Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Avoiding scams, scam artists, and wastes of time.

It's summer, the big horse races are over (that's not a race horse I'm told) and it's a fun picture. Nothing to do with the seriousness of this blog, just think it's fun.

So a while back I took pictures for someone who turns out what scammed, and in looking back I could kind of have seen some warning flags but honestly I'm just here to take pictures and get pictures to my clients. Not here to manage their careers, help promote them (past taking pictures), or really get involved and give more involved advice. I have a hard enough time managing myself between photos and work.

The point of this blog is to look at those warning flags as well as look at other things that go on which are either wastes of time or money or both. Keeping in mind my main focus has been models and more traditional commercial modeling and/or fashion modeling so some of these points may not apply to promotional modeling or acting.

So, the scam I was involved in was this. Two guys decided to talk themselves up as promoters who know a old fashion model out of state who can help their client into the industry. They end up taking a bit of money (although they paid me) and skipped town. The guy in question that was their client did have a good look and I hope he tried to do this locally, and I did get him the pictures.

But, let's look at this point by point here.

Being approached by someone who says they are a scout or can make you into a model. 

It is not unrealistic to be approached by someone who can say "I'm a scout and work with so and so and can get you in the industry". This happens all the time and sometimes the models blow up and become big (there was a 16 or 17 year old from Arizona in the past few years that went from skater girl with friends to the lead runway model for major designers in the course of a year). Although it's not super common,

A thing to keep in mind here is that a professional scout will have a business card, contacts, and ways to check into them. In fact I would be willing to bet they would love to be researched and vetted since they want to set themselves apart from the scammers. So if they say "I work with X agency" then call that agency up and see what they have to say.

What happened with the scam I was witness to is that the guys made up their contacts and no one ever followed up with checking them out. Again, I was hired to take pictures and as far as I knew or cared the story was good. Not really my part to check that out, although I would have if asked.

Being asked to give money to promote you as a model. 

So, normally, the scouts would make their model by referring the model to an agency and getting a cut of earnings or whatever they have as a deal with that agency. This works in a models favor if they want to move to a different market and not start over as their home agency would do some of the legwork to get them work, although the paychecks for the model may be a bit smaller.

That said, it's not really normal to pay a scout a ton of money or to pay an agency a ton of money. Normally things like photoshoots will be done outside of the agency, and comp cards and other stuff normally don't add up to more than a few hundred. If someone says "you can be a model with us" or "I can make you a model" and then mentions thousands of dollars, more than likely the only thing they can do and want to do is put money in their pocket.

Again though a lot of good legit agencies in town here have fees, but they aren't all that unreasonable.

Photographers saying "I can make you a model" or giving model classes for free or for a fee. 

This is the one I can't really figure out. The easy way to make someone a model is to point them to agencies. Why someone would want to take on more responsibility or even try to sell themselves as some kind of entry level promoter is beyond me. The only thing I can think of is they are the personality where they want to be validated by having people look up to them or take them more seriously.

The only people that can make you a model (at least for mainstream work) are at the agencies. If you want to learn about how agencies operate then you should talk to the agencies. Seriously, we have some that have been around for 10-20+ years, talk to them, see what they have to say.

Even free classes and stuff. I just really question what the persons motives are. Again, if you want to learn about the model industry then talk to the people who are actually in it, not some photographer giving free advice. Ok, I know I'm giving advice here, but again I'm not trying to manage someones career and mostly saying "talk to the agencies". Talking about those who will go on at length telling new models how it is, when they don't even come close to working in or around the industry.

Photographers saying "sign a release and it's a free shoot" or something. 

So this is what you have to be careful of as bad images or nude images or bad nude images can come back and bite you. This is also why I say that if you're starting out, just pay someone. That way you don't have to sign full releases (or any releases), don't have to worry about what's going to be done with the shots, you can get the images back within a reasonable amount of time, and you're set.

Testing, or TFP, or whatever they call it now days can be fun, can get good images, but it can also be a lot of work, get you a lot of bad images (Lord knows I didn't do great stuff when I started out) and can tend to getting you more naked and in more glamour poses. So not only is it a waste of time to get a portfolio built, but you have bad images floating around out there and the photographer more than likely has a release.

In closing. 

Just be careful, vet people, check out what they are saying, and don't pay someone a ton of money to promote you, and maybe don't sign any release any random photographer puts in front of you.

If you want a list of good solid agencies in town please email me.