10 Photoshoots to Avoid on Model Mayhem

Yes, I am a Pittsburgh Model and got my start on Model Mayhem. True story. I used to do photoshoots without being paid (TFP anyone?) and walked in fashion shows with no compensation. In fact, I still do those things, if not as often. Going through old albums on my laptop the other day for some #ThrowbackThursday material, I found many images from old shoots and had a hard time not deleting every single one.  That gave me the inspiration for this post though. I thought it best to share with you all a few photoshoots to avoid when you book photographers on Model Mayhem.  Let’s start with:

1. 1980s Backdrops


These sponge painted backgrounds top the list of photoshoot props I wish I had avoided.  Yes that is me in all my pigtail glory.  Even if I erased my hard drive, the photographers I made connections with on the Model Mayhem website would still have copies. More importantly, no other aspiring model would be able to learn from the mistakes I made doing so many of those shoots. I tried to keep the photographer anonymous but he fought with me about it so, it and the ones at the bottom have been linked to my portfolio where they are legally able to be displayed after working a TFP photoshoot.

2. Lingerie and Sports Cars


I had those shoes in 8th grade too, no offense. Also this is definitely someone’s mom though I have hidden all retina’s in this post to protect the model from any Internet Shaming.

3. School Girl Outfit


This girl is actually adorable, but I’ve done a shoot in this car too. You can’t tell what the car is from the pic. It isn’t a hot rod, or anything expensive. How is this turning a guy on? Most guys won’t let anyone in the driver’s seat unless it’s on their lap!

4. Naked on Floor with Guitar


Hope you scrubbed the grout before you took this pic! Again, another attractive model but chipped tile and the visible oven/dishwasher kind of kill it for me. If I were on the receiving end of this photo, I would say to my girlfriend, instead of lying on the kitchen floor “Can you please get up and make me a sandwich?”

5. Cosplay


Cosplay can be hot. This isn’t it.

6. Bikini in the Snow


At least she isn’t wearing Uggs.

7. Straddling a Railroad Track


Choo Choo….. My problem with this picture isn’t the model or even the quality of the shot, I just don’t think any pictures that instantly bring the term “running a train” to mind are a good idea.

8. Gothic on a Grave


9. Waterfalls


Please don’t go chasing these public fountain waterfalls.

10. Mop Bucket


Lastly, don’t EVER get into a Mop Bucket if a Photographer asks you.

Let he who is without sin, cast the first stone though right? Oh I have many pictures worse than these, so here are some examples before you think I am on any type of high horse.


Skimpy outfit, check. Dirty stairwell, check. Upskirtsdotcom angle of the photographer showing the crotch of my underpants? CHECK! Personally, I’d rather post my amateur pictures here, before anyone else can post them to make fun of me.  I’ll own the Pittsburgh Model title! Yes these pics are super terrible but how else will new models avoid making these mistakes?  If you don’t think it is a serious issue, search #PittsburghModel on Instagram for an example. The pictures you will find might resemble these


Wrap yourself in tulle? I ribbon-danced with it too, at the suggestion of the photographer. “I can’t EVEN”- said every white girl after viewing. If you weren’t aware, the “Pittsburgh Model” term is often used in a  derogatory way.  It does not just refer to the area in which a  model works or resides in. They way I hear it used around the city is to label an unattractive model who thinks they are hot, but can’t get paid work. If a model can’t do her hair and makeup well, doesn’t know poses, and then might have any physical flaws; which photographers do you think are going to go after her for no-charge shoots? The same ones that went after me. I would never make fun of someone for inexperience with a willingness to learn. Most photographers I met on Model Mayhem offered their photography services for free in order for both of us to build our portfolios; a great idea in theory. However, the photos included in this post are from some photographers who have done countless shoots yet consistently show off the same lighting, technique, and editing years later with new inexperienced models.


THERE IS A ZEBRA IN THIS PICTURE WITH ME. I can’t EVEN. It’s hilarious but also sad to see the same backdrops and similar outfits in my friend’s Model Mayhem accounts and old modeling photos that are in mine. You know how to step up the sexy of a photo right? Drop that bra strap over the side.


