Photographer-Model Relationships

Is it ethical for a photographer to date a model?

In my eyes, it’s morally shaky territory- especially when money changes hands.

Would I, personally, date a photographer? I’m currently in a relationship, so it’s not an issue that’s on the table. But what if I wasn’t involved with someone?

My thoughts on the matter used to be very simple: of course not. It’s a professional relationship. I continued to think this way until I met a couple of photographers that I’d consider dating.

I realized that I wouldn’t be above pursuing a photographer I found attractive. However, the idea of a photographer (especially one that I’m not attracted to) pursuing me is something I find inappropriate.

Is it because the model (usually) is getting paid- making the photographer in a position of power? Is it because nudity tends to be associated with vulnerability? Is it because being female and young tends to be associated with vulnerability?

I’m not sure, but it’s certainly an interesting topic.

Photography by toan thai photography, taken in November, 2006.

P.S. I’m off to NYC for the weekend, where I will be faced with the following dilemma: what in god’s name does one wear to a sex blogger tea party?

7 Responses to “Photographer-Model Relationships”

  1. on 15 Dec 2006 at 8:51 amMoraxian

    I get asked about this from those who aren’t involved in the industry at all. How many models have I been with, dated, slept with, etc.

    I have to remind them that while the images I’m creating with the models I work with may be considerd sexual, sexy, adult, etc. the actualy creation process is a professional activity being performed by professionals doing a job. Most understand that after I point it out to them, but some still think there is all sorts of hanky-panky going on on set.

    The only things that isn’t professional on my set when I shoot are my (very) lame jokes… they’re pretty much stinkers that a professional comedian would avoid at all costs. :)


  2. on 15 Dec 2006 at 5:14 pmViviane

    Whatever you’d like. We’re just folks. See you Sunday!

  3. on 16 Dec 2006 at 5:25 pmAnonymous

    I have dated none but slept with many. I have never been the persuer but have always been the persued.

    It’s just sex.

  4. on 19 Dec 2006 at 4:05 pmEJP

    I’ve had girlfriends model for me, albeit I didn’t pay them for that work. I have, in the past, paid friends, significant others and family members for various other kinds of work (secretarial, mostly).

    I can’t say I see anything objectionable about mixing personal relationships and business, with the caveat that it does take a certain maturity on the part of both individuals for it to work.

  5. on 20 Dec 2006 at 12:58 pmpecunium

    As a photographer…. it’s a subject which I’ve thought about.

    I see it as an imbalance of power, but it’s not because of the money. I don’t have quite the same reaction to the idea of dating a waitress, or other person I pay to do things.

    Not, it’s the false impression of intimacy the photographer gets; when he has a nude model. The photographer, in that circumstance, has an advantage over the model. He has seen the model nude, which, under other circumstances, implies a different sort of trust.

    Models who pose for illustration, stock, non-nude art, don’t seem; to me, to be in the same place of semi-vulnerability. The photographer isn’t as likely to decide, even subconsciously, to think there is an interest.

    On the other hand, if a model expressed an interest in me I’d not have so much reservation. The overt sign of interest dilutes the imbalance created by the nature of the work.

    ejp: Having someone with whom one is already involved isn’t the same dynamic. You might be able to take advantage of the relational trust to convince them to let you publish, when they otherwise wouldn’t, but it’s not as if they were feeling pressured to spend time with you because you had some outside control of their life.


  6. on 29 Dec 2006 at 11:07 amBill

    The model/photographer relationship requires we be professional, regardless of the compensation. I have made friendships with women I have photographed, and a few eventually developed into a dating relationship. I have also dated women and then photographed them later on. I have also photographed many of my female friends. But I have never attempted to pick up on a model while photographing her. Though she and I are consenting adults, whether or not for pay, whether or not the model is nude, I have a problem with blurring the line of focus (pun somewhat intended). I cannot do my work to the best of my ability if I am trying to get into her bed.

    Now after the job, if two people hit it off, then I do not see this as any different than asking out your bank teller or co-worker or any other professional. Same rules apply; no means no, and yes means yes.

  7. on 01 Jan 2007 at 12:49 pmRichard

    If it’s a model I’m paying to model, I’d feel strange about dating her. I’m not sure if that would be a show-stopper, though. I don’t mind feeling strange - if that’s all that it is. I’ve paid friends to model - made sense. They were adding value to my portfolio; they should receive value in return. On the other hand, I don’t pay every model I work with.

    Mostly, I’d feel uncomfortable dating a model because I didn’t want to give anyone the impression that I didn’t respect my craft. There are too many guys with cameras (GWCs) out there who use their cameras as tools for getting dates. I take my images seriously - they’re far from a ruse to meet women.

    I’m guessing I’d evaluate each situation on its own merits, the only “rule” being a tendency to avoid it for the most part.

Leave a Reply