Forums > General Industry > Photographer Inquiry: To Pay or Not To Pay Models?

Photographer

photoguy35

Posts: 922

Goodyear, Arizona, US

I pay, mostly out of a sense of fairness given my economic position versus that of a lot of models (I'm doing it for a hobby, most of the models I shoot are doing it for a living).  I pay to go to workshops, group shoots, etc, and see nothing different about paying for the model in a one-on-one situation.  Paying also minimizes issues about giving images other than if I want to (which I usually do), flaking, professionalism, etc.

Jun 12 12 07:55 pm Link

Photographer

Fotografica Gregor

Posts: 4122

Alexandria, Virginia, US

I do not pay llamas for my own portfolio development

however I frequently compensate llamas / wardrobe stylists / makeup artists / hair stylists   when setting up full team shoots for publication submissions

First of all, they are worth it.  They earn it.  (or I would not work with them!)

Second of all, it is critical that each team member be invested in the shoot -  one missing player can ruin the shoot. 

There is such a thing as a llama having talent / ability / and publication history that contributes to a photographer's success.

And vice - versa.

Anyone who would say that they would *never* pay another does not care about improving their own craft.

Jun 12 12 07:59 pm Link

Photographer

Julian W I L D E

Posts: 1829

Portland, Oregon, US

The fact is, there are no hard and fast rules with this one.  There's a continuum of talent in every industry.  In this industry you'll find people  "below you and people above you."  If you're tf-ing you're most likely dealing with someone at your level.  If you're paying you're most likely working with someone who can really improve your game.  If you're being paid... that maybe all you're getting out of it.  But knowing and understanding where you are at any moment in the "continuum" is really where it's at.

Best wishes,

-JULIAN

Jun 12 12 08:08 pm Link

Photographer

T-D-L

Posts: 10303

Los Angeles, California, US

I assume you're talking about for portfolio purposes...ie. if a photographer wants to shoot a model and she's not up for trade then pay her.

I paid a model once a little over 3 years ago when I was new, I bought into the "Pay a model if you want to improve your book" Kool-Aid.  Worst decision ever.  She showed up, and clearly didn't take it seriously and was only there for the money.  Recently I've been around other photographers and on set with them while they've paid models and again....the models look down on the photographers....because they don't respect them for having to pay.  Could be a subconscious thing, but it's clear that they didn't expect anything from the photographers and were only going through the motions.  I doubt this would have been the same had it been a photographer they desperately wanted to shoot with.  One of these models I shot at a later date (test, not paid) and she was more than pleasant....my only guess would be that she now had a little more on the line. Yes, I'm sure one of the regular "Super-Awesome-Model" crew on the forums will talk about isolated incidents and whatnot, but I've seen it on 3 separate occasions, not counting my experience. 

That being said, I also feel it pointless to pay models if you're not already competent.  The "Pay a model to jumpstart your book" arguement to me fails because if you aren't able to take a good photo of a "medicore" model, then you won't be able to capitalize on working with a good one.  The inability to direct, light, compose, etc isn't going to change just because you've got an experienced model. 

All in all, if shooting for a client then by all means: pay a model.  But I don't see the point in paying one for your book.

ETA: this only applies to my situation and genre in general....art nude photographers for example, or those who will end up selling photos...yadda yadda yadda are probably better suited paying....but again, not my thing so I can't speak for them.

Jun 12 12 08:33 pm Link

Photographer

Boho Hobo

Posts: 25351

Portland, Oregon, US

As an artist I tend to work in feast or famine cycles.   During famine, no I don't pay models because I can't, not because I wouldn't want to.

In a feast cycle, I might pay a model, but it really depends on what project I'm working on, how much $$ they command and honestly my attitude towards them and theirs towards me. 

I'm not a pro photographer, my projects aren't going to end up as a pin up calendar on Amazon, a fashion mag, the Hawt hotties of Ak Maxim list, etc, so I tend to work with friends and "models" who aren't models because I don't have clients to worry about and I'm not looking for fashion or glamour poses.  I like working with really good actors and actresses actually because some of them can have a body and facial awareness many models on the internet lack....

I know that full-time internet models are trying to make a living from working with folks who can pay so I usually avoid those models and their portfolios because often times their rates are set for people who are either using them as a business proposition (calendar, stock, model shoot, adult) or people who are photographing them for pleasure but have a great day job income/trust fund...in other words, their rates are WAY out of my league to afford.

smile

Jun 12 12 08:41 pm Link

Photographer

Garry k

Posts: 27225

Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

I shoot with a lot of models from here and from my local fashion scene ..Generally I trade but a few years ago I paid a model ( that I had only seen photos of on the internet ) $100 for a shoot that yielded ( among other shots ) my current avatar shot

Best investment I have made in my portfolio development

Jun 12 12 08:45 pm Link

Model

MelissaAnn

Posts: 3956

Seattle, Washington, US

You should only TF with photographers who will benefit your port or are better than you.  Photographers who have better work than you usually won't pay you because they are providing more benefit to you than you are to them.  There are some photographers on this site who have portfolios that are better than most, so there's always a long list of top notch models who are willing to trade with them.  Why would they pay when most or all the models they're interested in working with are willing to trade?  If a beautiful model *isn't* willing to trade with them, they just move on to the next one who is.