I think of it as the Amateur Model Gauntlet. You have to go through a bunch of unprofessional shoots (and spend time learning poses and networking) in order to improve and get to work with Great Photographers.  You may have recognized the styles, props, and/or backgrounds in this post. However,  I’ve not named any times to maintain a level of professionalism but I WILL disclose the info to any model who asks my advice on shooting with a particular photographer that I may have shot with. Any Photoshoot is not always better than No Photoshoot! Do lots of research and networking before you ever get in front of a camera unless you want photos like this haunting the internet for eternity. Everyone else, cut us Pittsburgh Models some slack, we all had to start somewhere.  I appreciate the time and effort of many photographers, who genuinely want to learn the craft. THANK YOU for putting up with my terrible poses. So do you have any horror stories from photoshoots or advice for new models? Comment below!



    • Damaris said:

      Thank you for reading Nick! It definitely took some “balls” for me to post lol!

    • Damaris said:

      I appreciate the comment and I’m glad you recognized the studio without us having to name it 😉

  1. Glen Katic said:

    Wow it’s about time someone spoke up I was at some of the shoots in the some of the pics you posted and I think that with the exception of the the goth pic I’ve ether seen know the model of can identify the photographer from the style unfortunately. Without bad photographers models bad props exc. We have nothing to compair good with I just win the percentage of good to bad wasn’t so starkly far apart maybe 80%-20%
    the 20 being good and that’s being kind maybe it would be better to figure out what the true intentions of most of the photographers are prior to wofking with them I’ve always said that any photographer that only work with with women should be a red flag to any model thinking of contacting a photog for a shoot not that there aren’t legit photogs that just shoot models but just female models. Me I love photography I’m happiest when I have a camera in my hands I think anyone that knows me or wants to find out about me wouldn’t have a very hard time figuring that out if I never shoot another female model again I be fine with that as long as I get to keep shooting everything else. I can’t say that for most of the other photographers out there

    • Damaris said:

      Glen, you bring up a great point about a photographer refusing to shoot any males or other types of photography. I’m sure it’s not always the case but definitely a red flag for a new model to watch out for when looking at a photographer’s portfolio before working with them.

  2. Andrea said:

    This is so wrong in so many ways 1 there are photos of people that are not the model in the first place also there are photos of other models that the photo is copyrighted to that model and photographer and the person posting has and had no right to use the photo in any way. So to whom posting this I suggest taking it down and appologise to the people you took there photos from

  3. Lance Winston said:

    That was such a funny article … and as someone who has moved from Pittsburgh to SoCal and back I find it amusing to think of those pursuing modeling in Pittsburgh. We do many things well here, but modeling is not one of them. And Andrea, unfortunately the things posted to the internet are pretty much open game these days and Damaris did more than she had to by covering up their faces in these regrettable “photo shoots.” It might serve some young ladies well instead of pursuing a career that they really know so little about.

    • Damaris said:

      I can’t thank you enough for your support of this article Lance. I wasn’t trying to make Andrea or anyone feel bad about themselves; which is why I made sure to show some photos of myself and you understood that. If any embarrassing photo of myself helps one girl out, then I will be proud of this 🙂

  4. Lisann devaul said:

    Copyright infringement! You have no right to use my photo and I suggest you get it down immediately! I have no doubt you are one of those models that whine and cry if your photo is used without your permission…..yet you dig out a 10 year old photo of me and post it like you have the right? Seriously?

    • Adam said:

      Sorry kids, this is journalism. I.e. an article for a news paper, blog etc. Commentary or critique is the first exception to the copyright laws. The second one being for educational purposes, for which I suppose this would qualify as well.

      On the other points though, I think you should take a good hard look at any photographers portfolio and ask yourself, “Do I like these pictures? Would I have been please to be the person in that image?”

      If not, pass on the shoot. If you are an interesting enough model, ( and note here I didn’t say pretty enough) I think you will find that there are plenty of photographers whose work you like that will be interested in shooting with you. And don’t be afraid to reach out yourself. If you find someone’s work you like, ask if they would be interested in shooting with you. The worst they can say is no, and the sting of that gets easier after a while.

      Speaking, of course, as someone who makes brilliant photographs. And gets turned down for TF some times too.

