📸 Skai Chan Photography

Things that Models have been doing Terribly Wrong

After years of photography experience, I have made my observation on models. I notice there are some big mistakes that some of them have done that have caused them to fare badly, or at least worse than how they should have progressed.

  1. Lack of basic makeup skill
    Makeup is important because potential clients may look at the model's social media profiles. Basically, the model has to present herself well whenever she doesn't have the luxury of having a professional makeup artist helping her.

    Unlike commercial shoots, for some of the jobs like casual photoshoot that the model is either being hired by hobbyist photographers or doing collaboration shoot with professional photographers, there may not be any makeup artist involved. In such situation, the model has to do her basic makeup or be ready to stun the internet.

    The model should know basic makeup in order to make herself look at least presentable at all times, including her daily life for selfie. It's always good to maintain a good image although her causal photographs need not be as high quality as those photographs produced by a photoshoot.

    Some girls are lucky as they are born with good features and complexion, while many don't have the luck. Nevertheless, for the lucky ones, at least knowing light makeup won't pose any harm.

    If a model is being serious in the trade, she would have pushed herself to learn basic makeup. Some hardworking models may even take the effort to take up makeup courses while some would learn from the makeup artists they have worked with. The model should at least know what suits her best.
  2. No proper makeup during shoot
    Makeup artists usually apply thicker makeup for models if the purpose is for a shoot since makeup will appear washed out in camera. Professional makeup artists know what they are doing.

    I had experienced shooting with some models who couldn't see the value of professional makeup artists. They had boasted that they could do better work themselves as no one knew them better than themselves. It wasn't easy to produce good quality work while having to not offend such models.
  3. Do sexy shoot with random photographer
    There are many aspiring models and also girls who simply love their photographs to be taken. Given any opportunity, including sexy shoots, they will take it up.

    I strongly encourage people to take more photographs to gain experience and due to the reason that their youth is limited. However, there's a big difference between doing a "normal" and a sexy shoot.

    When a girl does a normal shoot with a random photographer, the result (bad photograph quality) doesn't affect her too much. Viewers will only treat it that she has no budget to hire a professional photographer.

    However, if the shoot is a sexy shoot, viewers will likely to judge her more and, unfortunately, relate it to porn. They will start fantasizing over what have happened during the shoot with a hobbyist photographer who may have ill-intention. Nevertheless, the impact is huge and the model's reputation is at stake. Of course, very few people would mention it to the model to correct her.

    Potential clients and co-workers would also have doubts in the model. Given that doing a sexy shoot is something worth more consideration and if the model makes a bad decision to do it with a bad photographer, she may not have the intelligence to communicate with the professionals.

    Models should know that the Internet has a super memory. Once any photograph is being uploaded, search engines will start collecting them and cache them. Viewers will download them for all sorts of reasons. Therefore, even after the original photograph is being removed, many people would still hold a copy of it.
  4. Do shoot with blacklisted photographers
    There are some known blacklisted photographers in Singapore. Unfortunately, no one seems to have broadcasted about new black sheep, nor has anyone updated on the new names/aliases of the existing black sheep.

    Some new models do not do any research before agreeing to shoot with the photographers. Some models know the history and background of the photographers but assume that nothing will happen to them as long as they are fierce and firm enough.

    The reasons for shooting with the blacklisted photographer are for (1) money, (2) portfolio and (3) exposure.

    Money is king. To some of the models, doing shoots is an easy way to earn money. Unfortunately, they may not be paid - it may just be a collaboration shoot.

    Some models think that the blacklisted photographers can give them good photographs but unfortunately, most of them have been producing sleazy work while only a handful of them can produce average quality work. Of course, this is due to the model's bad judgement in quality of work.

    I find it quite sad when models decide to shoot with blacklisted photographers for the sake of exposure. Some blacklisted photographers do have network and can give exposure to the models, whether it's positive or negative. No matter how disgusting the photographs would turn out, there would be many people who would want to look at them as they care more about looking at the sexy models than focusing on the quality of photographs.

    Going back to the problems of shooting with blacklisted photographers, the model may be taken advantage of during the shoot. Even if the model is "safe" during the shoot, future problems would arise. Most of all, people, including me, may start wondering what have happened during the shoot. There's always this suspicion that the photographer may have touched or even bedded the model due to the bad track records.

    Is it worth to have a shoot with a blacklisted photographer?
  5. Not versatile
    It's much easier to do a happy and smiling shoot compared to a stylish one. Most models look better smiling either with the mouth open or close, or both. Most photographers can probably make the models smile and snap the happy moments.

