Random thoughts on an old blog post that I started but never finished.
To Friend #1: You own your body and your image. If you’re not comfortable with what was posted, ask the photographer to take it down. It’s okay to be assertive. Being assertive does not mean that you are being rude or impolite. If they balk at removing the photos, Facebook has report commands that will get the photos taken down. I hope it doesn’t have to go to that extent, but if it does, you own yourself and nobody can take that away from you. You’re a strong individual and you should focus on what is right for you.
To Friend #2: I believe you’ve learned a valuable lesson and I hope you hold onto it for a long time. The Internet is a powerful but completely illogical weapon, much like a chainsaw made of lightsabers. It can kick back when you expect it least in very unexpected ways. A good path would have been to talk it out with the photographer in question and then post about the results of that conversation. You’re totally entitled to your feelings about yourself and your image, and I think having that conversation first would have changed the way things went and allowed the light to shine on your original message about body image, which is really important and powerful for people to read, rather than focusing on organizing the Internet lynch mob.
To novice models, in general: I’m not going to get deep into laws and ethics here; there are enough blogs about that. The photographer generally owns the rights to the images they take. They (or anyone who acquires the rights to the photo) can’t usually use your likeness for commercial purposes unless they have a release to do so. But ownership of the images does not translate into power over your opinion of said images. You don’t give up your right to an opinion just because someone else pushed a button.
If you are entering into a situation where you might be concerned about how the photos are treated or where they end up, work the specifics out beforehand. I hate hate hate to bring legal stuff into this, but if there’s even the slightest bit of concern that someone will do something you don’t anticipate or like with the photos, have a photo release or contract in place that states exactly what both parties will pay, will receive, and what restrictions will be observed with the photos – where they can be distributed, ability to review and approve them before publication, etc. If those items are important to you, write them down!
If you’re signing up for an event specifically as a model, or even just going to an event that has a photo release, read it! Don’t sign anything you are not comfortable with, and don’t sign rights away that you shouldn’t (i.e. commercial usage without consideration). If you have questions about the event or the release, ask the organizers. They probably want to make it go well for you. If you have concerns afterwards, talk to them. They probably have an interest in helping, whether that be facilitating discussions, removing images, etc. You don’t have to go it alone.
To photographers: Remember that your subjects are human. They might not be comfortable with how you present them, and they might say something about it. If someone’s uncomfortable with an image or the way it’s presented, you might want to give some strong consideration to their concerns. Obviously there are a million ways this could pan out. If you’re a journalist, you’re not going to pull a news-worthy photo just because someone thinks you got their bad side. But if you’re doing portraits and someone is uncomfortable with the way you’re sharing their photos or likeness, I don’t think it helps to ignore those concerns. At the very least you’re going to lose one client/fan/future model; at the worst things could blow up bigger.
And, discuss your expectations up front. Do you want to put the images on Facebook, or on a website? Do you want to put them into a print gallery that allows private or public sale? What other compensation do you expect? Do you expect that they can refuse a certain image or its treatment? If you get weird feelings, put it in writing, like I advised above. Discussing all of this beforehand helps you avoid all of this from the very beginning.