📸 Skai Chan Photography

Reasons Why Models Shouldn't Bring Their Partners along for Photoshoots

This article refers to non-commercial (private) shoots where there won't be a large team of staffs working together. In the case of commercial shoots, the models are usually more professional and their partners/boyfriends would likely keep a distance throughout the shoot; the number of staffs around would also take away the attention of the models from their boyfriends.

Some models insist in bringing their boyfriends along for photoshoots due to two main reasons. Firstly their boyfriends are too insecure, in a good way, and thus insist to follow to protect the models. Secondly, the models themselves are afraid of being taken advantage by the photographers during the shoots.

These worries apply to outdoor shoots as well, even though Singapore is so small that almost every place, including abandoned buildings, would have the presence of explorers - quite safe in a way. There will always be some dangers nevertheless but if security is the reason, the model can always choose to bring along anyone except her boyfriend.

The cause of the fear is due to stories of some blacklisted photographers (black sheep) who had advanced themselves onto the models. This is why I would advocate judging of photographers before agreeing to work with them - the model shouldn't do the shoot if she doesn't feel 100% safe.

Perhaps, rape is a serious crime in Singapore that involves caning and not many bkack sheep would want to risk it. The stories in Singapore I have heard so far are the black sheep using money or fame to tempt the inexperienced models or using method to sexually arouse them during the shoot.

I had a model friend who was engaged by a top blacklisted photographer who had changed his alias. When she took up the job, she didn't know about him. On the day of the shoot, she brought her boyfriend along but he stayed outside the studio. Since her boyfriend wouldn't even hear about the conversation during the shoot, I felt it was very reasonable. However, the blacklisted photographer "took offence" and started lecturing the model. The photographer did attempt to be "funny" but, fortunately, there was another model around - he probably regretted hiring two models at the same time.

I personally feel if the model has to bring an escort along during my shoot, she certainly has doubt in me and that's an insult. My extensive amount of write-ups and professional work on my website speak for my professionalism. People who bother to read my writing and see my work would definitely feel my integrity, effort and passion. An obvious example is that even the sexier albums of mine look tasteful. I don't work with anyone who doesn't trust me since there's no point in wasting my time to produce substandard work due to doubts.

I feel stressful with the presence of a third party no matter how much experience I have. I care about everyone around me and I also care about how they would react to my words. If a third party is present, I want him or her to not feel awkward nor bored. This is my personality or you may call it a flaw, but I'm sure there are many people who somehow have the same mentality as me. Perhaps, when more people get involved in a project, the photographer has to "answer" to more people (stakeholders) and everyone has his or her own views of art.

My working style for a portrait shoot is to try out different things, including lighting, composition, poses... etc. It involves a lot of time and the clicks on my shutter button will include lots of testing and bad shots that I would want to show to the model because she wouldn't be able to look at a large mirror while posing. Non-photographers may not understand and thus may think lowly of me.

Some models have also told me they prefer not to have a third party around to observe the shoot, so that they can focus and also not feel awkward. Somehow, even the model would be distracted because nobody would treat the third party as invisible no matter how he or she would deny. If the third party is her boyfriend or husband, she has to show concern for him.

Nevertheless, the third person will be very useful as an assistant because I don't want to have any contact with my models no matter how much they trust me. Therefore, I will ask my model to bring along a female friend if she needs an escort or if I think that I will need additional help to secure my equipment from the wind for outdoor shoots. The assistant will also have to help to adjust the model's hair, clothes and even poses. I prefer having the makeup artist staying behind and she has to be someone who has worked with me a few times and has good rapport with me.

I'm sure there will be situations where some boyfriends are totally mature and considerate enough to not cause any major distraction but the chance is very low. Therefore, why not eliminate the possibility at the start by getting an escort who's not the boyfriend of the model? The logic is similar to why I always try to plan early morning or late afternoon outdoor shoots - to eliminate the problem of harsh sunlight and increase the chance of getting good photographs.