    There are many kinds of concepts and if a model chooses to do only casual Garden shoots that only require her to smile in front of the camera, she's limiting her talent while also making potential clients see her lack of versatility.

    Therefore, given an opportunity to do a special concept with a good photographer that doesn't require smiling, a model should always cherish it.
  6. Choose quantity over quality
    Many immature models don't know the difference between quality and quantity. Their main focus is to get as many photographs as possible, so that they can keep their social media accounts "alive". They don't know that uploading multiple similar photographs is actually making their followers' newsfeed boring and some people may treat it as spam. I personally make sure that I won't be seeing anyone's post again if he or she does this type of flooding.

    The fact is that having one superb quality photograph is better than having 100 good photographs.

    If you don't get it, try imagining you are looking through a large album of photographs taken on the same day. The first photograph is good and you grow your admiration. You navigate to the second photograph with the model's head slightly shifted to the other side for another angle; it looks good and you appreciate it. You move on to the third photograph with the same interesting background and the model has turned her body and moved her hands, and you think it looks good. After looking through 30 photographs that are although different but are very similar to one another, how would you continue to appreciate the entire album?

    All experienced artists should probably know that it's almost impossible to produce huge number of mind-blowing work within a shoot. Firstly, time is always limited. Furthermore, it takes time for everyone in the team, including both photographer and model to warm up to each other. Secondly, even experienced models would need quite a number of tries in order to get a really good shot. Lastly, it takes lots of time to do professional post-production work.

    Although I charge by per photograph for clients who require professional advanced editing, I always encourage them not to go for too many photographs - I don't mind not making extra bucks. Of course, it's a different story for casual shoots that I would only be doing basic editing.

    Honestly, detailed post-production work is very tiring. Editing too many photographs in the same album can be very boring. If a photographer can put in his 100% effort in the first photograph, he probably can only put in 95% effort for the next one. If you want him to take on 50 photographs, his effort may reduce to 50%, unless, he spaces out the work over a long period of time. For example, I will always take a break when I know my energy is low and I will go through every photograph a few times everyday to improve on them from 50% to 100%. It means that I will usually take longer time to return my clients their photographs.

    Unfortunately, I have met quite a number of models who would insist in having many photographs. They may not tell me directly but they do express their wish indirectly. When I was new, I was pressurized into working on too many photographs from each shoot. I suppose most new photographers have experienced the same issue.

    I personally judge models based on what they upload. There are some websites, such as ModelMayhem, that allow users to post their portfolio. The free accounts usually have a restriction on the number of upload, such as 30 or 50 per account. If a model uploads many photographs from a single shoot, I will know that she's inexperienced and that she's quite immature. This will definitely affect my decision in whether to work with her or not.
  7. Have no photograph showing face clearly and beautifully
    Potential clients and co-worker would have to know a model's looks in order to decide whether to work with her or not.

    In this era where mobile phone cameras have improved a lot and most girls know how to do good selfie regardless of the number of attempts, there's no excuse for any girl to not have any photograph that shows her face clearly.

    Of course, the model has to showcase herself in a good way - beautifully. Therefore, it's good if the model has done a professional portrait shoot to showcase her looks.
  8. Not enough good portfolio
    Any girl can become a model with just an Instagram account. There are always rich hobbyist photographers who would offer to pay pretty or hot girls to do photoshoot. There are also many models who enjoy the fame of being taken as a model and thus can do collaboration shoot with any photographer mainly to update their social media accounts.

    Most girls with a presentable looks or can dress up sexily can get to do photoshoot often. Doing a shoot with a hobbyist photographer who uses only his DSLR usually takes much lesser time than a professional photographer who brings along his lighting equipment. Some "models" have their weekends packed with up to three shoots. Therefore, it's easy for a model to get a large portfolio.

    Despite the large number of photoshoots done, most of the results look amateurish. Let's be frank that if a photographer can produce good work, he's definitely going to be approached by many aspiring models, such that he doesn't need to pay. Whereas, if he's really so good, he would have taken up clients during his free time. I have seen the work of some hobbyists who can produce quality work, but I doubt many aspiring models will be so lucky to get to work with them - good photographers choose their models too.

