Legit?

FIGURING OUT IF A PHOTOGRAPHER / AGENT IS "LEGIT"

There are lots of scam artists out there, as well as some creepy personalities pretending to be "photographers" or "agents" to lure young men and women into unsavory situations. Anyone can say that they are a professional agent or photographer -- but you need to do your homework and check them out. Never believe a photographer or agent that says they can "get you into" a magazine or a big client job. They have NO CONTROL over what a client's decision will be - and unless they are the PUBLISHER of the calendar, magazine, or project - they are liars. Unfortunately, a lot of models get ripped off and abused by the broken promises that fakes and creeps give.

The following are some "safety" tips to use in checking out and evaluation to see if the person you are dealing with is legitimate. 

1) Always exchange phone numbers and addresses. Call a few times -- to make sure that the photographer is really "at" the number he/she is giving you. Don't settle for an "answering service" or "pager number" -- since these don't have physical business address phones of the photographer connected to them. Also send a letter to the mailing address, and then call with a question that could only be answered by reading the letter. (For instance, "so, which of the photos I sent did you like the best?") 

2) Meet the person at a public space first to talk over the possibilities of you modeling. Say that you are in a rush and that you have other shopping / etc. to do -- and ask could they meet you for coffee someplace at a certain time. This is a safety precaution, because you can talk with the security of lots of other people around (including some friends "blending in the crowd"). 

3) What do they look like? If you have been contacted over the internet (and this person did not approach you in person & give you a business card) -- ask for a recent photograph so that when you meet (#2 above) "I can recognize and find you." This is helpful also to give to a friend / parent in case there is trouble at the shoot. It's easy for the police to locate someone if they know where they have their phone and what they look like.

4) Agents MUST be state licensed in every state that I know of (because they are able to form contracts in your name without your signature or prior approval). You can contact the state department of justice or the secretary of state for help is seeing if they are "registered."

5) Do they pay their taxes?  If your state has a sales tax -- you can check to see if the photographer (or any other "product producing" business) is legit by seeing if they are registered to pay sales tax. They will need to post a sales tax certificate in "plain view." If you don't see one -- call your state's attorney general's office or the secretary of state in your state and ask if photography services are taxable. If they are, ask if the photographer is registered with a sales tax permit. If they aren't -- they are not legit (not paying taxes is not only unethical -- but it's also illegal).

6) Contact the photographer's / agency's / client's home-town newspapers. Do they know anything about them? Good deeds are often remembered (a plus) as well as scandals (run & hide quick *grin*). Especially in non-metro areas -- the newspaper writers usually have a handle on "who is legit" -- because they either advertise in the paper or have been featured in the news. Remember that you're looking for facts that ran in the newspaper -- and not just opinions. For instance some prudes will dislike any photographer who does glamour, boudoir, or fine-art nude photography simply because they consider them "sex pictures."

7) Do they have a studio LOCATION? A business address should not be a PO BOX (which means the person likely moves around quite a bit). While many professional photographers and agents work out of their homes (I do in fact) -- there should be a separate space for "photography and business."

8) Are they willing to provide model references with actual phone numbers? On the INTERNET, anybody can get a hot-mail address, and pretend to be different people of differing genders & ages. You want to TALK TO these references "in person." Again -- it would be good to get CURRENT references (models currently featured on the photographer's or agent's website).

9) Willing to provide business reference with actual phone numbers. Again -- if they are legit -- shouldn't they have "clients?"

10) ONLINE photos (or willing to mail you samples)? Why on earth would you want to work with someone of unknown skill? Perhaps their work "sucks." Also -- check to see if they have a REAL DOMAIN (www.TheirName.com RATHER THAN www.someserver_someplace.com/TheirName -- which is simply a "page" on the someserver_someplace DOMAIN). If they have a REAL DOMAIN -- you can "trace" back to the registrants at INTERNIC -- and see if the site actually belongs to the person who sent you there (ha ha -- I've had lonely hearts link to my modeling images claiming to be "the model" in the photo -- it's a STRANGE WORLD out there).

11) List of the photographer's published work (if any). If it's in a popular magazine or in a book -- you should be able to find it at the library or in a bookstore. If they claim they can get you "into Vogue" and they aren't in the contributors list -- RUN & HIDE (grin). Again - no photographer or agent can "get you into" a specific magazine -- it is the MAGAZINE'S decision (and most people who claim this type of thing are scam artists).

12) Someone who knows the industry terms & business requirements. If you ask what type of model release is needed for the job, and they say "eerrr... Model Release???" -- RUN & HIDE (grin).