Pre-Shoot Meetings.

Quite often you hear photographers encouraging other photographers to require a model to attend a pre-shoot meeting in order to tell whether or not she’ll flake, to make sure she looks like her photos, to make sure you’re on the same page with shoot concepts, or to see whether your personalities will “mesh” well enough so that the shoot will be a success.  Or you hear models (or the occasional white-knight photographer) telling others to go to a pre-shoot meeting to ensure the photographer isn’t a creep.  I have even heard pre-shoot meetings likened to casting calls!  There’s a lot wrong with all of that, so let’s start at the beginning…

The “So I Know You Won’t Flake” & The “Do You Look Like Your Pics” Pre-Shoot Meetings
I’m going to lump these into 1, because they’re both fairly short.

First, meeting with someone once before a shoot doesn’t guarantee they won’t flake on the actual shoot.  A flake is a flake, and they often don’t realize they’re doing anything wrong when they flake.  Also, being able to make a pre-shoot meeting doesn’t mean that something legit won’t happen to prevent a model from making a shoot.  Life happens, and sometimes, it interferes with things like photoshoots.

Second, if you aren’t sure exactly what a model looks like, you shouldn’t be afraid to ask to see unretouched “polaroid” type photos.  Most models will not bat an eye at providing these, if they’re not in their online portfolios or linked somehow already.  Those who do have an issue with providing polaroids… you probably don’t want to work with anyway.
Both of these things can be figured out by checking references and/or asking around in the local community.  When you check references, ask if the model showed up on time and was an accurate representation of the images she presents online.  If you have some trusted sources, ask them as well… word of a flake gets around quickly.

The “Yay, We’re On The Same Page” Pre-Shoot Meeting
If a photographer and I are working together on a concept that requires extensive planning, or I am art-directing a shoot, I will meet ahead of time to discuss ideas, if a phone call and/or emails aren’t cutting it.  I have done this a handful of times in the past 5 years, and will continue to do so if necessary.  However, the vast majority of the time emails (with the occasional attached image) and a rare phone call have been sufficient.

When I work with photographers on hosting workshops or events, I have no problems meeting in advance to discuss initial ideas, and I often try to schedule a ‘dry-run’ type thing a couple of days prior to the event if necessary.  I prefer to do this at the location hosting the workshop so that I can see the space I’m going to be working with and (initially) make sure the space is going to suit the group coming in for the workshop/event.  Of course, if I’m hosting at a space I’ve used before, it often becomes easier for both of us to plan via email or phone, with just a dry run a day or two ahead of time.

If a photographer looking to hire me or work TF* and wants to meet in advance, he will have to provide a darn good reason why a set of poloroids (I’ll even hold up the day’s newspaper, after I go buy one LOL) won’t work, and will have to work with my schedule.    I have no problems talking on the phone before a shoot (in fact, I absolutely require a phone number and email address to officially book a shoot).

The “Let’s Make Sure We Get Along” Pre-Shoot Meeting
A shoot is a job, even for hobbyists.  A model is there to pose and help the photographer capture an image in a way that suits his (or her) vision.  A shoot is not a social gathering or date, so there should be no reason to be so concerned with personalities “meshing”.  What matters more, during a shoot, is whether the model can follow direction given by the photographer, thus doing her part to help the final idea come to fruition.  Unless you’re doing a test shoot during your pre-shoot meeting, you won’t be able to tell that until the actual shoot.  Well, you won’t know this if you’re not asking “does the model take direction well” when you check her references, that is.

That’s right, another good reason to check references: asking if the model takes direction well, and whether she does what is asked of her to get the shot.

The “Just Making Sure You’re Not A Creep” Pre-Shoot Meeting
Now, I realize that “creepy” is quite often subjective, and based on individual feelings/thoughts.  That said, for those models who use a pre-shoot meeting to screen photographers their working with (instead of doing things like checking references), well… that’s not the right (or smart) way to go about things.