    If a model's portfolio contains mostly substandard work, it shows the experience of the model. For me, I will be afraid of working with such model because she's likely having different mentally from me and would have gotten many bad habits and wrong expectations due to working with too many hobbyists who has tried very hard to apple-polish her. Moreover, if a model thinks well poor quality work, what makes her appreciate quality work?
  9. A flawed photograph in the portfolio
    If a model has a solid portfolio where most of the works appear reasonably good, however, one of the photographs looks bad, it also speaks poorly of the model's taste. Somehow, I have seen the portfolio of many experienced models who have included a few bad photographs inside.
  10. Edits photographer's work
    There are some photographers who actually enjoy the process of shooting with models more than anything and there are also photographers who are too business-minded and thus they try to reduce the time and effort for their shoots. These photographers and "photographers" don't mind sending the raw photographs to the models for the models to "edit" with whatever preset filters from phone applications.

    However, since post-production is an important part of photography, it's often also the decisive factor of the quality of a photograph. There are many photographers who use only natural light for shoot and yet, the results are different because they have their own preferences in editing. Unfortunately, what I often see from many hobbyists' work is that their post-production work has somehow reduced the quality of their photographs.

    With the ease of phone application, many people, including the elderly, have been playing around with filters. Let's be frank that if these users are so good in their "editing" of photographs that they think they can do better than professional photographers, they would have being recognised and be offered photography jobs.

    Unfortunately, I have met many models who have extreme high confidence in their "editing skill" (just by adding phone application's filters) that they would even try to boast in front of me. It's a no-win situation for me. Given that I get frank with them, they may get offended. It's also absolutely difficult to educate them one by one and I'm not even going to be paid for the free lesson - huge amount of effort and time may be needed.

    I always try very hard to create the softest light possible to make my female subjects look soft, and applying some filters can easily change the entire mood. Taking away the softness would mean a total waste of my effort to bring along and set up the heavy and bulky equipment.

    There's also a type of filter that would blur off the background. With the advancement in software, phone camera can do quite a nice job when snapping the photographs. However, I have seen some people adding the "bokeh" effect during "post-production" and the results look extremely fake. Professional photographers would be able to point out easily about the precision of areas that should be in focus and slightly in focus.

    Arrogant and inconsiderate models who unlawfully edit the work of photographers will eventually make themselves look very amateur in the work. I always avoid working with anyone who does that.

    Having said these, models who edit the photographers' work will (1) lower the quality of their portfolio and (2) lose opportunities to work with good photographers.
  11. No proper portfolio display
    If a model is serious in her work or passion, she would have gathered her photographs and place them on a website or a dedicated social media account. By doing so, it allows potential clients and co-worker to go through the work easily.

    Many "models" have only uploaded their photographs from "photoshoots" into their personal social media accounts. The accounts contain their personal photographs as well. Therefore, it can be messy for viewers to go through.

    I have been encountering many self-proclaimed models who want to do collaboration shoot with me. However, when I request them for their past work, they can't show me any. There's once when I received a message in Facebook from a person without even a profile photograph who claimed to be an ex professional model. Why would a professional photographer promise a possible Avatar-looking person to do a collaboration shoot?
  12. Unable to judge quality of work
    This is a common issue for most beginners who haven't been exposed to many good work. As a matter of fact, I was lousy in judging photographs when I was new to portrait photography. It took me a long time to go through good work while doing more shoots, in order to improve myself. For now, I'm still learning but can of course judge lousy photographs easily.

    Most aspiring models I have come across have extremely poor taste in judging photographs. Many have approached me and complimented me on my work but they also think some of the amateurs have good work.

    Without the skill in judging work, models would tend to shoot with just any "photographer", including the blacklisted ones. They also tend to give more problems since they don't value professional photographers' work and time more than hobbyists'. Eventually, they will only get lousy portfolio and most of the time, only hobbyists would approach them for shoot, which increase the quantity of the same quality portfolio.
  13. Overestimate the capability of boastful photographers
    I have often seen new models complimenting their "mentors" who have guided them. These photographers are helpful to share their knowledge. However, I have seen most of their work and it seems like the photographers aren't anywhere near masterclass standard.

    There was once I chatted with a new model and she was proud to announce her great admiration for a photographer who did nude shoots with her. He shared a lot of knowledge with her and also guided her physically [*face palm] during the shoot. From what I saw, the photographs were horrible with very bad lighting and the photographer wasn't even using any lighting equipment inside the house. Most of all, the photographs looked like porn. She did come over to Singapore to do nude shoots. After that, I saw some work that she had uploaded online and all of them were awful. I hadn't heard news about her for long after that.

