Workshops: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.

As a traveling nude model for hire, I get lots of offers for workshops, group shoots, etc. These offers range in style, pay, and duration. Here I will discuss what I know about the various kinds of workshops, and how they relate to me as a professional.

Workshop is a very general term used to describe a wide variety of activities. I’ll organize in terms of structure.

The Gang Bang (No Structure):

How it looks in my inbox:  “Hi Jess, Great work!  I’d love to have you out for a shoot with a few of my friends.  It will be nude and the pay is your rate.”

My response: Varies, depending on the number of people, style of nudity, and the presentation of the offer.  I always charge more than my normal rate for more than 2 or 3 photographers.

Day of:  I show up shoot ready, find the set, and they all shoot at once for about four hours.

ABCs:  Neanderthal…no education happening here.

My thoughts:  I do not enjoy these shoots, and I’ll only take them if I’m out of town with lots of holes in my schedule.

$&¢:  I’m the only one making money, the photographers are just splitting my fee.

Low Structure

How it looks in my inbox:  “Hi Jess, Great work!  I’d love to have you out for my workshop at date, time, location.  It will be nude and the pay is (something less than my usual rate).”

My response:  I usually decline these offers, or counter offer to pose in strictly non nude glamor style. (will explain below)

Day of:  Presuming I accept the offer, I show up shoot ready with my bag of lingerie etc.  About 30% of the time a MUA is employed.  5 – 10 guys, most of whom are just getting started in photography, are milling about.  A set has usually been created and lit by the host, and the photographers all shoot me in this set until they get bored and move on to the next set.  Generally they take turns, passing a remote trigger every five minutes or so.   These workshops usually last 4 or 5 hours.

ABCs:  There is generally no particular focus on instruction, and while called a workshop, I consider this to be more of a group shoot. More experienced members of the group generally help less experienced members with questions, but no specific curriculum is in place, lighting is not explained, everyone is usually happy just to have their cameras working and the lights firing.  As such, most of the time is spent shooting me.

My Thoughts: These events often offer less pay than my normal rate, or even trade. The rate cut is justified with the ‘good networking’ argument.  “You’ll meet lots of photographers who will be interested in hiring you after this workshop.”  The validity of this argument hinges on nudity for me.  If its a nude workshop, the attendees have their token naked picture of me, and therefore have no need to hire me.  If its clothed, they get a sample of my work, but they still want their token naked picture, so they have to hire me at a later date.   This is why I counter offer with ‘clothed’ for these types of workshops.  Doing a nude workshop in a city you hope to book in is a mistake, even for your full rate.  I don’t book trade work, so of course I won’t take the TF offers, but you shouldn’t either – most of what is produced at workshops is not portfolio worthy.  Because shooting is the main focus vs. education, I sometimes feel like its just a bunch of photographers pooling their money because none of them wanted to hire me properly.  This is fine up to two or three, but beyond that is a little exasperating and I end up feeling taken advantage of.

$&¢:  The host photographer usually charges anywhere between $100 and $200 and hopes to bring in 5-10 people.  He provides the location, which is commonly a studio or a house, and pays for auxiliaries and refreshments as well as my fee.  He also creates and lights the set and directs the  flow of activities.  For his efforts, he may make a little money, but I don’t usually see huge profit margins in this scenario.  He is not usually dependent on photography income, and may just enjoy the social part of organizing a shoot.

Medium Structure

How it looks in my inbox:  “Hi Jess, Great work!  I/We would love to have you out for my/our workshop at date, time, location.  It will be nude and the pay is (something less than my usual rate).”

My response:  I usually decline these offers, or counter offer to pose in strictly non nude glamor style.

Day of:  I show up at call time and get into hair and makeup.  The photographers trickle in.  A lecture is given for 30 min to an hour, then I enter and either comment on whatever the lecture was about, or pose in a set so the lecturer can demonstrate whatever it is he is teaching.  Each attendee takes a quick turn shooting me and practicing the new technique.  This goes through several more phases.  I’m usually in and out of makeup a few times, and we break for lunch for 30 minutes or so.  There is usually a ‘free shoot’ session in the afternoon that is less instructional and more for fun.  These workshops last a full day.