  5. Melissa Mc Manus said:

    This was shared by one of my male model friends. Great story!
    I am a hairstylist from Cincinnati and have had and heard countless horror stories as a hairstylist! I don’t style shoots with anyone who shoots work as your article demos. I would love to read a follow up story of behind the scenes convos and experiences of inappropriate unprofessional craziness that needs to be avoided as well!

    • Damaris said:

      Melissa, I think that is a great idea for a follow up! I’m sure I can gather a bunch of crazy stories from the girls I know in the industry! Would love to hear yours too!!

  6. Giana Herb said:

    This is funny but its not. I started modeling when I was 3 so I was established at a young age and got paid. I have some experience from model mayhem of horrific photos that I deleted! Never again! I can’t believe you did those shoots! I’m laughing and angry at the same time. I’m so glad you shared this! I am now a photographer. I started that as a hobby when I was 10. I took classes and asked photographers lots of questions (only the great ones). Now anyone with a camera considers themselves as a pro. Its so so sad. When I have a paying job I will contact you. Despite these horrid photos I can tell you have what it takes. Sadly my modeling career ended in 2009 after o was hit by a car crossing the street. My ankle was run over and the bones where smashed. 3 surgeries later I gained 40 pounds and its not easy to lose it. I read on fb that you know a lot about healthy living. Maybe you can help me lose weight!

    Take care. If you ever want to shoot with me I promise I won’t use an ugly background or have you sit in a bucket!


    • Damaris said:

      Giana, I was right with you being angry and almost in tears at terrible photos that I had deleted. I’m glad you found the humor in them too though; the best thing we can do is share our stories with new models to help them. Thank you for your offer of a shoot- we may just have to do a mop bucket picture for the hilarity of it!!

  7. Tony Lawrence said:

    I don’t think its ever cool to reuse someones imagery without their permission even to make good points. So lets talk truth. Most models on Model Mayhem will never work with really good or great shooters (I’m not one either.). That’s okay because they aren’t great models. Attractive women and men who would never be signed by a agency. Model Mayhem is a site largely for amateurs. So what if some goof wants to have you pose in a mop bucket or train tracks. Did you have fun? If you are a agency fashion or commercial model. You need to be working with your agencies approved shooters.

    As you may have guessed I am a member of MM. There are lots of serious and talented people there and we all grow at different rates.

  8. StaciF said:

    Scary thing is- I have done every single one of these lol……but it is in the past -I can laugh at the pics now

  9. Sarah said:

    Oh yes, we’ve all been there. My first tfp shoot was booked through OMP (remember when that was cool?) and took place on the bridges downtown in my prom dress.

    The thing is though, it is so helpful to do these shoots when strarting out. yes, they are all cheese but they are also a great way to practice your posing and facial expressions and not pay for it. I mean, what’s worse, photographers who ask new and/or mediocre models to pose on train tracks tfp or the ones who prey on girls who will never get signed by having them pay for classes and ‘portfolios’ they will never need.

    because let’s be honest, if you didn’t sign before 18, modeling isn’t a career choice

    • Damaris said:

      I agree, it’s hard to tell what’s worse, getting some sort of practice at these type of shoots or having to pay for shoots from photographers who have nothing to teach and do terrible photos. It does the public a good service to be open about these things; we need an Angie’s List for photographers! Sites like Model Mayhem don’t show the good AND bad of each person- they can just delete criticism.

      • Tony Lawrence said:

        With respect. Who gets to make those choices about what’s good or bad? Is pointing a finger to laugh a answer? Should a woman with zero chance of ever becoming a paid model avoid shooting at all. If her area doesn’t have ‘good’ photographers. Should she ask you? I think you mentioned models should contact you to ask about photographers. There is a big difference between a model living in NY or Miami or Chicago with agency standard stats and those who don’t or live in very small markets.

        By the way I have seen very early images of models like Cindy Crawford. They were awful but she looks like she was having fun. It didn’t ruin her and I won’t say where I saw them so you can re-post them. Damaris, you are a bit of a mean person.

