Don’s Rebuttal on What to Look For in a Photographer: A Model’s Perspective

This is a guest post from photographer Don Giannatti and his rebuttal to “What to Look For in a Photographer: A Model’s Perspective” by Aimee J. Martin.

I will start out by stating that the world of modeling and photography and the place they meet, there has been a terribly destructive change in what the reality of modeling is – at least to me. Most has been brought about by unmanaged websites like Model Mayhem and One Model Place and some by the proliferation of cheap access to digital cameras. What is missing is the gatekeeper for both… the agency. They still have a place and that place becomes all the more evident every time a model doesn’t show up or a photographer doesn’t deliver the images. We won’t get into the photography or the quality of the models… I am totally agnostic there.

And yeah… that’ll get you some mail.

“They must be professional at all times. Hitting on your subjects at ANY time is inappropriate and I can guarantee you won’t be shooting that model again.”

While this may be a truism for some, in fact it is a terrible thing to tell a model. I hate that there are cretins out there, hitting on models, but to tell a model that she has some control over that is terribly wrong. Instead, the message should be that it will happen – unfortunately – and find ways of deflecting it. Sucks, but that is the way it is in a lot of high-end fashion shooting. Anyone ever heard of Terry Richardson?

I can absolutely guarantee that models get hit on by some terribly famous shooters… and I can absolutely tell you they will be shot by them again. And again.

If you are doing ‘TFC’ shoots – ‘Time for Comp’ which essentially means neither party pays but you both utilize the photos from the shoot to enhance one another’s portfolios, or if you are doing ‘paid’ shoots, a seasoned photographer will always have you sign a waiver. Make sure you READ the waiver before you sign it.”

That is all fine and such, but it is actually referred to as a “Release” – and yes, the model should read it well. An agency model will have with her a “Voucher” which the photographer signs and is therefore used as a “release’ for the current client. If the model is working for a specific client, the ‘release’ should only be for that client… not a blanket release for perpetuity. If the model is being paid by the photographer for whatever reason – stock, fun whatever – then the release is most usually a blanket.

Know what you are signing.

“Another aspect of a real professional is that they know their lighting and their lenses. If you book a shoot, ask questions. What kind of lighting they are going to use, what different lenses we will try out during the shoot. If they say they ‘just have a flash’… I’d probably take a pass on that one. A KEY sign of a STELLAR photographer knows that they have several key lighting elements and are well versed in WHERE to place them to enhance your features properly. This also heavily weighs on what time of the day you will be shooting. They should use key words such as backlighting, fill-in flash, reflectors, etc. They should also have a tripod… if they don’t, I’d be very weary. In other words, just KNOW your photographer. Look at his/her portfolio, if you like the work, then take it to the next step.”

I am really uncomfortable with this statement above. I know too many incredible photographers who rarely use flash. I know photographers who rarely use a tripod… or even have a clue of what they are going to do before working the shot. It is a way of working that is very evident in a lot of editorial shooters.

I cannot imagine having a model ask me whether I have a tripod or what kind of lenses I have… I mean – wow – I really can’t.

“A KEY sign of a STELLAR photographer knows that they have several key lighting elements and are well versed in WHERE to place them to enhance your features properly.”

Well – maybe.

“Look at his/her portfolio, if you like the work, then take it to the next step.”

Yes. If the work is good… does it really matter if the photographer didn’t use a tripod? Is it OK if they don’t use the terms of photography? Is it cool if they are only using natural light with an iPhone? If the images look great… of course it doesn’t. What do the pictures look like? Are they something you would like to have in your book?


YES. And know where to check!

I have criteria I recommend as well:

  • If the photographer doesn’t have a website, strike one.
  • If the photographer doesn’t have a neutral place to meet, strike two.
  • If the photographer has any ‘flakiness’ to the demeanor, strike three.

With an established photographer for an established client it is probably a bit easier. But for the ‘Model Mayhem’ stuff, it is a good idea to have some criteria.

“If you don’t see any names or references, I’d steer clear.”

Well, that seems to be focused on the amateur modeling market, so I will only say that there are a ton of professional photographers who do not list the models they work with on their site. You will also find that there are a lot of photographers who are not on OMP, MM, FB or Flickr. Most of the pros I know are NOT on those spaces.

