I was talking to a friend over the weekend and we discussed the major differences between Fashion and Glamour photography and general portrait photography. He is the general portrait photographer with a huge business in weddings and high school senior portraits. To me, I was pointing out the obvious differences, to him, this was earth shattering news.

I explained to him that “model photography” is a solitary job. The largest problem with photography is anyone can do it. Go to the camera store and purchase a camera and decent lens and you’re a professional overnight. The majority of model photographers don’t charge as long as it’s a shoot showing skin, so it conditions the clients aka models, to be the ones in control of the shoot. Being there aren’t any degrees needed to be a professional, there is no sense of unity amongst peers and on top of that, they are much like crabs in a barrel, as soon as one starts to do well, the others pull him back down! This floored my buddy and he said “That’s not true! I see many model photographers at WPPI and so on!” To which my retort was, “How many of them are atWPPI to stay model photographers? Most model photographers at WPPI are there because they’re making the switch to general portrait photography!” He didn’t push the issue due to the fact I’m sure he was thinking that majority of those were moving to general portraits. He wanted to argue the use of conventions that PPA andWPPI puts on and I explained the thinking of a model photographer;

  • There is no formal training in model photography. You  have to have a desire to succeed because you want to become an artist, or see plenty of skin.
  • This is a solitary job so you call the shots.
  • There’s a clear and distinct lighting difference between general portraits and model photography which renders conventions useless.


Because there isn’t any formal training in model photography, this fosters a much more aggressive attitude. With general portraits, you have groups and things of the likes to go and get better. With model photography, you really have yourself and your clients. That’s not a bad thing if you’re charging. If you’re shooting free, everyone that steps in front of the camera loves themselves so they will love the photos regardless your skill level.

Because there isn’t any groups to hang with and learn, model photographers have to learn themselves and as a result, they grow a thick skin. I work both sides of the profession and I’ve noticed that when I’m working as a model photographer, I’m FAR more aggressive. I’m more critical of others work and honestly, I don’t like who I am. I have to become this way in order to survive. If I’m bidding for jobs, I have to in a very professional way, point out why photographer X isn’t any good and why I’m better. This is because there are FAR fewer paying clients on the model side of it all. Where as on the general portrait side, they are conditioned to pay for services (even if it’s pennies) so there’s more f a relaxed state if that one client doesn’t come in.

When speaking with a LOT of general portrait photographers, they talk about “Short” ‘Broad” “Beauty’ “Butterfly” and so on lighting. They are more wrapped up in which lighting style they’re shooting vs making sure they get the right shot. They have conventions where a group of the high and mighty sit on a pedestal and judge your work. They use the old school “Proper lighting” blah blah. No, proper lighting is the best light for the shot you want to convey, not what YOU feel I should have done it.

Model photography will always be behind the eight ball for the simple fact that model photographers don’t talk to other model photographers. Those that do, want it free. When I started teaching photography, I found that I had a lot of “friends”. These guys were always around and keeping up with me and checking in to say “Hi”. I had access to every girl they wanted to shoot, studio and lights, they brought their cameras and themselves. Once I realized they were using me and not my friends, I started making statements like “Nah, I have no interest in shooting her but if you want to rent my studio, I’ll give you a good price!” They rescinded their ideal to shoot model X and threw up another name. Once I said no, they stopped contacting me. I once had a model call me crying hysterically because a local Colorado photographer totally trashed me to her. She tried to defend me but she couldn’t stack up, all she could do is cry. I called the “photographer” not to defend myself, but to confront him on making her cry. He repeated several times that “If she said I talked about you, she was lying” I know this young lady very well and she’d not make this up. Why did he say bad things about me? He wanted to shoot her and she wasn’t interested. He told her the images I got of her sucked and he could do better.


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