        • Damaris said:

          With respect, Tony, I get to make choices about what is good and bad about photos I have previously taken and have the freedom of speech to give a critique on any photo in the world that my eyes see. The models themselves agree that many of these types of shoots can be bad, please read the other comments here and the many on the Faded Industry Facebook page for other model’s opinions. I could have just written a post like “50 UGLY MODELS” like you would see on Buzzfeed, but I guess my mean person status isn’t that cruel yet. Yes, models in this area should definitely ask me if I have had a bad experience with a photographer around here. I will never be ashamed if anything I post helps a future model avoid pictures that she will regret. We thank you for taking the time to read and comment.

          • Tony Lawrence said:

            I don’t want to get into a long debate with you. More then one person has noted your copyright infringement with another who asked that you remove her image. I have the right to walk down the street and make fun of handicapped people. It would make me a bit of douche bag to do so. I know models who have appeared in Elle, Harpers, Town & Country and Vogue who have worked with guys who did the same type of material with new shooters who were terrible.

            So what. Is it a big deal when 95% of the time those ‘models’ would never be signed by any agency. You think you’re clever and because a few people agree think its fine. I assure it isn’t. There is a difference between educating people who MIGHT have a real chance at being signed. This assumes of course that you are. Elite, FORD, WOMAN, DNA… Its another to make light of others. Well… its all good. Its funny, right.
            Never be mean to others. This thread says more about you then the images and your suggestions. Its says you are judgmental, elitist and unpleasant but you are pretty.
            Have a great day.

  10. Joseph Scott said:

    I like where you were going with this but i think it fell short and here is my reason behind that. You kept saying you wanted to help other models to avoid shooting in particular places or sitiuations. where is that your helping? You gave no tips or tricks of the trade to make that shoot your own or to have them come out great! You could have said “hey in this particular picture i looked a bit stiff and looking back if i would have just: relaxed my shoulder a bit or bent my arm just a bit…” instead all i see is that your embarrassed that you had to start somewhere. we all did. i still have stuff on my facebook that i took years ago and think back and ask myself what was i thinking but i leave it up to show how far i have come.
    There are alot of great models and photographers alike that do TFP because they like what they do and its not their day job. we all have to keep up our craft somehow right? We dont always have the time to solicite models or photographers. I am VERY picky on what models i pay. she has to be absolutely great at what she does and unless she has work published, i dont pay alot. Why should i pay a model just because she is pretty? I would take a model thats a 7 over a model thats a 10 if that means she knows what she is doing and isnt a diva. Regardless of what some think, its not the photographers job to know what different poses there are unless there is a specific shot he is looking for.
    Lastly who is to say that all of the above are bad locations or props. why not try repositioning the person, be it the hand, army, torso…etc. I think the mop bucket is funny as hell! i can see where the photographer was going with it. he/she wanted something different. something artistic. that may have not happened but that shows me that his creativity is moving. The train tracks, i love train tracks. you can get a great depth of field if you do it right. not a bad spot but maybe instead of the model stradeling the track in a dress, have her sit at a 45 degree angle or change the dress for jeans and a leather jacket. As far as models with the same backdrop and outfits…..yes, that can get annoying but for photographers that dont have thousands of dollars of props or alot of different locations at their finger tips it makes it really hard. its even harder when your working with a new model that has no lingerie but wants to do lingerie shoots…..guess what, you do what you have to do to make the shoot happen.

    Just my thought though

  11. Patrick said:

    I don’t think you have a right to post others’ photos. I took a look at your MM Port and it appears you never learned the lesson you are trying to teach.

    • Damaris said:

      Hmmm not sure you have the right port? Do you mean my pics from several years ago that are still up, from photographers that I love, who are all paid professionals, and the styles don’t fit any of these 10 categories I mentioned? That’s just silly to make a comment like that (PS: Upload date doesn’t mean they were taken that date or even that year). Thanks for reading, the criticism, and internet creeping on me though! 🙂

  12. Tess said:

    Lmao this is hilarious. Any model who has actually learned anything from modeling knows there’s a handful of shoots we wish we woulda known better! Lol! But ya live and ya learn. Also if you are publicly posting your “modeling” pics on the Internet , anyone can use them for any reason. If you don’t want ur pics in the hands of others keep then off the inter web kids 😉 <3 xoxo

