How do I ask my friends to model for me?
November 23, 2008 8:27 PM   Subscribe

How do I ask my friends to model for me without being a creepy creepster?

I have friends who would be interesting to photograph. How do I ask them to do this without being creepy? What about my other friends that I don't want to photograph? Will this cause resentment in my overlapping social circles?

I like everyone on the gender spectrum and am not monogamous, so I can't rely on that to keep the creep factor in check.

Also, can I get them to take off their clothes? Is that inappropriate for a platonic friend?

I am not a pro photographer nor do I have any artistic training, it's just an ongoing interest of mine.
posted by sondrialiac to Human Relations (17 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I'm in a somewhat similar position - enthusiast amateur, no formal training.

If your friends are heavy facebook/twitter/etc users, that can be a good way to handle it - put out a general call, "hey, who wants to model for me?" You start with those whose responses you wanted in the first place - and, honestly, it's probably worth doing at least a short shoot even with the less-desired models; avoids drama, gives you practice, and you never know what'll turn out well.

Also, once you're established in your friends' eyes as a photo-taker, it'll probably quickly turn non-creepy for you to ask someone if they want to model for you, because it'll be a perfectly normal thing. I'm pretty sure none of my friends would be creeped out if I asked them for a shoot, even if they strongly didn't want to do it, because they know I do shoots all the time with all kinds of people.

As for the nudity thing, obviously you can't "get them" to do anything, but you can always ask. I had one friend who did art modeling and so was used to posing naked; she herself suggested some less-clothed sessions. With that precedent established (eg, those photos in my flickr stream), as I'd go through a shoot with someone, many would explicitly mention the nudity issue - either "Um, nothing naked, right?" and I'd say "nah, only what you want to do" or "so, um, naked?" and I'd say "sure!" People's comfort with things like nudity in front of friends vary on a very wide range, and is damned hard to predict.

Again, once people think of you as a photographer-of-people, they won't consider it all that strange when you make another facebook post along the lines of "thinking about doing a series that would involve some nude shots, anyone interested in modelling?"

On preview, scabrous' suggestion is also a good one.
posted by Tomorrowful at 8:42 PM on November 23, 2008

put out a bulletin via facebook, myspace, or CC'ed email saying you've been teaching yourself photography and want to practice portraits. ask for volunteers, and it will be less creepy than individually putting people on the spot. mention that you're looking for a few different traits in people (which you dont have to go into specifics on). if someone responds that you don't want to photograph, you can easily say "thanks so much for the offer but i was looking to try out a blonde for closeups and a dancer or athlete for pose studies", or "i already have a couple females signed on and am now just looing for a couple male volunteers", etc. be thankful for their response and let them know you'll keep them in mind in the future.
posted by white light at 8:46 PM on November 23, 2008

it would also help to have some kind of portfolio site or photo blog online showing legit work you've done (these can be put together quickly, easily, and free!)
posted by white light at 8:47 PM on November 23, 2008

If they're your friends, why would asking them to model be creepy? Surely they know you're into photography, right? Just ask!
posted by blaneyphoto at 8:54 PM on November 23, 2008

Class, yes. Great suggestion. I'll happily do a favor for a friend whose class project I can somehow help with. That said, I would probably be pretty uncomfortable if the friend asked me to pose nude--not because it would be sexual at all, but because I wouldn't want to spend all future time together thinking "you know what I look like naked." Maybe your friends are different. I don't think it would be inappropriate to ask, as long as you didn't seem like you were trying to pressure them into it.
posted by Meg_Murry at 8:59 PM on November 23, 2008

Best answer: A few years back I was bitten by the photography bug. I asked a few of my closest friends if they would help me test out a few shots I had in mind and they gladly agreed. I started posting the photographs I was taking to my personal blog.
Once word got out that I was doing portraits friends, acquaintances, and even strangers who had come across my work were asking for photo shoots.
I thought I was lucky that my friends were so ready-to-be-photographed but it turns out that people love seeing pictures of themselves, especially flattering pictures. People want a good quality photo for their Facebooks or scrapbooks or blogs or to give to loved ones. It's really easy to get people to model.

Nudity is a slightly different story... especially when it comes to close friends. I never shot any of my close friends nude but a few of them have been open to it. I'd bring it up jokingly and they'd say something along the lines of, "Yeah, I'd do it, it's just simplethings."

Another way to bring up the subject is with questionnaires. I generally would have models fill out these fun little getting-to-know-you forms (favorite food, what do you want to be when you graduate from college, least favorite sound, etc). I'd post some of the more fun answers on my blog. One of the questions was always, "Would you ever pose nude?" and whenever it was a 'yes' or 'maybe' I'd bring up the subject in a conversation. That's how I found my first nude model.
After establishing my nude-photographer-credentials the requests came pouring in again. It's really surprising the numbers of people willing to pose with no clothes.
posted by simplethings at 9:20 PM on November 23, 2008

Best answer: At heart, we all love to be seen in a flattering light. We all love to see ourselves in beauty. The key to getting past the creep factor is trust.

Note that all the responses thus far - and good ones at that - involved developing a level of trust. Signing up for a class to bring 3rd party backing. Non-nude shots first. Etc. You're friends will be more than happy to pose for you - some nude, some not - but will want the assurances you're not a closet perv. They (all/most of us) want to be celebrated, not taken advantage of by those who will broadcast their photographs across the interwebs.