...and then there are those who just honestly can't ever afford to pay models.

I always want better images for my port, no matter how good I get, which means I will always trade with excellent photographers.  I figure there will always be photographers who are better than me, so why not better myself (and my port) by trading with them?  Asking a photographer who's work is better than mine to pay me would just be insulting to them.

Jun 12 12 08:50 pm Link

Photographer

Brett Fish

Posts: 426

Seattle, Washington, US

Looknsee Photography wrote:
...  If I pay models, I can work on the stuff I want to work on, and I don't have
     to worry about creating stuff that is useful to the model.

...  I don't have to worry about editing

Jun 12 12 08:58 pm Link

Photographer

Image Works Photography

Posts: 2890

Orlando, Florida, US

Paying a quality model does make a difference. I started doing that when I began and those were the top shots I have ever made. Sure there are TFP shoots which will bring quality shots in terms of exposures but having the right model again will make a difference.

Jun 12 12 09:19 pm Link

Photographer

MichaelClements

Posts: 1739

Adelaide, South Australia, Australia

A client job. Yes. Everything else. No.

Jun 12 12 09:26 pm Link

Photographer

Knomad One

Posts: 1146

Eureka, California, US

You asked to get inside our heads, and for whatever reason I'm in the mood to share a little.

When I first started out in the online game (2003) I was already experienced and published, as a journalist, but of course that means little outside the industry. My first TF* attempt was a disaster (a no show), and I quickly realized that the best way to avoid wasting time while building credibility was to pay a couple of experienced and well known models... even more so because this was for art nude work.

The game was a little easier then, and two models with years of experience and regional name recognition quickly agreed to part pay/part trade deals. It was the smartest thing I ever did, at least within photography. Having those girls in my portfolio plus a concurrent exhibit at a well known gallery, I was quickly deluged in TF* offers. Some of them came from very good models.

I let it go to my head. For the next six years, I did not pay a model. I didn't need to. Because I had the time to network, there were plenty of trade offers. I probably accepted too many of them, certainly I will never use a lot of those images. Still, it was good experience and I met some wonderful people.

Then, two things happened: I got very busy with my real work, which left much less time to network. And, one of those experienced art models, someone who had done a trade shoot with me and who many of you have heard of, well... we became good friends, and she kept gently reminding me that art models work hard and don't make all that much at the end of the year, and "you really should consider paying these girls."

She was right. At least with the experienced and well known models, it's easy to set up a shoot, there's no drama, they understand the concept quickly, and they deliver what's been requested. It's fast and efficient and businesslike.

I'm fortunate that I still have opportunities to shoot trade with some very good models, mostly because we belong to the same circles of artists and share a creative vision. Even so, when I need to shoot a concept and don't have time to do it twice, or when the muse strikes and I want to shoot now and not in four weeks, there are a few people I know will deliver for a reasonable cost. I also accept some of the offers that come in from traveling models, if their look and attitude is right for what I'm working on at the time.

I probably pay half a dozen times a year at most these days, and I pay art rates, not glam rates. I shoot much less often than a few years ago, even including the trade shoots, but I get something I can use in an exhibit from almost every shoot. I spend about two hours on each shoot, and I don't need to spend more hours sending her images (although I do often share a couple of the ones I'm doing post-production on for myself) That was for sure not the case when I took lots of TF*

Looking back, it was arrogant of me to exclude any thought of paying for those six years. Never say never.

That doesn't mean I'll pay just anyone, because I won't. Basic criteria: The model must have a certain level of name recognition. She must work within the same genres I do, or show an ability to do so. She must have the right look for whatever I'm working on at the time. It helps if she's shot with one or more photographers I've heard of. The work in her portfolio must be consistently of good quality... if she hasn't done high-quality work before, why would I expect that to suddenly change? With rare exceptions, she must have been published or included in exhibits.

I set high standards because 1) I too have that level of experience and have been published/exhibited/etc; and 2) if I didn't, I'd be shooting much more often than I need or want to without getting the level of results that I desire.

I recognize that not every photographer has been shooting for years, or has built the confidence or expertise that they (hopefully) eventually will. For those folks, an occasional paid shoot with an experienced model is a learning opportunity. They may wish to usually shoot with less experienced and hopefully less expensive people most of the time, or to be patient and tolerate the constant networking and higher no-show rate of the trade game for the majority of their shoots.

