The Dark Side of Working With Amateur Models

April 20, 2009

in Featured, Instruction

There is one occurrence that every photographer of models, especially amateur models recruited on the internet, deals with. Put a group of these photographers together and there will soon be stories swapped about it.


Being stood up.

No shows.


This is when you set up a shoot with a model and then she doesn’t show up. I differentiate between a no show and a cancellation. If a model calls me and tells me she isn’t coming before the shoot actually happens, that’s a cancellation. I still don’t like it, but I can deal with it. The more lead time the better.

This happen to me on Friday. I had a model booked. The studio booked. An MUA booked and ready to go. A truly impressive amount of firepower packed for the girl with gun shoot. Three hours before the shoot the 21 year old “model” calls and tells me her Dad freaked out when he found out where the studio was. It is in a part of Houston that isn’t the best, but it is also one of those transitional neighborhoods. The Astros will have a home game tonight not 5 blocks from the studio. But she can’t come.

It sucks but at least I was saved the 30 minute drive down to the studio.

I’ve had a number of occasions where a model just didn’t show up. We once had an MUA no show a workshop, that was the worst.

No that wasn’t the worst. This was the worst.


Happen in Vegas when I went to meet a model who no showed.

It is a running joke that you don’t want to be related to a model because their grandmothers, aunts, and uncles die a lot. Or they end up in the hospital.

What To Do.

So is there a solution? Not really. There is no indication you are going to get a flake. I’ve had models flake on me that I have shot with before. One flaked that had regularly shot with me and my studio partners, but she didn’t show for a shoot and wouldn’t return my emails afterwards.

You do start to develop a 6th sense about it. They stop returning emails or calls before the shoot. But you normally can’t be sure.

You can lower your costs of a flake. My friend Bobby Gilbert of The Intimate Look, requires models to call him 1 hour before a shoot. He tells them that’s how long it takes for him to get to the studio and if he doesn’t hear from them, he isn’t heading down there. It works to some extent, but you still have cancels and even models who call and then don’t show.

The only solution really is to learn to deal with it. Its an occupational hazard and only happen about 1 in 20 shoots. Don’t waste a lot of emotional energy on it when it does happen.

Well at least Ms. Cancelled on Friday gave me inspiration for a blog post. 🙂

1 Kat April 20, 2009 at 10:59 am

Not to nitpick but I have seen this behavior with models of more experience. There seems to be this happy medium. It is between having enough experience to know what it means to be professional about what you do….and being well-known enough (whether in actuality or just in that model’s ego) where you think “oh, the photographer will wait because I’m worth it”. Either side of that spectrum sure makes it hard for me to sometimes come off as serious and professional about my next shoot.

2 Ron Davis April 20, 2009 at 12:50 pm

I’ve seen it with more experienced models as well. Doesn’t seem to be related to experience, just maturity.

3 Erb Photography April 28, 2009 at 8:12 pm

I find that if money isn’t part of the equation, then all bets are off (so to speak). If you are going to all the trouble of having a great studio set up, MUA , etc, you should invest in hiring a professional model. They will give you the shots you need and you’ll have the piece of mind knowing that the agency will fire the model that doesn’t have a legitimate reason for not showing. They’ll also send another model if needed last minute. You get what you pay for. Your portfolio should be worth investing in just as much as your equipment. Remember, even pretty models need to pay their bills too.

4 Chris Adval March 28, 2011 at 4:10 am

Hey Ron how did you deal with it when you started out? I’m starting out, I’m a college student with very low resources and have my own home studio… I just get extremely discouraged that I’m doing something wrong, I still don’t give up but it does some real emotional damage and distracts me from moving on to the next model. I just had a flake back on Friday and I’ve texted and called her for the past 3-4 days trying to figure out if she was alive… it’s just disgusting how they can’t just simply say I have no interest in modeling for you, is it that hard?

5 Chris Adval March 28, 2011 at 4:12 am

Do you have a podcast that talks about dealing with flakes?

6 Ron Davis March 28, 2011 at 8:36 am

We talked about it some in Ep 86 Why Do Models Flake

7 Ron Davis March 28, 2011 at 8:38 am

Just move on. Don’t get too invested in any one model or shoot.

And remember something a model once told me. “There are lots of pretty girls in the world, but there are few talented photographers.” There will be other models. Or at least other pretty girls. I know it is frustrating but it is just part of the game.

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