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When to Decline a Modeling Booking

It's essential to grasp that the modeling industry, like any other profession, has less glamorous aspects. There are times when you might be asked to do things that don't align with your personal preferences. It's not always the glitz and glamor that many envision. 

But since bookings can be very inconsistent and you usually aren't sure when your next job will be, saying no to a paid booking feels wrong. Many models think they should accept any booking that comes their way, but that isn't always the case…

Fashion model sitting in front of a white wall holding green glasses
Photo by Adrien King

While having a great work ethic isn't bad, you should never be so eager to accept a booking that you set aside your morals or safety for that job. Sometimes, situations arise where saying "no" is a much better move for you.

So, when is it best to decline a booking?

When it violates your beliefs or morals.

Regarding your religious beliefs, cultural practices, or moral boundaries, you should never feel like you have to accept a booking for a job that requires you to push or cross those limits. Models may refuse to pose nude/implied or do ads for furs, alcohol, or cigarettes because it goes against their morals or religion. Others may decline to do any political ads or work with specific brands because they don't want to be associated with a campaign they disagree with. Not only do you need to stand true to what you believe in and maintain your boundaries, you also won't be able to give 100% to the project if it's not something you support or feel good about in your personal life.

Being upfront with your agency about what you are uncomfortable with can help prevent these situations from happening. They will refrain from submitting you for jobs that they know would make you uncomfortable.

If the photographer, brand, or production team has a bad reputation.

If word has gotten out that a particular photographer or band has a history of mistreating or taking advantage of their models while on set, it's almost always best to decline jobs with them, even if they pay well. No money is worth being belittled or possibly put into an unsafe situation on set.

If the pay isn't worth the hassle.

While a paid booking can be hard to turn down, if you look at all that would be involved with the shoot and realize that the pay isn't quite up to par with what is being asked of you, it's probably best to decline the booking. If it is a low-budget project and you're required to drive a long distance to the shoot location, show up camera-ready, and provide a lot of your own wardrobe, the shoot likely wouldn't be worth all the extra work and expense required to participate. 

Another scenario would be if you have to take off from your regular job or miss an important class at school, you want to make sure the booking is fully worth missing out on those things. 

If it could affect future bookings.

In the commercial modeling world, your previous jobs can significantly affect your future bookings. Even though a model's job is to transform into whatever character is needed for that particular project, models are often unfairly stereotyped by their previous work. What may have been a harmless bikini ad displayed in a men's magazine can turn off clients' booking models for a more family-oriented project. It can also work in reverse, where if most of your previous work has been family lifestyle ads, you may be passed over for more editorial bookings. 

Some clients also have clauses in their contracts that prohibit models from working for a similar or competing company/brand within a specific timeframe, which can significantly impact the work you can do. If you do a Nike campaign, it is highly unlikely that Under Armor will want to use you in their campaign while that Nike ad is still running since they are competing brands.

When Your Gut Says No

If you have a booking and, for some reason,  just have a bad feeling about it, you should strongly consider canceling it. If it was a booking through your agency, a phone call with your agent could help clear your doubt (or confirm that your unease is justified) and help you work through whether or not you should do the booking or be replaced by a different model. 

Your "off" feeling might be nothing, but it also might be something. It's always better to trust your gut than to put yourself in a situation that makes you uncomfortable or could cause problems for you and your career down the road.


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