None of this is good news for newbie models. I don't doubt that some guys will pay anyone who will get naked or nearly so, but I don't recommend it if quality images are the goal. It's even worse if both parties are inexperienced, at that level it's a game of random chance.

Anyway, that's one perspective. Certainly it's not the only one, everyone has different goals and different constraints, there are many ways to approach creating photographs and lots of them are valid in the right circumstances.

Jun 12 12 09:50 pm Link

Photographer

James Garfield

Posts: 677

Perth, Western Australia, Australia

As yet I have never paid a model, not because I'm not prepared to but as I get more known I've found I get approached more by models with a good look and good experience levels who are happy to shoot trade. I'd still be more than happy to pay for a model if she had a look I REALLY wanted in my PF and she wasn't prepared to shoot trade.

James

www.jamesgarfield.co.uk

Jun 13 12 12:26 am Link

Photographer

Wysiwyg Photography

Posts: 6326

Salt Lake City, Utah, US

k h r i s t wrote:
I know I only do limited *TF and 99% of photographers that I work with that I do these shoots with would never pay a model.  I only accept paid work now, but I've always wondered about the workings behind a photographers mind on the subject... General discussion and whatnot.

Have you ever paid a model and what was your reasoning behind it?

Looking forward to all of your responses smile

Yes, I have paid models... The reasons behind it are many.
1) It reduces the flake rate (I have still had paid models flake.. but it's less often)
2) I am not obligated to produce pictures that the model wants.
3) Any pictures that I give are of "good will" and no because I have to.
etc.

Also, what photographers produce is not worthless.. (Well, maybe it is if you aren't willing to TF* with them).
But are pictures worth something? If no photographer ever did TF* how would models get photos for their portfolios? "I will show you my boobies and you take my pictures?"... I cannot tell you how annoying that "offer" is as a photographer/body painter.

Jun 13 12 12:33 am Link

Photographer

Chris Fairfield

Posts: 6

Washington, District of Columbia, US

Bare Essential Photos wrote:
I do because it gives me a much wider selection on models to choose from and I have the say so in regards to the shoot.


Gabby

Agreed x100. It's hard (especially in a secondary market) to find a model worth shooting that isn't also worth paying.

Nothing kills my enthusiasm for photography like a model who is unenthusiastic, unprofessional or lacks talent... If you are willing to pay a little you get better pictures and shoots are more fun.

Feb 10 13 06:10 pm Link

Photographer

Looknsee Photography

Posts: 21658

Portland, Oregon, US

k h r i s t wrote:
Have you ever paid a model and what was your reasoning behind it?

Sorry -- this is an old, resurrected thread -- I've already answered.

Feb 11 13 07:13 am Link

Photographer

Tito Trelles-MADE IN NY

Posts: 960

Miami, Florida, US

If you pay you can get the one you want, if you don't you get the one you can. T

Feb 11 13 07:18 am Link

Photographer

Farenell Photography

Posts: 18130

Albany, New York, US

nevermind

Feb 11 13 09:34 am Link

Photographer

Shot By Adam

Posts: 5941

Las Vegas, Nevada, US

Tito Trelles-MADE IN NY wrote:
If you pay you can get the one you want, if you don't you get the one you can. T

Brilliant.

Sometimes it works out to be both, but it's rare.

Feb 11 13 09:38 am Link

Photographer

Karl Barbosa Photo

Posts: 44

Montreal, Quebec, Canada

The way I see it, it's a simple formula:

Do I expect my investment to pay off through either print sales or through such a significant boost to my portfolio's quality and visibility that would lead to such? Then possibly yes.

It's simple business really ... you only spend money to make money. If I can't market myself or my work from that shoot, then there's no sense paying someone when I can find TF elsewhere.

Feb 11 13 11:29 am Link

Photographer

Abbitt Photography

Posts: 11723

Oakland Acres, Iowa, US

About half my shoots are trade and about half paid.

The difference and amount of pay, when I offer pay is based on what I think I'll get out of the shoot for my effort.

Factors:

1.  How talented is the model?
2.  How much do I like her look?/how suitable is her look for my goal?
3.  Is it an art nude shoot?
4.  Odds that I may make something on stock sales.
5.  How tired am I of cancelations?/ how driven am I to shoot?

Feb 11 13 01:37 pm Link

Photographer

ontherocks

Posts: 22610

Salem, Oregon, US

i paid because i had to. simple as that. i have no regrets. the traveling nude models i hired were awesome (not to mention nude).

if i were wealthy i'd pay all my models. nothing wrong with being a sugar daddy if you have the sugar.

k h r i s t wrote:
Have you ever paid a model and what was your reasoning behind it?

