How to spot a scammy photographer.

Over the last few years, it has come to be known that there are some sketchy folk about – even in Charlottetown and on little ol’ PEI.

Hearing from a ‘professional photographer’ that you are beautiful and should consider modelling as he/she pulls you off the street is very flattering. It’s also very tempting to book a shoot with them after being told so. While there are countless legitimate and talented professionals to choose from, here are a few tips on how you can keep yourself safe from scammers and creepers.

  • Be smart. Never, ever, ever, give your full name and phone number. Keep it on a first-name-only basis – although expect that they’ll give you their full name and business name, and better yet – a business card.
  • Be firm. If you’re put on the spot (ie. they insist on knowing more info about you than you’re comfortable telling), STAY STRONG. You were taught you not to talk to strangers, right? If someone makes you feel uncomfortable right off the bat, then they should not have the privilege of knowing anything about you and your personal life .
  • Be gracious. Having someone you don’t know put you on the spot is bad enough, you don’t need them to get cranky at you. Thank them for their compliments, interest, and offer (A free photo shoot? Sounds too good to be true…) and explain that you’d like to think about it. You’ll be in touch with them if you’re interested in pursuing a shoot.
  • Go home, research, and report! The internet is an awesome tool to help research legitimate and experienced photographers. Although there aren’t any websites with a complete list of all professional photographers, most photographers (even photography students!) have a website or facebook fanpage to show samples of their work. If they’ve given you their name, company name, and/or business card, do a google search with various other keywords (“photography,” their location, “photo,” etc). If they’re nowhere to be found online, and you are actually interested in having some photos taken, it would probably be in your best interest to search for photographers that are well-known and have samples of photos that you like. Although they will not be free of charge, you will be free of worry!

Some common red flags:

“How old are you?” – Ask yourself right now: do you want to do a shoot where age matters? There are only two reasons they would need to ask this: 1) they want to know if you’ll require an escort as it’s immoral to specifically ask a minor to shoot without one, 2) it’s illegal to shoot an underage model in a revealing or sexy photo shoot as it could be considered child pornography.

“No boyfriends/escorts allowed!” – This request has never been made by ANY of the many photographers that we’ve worked with. In fact, we often suggest bringing a friend or family member with you. While a professional photographer will ask questions about the type of shoot you want, friends and family often know more about what types of photos you’re hoping to get and can be on the other side of the camera to see what will been seen by the photographer and through the camera lens. They also can make great cheerleaders!

“You don’t need to sign a model release.” – Of course you do! Known photographer or not, you both need to know what the images will be used for and have that down on paper.

“No, I don’t have a business card.” – Any independent business owner (photographers, hair stylists, carpenters, salespeople, etc.) will almost always have a business card, pamphlet, or some other way to share contact information. And if they don’t have one with them, they’ll probably try to find an old receipt or scrap paper to write it down for you. People who are self-employed are their own marketing team, and the successful and experienced ones are always enthusiastic about spreading the word.

Extra tips from Louise Vessey of Light & Vision Photography:
“You can check online to see if the photographer is a member of Professional Photographers of Canada (PPOC), but there are so many other pros out there who are self taught and not members. Check business cards, websites, and credentials if any. No professional male photographer should EVER work with a young female subject without either a parent or an assistant. In other words, they should never work alone together.”

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