Photographers use models often and for numerous reasons.

1. The photographer wants to try a new technique. New techniques should never be tested on your clients.

2. The photographer wants to practice something they are struggling with.

3. The photographer had a brilliant idea for a shoot and needed some bodies.

4. An amateur photographer wants to learn more and practice often.

Using models is a great idea. A photographer is usually a little more relaxed when shooting with models and can test new skills or practice to improve some older ones. Models are great because they love being in front of the camera and need online portfolios to get more exposure. There are many amateur models today who would like to gain more experience and will pose for photographers in exchange ‘for’.

So you find a model who will shoot TF*, so now what? Oh wait, what is TF*? Trade for ‘whatever’. Whatever you and the model agree upon will work in most cases but as always there is a ‘beware’ here for the photographer. A photographer may wish to trade the shoot itself and include Internet ready images with watermarks, this is the typical selection amongst the pros, not always so with amateurs. Why? (see below)

Many trade for high resolution images, but why?

1. Amateur feels they are just starting out and they need to practice so they hand over the high resolution images in exchange. (Read below).

2. Amateurs are not to a point where they put much value on their work.

3. Amateurs may or may not have an up and running business, so why does it matter?

4. Amateurs think everyone is doing this because ‘one’ person told them it was correct.

Look at it this way. (based on my own prices):

I charge $150.00 for a session fee, up to a 2 hour shoot, prints additional. When I trade with a model, I am trading my session fee and my time. If I have a client who pays for a session fee in full, they may wish to purchase my high resolution images. I rarely sell them and they are not cheap if and when I do. It’s like giving away your negatives (in a sense), instead the client purchases prints. So why shouldn’t the model pay for prints, you have already traded your time, which equals to your typical session fee.

For this example we will stick to a 2 hour model shoot. When I have a model shoot they are receiving at least a 2 hour session for free, valued at $150.00 and edited, web ready, with watermarked, images to use online for their portfolio. I have found most models never even use the high resolution images or have a need for them. I will however, offer prints at a reduced rate, I give them a pretty hefty discount in the process too, along with an incentive deal if they need a shoot sometime down the road.

The end result is, put a value on your time, it’s always worth something. The model gives you their time, you give them yours, the photographer has images to show in their portfolio and the model has images to show in theirs, sounds like an even trade to me.

Don’t forget your model release. This allows the photographer to use the images as they see fit. This may seem a little lopsided to some but the truth of the matter is and always has been, the photographer owns the copyright and in order for a free shoot to take place, a model release is necessary. You may bargain about the content of your model release to please both parties.

Perhaps you wish to do things differently. just keep this in mind. Anytime you let go of your high resolution images you are taking a risk with your business. Not everyone has full knowledge of Photoshop and not everyone has the same taste or a trained eye to spot color or other issues and heaven forbid I find my images online with selective coloring or other funky edits, this is not how I wish to portray me or my business. Not to mention printing at your local drugstore is a huge no-no. If you need more reasons, read Prints vs CD’s, the same holds true for clients and models, in most cases.

There are always exceptions to the rule, my suggestion is handle each model as an individual but always remember the above, it will eventually affect your bottom line.

See the graph below and let me know if it looks like a fairly even trade to you.

Photographer Model
2 hour session fee based on
$50 to $150 an hour
2 hour modeling fee based on $35 to $65 an hour
Photographer goes home Model goes home
Photographer spends 10 to
30 hours (or more) editing session
Model keeps checking email for images
gives model web ready images and uses in their online portfolio
Model takes and uses web
ready images in their online portfolio


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