    A friend of mine started shooting with a couple of photographers who had mentored her. She was grateful to at least one of them for guiding her and was proud to speak of her mentor. However, none of her portfolio had caught my eyes after so many years. When she finally came over to Singapore to shoot with me, I had problems arranging the shoot with her due to her wrong knowledge. She was used to doing outdoor shoot near noontime and thought it wouldn't affect the quality of photographs. Thus, she scheduled a bad timing for me, which I couldn't object since she had other plans for her trip. During the shoot, I realised her modelling poses were awkward.

    I had another model friend with a super hot figure but with a pretty yet difficult-to-capture face. She was guided by a local photographer and she did a lot of implied nude photoshoots. Her admiration for her mentor made her indicate "once a teacher, always a teacher" in one of the photographs' caption in Facebook. For sure she's someone who would show gratitude, although I wasn't sure if that photographer had caused more harm than given help to her. Due to her figure and boldness, she could do great art shoot but it seemed that her current portfolios were better off being viewed "from far" or at least, shouldn't focus on her face and expression. I had even seen a photograph of her with the part near her vagina being Photoshopped so awkwardly that anyone could easily tell something was wrong there - I supposed the photographer had tried to Photoshop away the cupid hair. Her mentorship wasn't done properly.

    I had also heard of a photographer who had been approaching young girls, including "ah lians". He would offer to coach them to become models at the fee of thousands of bucks. His great plan was that the girls could pay him the course fee by helping him to do sexy hotel shoots with his clients, which made the offer look attractive since the girls didn't have to pay him anything upfront. Besides, doing sexy shoots could easily command a high fee, which was considered as easy money to many young girls. However, his photographs were known to be horrible in both lighting and the porn-like presentable of his models.

    The problem of overestimating the capabilities of the photographers starts with the lack of knowledge in judging the photographers and the quality of photographs. It will be a terrible start of a model's career. The horrible-looking revealing photographs will definitely haunt the models throughout their lives. The wrong guidance given to them, in terms of mindset, rules and poses, will pose great problems to professional photographers who will be working with them in near future.
  14. Poor fashion sense
    Fashion sense can help to judge a person's personality to an extent. During day to day life, a model's dressing will be judged by viewers when she uploads her selfie. There's nothing wrong in wearing normal clothes but when a model has a fashion disaster, it's going to affect her reputation.

    When it comes to non-commercial shoot, models usually will have to provide their own outfits. Fashion is extremely important for a photoshoot and this is why I always insist in selecting the outfits personally.

    When I was new to photography, I screwed up the first set of a shoot due to my lack of experience. I chose two outfits for the casual shoot and thought nothing would go wrong. However, the problem was that the model was wearing a oversized bra and somehow, it was hard and made the top look very awkward. I didn't notice it during the shoot, partly because I tried hard not to glance at models' chest area although the outfit didn't even show cleavage. Most of the photographs for the first set couldn't be used.

    I had a shoot with a friend who was more active in the modelling and entertainment "worlds". For a girl who's highly confident and has gone through big scenes, I wasn't worried about the last minute shoot. However her first outfit was an obvious fashion disaster that stuck to my mind forever. She was wearing a tank top kind of top with the cutting quite deep at her armpits area towards her inner chest area. She was wearing a full cup bra underneath and thus a big portion of the bra at the sides was revealed. It was awful. With such top, matching it with a sports bra underneath would have given a healthy and sporty vibe, if not for we were supposed to do a glamorous shoot in the city area.

    Throughout my portrait photography journey, I have encountered many models and aspiring models. Although I have stated on my terms and conditions that we have to go through the outfits together and the models would have to put them on and show me before confirming it, many of them aren't committed to spend the extra effort. Firstly, they are lazy, secondly, they trust their own fashion sense a lot and lastly, they don't really value the photoshoot - something that they can easily give a miss to.
  15. Over-confident
    Being over-confident is the root to most of the problems stated above. The models believe too much in themselves, including their looks, modelling skill, fashion sense and even their ability in judging photographers and photographs.

    I always believe in identifying the problems so that we can rectify them. Given that a person is over-confident and sees nothing wrong, she cannot improve.


I hope the sharing of above would help models see their mistakes and overcome the problems soon.

You may be interested in:
- How many photographs should a photographer give?
- Talents you should avoid working with
- How to judge a photographer
- Good models, bad models
- Reasons why models shouldn't bring their partners along for photoshoots
- Survey - questionnaires for nude models
- Fashion disasters for portrait photoshoots

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