My Ethics as a Photographer

joshua tree heart cactus ethics

I wanted to make a separate page just to address this because it’s something I care about deeply. Unfortunately there are a lot of skeevy photographers out there who use their position as a way to take advantage of people. It’s something you should look out for.

And let’s be real about what it is: men trying to use positions of power (the photographer has the implied “power” to tell the model what to do) to sexually harass women. I’m sure there are exceptions but 99/100 times it’s that.

As a model, you should never be in a position where you’re uncomfortable with what you’re shooting or what you’re doing. Of course, you might be physically uncomfortable while you’re climbing a tree for a shot you want to get or something like that, that’s different, that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about mental, emotional discomfort about the photos that are being taken of you.

One common tactic is for a photographer to push you further than you wanted or had agreed to go. Maybe you had agreed to, say, general bikini modeling on the beach, but the photographer starts putting you in more and more overtly sexual positions that you didn’t exactly agree to.

The solution is to discuss these things with the photographer before the shoot and make your boundaries clear. There is nothing inherently wrong with shooting those sexual position shots if it’s what you both want to do, but you should never feel pressured into doing so.

Sometimes that means saying no, repeatedly. Having a confrontation with the photographer. You may hesitate because you still want to get the photos, but I guarantee that as good as the photos may be, you’ll only ever look at them and think of the harassment. No photo is worth your mental health.

One good tactic, if you’re unsure about a photographer or working with a new photographer for the first time, is to bring a friend along. It’s usually when they’re alone with a model that those sketchy photographers act inappropriate because they have her isolated and there are no witnesses. Having a friend around is never a bad idea.

After one or two shoots you can usually get a feel for the photographer so it’s not always necessary to bring friends along, of course.

However, a photographer should always allow a friend to be present. If a photographer ever tells you it has to be one-on-one, no friends allowed, it’s a major red flag. Maybe there are some exceptions here if the shoot is in a very small space or actually does require some level of intimacy, but I would suggest avoiding those shoots unless you’re already sure of the photographer.

If a photographer does start acting inappropriate, it’s helpful to gather proof if possible. Turn on a voice recorder on your phone if you can access it. I would always suggest calling out the photographer over social media and letting others in the industry know what he did, regardless of proof. But the presence of a recording changes it so it’s not just “he said she said” which will be a massive comfort.

So What About Me?

Naturally, I try to not be “that guy” from any of those examples above. I try to be aware of my actions and reflect on the emotional impact that could be made even by jokes or offhand remarks.

I will always allow you to bring a friend or multiple friends along to our shoots. I do ask that you let me know first so I can plan accordingly, but I can’t foresee any situation where I’d have a problem with it.

Before our shoot we’ll discuss your needs and your goals for the photos I’m taking. This talk will naturally include boundaries, and I encourage you to bring anything and everything up with me as soon as it pops into your mind. I will always respect your boundaries. If they ever change, or you become uncomfortable with anything, please let me know immediately.

I like to think I’m good enough at reading expressions to be able to tell when you’re not having a good time anyway, and at that point I’d stop. But I can’t always get it right, so I have to rely on you to let me know what you’re okay with.

I will verbally let you know before I touch you, stand over you, or otherwise get all up in your personal space (beyond just getting close to your face with my camera). If you don’t want me to do any of these things, simply say so and I won’t.

I don’t have many boundaries as a photographer. I’m okay with shooting nudes or sexual content if that’s what you’re going for. But I’d never push someone to do it. (I also would need to know about it up front. If we don’t discuss it beforehand and you just start taking your clothes off, that would certainly cross the line for me!)

For what it’s worth, I’ve never had any issues yet and I plan on keeping it that way.

Thank you for reading about my ethics. I hope you’ll be inspired to shoot some film with me.