Contractual and ethical wars in the modelling industry

Sunday November 21 2021
Model pic

A group of models at a photoshoot.PHOTO |FILE

By Ramadhani Ismail

Nowadays these models will make your heart stop the instant you open an Instagram post. Most of them know how to showcase their beauty, how to pose and flaunt.

Some come and go, sticking in the mind of the public just for a season while another portion of them do their utmost to stay in the spotlight and keep on rolling, using their modelling and photography career to the fullest.

Before the advent of social media, photographers and videographers relied heavily on television and magazines available at the time, as it was difficult for them to find clients if your work was invisible to the public eye.

The problem is, it is likely that both parties are not aware of their trade limits until they reach the point of sharing pictures that have not agreed upon.

If you have been following closely, you will find that for a long time, there has been a pattern of models and photographers exchanging words on the internet when they have finished work. It is often a result of a delay in sharing the final product or using photographs without express permission.

This profession has been given a bad rep due to the fact that many do not go to school and that is why such things happen.


A large group of videographers and photographers are educated on the street but do not have enough knowledge about the legal basics or ethics of photography for models, news or advertising.

This has led to poor judgement of situation between photographers and models and total lack of professional ethics.

Challenges facing photographers

There are so many things that photographers face, one of the biggest things is money, poorly drafted or complete absence of contracts and sexual corruption.

Sexual corruption

There are times when a model comes looking for a photographer with the intention of working with him or her well but at the end of the day, after the work is done, the model uses her beauty to seduce the photographer in order to clear the debt.

Post-work payment

Since their work involves a verbal agreement, it is becomes very difficult to negotiate in front of law enforcement when dispute arises. It has become common for models to like working with great photographers and then leave a debt which poses a serious challenge later.


There is a very small percentage of photographers or videographers who go the extra mile of drafting contractual agreements with their clients.

Many rely on verbal contracts, which are often more challenging when they go to court.

Albert Manifester: photographer and videographer

Albert Manifester, who still does wedding, commercial, fashion, journalistic, maternity and portrait photography gave us a picture of how the industry works and how certain issues sometimes lead to conflicts between photographer and models.

Modeling in Tanzania

He confirms that, in our country there are, rarely, official contracts between a model (customer) and photographer, though the option to be professional as he does is always there and one is able to create a contract to share with their client before doing business.

“From what I know and my professional experience, there usually aren’t any official contracts between models and photographers, but in my work I do use contracts especially when photographing weddings,” said Manifester.

“One of the biggest challenge is that there are models who want to be introduced into the world of fashion for visibility purposes and many times, these are the ones who prove to be challenging when photographers use their pictures for their own gain,” he explains.

Before and after posting the photo

The number one aspect any professional photographer should understand is that the photo is usually the property of your client and you’re not supposed to use for personal gain without consent.

Manifester adds that exposing your model’s photo on social media or elsewhere is not the right way to go about it because the number one reason that person chose to work with you is because they trust your professional ethics.

Prince Bern Art: Photographer of nudity, fashion and culture.

Prince Bern Art is a photographer who works with different companies to create documentaries but does photo session with models and other clients.

Speaking with Life&Style, Bern art explains that, a huge percentage of models in Tanzania who work independently are ready to do just about anything so as to move up the career ladder.

From his experience when shooting nudes photos, models tend to want to take the option of having sex with him so as to clear their monetary issues.

“One of the biggest challenge is when shooting nudes pictures, models become too seductive and if you’re not committed to your work, you will end up doing free photo shooting session,” said Prince.

Since many in the business rely on verbal contracts, Prince admits that he has come across serious problems when releasing a model’s pictures after failure to settle their bill.

He admits to doing so as a remedy to compensate for the time and resources he used to complete the job.

Challenges facing the models

The modelling industry is notoriously cutthroat. It’s long been plagued by allegations of mistreatment of underage girls, lack of diversity, sexual harassment, promoting an unhealthy lifestyle and just about any other horrifying cliché that has ever been ascribed to fashion.

So many women are reduced to compromising their physical and often mental health for the advancement of their careers. These means that sometimes they don’t even have access to a proper meal.

The boundaries of what a model should be are too black and white, leaving little room for error or individuality.

Khanifa Marry: works through agencies

Khanifa who has been working through modelling agencies for about a year says the most common challenge she faces with the companies is delay or lack of financial support.

“Most of the agencies take high fees and make models pay for every bit of communication they are supposed to do in order to promote them. In addition to that, a model is expected to cover their travel, accommodation and other fees when they work,” says Khanifa.

“I don’t think this would be an acceptable situation in other fields of work that requires traveling and staying in hotels in different cities,” she added.

Sometimes models who work through agencies hear speeches such as ‘you need to trust me’ or ‘you are going to make so much money one day’, and still see no pay.

Shanny Diana: Nudes and fashion model

Doing a nude photo session is a big challenge when the photographer is male and has no woman on his team.

Shanny clears the air that these are the same photographers who expose them because of failure to finish off their payment.

Most of the time, photographers contact us to have a photo session but at the end they want us to pay them, which is not acceptable.

“Photographer are mean because they check you on your social media and explain they want to do free session with you, but at the end, they post photos without knowing our family history or job activities which may lead to disputes,” said Shanny.

Legalities of consent

Publishing photos including someone’s likeness, however, may require a model consent. Generally, a model’s release is only required if the way the photo is published makes it seem that the person in the photo endorses the product, service, or organization.

What needs to be understood is that a model release would almost always be required if used for advertising purposes.

Abeid Abeid: Lawyer

Abeid confirms that in Tanzania there’s no official law that governs the modelling and photography industry when come to the issue of contracts.

Abeid attests that most of these business use verbal contracts, although sometimes when the two are in agreement, financial contracts may be drawn up.

One of the hardest cases in court involve people who have verbal contracts because it is one’s word against the other which makes it difficult to determine who is right.

Tips to ensure both parties are safe in front of the law

Abeid lists some simple tips that will help photographers and models conduct their business in a mutually beneficial manner.

Always use a contract that as option of model release

In the contract, try to include a simple model release. By having a contract with your clients that includes a model release, you’ll be able to use photos of your wedding, portraits, or other clients on your website and social media and whatever else the contract allows.

Do not do a paid shoot without a contract

Models need to understand this as much as possible because failure to do this may lead to contradictions that may arise in those circumstances where publishing of photos has occurred without permit or concern.

If a model’s picture been released which includes nude photos, then the cybercrime law is there to protect the model.

Cybercrime law

Some of the offenses that are identified in this law include sending information without the consent of the person, distributing sexually explicit images, computer-related fraud, identity-related offenses, forgery related to computer issues and distribution of child pornography.

The act states that anyone found distributing pornography, immorality and insults, will be fined not less than Sh30 million or imprisoned for a period of 10 years while a person who distributes pornography will be liable to a fine of not less than Sh20 million or imprisonment for seven years.

Models and photographers need to be open with each other about doing their business and expectations while still working within the boundaries set by the law.

They must both understand that what they are going to do is business conduct themselves as such.