So be their confidant, be confident, be authentic, and be trustworthy. You'll soon have more than enough models.
posted by whycurious at 9:43 PM on November 23, 2008

Nothing gets your point accross more than results. If it is apparent that you can provide people with good portraits, then your reputation will soon precede you.
posted by captainsohler at 9:56 PM on November 23, 2008

Best answer: How do I ask my friends to model for me without being a creepy creepster?

You just do it. Without a wry smile, with a clear idea of what you want to do. 'Listen, I want to start taking pictures of people and it's be great if you could help me get going.' Then be serious when you do it, have a plan, execute it. Taking pictures of people is not a technical endeavor like product, macro or landscape photography - you're really taking pictures of your relations with those people. It's better to get that technically less than perfect shot with a true connection that perfectly lit shot without one.

I'll also say flat out that you shouldn't put out a casting call. Make the people you want to photograph feel special and they'll want to help you even more.

Also, from your profile I'm assuming you're a girl? This question is pretty much moot, the creepy factor for single girls (vs single guys) is pretty much nil.

Also, can I get them to take off their clothes? Is that inappropriate for a platonic friend?

Yes, and you will be amazed at by how many people will pose for you. I've shot over 30 women nude over the past year and they have almost all been friends or friends of friends. For someone to pose nude for you two things have to happen: they have to want to be seen nude and they have to trust you at some level. If they're your friends, that's taken care of. The first nude model is the hardest, after that it's all downhill. You can show the work you've done to show that you're not a GWC (guy with camera), but actually trying to create something.
posted by jedrek at 10:03 PM on November 23, 2008

Be aware of the occasional reverse effect: you can be taking pleasant, G-rated pictures to highlight some interesting/appealing facial feature you'd like to draw later on, and your subject can spontaneously decide to get naughty. That's a heck of a lot harder to deal with in a diplomatic fashion than draping a sheet across some naughty bits.
posted by adipocere at 10:35 PM on November 23, 2008

First, ask for volunteers. Finding the flattering angle and lighting for someone not typically photogenic is a great skill.

Second, when asking specific friends, phrase it like you're asking a favor. "Can you help" sorts of language. Additionally, if you think they will take additional convincing, have an idea or plan or goal for the shoot. Have a vision they can be excited about.

When it comes to the first few clothing-lite or clothing-free shoots, depending on the subject's personality and rapport with you, it may help to tweak the "Can you help" way of asking to include them more. Make the model an active participant in the creative process, and that can help a first-time nude model grasp that being the subject does not make them an object.

There's nothing wrong with starting off cautious and humble, ie: getting approval before posting photos online and allowing input from other people instead of being jealous about your vision.
posted by itesser at 11:24 PM on November 23, 2008

Best answer: Also, can I get them to take off their clothes? Is that inappropriate for a platonic friend?

I'm kinda wondering what you hope to get out of this. I mean, if you've ever shot inexperienced models before, particularly nude, inexperienced models, one thing you quickly realize is that it's very difficult to get naked people to relax if neither you nor they are used to doing it. My personal feeling is that either you need to get more experience behind the lens or you need to get a model that's had more experience getting naked. But two newbs together? It's going to get uncomfortable mighty quickly unless your friend is either an exhibitionist or your significant other.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 11:40 PM on November 23, 2008

There are some interesting responses above. However, I want to shout, "Let's get REAL!" We're living in the age of the Internet and every day that goes by (it seems) we read of nude photographs being "leaked" onto the web and chaos ensues, civil suits are filed, on and on. Knowing this, you would have to find some really trusting friends. Everyone knows the photos are an upload away from possibly ruining their jobs - or their life! Yes, I agree, it's silly, puritanical, etc. I agree with all that. However, the reality is what I just stated. But, good luck anyway!
posted by Gerard Sorme at 11:59 PM on November 23, 2008 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I would say creepiness is best avoided thus:

1) If you're sexually attracted to someone, do not ask them to model for you. If they offer, great, but don't ask them to take their clothes off. If they take their clothes off spontaneously, great... but that never happens. Photography + lechery = bad combination.

2) Nude or non-nude, due to what Gerard Sorme said above, make sure you have your model's permission if you use the photos anywhere likely to be seen by others: online; in a portfolio book; in a course application; anywhere.
posted by Pallas Athena at 6:56 AM on November 24, 2008

Everyone knows the photos are an upload away from possibly ruining their jobs - or their life!

This is why you only take nude photos of people who're ok with them being uploaded, obviously. I've done a couple of 'private' NSFW shoots for people, but for the most part, I don't like having things on hand that I might upload some day without remembering oh, right, she's going to be a teacher, or he's in corporate law, and that shouldn't be out there.
posted by Tomorrowful at 7:00 AM on November 24, 2008

Best answer: Get the technical aspects of your photography *down* before you start asking people to disrobe. It's okay if taking nude photos is new to you, it's not okay if the whole thing is new to you.

Also, is pretty good for finding people to take pictures of. Many of the models there just want the practice and are doing it for fun -- and many will just want copies of the pics you take as compensation. Or you can cough up a few bucks for a shoot and get somebody with more experience who will make things easier because they already know how to pose, know their good/bad angles, etc.
posted by BrandonAbell at 1:48 PM on November 24, 2008

Response by poster: Great feedback. Thank you so much!
posted by sondrialiac at 1:56 PM on November 24, 2008

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