Make sure someone isn’t a “creep” by checking references with 3-5 other models they’ve worked with.  I wrote a whole blog on checking references here, in case you’re not sure how to go about doing this.  It’s a much smarter way to go about things, and, at the very least, you won’t have wasted both your time and the photographer’s time with a pre-shoot meeting.

Why A Pre-Shoot Meeting Isn’t A Casting Call

An in-person casting call (as opposed to something posted on a site like Model Insider) is a casting call.  They are usually held at a studio and are usually open to whoever is interested in the part (and meets certain requirements).  If, for whatever reason, a photographer is holding a casting at his studio, and I fit the bill, then yes, I’ll go.  I have in the past and I will continue to do so as long as I’m modeling.  There have been times when castings have resulted in, essentially, a waste of my time, but they were casting calls, and that’s part of the business–I go in knowing there’s a possibility I won’t get the job, or that once I get more details it’s something I’m not a good fit for, and I’ve accepted that.

If you want to hold a casting, hold a casting.  But don’t just sit your ass down in your local Starbucks and wait for one model to show up, and call it a casting.  That’s not only misleading to the model, but very likely a huge waste of your time too.  And who wants that?

The Bottom Line
Monday thru Friday, I work full-time in the Chicago suburbs, have a husband that works 16+ hours a day, and have a dog that needs to be taken care of (which usually falls on me because of my husband’s schedule), not to mention the typical household responsibilities.  On weekends I’m either shooting (or doing other modeling-related stuff, like organizing for a workshop), spending time with friends or family, or doing household things that didn’t get done during the week.  I will not drive over an hour (or more, with construction) into the city of Chicago or to a far away ‘burb for a 30-minute (or less) “great, we both like this idea” or “cool, you look like your pictures” meeting.  I check references, so I don’t have to worry about “are you a creep” meetings.

Many hobbyist models are in the same boat I am–working full-time, running a household and being responsible for a family, and shooting when they have time–so if you require a pre-shoot meeting, it might be a turnoff for them.  After all, there are plenty of other things they’d likely rather do than meet you for coffee to discuss things that either aren’t relevant to your shoot, work out details that could be done over email or a phone call, or prove to you something you could have found out by simply checking their references.  In short, they’re not going to want to waste their precious time on you, and will very likely just find someone else to work with.

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4 Responses to “Pre-Shoot Meetings.”

  1. I find them unnecessary, and it just takes additional time and resources. The one time I did it, for a rather involved body paint project, it turned out to be a wasted shoot anyhow…..I see no reason for it unless for a wedding or commercial shoot, but with a model, I find it moot to have to have a whole separate meeting.

  2. Usually I agree with your posts, but not so this time. The very first time I work with a model, if she doesn’t have an good list of references or has worked with other photographers or models I’ve worked with who recommend her, I’m going to ask for a pre-shoot meeting. The reason being is to go over the shoot concept, to see her in person i.e. how she moves, smiles, walks, etc. I always specify that the model can choose a convenient location and time and I’ll meet her there. If I’m willing to spend my “precious” time to ensure we both will have a great shoot then I would expect the same degree of commitment on the model’s part, especially if I’m paying her either in cash or prints or a combination of the two. If they don’t want to meet with me, fine – I’ll move on to a different model. Very rarely do I work with a new model without meeting with them first, and honestly, I’ve never had a model refuse to meet with me.

  3. A pre-shoot meeting with a totally newb model might be understandable–after all, if one has zero references, you have to do SOMETHING, I suppose. However, to REQUIRE one (as I’ve seen many photographers note they do) of all models they are going to work with, including (by default, if you require it with everyone) experienced models with references out the wazoo, then my post certainly applies. In the case of experienced models, checking references should be sufficient. For new models with no references, then I understand why meeting to “ensure” they’ll show is what you have to do.

    However, a pre-shoot meeting still doesn’t guarantee no flaking the day of a shoot. It might lessen the chances, but it doesn’t guarantee it.

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