Modeling in Japan 101: Watch out for Guy With Camera (GWC)


If you’re new to modeling in Japan and really want to work, it’s important to get a variety of photos from different shooters to show your range. This shows prospective clients that you can go from aspirational young mother to va-voom shampoo model in the blink of an eye. Knowing your look is as important as showing your range within that look.

So starting out, you’ll probably do a lot of TFP (trade for print) shoots, or tests, through networking with different shooters, either through your agency, social media/friendly referrals, online networking sites like Model Mayhem, or even Craigslist. This is where the warning starts.

The Japanese print modeling scene for foreigners is small, so the number of shooters you have to work with are limited. That said, you have to be careful who you work with. There’s a HUGE difference between working with a professional photographer and a Guy With a Camera (GWC).

The Guy With a Camera is not trying to build a professional portfolio. He’s building a personal collection of shots for… his own personal use. There are a lot of them, everywhere, Japan and beyond, so don’t fall for the usual “Oh hey girl, I’m a photographer let’s shoot” unless he’s the real deal.

There are also legit shooters who will push your boundaries are try to get you to do things you might not normally do. If you want to do nude work, right on, but do it with someone you are certain won’t be selling the image to an adult site for a banner ad.

Here are some red flags to look out for:

No online presence, or a poor online presence. Pro-shooters always have a polished-looking website, or a blog, or an online portfolio of their work. Always ask to see their work before setting up a meeting or responding to an independent casting

The portfolio is of amateur quality, and only of amateur naked models. There are some amazing, completely legit shooters who specialize in nude photography, but you’ll see a list of credits that validate his work: museum exhibits, magazine credits, or professional jobs that tell you that working with him is an opportunity, not a scam.

Craigslist ads looking specifically for inexperienced models. GWCs know that inexperienced models have no frame of reference for what a shoot should be like, so they’re hoping to don’t object when they ask you to do things you might not normally do.

You just know. Trust your instincts here. Be selective in who you work with, even if you’re going through a slow period. It happens to all models and actors. Don’t let lack of work cloud your judgement!

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Cynthia, I agree that every aspiring model should be careful who to shoot with, but your Red Flags directly disqualifies any aspiring photographer who only wants to get some experience or start his/her portfolio...

Only advice needed is:

1- Have a face to face meeting in a cafe to talk about expectations from both, photographer and model. 2- Bring a friend/family member to the shooting. 3- If you feel unconfortable at some point, tell the photographer. If he/she insist, just leave.

There are many "Guys with a Camera" that have good intentions so please dont rule them out like that...

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Thanks for all the info, Cynthia. Although I am past my prime and will probably never do any modeling, I find your coverage interesting. It's a side of Japan I'll never actually experience but I can understand it a little more.


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This is why I let models come to me and not the other way around. I worked quite a few event shoots around Tokyo as well and some of the co-shooters were GWCs, one even got banned for shooting nothing but upskirts at a fashion show.

Use facebook and if you've never heard of the photog, ask. Odds are if he or she is legit, others will know them, the foreign community isn't all that big when it comes to this sorta thing. For mine examples, feel free to search up Pozland on FB or Google to see a basic bare minimum of what you should be looking for.

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I thought GWC was someone walking up the stairs off the metro

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Unfortunately, there are "guys with camera" in every field of photography. They don't know what they're doing, turn out bad work, and stay in business only by charging a fraction of what legitimate photographers charge.

Aspiring photographers can get apprentice or assistant positions without too much trouble. That's a great way to get started in the business, both for exposure to how pros work, and for the opportunity to do some networking. Once they have their feet under them, it's not as huge a step to go out on their own.

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Enmarinas: If a student shooter has a decent wordpress page with work that isn't solely of poorly-lit nude amateurs, chances are he'll book aspiring models. I would NEVER advise an aspiring model to meet with a shooter who doesn't have at least a basic online presence. Online the industry standard and has been for a decade- it's easy and cheap to look like a polished business person. If the GWC is truly trying to be a professional, he'll have it. Sorry, but it's the truth.

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