Traveling model etiquette
In this article I will attempt to cover basic traveling model etiquette, mostly directed towards anyone staying with a host while traveling. This is largely based upon my own experiences as a traveling model that has been hosted by others. Painters, photographers, other models and other giving people have allowed me to stay with them. If you are considering becoming a traveling model, I advise you to do your homework on where you’re traveling, staying, and what the shoot location entails.
Look for former and current traveling models; contact as many as possible to get generalized advice. Please note that it is not recommended to contact established models to ask for a list of clients who pay, unless you are offering a list of clients in return.
Don’t assume people are going to host you
First and foremost, do not assume, or expect others to be willing and able to host you, especially if you do not have a wealth of good references. You can build good character references by working with people locally. Overtime, if you maintain good standing in your local market, it will be easier to branch out. Consider hosting other travelers who have good references. When I had an apartment, I hosted and shot with a good number of travelers, and this way I was able to already know a few people in other markets.
You may want to cover your own lodgings, at first
Also, with a few exceptions, I planned to visit new markets and cover my own lodging, booking as many test shoots with those established in that market as possible. You may experience a bit of a monetary loss, but in the long run this can be a very effective way to test a new market out and hopefully make more contacts.
Plan ahead, and be courteous
If you are contacting someone in regards to possible hosting, be as courteous and detailed as possible. A one-liner cold-call message saying, “Hey, do you host?” is generally not received well. Likewise, a frantic forum post asking for last-minute hosting generally does not get a good response. Plan ahead. Here is a basic example of a good message to send:
“Hello Photographer Sergio,
I was considering traveling to Boondock sometime in late April, and was wondering if you would be available and interested in hosting me. Model Sindy is a friend of mine and said that you were a wonderful host this past summer. I noticed that you are working on a project that I may be applicable for, and would be more than willing to trade modeling time for that project for hosting if you found that to be a fair barter. Other people that have hosted me are Painter Sven in Hocus and Photographer Arianna in Pocus this past fall.
Thank you for your time,
Be considerate— Try to minimize the “weight” you put on your host
Secondly, be considerate of those hosting you. Be mindful of others’ work schedules and your utility usage, and don’t make a mess. If you are being hosted in an area where there is not reliable public transportation and you do not have your own vehicle, do not rely on your host to drive you around. I do not drive, and in the past I find it helpful to negotiate a lower half day or full day rate with anyone in the area that will be hiring me if they can provide transportation to and from my host’s house.
When possible, especially for longer stays with people, it is a good idea to have a “community” night—offer to buy groceries and cook a meal, and catch up with those hosting you, especially if you both have hectic schedules and do not see each other regularly. If there are dishes, do them. If the trash needs to be taken out, take it out. It is also good practice to leave a hand-made or store-bought thank you card or gift. Make every effort to be someone that one would like hosting again.
Be sure to meet your host’s expectations on the agreement
Third, follow up on whatever barter arrangements you have made with your host. Make sure all involved are clear on what the arrangements are. I find it good practice to set aside a day or half day of shooting time and treat shooting with a host as any other paid job. This ensures I will not overbook and not leave time for following up on my end of the bargain. If there is spare time where you both are free to shoot, you can consider it an added bonus.
Prepare for the worst—plans may not follow through
Lastly, always prepare for the worst. Sometimes personalities clash or a host has to go out of town, or whatever other situation may arise that would prevent you from staying with a planned host. It is a good idea to know others in the area who could take you in for a night or two, but do not rely on this. Set aside an emergency savings, and know where cheap and safe lodging are in the area. I personally do not use sites like couchsurfing.org or airbnb.com, but those are good sites to find alternate ways to stay in a city without paying for a hotel. Craigslist.org is also a good source in some areas, provided you are savvy to Craigslist lingo. Worst case, have enough in an emergency savings to cover travel home.