Good Models vs Bad Models

When I mention good or bad models, it is about their attitude - not looks and figure. We can work with good hair and makeup artists (HMUAs), and choose flattering outfits and poses for the models, but we cannot change their attitudes. However, it does not mean a model with any bad modelling attitude as listed in this page is considered wicked or bad but it definitely shows lacking of maturity, interest and professionalism.

Some of the points are meant more for models who do TFCD photo shoot. For paid shoot, just remember to pay the money to the professional photographer and you can waste any amount of the paid time and also insist in any unsuitable outfit. However, I personally would reject uncooperative models no matter how much they are going to pay me because I want every photoshoot to become part of my portfolio. I do not go for a shoot just to date with the model and then ignore about the quality of the photographs. A model-wannabe can never make it in the modelling field with bad attitude; unless she does not mind showing lots of skin for free, perhaps, some photographers do not mind taking the nonsense just for photoshoot.

The easiest way to judge a model is to look at her portfolio. If a model has done photoshoot for years and yet she can only produce one or two sets of good photographs, something must be wrong with her. Remember that to produce a good set of photographs requires not only working with a good photographer but also willingness to cooperate and trust the photographer. Good photographers will tend to stray away from the model no matter how pretty or hot she is, if she has a weird mentality. Lastly, models who cannot judge the quality of photographs are likely going to work with all sorts of weird photographers and thus they will have quality issue with their portfolios that they mistake are outstanding.

1. Enthusiasm in discussion

Good model: Enthusiastic throughout the discussion
Bad model: Slow replies (usually, after initial conversation)

Basically, everyone who lives in Singapore is busy with school, work, family, friends or hobbies. If a model claims that she is too busy with something and cannot confirm things like the date, time or outfit, she is just not committed to the shoot. It will take lots of time and effort for the photographer, hair and makeup artist to do planning before the shoot. So, if the model delays things such as sending of the photographs of her outfits, the quality of photographs will definitely be affected.

Due to such models, there are many times I have to stay up late just to confirm the shoot hours before the shoot. While some of my models are lucky enough to get hair and makeup artists involved initially, their slow replies have made the third members (HMUAs) change their minds.

There are also many models who have approached me "sincerely". They seem very enthusiastic but are never able to confirm the date for our shoot eventually. Soon, they go missing-in-action (MIA). It is very annoying for models to do that because of the time and effort I have to waste to plan the shoot and entertain them. Unfortunately, there are countless of such "models".

2. Confirmation of date

Good model: Confirms immediately to an upcoming date
Bad model: Cannot confirm the shoot or postpones it afterwards

While the model has her personal commitments, the photographer and makeup artist have theirs too. It is very unprofessional for a model to postpone a photoshoot after confirming with the team.

I had encountered a girl approaching me for shoot and after I told her the plans that covered what she wanted, she postponed the shoot twice. Her excuses were due to her driving lesson, which she could fix on another day since we had already agreed on the date before she made the booking, and then her piano tutor wanted to change the lesson to the new shooting date.

I also faced another weird girl who postponed our shoot just the day before and she did not bother to tell me until I texted her to double confirm. On the next day, I saw her new photoshoot work on Facebook that stated done on the day itself, which meant that she had cancelled our shoot to have a go with another photographer. Months later, she contacted me again for a shoot again. When I asked her about the photoshoot she had done on our initial planned date, she seemed to have lost her memory and tried to brush it off by pointing to some photographs she was taken during an event. I tried to be nice since she bothered to approach me again but on the next agreed date, she told me she thought we were going to shoot on the next week instead, just an hour before the shooting time when I tried to check her status. I did not bother her after that but she came back to me many months later again. I played along with her as she showed inflexibilities in discussing the shoot.

In the darkness of my photography journey, the record was postponement of three times due to various ridiculous reasons from a friend. As busy as she claimed to be, she actually had the time to do casual shoot with amateur photographer friend and yet did not have the time to try out the outfits for our professional shoot. At the fourth given date, I gave up - not only on the shoot but the friendship as well. It showed the character of the person - painting of enthusiasm over her half-heartedness.

