Note : I am writing these articles from the perspective of the photographer. Flakes can be photographers, models or in fact any member of a team.
It sounds like a win-win situation. Model needs images, photographer needs images, both have the time, energy, equipment to make it happen. Let’s get these two together and life is beautiful. End of story. Happily ever after and all that… couldn’t be easier right?
I wish it were so…
If you visit the forums on various web sites, you’ll see countless tales of woe when really, all we’re trying to do is to get two (sometimes more) people in the same place at the same time with the same goal.
By far and away the most common story you’ll hear is of the flake. A flake is someone who promises to shoot and then doesn’t turn up. In many cases there will be no communication. No calls, no text messages, no emails. You’ll try and reach them but without luck. If you’re lucky you might get a response – “sorry, not well today”, “sorry, car trouble”, “sorry, work called…” or even the brutally honest “sorry, forgot.” At this point the decision as to whether or not you choose to believe their story is up to you. I’ve heard tales of models whose very same relative has died over and over again with different photographers. Others who have claimed to be “sick” only for them to post images on social networks partying with their friends. I’ve had a model tell me she was ‘almost there’ and when I asked her where ‘there’ was, her response indicated she was nearly 2 hours away.
So what can you do about this.
Book more than one model.
One thing you can do is to ‘book’ two models at the same time. It’s OK if they both show up, you can just alternate between the two of them (one getting ready, the other shooting and then swap over) and it can be quite beneficial – they can help each other with posing, wardrobe, hair etc. They can help you when you might need a light moving a little or someone to hold a reflector. Book two and hope that at least one turns up.
Have a no-show policy.
My first proper studio was a good 40 minute drive from my house. If I have a model turning up, I’m typically there about an hour earlier to open up, get the lights setup, test the equipment is working. I’ll buy snacks and other foods, make sure there’s tea, coffee, juice water etc. Once everything is ready, with a bit of luck, the model turns up and we’re ready to roll. All the models I work with know that I have a really simple no-show policy. I reiterate that these sessions should be treated like your first day on the job – would you turn up late or a few minutes early, would you plan ahead to give yourself plenty of time in case of traffic, or would you leave it to the last minute and hope for the best. The second part of my no-show policy is how long I wait – 15 minutes without a call or message and up to 30 minutes with. After that I’m done. I have a Plan B
Have a Plan B
So if you have a no-show, don’t dwell on it – prepare for it. I pack up my gear, grab the food, lock the door and head home or to a friends house or go scouting for locations, or I catch-up on editing or practice with a mannequin at my studio. I have things I need to get done and I get them done. The day is never wasted. So give yourself a few things to accomplish outside of the session and if the opportunity inadvertently comes your way, take it.
Be Flexible not Foolish
Some models will genuinely be late, later than 30 minutes. Say for example a model is coming in on public transit. Now if they happen to miss a connection, the next train or bus may not be around for an hour or so. You can start working on your Plan B items, but accept that this session will run later than anticipated. There’s always room for ‘life happens’ events but you need to make sure you’re not being played for a fool.
Returning to the example I gave of a model “almost there” when she was over 2 hours away, I felt I was being played. You’re already late, you know my address, you’re in your own car and you know the route – we’d discussed all this ahead of time. You were never ‘almost there’. Goodbye and Good Luck.
Now on another occasion, a model, who was unfamiliar with my location and was using public transit to get there, had gone one stop too far. She called, she texted, she apologized and she texted some more. She asked what she could do. Now public transit to get to my studio, particularly at the weekend, was pretty bad, there wasn’t another bus just around the corner. I told her to find out what time the next bus was coming, where it would drop her and text me the details. She did. We made quick arrangements for me to pick her up from there and she kept me in the loop on where she was. I had some editing to do at the studio, so I got on with that until it was time to meet and in the end we shot for over 4 hours and produced some great work together.
There’s every chance that both of these sessions were delayed by the same amount, but one model treated the situation with professionalism, respect and a positive, if apologetic attitude, the other just didn’t seem to concerned. Respect your time, respect the other members of your team’s time.
Use Agency Models.
A model working for an agency has a booker – that’s the person who gets them work and ultimately is responsible for the model. If a model working for an agency doesn’t show. Contact their booker. He or she may be able to find out what’s going on or even arrange an alternative model to turn up. For certain types of models, such as fine art nude models or traveling models, a booker may not be possible, however models who travel full-time need to maintain a solid and dependable reputation and are highly unlikely to flake.