  13. Ricki said:

    Tony what I see is Damaris just bringing light to her past not so good experience and how she can look back and see where she started..she’s not afraid to say “Hey I’ve been there before and I see my flaws and I’m only human,,I’ve made mistakes starting out not having the knowledge or correct contacts to get me to a great start but that’s ok” and she can look back and poke fun at herself at the same time letting any up and coming model in the “Pittsburgh Model” industry to just be a little more aware and be mindful that there are wolves in sheep clothing and don’t be fooled by the lights,camera ,action because everyone does not have good intentions and most people with the upper hand (some photographers/model agencies) will not tell you that’s not a good look or pose,,because to bad photographers,every women’s ,pose,makeup or hair looks good even when it’s not..,Damaris thx for the insight and also pics of the proof because this will now give me a heads up on the “Pittsburgh Model” industry.. We as women in the industry young and old have to look out for one another plus keep our reputation on high and if we are in the realm of these “photographers/model agencies” our names will become “MUDD” and our reputation will be trashy…the Internet is a free world just make better choices..if I see a pic on the net ill repost it weather it’s making my point or not..it’s fair game..a couple of the pics Damaris posted of a couple girls were not cute and I’m glad she put them up cause it shows what not to do..she was very generous to cover the eyes but not the industries flaws and bad choices made with the industry and photographers…thx Damaris

    • Tony Lawrence said:

      Ricki, Lets say I started a blog where I posted about the ten types of models to avoid on MM. Then used a photo of Damaris while saying avoid the bitc% model or flake. Please know I am not calling her anything. Poke fun at yourself but when you do so at others its unfair. I really wasn’t aware that Pittsburgh had a model industry. I’ve seen bad photos of well known models. The only ones that truly matter to clients (beyond pornographic) work is what they display on their agency website. If you search you can easily find horrible images of singer Beyonce. Has it ruined her? The larger point is that MOST women will never be paid models. Even 5’10” beauties in major markets struggle. Last, if you really think that looking out for someone is making fun of them. Then we are coming from very different places but I respect your views. Thanks for the reply.


    • Damaris said:

      Hi Ricki! I really appreciate you taking the time to read and comment on this post. Your view, as a model in the industry, is exactly what we want to hear when we post things like this!!! Good luck in your modeling endeavors 🙂

  14. Jude said:

    Omgosh, so mugh laughing. Lets just say that anyone who gets huffy at this post will be someone who’s still at the stage of doing these shots. I can laugh because years ago I did a girl on a railroad track shot. I honestly burst out laughing when I saw that you had included one here. (laughing at myself, obviously)

    What you’re saying is actually Very good advice to many models. It surprises me how many very talented people will shoot with people who have an absolutely awful portfolio. Thing is? What their portfolio looks like or website looks like is Exactly what YOU will look like. This is just fact.

    Good article, and fun. 😉


    • Jude said:

      I will also say though, in all fairness to photographers, that this article can be turned around and written about models as well. I have certainly seen and at times worked with models that were a trial to work with. Very few, but there have been some that were difficult. I learned very quickly to weed, weed, weed your offers.

      I think that it is up to the discretion of both the model and the photographer to make sure that anyone they work with will create good content, whether that be knowing how to photograph people or knowing how to actually model. My advice would be to NOT accept everything that comes your way, just because they ask.

      • Damaris said:

        Jude, you have great advice for both models and photographers. I definitely wish I had been a better model for many of the fantastic photographers that I had the opportunity to work with. A great photographer and talented model can actually make any of these themes into amazing artwork, I have no doubt! Thank you for reading and your comments!

      • Adam said:

        Thought I would chine in on this comment as well. I totally agree and one way to avoid that kind of problem is to meet with people before you shoot together. You can tell a lot about what a person will be like when you work with them if you actually have a conversation in person before hand. Especially with new models and new photographers. This may be less important for a fashion shoot (I shoot mainly portraits) but half the game is the connection between the photographer and subject. If the photographer creeps you out, it;s going to be very difficult to get comfortable enough to make a good image. Likewise if you can’t stand the model’s personality, it will be hard to find the right setting/lighting/pose to capture their unique qualities.