I feel the information that Aime has may be applicable to the very new, and internet based models. But the much more professional side has a different set of parameters and safeguards as well as a far different way of working.

I can tell you that any model wanting to bring an “escort” to one of my shoots is not gonna be hired. After 40 years in the business, I am not going to be ‘entertainment’ for some kid who has nothing better to do than sit like a bump watching his ‘GF’ model. I know for the internet crowd that is a big thing. Fine. Not interested in having a huge studio, a long list of clients and a history of shooting models all over the country and then be told by some kid that she doesn’t trust me. I understand, but I don’t participate.

Young ladies wanting to get into the modeling field as a profession may find this information a little skewed toward the amateur modeling field. I don’t care if anyone wants to have fun making photographs together. Weekend warriors can make some amazing work… and one of the best models I have EVER worked with is not with an agency, but with an online site.

Don Giannatti

Don Giannatti

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Hi Don – Thanks for all your input and the time you took to dissect my posting. Coming from a seasoned, well known individual like yourself, I take all constructive criticism with ease. Although I felt you were a tad bit harsh, I appreciate your feedback.

    Remember though, I am an 'amateur' model. The premise of this post was catered toward the older/amateur crowd. I am not featured in Italian Vogue, I am not on the cover of Moda, but I am, and will remain ambitious. No one ever 'told me' what to do when starting out. They didn't tell me what to look for, what to avoid, what to sign and what not to sign.. I just took whatever I learned along my bumpy path of amateur modeling and tried to convey what I thought was important to me, specifically… which of course, I did not expect this posting would apply to everyone.

    I am, with quite discontent, that your retort received more shares than my post which means I am either completely ignorant and lack common sense (which I don't believe to be true..) or I am a horrible composer of a blog and did not effectively get my point across properly. I guess this is something I have to work on.

    Again, I appreciate you taking the time to respond. I agree with most of what you pointed out.. but remember all this info is coming from someone with nothing…I tried my best regardless.

    AjM ~ 2010

  2. Don

    I came to the site llooking for something else and ran into Aimee’s post and in following through ended up here.

    I am glad i did as Don;s comments contain some of the points i felt like writing in reply.

    My fist problem with the overall advise is it was clear to me that Aimee was not very experienced and had very few qualifications to be giving advice on the subject. Rather then being a successful supermodel with helpful tips that are proven to be successful she offers personal choices she has made with what appears to be a only goal to have fun in front of the camera. So the advice does nto lead to success but to failure for anyone who wishes to make career decisions.


    One of the first bits of advice I tell anyone who wishes ot be successful in any field and especially models is to follow the advice of those who have made decisions that lead to a successful career rather than follow the advice of ones who has not created a caeer at all. Amatuers call themselves models and it is the equivelent in reverse of the photographers who has never been paid for thier work claiming to advise others how to run thier photography business.

    Everyone who stands in front of a camera is a model and everyone who clicks the shutter is a photographer. Anyone who works for free will find tons of people ready and willing to USE them as they are the cheapest source or even a free source rather then the best source. No one involved in a exchange is succcessful as successful people are in deamnd and getting paid. No one in the free exchange is or professional as professionals in all fields do not work for free and do not use the cheapest labour avaiable or USE people for thier personal gain. Professionals are in demand and do not have time to work with amatuers for nothing.

    I think it is very irresponsible to provide advice on subjects you know so little about and i do not think that Don was harsh at all. I run into hundreds of girls every year who follow the advice of someone like yourself. Not because they have provided advise that will lead to success but because it is the most popular advce. Because most people fail the most common advise is a route to failure in all busiensses.

    500 years before christ a wise old prophet in ancient China said:
    “If you beleive everything you read stop reading”

    Confuscious said in a similar time period.;
    “”He who knows what he does not know – KNOWS!”””
    which usually means the brightest people remain silent while the others speak.

    Gus Mctavish

    Ordinary women in the hands of a flattering photographer will look amazingly gorgeous. Yet put the camera in the hands of a inexperienced operator a gorgeous woman will just look ordinary. I am not a journalist – i am not a realist – I create a realistic fantasy with you in it

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