear of ‘biting the hand that feeds them’ – This just proves how right
    you are!!

    This post doesn’t mean that all
    photographers are like this in the slightest! This doesn’t mean models hate
    their jobs either! Everyone has a crap day/shift/shoot sometimes as well as
    good. No matter what their job!

    No doubt many pro photographers will be
    thinking if only they had read this when they started shooting models, they
    would have saved loads of awkward moments! Whether any will admit it is another
    matter… I know I’ll keep it in mind next time I’m shooting my, I mean some
    models. 😛

    I like that you made it so funny and
    light hearted, very enjoyable reading for me.

    Overall witty, intelligent and
    delightful, as always!

    E

  6. For what it's worth, it didn't make me nervous in the slightest, but I have done a shoot or two with inexperienced and experienced models alike, also my Pismanounciation is in check.

    I do think sometimes though, especially on the internet, one needs to read between the lines a little and sort out the artistic licence from what is meant.

    After all, if it's all to serious, we might as well all go jump off a bridge or something!

    It just made me want to work with you, you seem a bit of a live wire, so that would likely make a shoot more fun, beats the hell out of the alternative and having to extract conversation, how boring!

    Though logistics are maybe a little prohibitive.

  7. The difference between the comments on here & the private messages I'm getting about this post are very interesting!

    It's a job. A very difficult job for a number of reasons, and we do get frustrated. But we do it because we love it.

    Basically, we're trying very hard to be the best that we can be, This is a rant about the stuff that makes it hard for us to be that. I knew it would ruffle a few feathers, and I was aware of the kind of criticism I would get for posting it.

    It is a piss-take, and like all of my stuff, I wrote it to make my mates laugh. If you're not familiar with my style, you might not get that I'm focusing on some extreme examples, and exaggerating things for comic effect. If you want to throw a strop and stop entirely, that's up to you. If I'm supposed to feel guilty or remorseful about this, you're milking the wrong cow.

  8. Auto-posing happens when models are given absolutely no input into what kind of feel/concept the image if meant to have. If you stick a model ona blank white backgroud with no input at all, you're going to get model-robot doing stock poses.

    I've mentioned planning, communication and having a set idea in mind when starting a shoot, and that's really the best way to get a model to create, be inventive and actually be creatively invested in the shoot, instead of just moving around into positions she knows 'work' until the clock runs out.

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