3. Discussion on flaws

Good model: Tries to rectify any flaw together
Bad model: Thinks she is flawless - unable to take feedback

No one has flawless looks. Unfortunately, most people, including me, are far from perfection.

As a photographer, I have to communicate with the models to get them to improve on their looks before the shoot, especially when no makeup artist is involved. For example, if the model has flabby arms or thighs, there are certainly some outfits that are less suitable.

One of the most common problems with girls' looks is their eyebrows. Many girls can put on basic makeup but leaving their eyebrows unattended makes them more obvious. Very few girls are born with nice eyebrows while some are lucky enough that a little trimming would make a big difference. Sometimes when I try asking the girl to trim her eyebrows, I get replies like "What's wrong with my eyebrows!" and it would be followed by more attitude replies.

I'm frank but I always work hard to be diplomatic in my feedback to the models but there are times I know I cannot beat around the bush too much when the model does not seem to get hints. I have unintentionally offended quite a number of model-wannabes, causing the cancellation of the shoot. Luckily, I don't see a point to help people who can't accept comments to help improving themselves. Moreover, it is very difficult for me to work with models who cannot accept negative comments that I have to watch my truthful words during the shoot. I want photoshooting to be something happy and comfortable.

When I asked my MUA friend Tricia Lee how I could make my models-to-be to believe me whenever I tell them about their flaws on face, she simply told me I had to become a famous makeup artist. That means even with my years of experience working with models of all looks and shapes as a photographer, not all models would buy my critiques.

4. Mindset / Self-Esteem

Good model: Understands and thinks positively
Bad model: Gets provoked easily due to low self-esteem

People with low self-esteem tends to think more negatively and gets provoked easier. This makes communication difficult since one must be careful in even the use of words in front of the person.

There was once when I did an art shoot with a girl who has very low self-esteem. An art shoot and porn shoot have only a thin line in between and thus sometimes it is easy to cross over a little. After the shoot, I discussed the photographs with my mentor and she told me some of the photographs were a little "cheap". I felt glad, nevertheless, for she was an extremely fussy critique. However, after I told the model about it, she got very agitated for she thought my mentor was insulting her. No matter how hard I tried to explain to her, she refused to listen.

Photography is my passion and if I have to face people who think negatively most of the time, such that I have to be extra careful with the words I use, I rather not take up the project.

5. Flexibility

Good model: Accommodating
Bad model: Inflexible, full of excuses

There are probably just two things an inflexible model cannot do - this and that.

Photographer: What outfits do you have?
"Model": Obviously all those outfits I like most have been posted into my Facebook profile.
Photographer: Is this top (found in the profile) okay?
"Model": No, it's not nice.

Photographer: Let's shoot at this place near your house.
"Model": No, it definitely has many mosquitoes.
Photographer: How about that place (public transport available)?
"Model": SO FAR? I don't know how to go.

Photographer: So, let's finalized with this 3 outfits (wear 1, carry 2).
"Model": Huh? I don't carry big bag to go out one!

The above are true encounters of mine with the exact same "model". I usually use the term "problematic" as there are many problems.

6. Respect and confidence

Good model: Follows instruction
Bad model: Bossy, over-confident

The basic thing the model can show to the photographer is respect. To avoid conflicts, I will not be interested in shooting with models who are insistent in doing things their ways.

I had done photoshooting with a model who had some experiences when I was new. She kept asking me to shoot at certain angles and places like as if she was the photographer and I was not someone who liked to argue. She could have passed a camera over to her grandma to take for her.

"Something nice may not necessary suit everyone".

There was one hot girl who had approached me when I was quite new. She was more into Korean's trend and drew her eyebrows like Koreans' pop stars (straight eyebrows). Both my makeup artist and I found it very unsuitable for her but she insisted it was nice. Luckily, she had a change of schedule on the shooting day itself and she did not return to me to fix another appointment.

There was also once when a dancer approached me. I wanted the photoshoot to be more interactive and livelier, and I suggested her to dance during the shoot so that I could capture her in her most natural looks. However, she replied firmly that she would just pose directly. A simple reply could tell a lot on the person's character. I knew I was too soft to handle a model like her and thus had to give up the project no matter how hot she was.

