Thoughtful Thursday 10152015.

Doing a little homework, trusting your gut, and stand your ground when it comes to your safety.

Today’s thought isn’t a pleasant one. It is, in fact, one of the deepest, darkest “secrets” about this business. Today I want to talk about photographers that try to push models/clients into doing things they don’t want to do. I want to talk about it as recent sessions have shown me that it is still happening, why models/clients should be aware of it and what they should do if they come face to face to it.

Now, before we go further, I am all about ethics and keeping it above board. I am a firm believer that a photographer should remain hands off when it comes to the people in front of their lenses. I treat the people working with me with respect, honor and certainly have no hidden agendas.

I have a frank, honest, and open conversation with the people I’m going to work with BEFORE the session to set the ground rules. My goal is to set the boundaries and then NEVER cross them. To do so would breach the sense of trust that I work hard to obtain and lessen my standing in the community.

It saddens me to think that there are people still out there that try these things.

One client told me during our recent session that another photographer she worked with kept pestering her to do topless. He was telling her that it would be tasteful, nothing would be shown, et cetera. The client was not comfortable with doing this at all. The photographer kept pestering her and even tried peer pressure to get her to do it. She held her ground.

Another client told me that a photographer she was working with tried to get her to sleep with him during their session. That in itself would throw a red flag. What made it more worrisome was when she said she would go back and shoot with him again. She would bring someone with her, mind you. She just thought the quality of his work was worth the hassle.

No. A million times no. No, no, no.

First, let’s call them for what they are. They are not photographers. They are PREDITORS. They stalk their prey and work any angle to get what they really want out of them. True professionals wouldn’t act this way.

So, how do you protect yourself from these predators? By following a few, simple steps.

If you’re thinking of working with someone you should always check their portfolio out. Are they producing good, quality images that are in the field you wish to pursue? Good. If not, then proceed with caution. Maybe they’re new to the field and are just learning. That’s ok. Talk to them. Ask them. If they’ve been shooting for some time and their images are still weak – warning.

You should also ask for and check their references. Talk to those that have worked with them before. Talk to several. Talk to more than just the one or two they hand pick for you to ask. Check five or more. True professional photographers will not have a problem with you doing so because they’ll know you’re being smart and safe. Anyone that asks why you want references or refuses to give them to you should be a red flag in your mind. These are people to avoid.

During this process you should be listening to your gut. If there’s something inside of you that isn’t sure or making you feel uneasy, then pass them over. Nine times out of 10 your gut is right. If you’re not sure, then I would suggest meeting them in a public space like a coffee shop or bookstore to get a better read on them as you talk to them. Again, It’s better to be safe than sorry.

Now, after all that, you can make an informed decision about whether you want to work with this person or not.

That isn’t to say that some bad people can get through, though. Sometimes they can. During the session, at any time, if a photographer asks you to do something you’re not comfortable doing politely but firmly say no. If they persist, then leave. Pack up and get out. Don’t worry about making a scene. Don’t worry if this will ruin your rep. Trust me, it won’t. Don’t leave the door open by hesitating or laughing it off. Get out.

Here’s the main part about that. If they tried it on you, then they most certainly have tried it on others. At some point they were successful in getting what they wanted which means they will most likely try it on future sessions. Some people might not be as diligent as you. Some might not be as firm as you. Some might seriously get hurt. You shouldn’t have to put up with it and you have every right to say something about it. Creeps like these tend to scurry away once the light of truth hits them. Why leave the door open for someone else to go through what you just did?

I know the word count is getting up there so let me end this with a final note. The vast majority of photographers out there are cool and legit. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t a few bad apples.  Ask around. Be smart and be safe for yourself and others that will come after you.

I promise you, future entries won’t be so dark, scary or long ;-). I just feel strongly on this topic and wanted to share.

Mark Knopp is a Virginia Beach-based portrait photographer covering the Hampton Roads community. Contact him today at for your fitness, senior portraits, couples, model portfolio, model experience, engagement, corporate, and headshot needs.

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