From my experience, none of the situation with the presence of the model's boyfriend has proven to be not awkward. No matter how a model boasts that the presence of her boyfriend won't affect the shoot, somehow, it always does. These are models who would over-promise, which is totally opposite from my style. Apart from having to keep a lookout for the boyfriend (both the model and my "job") every now and then, there's always a chance that the boyfriend is being over-helpful. No matter how close the couple is, they will always have some miscommunication or maybe their usual tone of communication may look like they are heated up.

Perhaps, models who insist in bringing along their boyfriends for shoot are usually not professional models. Firstly, professional models have the experience to screen away most photographers with bad intention before accepting any shoot. Secondly, professional models know their rights and will be able to say "no" directly to any unreasonable request during the shoot. That means if the photographer happens to be touchy, the model will stop the shoot.

My experience doing portrait shoot in the the model's partner's prescene

Case 1:

It was when I was still very new to photography and didn't know much about looking at lighting. I was only holding onto my first mirrorless DSLR without even a speedlite. I was having a collaboration shoot with a young net friend whose boyfriend insisted in joining her. However, he promised her that he would only drop by and hide around, such that we wouldn't even know his prescence, and thus our shoot wouldn't be interrupted. I was very fine with it since he wouldn't affect the shoot.

On the day itself, the model turned up together with her boyfriend at the MRT station - it was completely different from the agreement. Usually, I would make good use of the travelling time to interact with the model to break the ice and also discuss more about the shoot. However, the model was sitting with her boyfriend in the bus and the nearest available seat was a distance away and thus we didn't get to talk at all. I was absolutely awkward.

Upon reaching the venue, the model's boyfriend stayed close to us (five to 10 metres away) throughout. Both the model and I were very awkward. She was tensed throughout and her expression looked very unnatural. Whereas, my instructions for her weren't very clear. We were both amateurs.

Eventually, the model's boyfriend started joining in to help to pose her although he hadn't been involved in any shoot before. In private, the model admitted to me that she was awkward due to her boyfriend's presence.

I had a very experienced commercial makeup artist friend who had promised to join me in the afternoon if she was able to set aside her time. She would be able to help the model to do a professional styling on the spot and guide her throughout. However, I didn't propose to continue the shoot after lunch due to the awkwardness and partly due to the unpredictable weather.

Case 2:

For this shoot with a new model, she arrived an hour late with a guy. She told me she was only late for half an hour but went to the mall to try to get something for the shoot, which added up to the one hour.

From their body language and conversation, it was obvious that they were very close - he even helped her to adjust her outfit. On a side note, they announced their relationship weeks after the shoot. We went to somewhere to have a drinks while the model did her own makeup. I had to entertain the guy or otherwise, it would be awkward and I would be misunderstood as being hostile or unfriendly. Furthermore, he was chatty and I had to reciprocate. The new friendship somehow led to him being totally involved in our shoot.

During the shoot, he stayed quite close to us most of the time, except when he had to help her to run an errand. I had to somehow divert some attention to him and chat with him sometimes. Since it was my first interaction with him, I had to restrain myself from my usual jokes with the model.

I wasn't a master of lighting at that point of time. I had to balance the background light with my artifical light while avoid blocking the paths of the passers-by. It was already a very tough job to play with my equipment and the extra attention I gave to the then unofficial boyfriend, even when he was sitting down and drinking on his own, didn't do good.

Although the model was someone who was extremely confident, somehow, she was totally unnatural in her expression during the shoot. Eventually, I got a few good shots taken when she was idling or resting.

Case 3:

We were doing a bikini shoot and the model's boyfriend was present. At times, they had some body contact and I felt awkward like a lightbulb. Since we were all friends, her boyfriend stayed closely together with us most of the time to offer his help.

Her past experience with modelling was more towards dramatic poses and she was somehow being guided by hobbyists. I felt the kind of modelling shoot wasn't suitable for her yet and thus I decided to go for something more lifestyle and casual.

However, she looked stiff and couldn't get into the mood. Her boyfriend then helped to make her laugh but it was far from what I expected - the laughers weren't natural. I appreciated the help and I didn't want to stop him.