One common play of over-confidence is that the model thinks her hair and makeup skill is "good enough" or even better than professional HMUAs (for her own styling). It usually turns out a little disastrous. Another situation is when the model thinks she suits a certain style and rejects the photographer's idea.

Photographer: For the theme I have in mind, I need you to wear a pinafore.
"Model": No, my style is tee shirt.

7. Ideas / Themes

Good model: Opens to ideas
Bad model: Thinks she knows the best

No one has the exact same ideas for everything. It is the willingness and trust from the models to try on any pose and location that their photographers suggest. Some models may think certain poses are funny and thus they do not want to try at all.

8. Discussion of outfits

Good model: Lists and sends some photographs of the outfits
Bad model: Says she has "everything" or will bring a few pieces of clothes on the day itself

For most of the non-commercial shoots, the models are supposed to use their own outfits, unless the male photographer wears skirts too. Alternatively, unless there is a wardrobe sponsor or fashion designer who will be providing the outfits, the photographer definitely has to go through the model's outfits together before the shoot.

There are obviously some good reasons for the model to list out some of her clothes.

Firstly, the model may not have the type of clothes named. The photographer is likely not the model's boyfriend after all and needs not entertain such nonsense. Coming out with ideas and getting "rejected" can be very irritating and time-consuming. It reminds me of a common story of couples:

Boyfriend: What do you want to eat?
Girlfriend: Anything.
Boyfriend: Curry rice?
Girlfriend: No, I have just recovered from cough.
Boyfriend: Chicken rice?
Girlfriend: Too oily!
Boyfriend: Japanese food?
Girlfriend: No! I have just taken that yesterday!
Boyfriend: Then what do you want to eat?
Girlfriend: I'm anything! You decide!

Secondly, the model is often able to surprise the photographer with some nice or uncommon clothes that the male photographer cannot come out with. Obviously, girls have many types of clothes and guys may not even know their names/existence to name them.

Lastly, having the model suggesting the type of clothes, the photographer can understand her taste and willingness to wear the outfit for shoot. Imagine a similar situation:

Photographer: How about bikini?
Model: No, too sexy.
Photographer: Crop top?
Model: No, I have big tummy.
Photographer: A very long dress?
Model: No, I don't have!

It can be funny but I have faced such situation many times. Please give the photographer a break, especially if there are many models who are approaching him.

The minimum thing a model can do is to take photographs of the outfits she owns to share with the photographer. The reason for showing the outfit is obvious - it is impossible for everyone to understand what exactly each other wants, and so, let everyone's visual eases all miscommunication. Nobody would want to depend on luck on the day itself.

9. Showing of outfits

Good model: Wear the clothes and take photographs for selection
Bad model: No time to take photograph

I have been shocked by my models a few times at the beginning of the shoots because the outfits are far different from what I have expected. These are times when I do not receive any photo at all or the outfit just lies flatly on the bed when it is taken and I cannot see the exact cutting and design; besides, different materials do give different feel when being worn. I have also missed out some nice outfits. The photographs will help the photographer to visualize and plan the shoot for the best result.

Difficult to judge

I understand that the model has likely tried her outfits before buying or after receiving them from delivery-man (online purchase) and therefore, she has seen how exactly the outfits look like on her body. Therefore, she may assume other people know it as well.

There was once when a model sent me a photograph of a tube top, I mistook it as a tube dress instead.

There is a reason why mannequins exist in retail shops.

Different body shape and length

Some outfits make the models look fatter or the cuttings simply do not fit them.

I had a model with excellent body curves customized two gowns with good material but after she wore them for me to see, I was extremely disappointed.


Many "models" are over confident of their dress sense. I have encountered "malfunction" with the outfits of the models many times. Even though I'm a guy, my experience has helped me to learn a lot, including spotting errors.

There was once a model wore a thin material top with a hard wired bra that thrust forward and it made the model look like she was wearing an oversized bra. I had also experienced situations that the model's outfit was different from the style I was planning to do. In another frustrating night, the model's top was actually designed with big opening by the sides and her bra was shown openly by around four centimetres, like a porn star.

