SPOTLIGHT: Instagram & Modelling

Instagram has changed the modelling industry beyond recognition - opening up the floodgates for clients to contact models themselves, models to use their own voice, book work themselves and showcase their own personality past the carefully chosen portfolio images in their book, levelling the playing field for models. It has also largely destroyed it, with modelling rates falling lower than ever due to the abundant over-supply of models, who are being booked based on their Instagram followings as opposed to talent and is opening up an entirely new way of modelling that most agencies have not kept up to date on. Ultimately, it empowers models but also puts them in danger as a result of giving them power without knowledge. 

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Knowledge is required in order to use such power. When a model posts an image on Instagram, they may have no idea that their agency has agreed the images will be kept secret until the publication date a few months later, leaving them legally liable to be sued for breach of contract. When a model posts on Instagram in return for free clothes, they do not know that their agency would charging the same client thousands of pounds in order to have them model on a produced photoshoot. When the model is ‘collaborating’ in this way, it’s ironic because they are working much harder - producing the shoot, finding a photographer, modelling, editing and posting - but being chronically underpaid or not paid at all, lowering their own rates as a model as a result. Apps that offer models social media postings in return for money or work may involve quickly looked over terms and conditions that mean the model doing this work not only breaches their agency contract (leaving them legally liable with the potential of being dropped) but also may tie them into an exclusive contract with a huge client who may be paying the ‘app’ thousands of pounds and the model nothing but a free t-shirt.

Instagram allows clients to contact models, which can be dangerous for a variety of reasons. Firstly, the model may have no way of verifying these clients - which the agency in theory is supposed to do - however the client may not be who they seem at all. They may be offering free trips to Dubai in return for thousands of pounds or a glamorous photoshoot abroad, which can actually be incredibly dangerous as Chloe Ayling discovered when she was kidnapped by a client. Of course, this can happen with or without an agency as many have no adequate ways of verifying clients in this global market, but a huge reason to be signed to an agency is to protect and guide you as a model. The bookers are likely more experienced in spotting dubious jobs as opposed to a vulnerable model who has no idea of the booking process as a result of being completely kept out of the loop for so long by their agency - a catch 22.

Working directly with clients over Instagram means that a model is less likely to demand a proper rate due to it being notoriously hard to negotiate for yourself (another reason for having an agency) and because they may have no guarantee of being paid, even if the job goes ahead fine. To be paid as a freelance model you will have to send an invoice, however as the majority of models have zero idea that a ‘Booking Confirmation’ contract is usually used to legally legitimise their jobs in advance by their agency and the client, they are unlikely to do this and informally agree to work without any proper terms and conditions in place. This means that clients can use the images however they like (when agencies usually have strict limitations on usage as this makes up the rate, as discussed in this blog post) and potentially refuse to pay a model by simply ignoring them, knowing that they would be in trouble with their agency if they told them and feel they have no power as a result. Models in this position can theoretically take such clients to the Small Claims Court, but this is a process they will likely to have to pay for and not one that many people know about. 

Instagram means that the concept of usage itself has completely changed - whereas once clients would have to remove images from their website after a certain period of time, it is not usually contracted that they will deleted social media posts. This seems archaic in 2019, especially when combined with ‘click to buy’ where customers can even purchase from live catwalk shows. As models are being paid less than ever, their value is growing more than ever for the client. 

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It can be confusing to understand who owns images posted on Instagram and tagging procedures. Many clients frustratingly do not tag models in their images, or take behind the scenes shots on jobs that are used on their Instagram, providing them commercial value in addition to the contracted shots. Once an image has been posted on Instagram, it is very hard to retain any real control over the image, even if it is owned by the photographer. Unless the image is being used on a website to sell something, it is difficult to chase down. Good practice for models is to tag everyone involved in a shoot and always ask if posting images from work, only posting images after they have been published or reposting from clients. 

There is an entire chapter on Instagram in The Model Manifesto, detailing how to grow an organic, engaged following as a model and anti-exploitation tips for the issues described above. For now, always be extremely cautious of people speaking to you on Instagram that you do not know, and remember to view it as a business. Each post represents your personal brand and you are likely being watched by clients on a daily basis, who would pay good money to have you model for them.