I got catfished. By a model.
I thank my lucky stars that 95% of the time if I haven’t previously met models they turn up and look exactly like the photo they’ve sent me or even sometimes, they look a thousand times better and their headshot is actually doing them a disservice.
BUT what happens when they’ve sent a fantastic headshot but look nothing like it?
This happened to me. Once on a very big deal photoshoot (it’s happened a few times before also but nothing deal-breaking.) Client had pre-approved every model, paid and needed photos the next day (it was of course a rush job). The models were getting paid, decently too I might add.
I had asked all the models for their sizes since I was arranging costume pick up. This model informed me she was a UK 10 - 12, she explained she was a 12 because she was rather ‘busty’ which is fine by me and is rather common. On this shoot size honestly didn’t matter too much as I had explained in my brief to them.
So off I went and hired the appropriate costumes, all my models were a size 10-12 so that was a relief, mix and matching saving me a little money. I also added a few wild cards into the mix which I always do.
Everyone arrived on time for hair and make up exception of this model, who was maybe 10 minutes late. Which does not bother me in the slightest especially when hair and make up is being done, it doesn’t change anything and I always let people know this. But she was the last to arrive, which is prevalent to this story.
The other models, hair and make up artist and I already knew each other rather well. I’ve worked with them all before and to be honest we consider each other friends too.
Door knocks and I open it. I thought this woman had arrived at the wrong house, but no it was my model. I’ve never once been so shocked by a model turning up.
Now, she is not a girl I would have picked for this shoot, she did not fit the brief I had sent out originally AT ALL. She was also a lot shorter and a lot bigger than she had told me. My other models were looking at me with distress knowing I was now in an extremely difficult position. This client needed this shoot done TODAY. My hair and make up artist was almost laughing at the situation as we’d all shared headshots in a group message and this girl was NOTHING like her headshot, in any way whatsoever.
In shock I stumbled around being polite, thoughts rushing through my head on what to do. My go to is to be overly polite, get on with the shoot and try to make something work. Which is exactly what I did but one of my models and closest friends pulled me to one side and explained I had every right to tell her to leave.
But I couldn’t. I was paralysed by fear and wanting to be nice.
After that wore off I started feeling, well, angry if I’m honest. I gave her the clothing I had hired and she very went to put them on, came back and exclaimed they were too small. Of course they were. I said they were a size 12 as she had told me she was but I would try to find something else. Luckily one of my wild card costumes fit her but it was the only costume that would. I bought it because it was a good costume but big, thinking I would pin it in if I found time. I’m so thankful I had bought it with me. I literally have no idea what I would have done if it hadn’t. Like at all; still to this day have no idea what I would have done.
The whole shoot was difficult. She was very rude to me and my other models, then even had the audacity to tell my other models (who were very obviously my friends also) that I wasn’t a proper photographer and I wasn’t very good at my job. Oh yes really, she did. My closest friend was very angry about it and felt increasingly protective of me throughout the shoot. I had to practically beg them all to just play nice until the day was over as they all wanted to jump in and say something to her with every spiteful comment that came my way. The day was polluted enough already. The only reason I could tell myself to explain her behaviour was that she knew what she had done and was extremely embarrassed by the whole thing so she was acting very defensively.
But what should I have done?
I should have asked her to leave. Either right then and there or I should have asked her to leave after her costume didn’t fit.
At the end of the day she was there to do a job, she lied about her sizes and she also sent an incredibly misleading headshot, her hair wasn’t even the same colour let alone anything else.
Make sure their headshot is recent or ask them to send a selfie there and then, no make up etc and a full body shot.
If your model turns up and you feel catfished, gather the courage and explain they aren’t right for the brief but thank them for coming.
It’s SO hard to ask someone to leave who’s turned up to a photoshoot. I still haven’t had another chance to do it THANKFULLY. But I think next time I really have too.
What would you have done?
What happened with my clients?
After I sent my contact sheets over, almost immediately my client asked what had happened to that model, asking if I had used a backup or something. I had to gently explain what had happened and they didn’t believe it was the same person. Thankfully the client and their team were extremely understanding and sympathetic about it but they did feel incensed about paying her. Which I completely understood. I ended up paying her invoice just so there was no more interaction with her and I hadn’t asked her to leave as I should have done.