I felt it was a total waste of her looks and figure. I could have gotten much better photographs if I were to go by my usual pace to break the ice with the model first and slowly let her get into the mood.

Case 4:

I was with my good friend and her girlfriend, who was the model. Like most of my models, this model wasn't a professional model. My good friend instructed her to do like how they usually do during their usual casual shoot - similar to the style I wanted - and it helped a lot. My good friend left me alone with the model for quite some time to explore the place and thus taking away the awkwardness. However, the model felt a little pressured for she didn't want to disappoint or "disgrace" her girlfriend (my good friend) by not performing well for my shoot.

This situation wasn't as bad as the usual situations of having the models' boyfriends around since this model's girlfriend was my good friend and we trusted each other a lot. Furthermore, although they were an item, my good friend was a girl and thus it wasn't so awkward to me personally.

Case 5:

The location was at a hotel where the model was having a staycation. Her husband and daughter were around during the entire shoot. I hadn't chatted with her husband before and thus I was extremely reserved during the shoot since we were all in the same room.

The model was showing quite an amount of skin during the shoot, which could have increased the alert level of her husband. She was a top natural beauty, except that she had low confidence in front of cameras. Since I was awkward like her and I wasn't able to do my best. In fact, I actually needed them to shift their stuff and also get her husband to move away in order to utilize the room while making use of the natural light, which I didn't because it would be very troublesome.

At times, she would ask her husband to tell her jokes to make her laugh. Whereas, I was too afraid to say anything wrongly or to joke with her to help her to relax.

Of course, I was able to get some good work eventually but it was far from what I had expected in term of quantity and varieties of work. I wasn't able to make full use of the beautiful interior.

Case 6:

It was an indoor art shoot and the model trusted me completely. Her girlfriend was with us throughout but she remained in silence at a corner near me (very tight space) most of the time.

I assumed that the model's girlfriend had seen the quality of my work and that the equipment I had set up was obviously professional, and thus she would respect my professionalism.

However, since the model was quite close to me, she openly pretended to flirt with me. I assumed she was trying to further break the ice while hiding her nervousness for it was an exposing shoot after all. I didn't really know how to react because I didn't want her girlfriend to get jealous. I stayed quiet most of the time just like a lost sheep or awkward boy as she continued to joke around.

At times, I tried to seek her girlfriend's opinion on my camera to get her involved because I felt so weird to have a spectator around. It was as if I had to answer to a few clients for the same project, whereas everyone would at least have a slightly different opinions. For this case, I had to answer to the model, her girlfriend and the makeup artist.

We got very good work eventually due to our rapport but the fact was that I was distracted during the shoot because I had to be wary of not saying any stupid thing in front of the model's girlfriend.

Case 7:

The model was having dinner with her boyfriend before the shoot and thus he tagged along, partly because he had to send her home after that.

Her boyfriend was quite humble to declare that he couldn't help me much due to his lack of knowledge in lighting, however, it seemed that he had good eyes in details for modelling/photoshoot. The way he talked reminded me of a friend, which gave me some comfort. I set up a huge softbox and thus he probably could guess I was quite experienced - not just a hobbyist who was doing photography to get close to young models. When he claimed his girlfriend (the model) was more suitable to do sexy shoot, which was true, I knew he was open-minded and that eliminated my usual worries of having the model's boyfriend getting wrong ideas or being jealous. Since the model's boyfriend was around, I waited for her to call for him for help to adjust her outfit.

The most awkward thing that happened was when the model sounded a little frustrated due to communication problems at the start of the shoot. Her boyfriend was trying to explain something to her but she couldn't understand and reacted a little like a kid. I was in a weird situation to intercept as it might not be respectful to her boyfriend. I was totally lost after this.

Through their conversation, I heard that her boyfriend had very little sleep the night before. Therefore, I tried hard to hint the model to end the shoot, which was very different from my usual style - I would always try to get more photographs in order to have more good choices to pick from.

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