There are too many stories about wardrobe that has determined the bad quality of photoshoots right from the start.

Old photographs

If a model were to show her photographer an existing/old photograph of her wearing the outfit, it may not be the best although it is "better than nothing". The photograph may not be a full body one and it may be a snapshot taken in bad condition. Moreover, the model may have changed length of hair or even body size/shape.

It takes longer time to shoot

When a model is lazy, there can be hundreds or thousands of excuses. If a model cannot even spend a few minutes taking and sending photographs of the outfits to the photographer to see before the shoot, how would she have the time to go for the actual shoot that would require even more time?

The blame

It's a basic respect to the photographer, who is supposed to oversee everything and prevent any problem. During a commercial shoot, the photographer has to answer for everything to the client. Viewers of the final photographs will only criticise on the photographers' decision and skill; they do not consider the fact that the models are the ones who have refused to cooperate to eliminate the flaws and errors. After all, the photographer should call the shot and demand the model for full cooperation.

I appreciate those models who spend the effort to try on every outfit and send me the photographs before the actual photo shoot. This is definitely tiring while most of the outfits will not be used eventually. It takes lots of patience and willingness to do it. I have been very touched by some of my models who do beyond the "minimum requirement" without giving them any instruction.

10. Personal activity before the shoot

Good model: Rest early
Bad model: Parties the night before

It is ridiculous if the model goes out to have fun the night before the morning shoot. The model is definitely showing the lack of interest in the photo shoot. If a model does not have a good rest the night before, it is easy for pimples to break out, skin to become dry, "panda eyes" to emerge and the model will not have the energy.

I had experienced shooting with a model who had gone drinking hours before the morning shoot. She was, of course, late for the shoot and did not send me the photographs of her outfits as promised. She looked tired and I could smell alcohol whenever I was close to her. It was a very bad experience.

11. Punctuality

Good model: Turns up earlier or on time
Bad model: Delays the shoot

This is a common problem and can only be judged based on individual situations. I do appreciate models who have to work till late hour. There are also times when the models sleep late because they are discussing the shoots with me.

I'm a busy person and usually sleep late due to work. The most irritating thing is that if I drag myself to get up after having one or two hours of sleep while the model oversleeps, it is a waste of my effort. Waiting makes me very sleepy and will massacre any idea I have in mind for the shoot.

I had encountered shooting with a model who had decided to stay up the night just for mahjong games with her friends. We were supposed to shoot during the golden hour in the early morning when lighting was more pleasing and fewer passers-by would photobomb us. In the end, we dragged the shooting to the afternoon. The shoot was arranged days before that and the mahjong session was a spontaneous gathering with her friends.

12. Endurance / Determination

Good model: Doesn't mind travelling and long duration
Bad model: Complaint of tiredness

For outdoor shooting, if we do not have a scout to find nice spots at the locations before the shoot, do expect to walk around to find good background. If we are not doing any paid commercial work for any big client, do not expect the privilege.

For me, I love exploring new places. I also do not have a photographic memory and thus, every model is expected to walk during the photo shoot to find good spots. So far, most of my models are really nice girls who have not complained about tiredness.

I have experienced spending more than 12 hours with models for our shoots. There was a time a model went into a forest with me and also climbed to the top of Mount Faber without making any complaint. I was totally mesmerized by her good attitude.

13. Trust in post-production

Good model: Trusts the photographer in post-production
Bad model: Demands to edit the photographs

Demanding to edit the photographs for the photographer is a big disrespectful act. If the model thinks she can do a better job than the photographer, she should not work with the photographer in the first place. Like what I have mentioned, advise her to pass a camera to her grandma to do the shooting for her while she can do the post-production job on her own.

Other than how the photographer prefers the use of lens and camera setting, post-processing work is a unique work of the photographer as well. I have seen works from various photographers who may not be using the minimum gears but their editing of the photographs makes great difference in setting the moods of the photographs. It's about the personal style of the photographer - both actual shooting and photoshop editing come in a package. Of course, for certain photographers, they may have their own setting preset and they can easily task a retoucher to do the post-processing work instead.