ABCs:  Attendees can expect to learn anything from model photographer relations, to camera operation, to intermediate level lighting scenarios.  A defined schedule and syllabus is in place, notes are taken and instruction is given to the group and on an individual level.  Experience levels vary, and if the instructor is skilled, he can send everyone home feeling like they learned something regardless of the individual’s capacity.  This scenario defines workshop for me.

My Thoughts:  See above on ‘good networking and nudity’.  Since this structure feels like a real workshop to me, I feel better about doing these than those with less structure, since there is a purpose beyond shooting me for attending the workshop.

$&¢:  The host photographer usually charges anywhere between $200 and $500, tending toward the lower range.   He provides the location which is usually his studio and pays for auxiliaries and refreshments as well as my fee.  He also creates and lights the set and directs the  flow of activities.  Additionally he develops a syllabus and does some lecturing.  Photography and studio rental are important parts of his income, and he is actively trying to make a profit on the day.  His success or failure depends on how many people he signs up for the workshop, so setting the right price and controlling cost is critical.

High Structure

How it looks in my inbox:  “Hi Jess, Great work!  I am having a workshop in (exotic location) around (sometime many months or as much as a year in the future).  It will last (2-4) days and you will be paid $1000+ and travel.  This is a nude workshop.”

My response:  Varies.  Could be yes or no depending on the pay, the person, the travel arrangements (ie, do I have to share a room?) and the hours I’m expected to work.  Being on a trip with a photographer who expects you to shoot 12+ hrs a day is the worst!

Day of:  Lacking experience, I have no insights here.

ABCs:  The primary selling point of this workshop isn’t knowledge.  Its shooting a pristine model in a resort location, thus education levels may vary from none to highly detailed explanations of idealized location shooting.

My thoughts:  I’m unsure, if presented with the right scenario I might happily do one of these.

$&¢:  This is the Cadillac of workshops.  High high dollar, with a minimum of something like a thousand dollars.  You’re paying for a vacation centered around your interest.  The photographer is a business man and is interested in keeping clients happy and continuing to have successful profitable workshops.  If he is well organized, the profits are high.

4 Responses

  1. Hello – just found your blog this afternoon. I have enjoyed reading your posts.

    I read a similar piece to this one from the photographer’s angle a couple of weeks ago. Nice to see that a serious photographer and a serious model concur on what makes for a good workshop. My time is precious and I’ve been considering going to a workshop or two in the future. You have helped to identify some key questions I need to keep in mind. As a largely self-taught, amateur photographer, I know there is a lot I need to learn and I would prefer not to learn about wasting time and money for myself and the model with a sub-par workshop.

    • Thanks for the comment! Let me know if you have any further questions on the matter. I’m also a photographer, and (having done a few as a model) I would never take a workshop unless I really just wanted the social part or needed the shooting experience.

      • Forced to rank my priorities, it would be experience, instruction, then networking. I definitely need shooting experience (specifically with people), but on the social end, I am making a concerted effort to network with local photographers. In the end, I think I just need to make time for photography and, as time and circumstance allows, get people in front of my lens. Based on your statements and the costs I’ve seen for workshops (not to mention travel, etc), it sounds like I’d do just as well to hire an experienced model or two. I’m also guessing it would be easier to find the time to work with a model than to find a workshop that fits my calendar.

        I appreciate you taking the time to respond to my comment. The gears are starting to turn in the right direction, I think.

  2. Hmm… Definitely geared toward the GWC crowd… not a bad thing… Just the mind set of “Guys want to see you naked so you will charge them for it” attitude.

    I’m not going to lie.. I like the female form, but my goal in my photos as a whole the model adds to the picture, and she/he is not the focus point of the picture.

    I’m glad you are successful though, as I’m glad when every model finds their niche and works it like there’s no tomorrow.

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