And the beat goes on…
One of the most important factors of shooting as a photojournalist is obtaining caption info. NAMES NAMES NAMES! So important and new journalists often have a difficult time with that, either taking the time to obtain them, or being forward enough to introduce themselves and ask. It can be awkward at first, but ultimately is just as important as the image because legitimate news organizations will not publish an image without a name.
With models there is a similarly important issue. Model release. A couple weeks ago I had a studio shoot for this grand personal project of mine, you may have read about it in My Bloody Victorian, if not check it out. It is pretty funny, so I’m told. Amidst the chaos of the day my model releases were left sitting next to my laptop under my shot list unsigned. I am always careful when it comes to releases because they are of paramount importance, a studio shot without a model release is just as useless as a newspaper image without a name. I always revise and double check my releases the night before a shoot, then print them off and put them in my Macbook before packing it up for the move to the location. It is the first thing I see when I open my laptop, and therefore fresh in my mind.
However, since I went to the studio early to asses the carnage from the Kensington Gore, then opened my laptop well before the models arrived so I could do some test lighting with my limited space, I set them next to my Macbook. When my AD arrived for the shoot, she looked at my shot list, and then sat it on top of the model releases, she later said she thought they were extras because they weren’t signed (and I always get my releases signed). So no release. None.
My release is fair to partly bullet proof. I don’t mess around. These are my images and I will not be limited in their use. This is my concept, my project, my thoughts, my everything. My model release reflects that as well as what usage rights the models have for the images, if any. I have varying levels of releases depending on the amount of collaboration that goes into a shoot, but this one, this project is ALL me and I make no apologies for requiring a full release.
I am happy to discuss the release and make notes and modifications if needed, but all this happens (should happen) before we even remove the lens cap. But sometimes there is Kensington Gore involved. Sometimes there is snow between Breckenridge and Denver, sometimes things happen and releases don’t get signed. You can only hope that everything discussed and agreed upon before the shoot will be agreed upon after the shoot because after the shoot you have lost all power to the control of the release. It is too late.
Point in fact. I mailed the release to the model for him to sign before I released any images for his portfolio. He replied with a statement about how he believed that my project would ultimately be for profit and he wanted to re-negotiate the terms of his work, while subtly inferring that I had misrepresented my intentions. I don’t appreciate being accused of underhanded gestures. Ever. There are a couple things you should know about me if you are working with me, or for me.
1. I am beyond dedicated, passionate and loyal.
2. I do not take kindly to be accused of unethical behavior.
I am trained as a journalist, and while some believe the line between what is ethical in journalism and what is not to be a gray area- I do not. I believe it is black and white, there is a line and you do not cross it.
I carefully worded my response, trying not to lose my cool about his accusations. Because of the bloody mess, I had actually already arranged and re-shot most of the images I had made at the previous shoot, as well as more. So it put me in a good position to respond to his concern. I simply let him know if he was uncomfortable with the original arrangement I wouldn’t use the images with him included, and that it was of no consequence. I did mention that that would leave a question as to his compensation for his time and effort, something I am not alright with. I may not be happy with the outcome of the shoot, but he worked while we were there and deserves compensation. So I asked him to edit my release so that it would be agreeable to him, and return it and in exchange he would still receive fully edited images for his portfolio as previously agreed upon because I don’t re-negotiate, and I don’t go back on my word, but I also don’t give away my images. So I made it clear that I would not release any images without some sort of signed agreement between us.
In the end, what should have happened was we should have gone over the release before the shoot, he would have had the opportunity to ask questions and resolve points of contention. I would have the release I needed before working for hours on a shoot that was, afterward, mostly unusable. I will apparently have to build in another fail-safe mechanism for getting the model release signed. Perhaps a note on my lens cap? I’m not sure. I doubt I will ever forget to have another release signed, and really, this example happened to be terribly extreme.
From my perspective this person simply saw an opportunity and decided to attempt to exploit an unfortunate situation, but perhaps he did misunderstand the terms of the shoot as I presented them. I went back over all of the communications between us and saw nothing that should have been taken erroneously, but I can’t speak for someone else’s opinion. I hope that it is a mere miscommunication and everything will work out in the end for him. I bear him no ill will, I imagine that my level of professionalism at the studio that day had slipped a touch and if he was looking for an easy mark he saw it. But discombobulated as I was at the time, there is no excuse for accusatory behavior.
Bottom line: people are opportunists. Your only protection is to never give them an opportunity.
Here is another image from the re-shoot, which was so very successful I could not be happier. Beautiful people, beautiful images, signed releases, absolute perfection. On a side note, the model from the first shoot and the last shoot was absolutely wonderful. He is just starting in the business, and I am working with him to help him achieve his goals, that is the kind of person I am. I see an amazing potential in him and want to see him succeed. You can ask any of the people I have worked with in the past who know me well. I am the strongest advocate for my people, I always have been, that will never change. I am not the person this other guy accuses me of being in the hopes of obtaining something that was previously not agreed upon, but I suppose that is now something he will never know. If you work hard for me, I will return the favor tenfold.
Which I suppose means I owe Cora Kemp a lifetime of assistant duties, or whatever slavery she deems appropriate, and I will do my duty happily.