Model escorts are a huge topic in the freelance modeling world and I think a lot of the hubbub about them is due to misunderstanding and lack of education. Some of us have been doing this for long enough that we see the topic of escorts as a totally beaten to death subject that we hate discussing, and this only serves to further confuse those newer to modeling and model photography. So I would like to give you a basic rundown to help you better understand this whole mess and to make your own decision as to whether or not you’d like to bring or allow escorts.
What is an escort?
The most common definition of an escort is a person a model brings with them to a shoot, but who is not involved in the shoot other than being a companion of some sort (most commonly for security or confidence) for the model. So if a model brings a make-up artist or hair stylist those people would generally not be an escort. Sometimes escorts are asked to help hold things at a shoot or be a look out, but generally they are only there for the model and those other things are secondary.
Common Reasons for Model Escorts
I think the two biggest reasons for model escorts are for safety and for comfort/confidence. Sometimes a model might bring an escort to drive her or carry her things, though this is more like an assistant. Some models also may bring an escort because they are underage and required to have a legal guardian or other adult present or because the photographer may have requested they bring someone.
The Qualms About Model Escorts for Safety
I think the claim that a model escort is brought for safety is the one that ruffles the most feathers. On the one side we usually have a young woman, probably newer to modeling, who perhaps feels uneasy about meeting a usually male photographer alone because she has frequently been warned about always being safe by many people in her life. On the other side we have a photographer who probably sees himself as nice and harmless and who probably also feels a bit of dislike for being assumed to be potentially dangerous. Moving on with this issue we have…
The Boyfriend Escort
Another issue is that very often times the model wants to bring a man as her protector of sorts, usually her boyfriend or significant other. The problem with this is not just a generalization, but unfortunately often proven true: boyfriends (or significant others) sometimes get jealous and can be overbearing, even if just in misguided attempts to protect their girl. Because this happens so often, word spreads and many photographers find it much simpler to just not allow boyfriends and significant others as model escorts in order to avoid these issues. This can be problematic for models who do not have any other form of transportation and who are not comfortable with the photographer driving them for whatever reason. Speaking from personal experience, this is not as uncommon as you may think, but I’ll get more into the idea of a driver in a moment.
The Model Escort for Comfort/Confidence
Some models are naturally shy, particularly if they are new, and some of them may feel more at ease with a friend or someone else they know present. This is something they tend to “grow” out of eventually, but I think it is a useful thing for photographers to know (even if it doesn’t change how you feel about escorts).
Often Proposed Solution – The Female Friend
Many photographers propose that the model bring a female friend to the shoot. This probably seems like a fairly reasonable request, and in many cases it can be. But there are models who either do not have any close female friends or who do not necessarily want their friends to know about their modeling. There are also female friends who can be just as bothersome as a boyfriend or significant other in terms of being protective or over-bearing.
There is also a lot of talk by photographers about shooting a model’s “hot female friend” unexpectedly at a shoot which is certainly no incentive for a model to bring her friend. Why would the model want someone else taking her shoot time? Or to be quite blunt and honest, the model may not want to share the attention.
I will get to more proposed solutions in a moment, but first I want to discuss a few other reasons why photographers may be opposed to escorts, male or female, friend or significant other.
Additional Concerns with Escorts
Along with drama from a jealous significant other, there is a handful of other concerns photographers may have in regards to having an escort at the shoot.
Perhaps the most common, and this one does tie in with the jealous boyfriend/significant other at times, is the photographer’s safety. If the model brings an escort then it becomes the escort and the model with the photographer. If the escort happens to be a man (or even if not), it is certainly understandable that the photographer might feel ill at ease. What will he do if the model and her escort are not as nice as he might hope they are? What if the boyfriend is jealous and does get physically violent? Thankfully I have only heard of this happening occasionally, but that is enough to concern someone, particularly if the shoot is taking place at the photographer’s home or a closed studio and I can see a model making a point of bringing bodyguard making this even more unsettling. Just as a model might be bringing an escort because she has heard a couple stories that she feels warrants her concern, the photographer may feel similar concern over the occasional story he has heard about an aggressive escort.
