Tattoos! Occasionally when I talk with other photographers about models and which models they like to work with, the conversation sometimes includes a discussion of tattoos and whether or not they are a good or bad thing for a model’s career. This discussion isn’t so easy to evaluate as it really depends on the nature of the shoot and how the model wishes to portray themselves.
For the most part, I really don’t care that a model has tattoos. If I have a shoot that I know tattoos will be an issue, I may reach out to models that do not have them. The only time I had a second thought about tattoos was with my first projection shoot. There were quite a few models for that shoot and each model researched images they wanted to have projected on their bodies. In essence, a projection shoot is using the shape and body of the model as a projection screen. For the most part, the projected image is the focus of the final picture, in the shape of a body. However, I had concerns that a large tattoo covering a large section of the body might interfere with the intended effect. One of the models, my all-time favorite, Dina, had (and still has as far as I know) several large tattoos on her back curving up and over her shoulder. Both of us had concerns that her large tattoos might not work for projection photography. We tried it anyway and I honestly do not think her tattoos ruined the effect of the images. It worked out just fine.
Other than that, if a model has tattoos I will try and incorporate them into the shoot if at all possible. If they have several tattoos, I will ask them which tattoo is their favorite and would like to emphasize in the final images. If I really do not want tattoos showing in the image, I will attempt to take the shot from a different angle or cover it with clothing or props. Frankly, I rarely do this. For the majority of the shoots I do with tattooed models, I simply don’t care. In fact, I have recently been considering a photo series focusing on tattoos specifically. (If you have a lot of tattoos and wish to be a part of this series, hit me up!)
However, this may not be the case for all photographers. Some photographers may want a very clean look for a certain shoot and will only consider models without tattoos, or at least tattoos that can be easily covered or concealed. If you are a model or an aspiring model, consider very seriously getting tattoos. I can definitely image scenarios where having large tattoos may mean you miss out on certain types of shoots. Although you can edit out most tattoos in post-production, some photographers would rather not even deal with it. It is my understanding there are makeups and concealers specifically designed for hiding tattoos, such as Dermablend, but they are apparently very expensive and are rather difficult to properly apply.
I have nothing against tattoos personally. Although I do not have a tattoo, I have considered getting one. I just haven’t found an idea that I think I would appreciate over the course of my life. I would note however, that for me, a tattoo is a reflection of the tattoo artist’s ability and sometimes their creativity. As beautiful as tattoos may be, in my humble opinion, there is nothing more beautiful than the skin underneath it. I do not see skin as an empty canvas to be covered, but rather to be appreciated - as is. However, some people see it as exactly that – an empty canvas. I understand that some people get tattoos for sentimental purposes and reminders of people, places, and/or things, and I have routinely said, ‘to each their own’. But if you are an aspiring model and you are serious about making a career out of modeling, think long and hard about getting tattoos, especially large ones. Unless you strictly want to be a tattoo model, which is a very limited modeling career choice, tattoos may cost you certain modeling opportunities. Although tattoos are becoming less of a stigma than they once used to be, there are still individuals out there, photographers included, that may judge you on your tattoos and pass on an opportunity to shoot with you simply because of the tattoos. Perhaps that is just their loss, but it could be yours as well.
Keep the interesting parts of life in focus.