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Models Selling Themselves For Nothing

You’re Worth More Than That

It’s a tough world today, between the poor economy, job losses, and social media acceptance. Now you’re probably scratching your head and saying, “That’s a weird combination, where is he going with this?” Simple, models quit selling yourselves for nothing!

Heather models during our Maui photography workshop.

Heather models during our Maui photography workshop.

Every week I see some type of contest for models (girls) to enter in exchange for basically nothing of value. I see and hear my models discussing it amongst themselves in the make-up room. Then I chime in with, “Ask yourself what you are worth? Are you worth nothing? Don’t you value yourself more?” It’s these contests, amongst other things, that bring the value of a model down to nothing.

As an example, I’ve seen lingerie, bikini, and many clothing companies with contests that give the winner approximately $1,000 worth of clothes (product), plus an all expenses paid on-location photo shoot—with no additional compensation. So let’s break that down. Say you are the model and you win. Yeah! What did you really win? Practically nothing (explained further below) but perhaps bragging rights you can post on all your social networks that will help your self-esteem.

The vendors want this. They want you promoting them over every social network you possibly can. It’s free advertising for them on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Google Plus and more. These vendors also know they are not giving you $1,000 cash! They are giving you their “marked-up retail price equivalent” of product which probably only costs them less than $100.

The vendors calculate your “prize” at the retail price marked on the price tag attached to the garment or product. We’ve all seen the sales at the mall, 50% off! Clearance, clearance, clearance! Do the math. If the vendor already has future sales calculated in their business plan, and you waited for the sales, you’d spend half or less of a $1,000 to buy that same products, so you’re going to only really win maybe $500 or less worth of product at the retail price.

Now let’s look at the photo shoot. With or without a contest it’s going to take place regardless because they need photos of their products in order to sell them to their customers.  These photo shoots are calculated expenses under their “operating expenses,” which means, it’s a wash for them because they have to do it regardless.

From the CEO’s to the Marketing Directors of these companies, they know this and the accounting department overseas this entry in the books. It’s an easy sell to the CEO from the Marketing Director, “Look boss, for less than $100 in product we give her, we get a hot babe for our photos, no need to hire a model and spend more money.”  These company executives know they can’t sell your used drawers that you wore for the photo shoot as new, so it’s a calculated expense too; Oh, and if they ask to keep them, then run, run, run! Seriously, the clothes you model for them in, is part of the clothes you won—they got you again!

These vendors also know that by running these contests it’s like running a free model casting call and this is better than paying a modeling agency to provide a signed, contract model. The vendor makes out like a bandit and you get free panties with a retail price tag of $30 that they were going to eventually sell, with profit, for less than $15 at some point in the retail cycle, and it only cost them $2 or less to make.

So models, ask yourself, after you read the fine print, “What are you worth?” Because in the end, you get free product, an unpaid photo shoot and they get you for dirt cheap, have to give up about $100 (their actual costs) of product, and get to use your photos for unlimited usage (it’s in the fine print) without further compensation to you. In photography we call that royalty free.

Oh, models, you do get bragging rights on all your social networks and they get free advertising from you every time you mention them—the vendors know this and it costs them nothing but a $100 worth, or less, of product for ONE winner. And every contestant that enters is marketing them on their social networks for free. Not to mention, they now have your email address so they can market to you for future sales. It’s like Vegas, the house never loses. Such a deal, for them.

Social Media Contests

Social marketing exposure is a plus for the contest provider as shown here by this graph for our Maui model contest.

Funny thing, these online contests developed by marketing experts are just a spinoff of the oldest trick in the book—sell someone a t-shirt or ball cap with your logo and they become your walking billboard, for FREE. The digital version is if you  enter their contest, you become an online spokesperson for pennies on the dollar, especially if you win.

Ok, I’m sure someone is saying, “Hey Rolando, you are running model contests too?” Yes I do, but the difference is that the winner gets an all expense paid trip to an exotic location plus a minimum of $1,000 or more, plus photo shoots with all my workshop photographers and me. This is $1,000  (or more) cash guaranteed, and if the winning model gets a wild hair and wants to buy $1,000 worth of “product” on sale at 50% off, she will still have $500 cash! Such a deal, for you.

I close by saying as I consistently do, don’t forget the men and women in uniform and their families who sacrifice everyday so we can enjoy our photography and freedoms. God Bless them all, Rolando.

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  1. Photography workshops can be run many different ways and they all have plusses and minuses, but one of the really positive things about your workshops is that each photographer is required to pay the model directly in return for a model release. The model gets paid, the photographer gets his/her release, and the two of them have now established a solid business relationship for future shoots. I suppose shoot outs and mass releases have their place, but if you really want to develop as a photographer, at least one who works with models, you need to know how to develop that one-on-one relationship on the creative side (the shoot) and on the business side.

    • Thanks Dave! We’ve really enjoyed having you our workshops and I might add, our workshops help develop friendships between everyone and I’m happy to call you and yours friends. Thanks, Rolando

  2. Actually its worse when the model competition becomes one where you are judged by the number of votes you get online. Because the model ends up contacting all er/his buddies to vote for them so the company gets free publicity again. the model becomes their marketing machine for a measly $100 and the ones that didn’t win did the marketing for free…

    • So true and not to mention, if the voting requires an email address, they capture that too, and that is gold to any company. I just wanted to inform models that it’s not the “deal” they really think it is, think before you enter. Thanks, Rolando

  3. But wait! There is more! Because the model won this prize valued at over $700 dollars she now incurs a tax liability for the value of the prize awarded. Now she may actually have to end up paying for the panties and the photo shoot. Sounding worse and worse.

    • Very good point! I appreciate your input. Thanks, Rolando

  4. Very true but it’s not just models, it’s all working people. Architects enter contests for jobs. There’s an Australian photography site where photographers compete to sell a photo. Reality TV is based on selling the idea that we should expect to compete to be the one and only chosen one of our profession or guild who gets paid. Inventors grovel before financiers on Dragons Den. It’s not enough to be a chef you’ve got to be the masterchef. It’s the reality of living in a post-employment world in which the contest between labour and capital for the returns on productivity and been totally and finally won by capital and labour must compete amongst itself for any scraps offered. If you want dignity own a bank.

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Welcome to (Lens Diaries™), a hybrid photography blog with social flair. The photoblog provides photo tips, photo tutorials and photo diaries by professional photographer, author, writer, speaker and social media consultant, Rolando Gomez.

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