Another issue, unfortunately more common, is theft. For example, perhaps the escort is left alone in another room in the photographer’s home while the model and photographer go shoot. Other than common decency, what is really to stop the escort from taking something? The same could be said in a large studio, especially if there is expensive equipment around. I know most people would be horrified at the thought that someone might think they would do something so dishonest, but it does happen. And no, it’s not terribly common, but it does happen and that kind of risk, no matter how small, might be enough to make photographers want to avoid that situation.
Escorts can also be distracting. Some people do not function well with someone staring over their shoulder. Sometimes the staring may also make the model nervous. I have also heard of escorts who tried to take their own photos (without permission) during the shoot, or who talk either to the model and photographer or on the phone through the shoot, or who try to give their input without being asked. Even if the escort is quiet and playing a game on his or her phone, the noises could be distracting. Now I have been around people who were very respectful and silent, so they do exist, but it would be hard to know this without having met them before.
I’m not saying that these things happen really often, but all it takes is one case to make a photographer feel uneasy.
Additional Often Proposed Solutions – Meetings, Photographer Assistants, and Drivers
Another common suggestion is a pre-shoot meeting. This may be a good option for some, but if the model has a busy schedule or does not have access to transportation this may not work. If it is a possibility, especially for models who may just be shy, it may be a good solution, or partial solution. A photographer can always ask, but don’t be too put off if a model declines.
Sometimes the photographer will offer to provide someone else at the shoot in the form of an assistant. This is another solution that sometimes works and sometimes does not. If the issue is the model’s confidence, she may be even more nervous with another person around, or she might feel more at ease if the assistant is female.
Another solution is to allow someone to drop the model off and walk her to the door, so to speak. This is actually a sort of compromise as the model might feel safer knowing that someone knows where she is, and the photographer does not have to worry about the person hanging around. In this situation, the person is usually considered a driver and not a model escort as they are not staying for the shoot.
Other Solutions in Regards to Safety for Models
I believe that models should not depend on an escort for safety. After all, if the photographer truly has horrible intentions, having another person present may not really affect things much and may just put that person in danger as well, at least in theory. The instances in which a photographer is a real threat are fairly slim. However, there are other ways to stay safe.
Checking references is one solution. I recommend finding a few other models in your area so you can exchange references. Getting involved in local groups on Facebook and such can also be another way to get a feel for people and to find people you can exchange references with.
Meet and greets are a great way to meet people in your area in a group setting. You can see how you get along and get a chance to get to know each other before you shoot.
Learn what red flags to look for and how to avoid scams. If pre-shoot messages leave you feeling uneasy, it may be best not to shoot with that person. As the common saying goes: go with your gut.
Be assertive. Learn to say no and to convey your limits professionally, but firmly. This is probably my number one tip to models. If someone, anyone, not just a photographer, feels like they can push you into things, they may try. They may also simply misunderstand you limits. So if you can be assertive and professional, you can say no politely without being offensive if the person meant no harm or pressure in asking.
What if the model still wants to bring an escort?
Some models will still feel more comfortable with an escort and everyone should respect that personal choice. The model should also make sure that she makes it clear that she will be bringing an escort before any shoot is booked as some photographers may have policies that restrict type of escorts or do not allow for escorts.
I also recommend that models considering bringing escorts review my article on escort etiquette.
Photographers & Escort Policies
Many photographers have an escort policy of one sort or another. Just as everyone should respect a model who choose to bring an escort, photographers should be respected in their escort policies. However, I do suggest that photographers keep the policy short and non-inflammatory. Here are some simple and to the point examples:
– “I do not allow escorts.”
– “I allow a female friend to accompany you as an escort if requested.”
– “I do allow escorts, but I prefer we discuss the topic beforehand.”
– “Please notify me prior to booking if you plan to bring an escort.”
– “I ask that you bring an escort to any shoots if possible.”
The main thing is that you tell models your policy and only the policy. There is no reason to go into why or your personal thoughts on the subject. This is where the disagreements and arguments usually come in, and who needs the extra drama?