        And for my money that’s what we should all be trying to do. We all see hundreds of images every single day. Whether it’s fashion or art or porn, show me something I haven’t seen before. You’ll stand out.

    • Tony Lawrence said:

      I got huffy and here’s my work on MM where you are also a member: http://www.modelmayhem.com/model4us2 feel free to send me a critique of my crap if you like. Laughing at yourself is wonderful and says you learned and grew. Pointing fingers at others. Using their work without permission, etc. is wrong. As for talented people. Models in my are not talented its a genetic gift. You either look like what people accept as attractive or you don’t. Some of that’s based on western standards of beauty (another thread) or you don’t.

      If you are 15 years old or so and 5’9″ or taller, thin, White (varies) and live in or near a active fashion or commercial market then contact fashion agencies and let them guide you. If you have a decent commercial look gather a good book together. None of that is generally done via MM or OMP or meeting goofs through Facebook. It will cost you MONEY. If you are a hobby model as most are. If you have a regular job or are in school or just want to have fun then shoot with people and enjoy the process.

  15. LaRon Stewart said:

    As a photographer who doesn’t make a living with his camera, I can see where you’re going with this. But, I think it’s very important to point out that all of these shoots can be well done by someone who understands light, composition, proportion, angles, and other technical elements of creating a good image. Minus the mop bucket idea, any of the other 9 shoots can be awesome if both the model and photographer know what they’re doing. I’m mostly portraits, but I like to break the monotony every now and again with images I don’t normally shoot. I also agree with the post above that mentioned getting around the ‘model’ who is not really a model; it’s a hard road to work with someone who doesn’t know their best angles, or keeps turning their head away from the main light source because they ‘saw this pose once’ or whatever explanation they give. I’m not a pro, yet, but I am proud of my work, and I’m happy to say I never stuck a girl in a mop bucket…

  16. Carl said:

    You didn’t mention Girls with Guns! There may be some good GwG work out there but I don’t think I’ve seen any of it that isn’t marketing material for big budget movies.

  17. Heather denise said:

    Just finished reading allllll the comments and the post. I am not signed nor famous but am published/experienced in modeling and acting. All I have to say is..
    1.) If you have done these shoots then you should have used your own shots, not someone else’s pictures.
    2.) Depending on who you’re working with determines the outcome of the photo. No matter what style of photo you’re trying to achieve.


  18. DawnElizabeth said:

    Maybe I was too picky about the photographers I worked with as a model. I really really would have liked to have a zebra in one of my shoots! Totes Jelly!

  19. little skittle said:

    idk who you think you are to tell people what to avoid.. i personally LOVE photographing in front of backdrops and waterfalls… soooo … sorry YOU made mistakes and did shoots you thought were stupid, but alot of us love what we do 🙂

  20. Ray Cannefax said:

    As a photographer, I have to say your article is right on. There are photographers who take pictures; there are photographers who make art; then there are the pseudo what-ever-you-want-to-call-them who just give those serious about creating art a bad rap. Figure photography evolved with the camera. Prior to that there were paintings, drawings and etchings. Things have not changed that much other than the fact that everybody with a smartphone now thinks they are a photographer.
    Look at the work of the model portfolios and the photographer portfolios on Model Mayhem and you will quickly begin to differentiate between the artists and the wanna-be’s.
    Models need to be careful and I suggest meeting a photographer at a public place initially, getting to know his/her plan for the shoot, ask about the camera equipment and ask to see his/her portfolio just as they’ve asked to see the model’s portfolio. Then, if comfortable, proceed with the shoot.
    Great article.

  21. anonymous said:

    Don’t you think this is a bit liable, slander and defamatory? Why would you pass judgment on these girls and the photographers? They both decided to do the photo shoot the way it is? Are you a professional photographer? Even if you are a pro photographer, who cares what you think!

    You posted digital copy written products from a model and a photographer. Are you aware of copyrights? Using digital products (images) in your opinion can get you sued. The civil penalty that could be dealt with in the Federal Court is copyright violations aside of the libel defamatory written statements you posted? Free speech is limited.

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