I have encountered a few such cases before. The models may know a little about PhotoShop or other more customised and simple software, but they are simply too over-confident about themselves. Of course, I would not consider them ill-hearted but immature and insensitive to others' feeling.

If you ever encounter one with bad complexion and lousy makeup who simply blurs out her face and claims that she has done a better job than you, you probably will feel the stab.

I do hear about a few "commercial photographers" who "collaborate" with girls who are willing to strip down to underwear or none, and then they simply pass the raw photographs for the girls to edit. Of course, the supposed-to-be professional photographers are ruining their own reputation directly when the girls upload overly-processed photographs and credit back to the photographers. Obviously, the motive for shooting with the girls is not to build up their own portfolios.

14. Patience after shoot

Good model: Understands good work requires more time
Bad model: Directly/indirectly rushing for photographs

The post-production work would definitely take longer time than the actual shoot, and good work requires more time and effort. So, everyone should expect to wait for the photographs to be done.

If a model is paying for a photo shoot, the photographer would have given her a timeframe to return her the photographs. If the deadline is over, the model can definitely rush the photographer. If it is a TFCD photo shoot, the model has no rights to complain at all, especially if the photographer has stated the possible length of time. I do have experiences of TFCD models keep rushing me for the photographs. I would call them insensible. I have my work and I do not live for them.

There are times that I have to do a few photoshoots within a short period of time due to the availabilities of the models, and there can be delays in delivery of the final photographs. For examples, I may be approached by foreign models who are staying in Singapore just for a few days or I may be creating a theme for upcoming festival like Christmas, I have to go ahead to shoot regardless of the amount of work I have on hand.

I hate owing people things and it is very nice for models to be patient. I'm more anxious than anyone to finish the photographs and showcase them in my portfolio. I have been lucky because most of my models understand the time and effort required for post-production work and that I have tight schedule. Thus, most of them do not rush me. In fact, I do warn my models when I still owe many others their photographs, but most of them do not mind going ahead to shoot and waiting a long time for the final photographs.

15. Expectation of photographs

Good model: Quality over quantity
Bad model: Quantity over quality

Some girls weigh quantity over quality because they do not know how to judge a good photo in the first place. They may want more photographs so that they can post to their social media profiles everyday. After spending a lot of time to filter the photographs, often in quantities of hundreds, it would take many hours to edit it, depending on individual situations. Making the photographer edit a lot of photographs is definitely taking things for granted, unless the model is paying the photographer.

When I was very new, I experienced a model promising not to upload the raw photographs (for her keepsake) but she did not keep her words. It would definitely look bad on her when people get to see her flaws, and it would also look bad on the photographer when people compare the edited and unedited photographs. From then on, I learned that I should never give any raw photograph away, except those "behind the scene" photographs and only after I finished the final photographs. It was a painful lesson.

16. Uploading of photographs

Good model: Uploads as they are
Bad model: Crops or adds filter before uploading, especially in Instagram

Once a photograph is being cropped in any way not by the photographer, the feel or focus of subject will be different.

Unfortunately, it happens often, especially in Instagram. Instagram started with pure square ratio photographs but they relaxed on the rule a little, but still does not allow the usual 2:3 ratio of photographs taken by normal camera, such that certain part of the photograph will have to be cropped off. Photographs taken in landscape orientation (3:2) have no issue though.

One solution is to use another app to add borders to the photograph that is in portrait orientation to make it square before uploading.

Unfortunately, some people either do not know the existence of such app or are just too lazy to do it. There are also some people who love square photographs and thus decide that they can do a better cropping job than the original artists/owners (photographers).

It is difficult to talk sense to these people, especially, after the photographers have sent them the final photographs. They do not care about the photographers' reputation. I have my own experience of showing bad work with models' fingers or ankles being chopped off and I suppose most of the culprits' fans do know I'm being framed with bad composition. One of the easiest ways to "solve" this problem is to suck thumb and refuse to work with the person again if the photographer does not want to sour the relationship.

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