Feb 11 13 01:38 pm Link

Photographer

DAN CRUIKSHANK

Posts: 1786

Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

I have never paid a llama... But I do offer a 24" signed/numbered print from our shoot as TF compensation. The list of llamas I have who want to work with me will keep me busy for the next year at least.

If I were shooting for a commercial client who required a very specific look I would likely pick and choose and pay the perfect llama, for the convenience as much as anything... But my current project does not require a specific look or specific stats, so the pool of suitable llamas willing to trade is much larger and much more flexible.

Feb 11 13 01:57 pm Link

Model

JadeDRed

Posts: 5460

London, England, United Kingdom

I pay models because i want them to work for me and i think in that situation you should pay them.

Of course if a model preferred to take on that work for some kind of trade that would be okay but i'd rather not have limit myself when advertising the work to what i can get on the cheap.

Models (and photographers) have replied to my paid castings offering to work without cash pay but they have never been the good ones, maybe there is a link there.

Feb 11 13 02:43 pm Link

Photographer

Amelia G

Posts: 559

Los Angeles, California, US

To the OP, I recommend that you remove the ambiguity about pay from your profile.

There were certain sorts of gigs I paid models for which I stopped booking as paid shoots because so many models were presenting like, of course, they thought the good photogs didn't pay. I didn't have to pay to be able to set up shoots, but eventually I decided to go back to structuring things the way I wanted to.

I think it is fair for the pay to shake out the way makes sense for the project i.e. the rate should not be based just on who someone is. If a photographer pays a lot for a commercially 100% useless job, no matter how great and experienced the model is, y'all are probably not making art.

Feb 11 13 06:40 pm Link

Photographer

Art of the nude

Posts: 11892

Olivet, Michigan, US

k h r i s t wrote:
I know I only do limited *TF and 99% of photographers that I work with that I do these shoots with would never pay a model.  I only accept paid work now, but I've always wondered about the workings behind a photographers mind on the subject... General discussion and whatnot.

Have you ever paid a model and what was your reasoning behind it?

Looking forward to all of your responses smile

When I pay models, it's because I REALLY want to shoot with someone who won't trade.  Sadly, my finances are such that that's very rare these days.  Fortunately, partly because I DID pay models, the list of wonderful models who will agree to something other than a pile of cash is pretty substantial.  Often, the deals involve lodging, pizza, ice cream, and pictures, among other things.

Feb 11 13 06:52 pm Link

Photographer

salvatori.

Posts: 3836

Bellefonte, Pennsylvania, US

Jesus H. Tapdancin' Christ... what is with all the zombie threads today?

I mean, there are 200,000 threads on this topic from this week alone...

tongue

Feb 11 13 06:59 pm Link

Photographer

imcFOTO

Posts: 579

Bothell, Washington, US

k h r i s t wrote:
I know I only do limited *TF and 99% of photographers that I work with that I do these shoots with would never pay a model.  I only accept paid work now, but I've always wondered about the workings behind a photographers mind on the subject... General discussion and whatnot.

Have you ever paid a model and what was your reasoning behind it?

Looking forward to all of your responses smile

So far, I've only paid for nude modeling. I don't have any way of generating income from photography (yet) and I've found enough models willing to do TFCD for it not to be too much of a problem. I have paid for 4 sessions that included full nude (in fact I offered the payment in two cases where they might have even done it TFCD - bit I didn't want to exploit anyone).

Would I pay for a quality experience model in other circumstances? - possibly but I'm probably not ready for that yet. Frankly I'd rather make my mistakes while it's still free. So far, everyone has been happy with their photos so I guess I'm doing ok.

I'd rather find a way that both the model and me get paid - so I'm starting to look at Zivity etc.

Feb 11 13 08:13 pm Link

Photographer

-The Dave-

Posts: 8626

Las Vegas, Nevada, US

Everyone pays in some form, one way or another.

Feb 11 13 08:40 pm Link

Photographer

RKD Photographic

Posts: 3265

Iserlohn, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany

I shoot 'other stuff' for work and only shoot models at the weekend for fun - with so many models offering to work for TF, why would I pay?

If I were approached by a client to do a shoot where a paid-model was required (unlikely as that's not my thing), I'd go to an agency anyway, not try and source someone from here...

Feb 12 13 01:41 am Link

Photographer

Mcary

Posts: 1803

Fredericksburg, Virginia, US

Blank

Feb 17 13 10:22 am Link

Photographer

Mcary

Posts: 1803

Fredericksburg, Virginia, US

I hire models because for the most part very few model' feel my work is of the quality that's worth doing trade with.  Which leave me the following choices; hiring models, finding something else to shoot such as landscapes, street, still life or holding my breath and throwing a tantrum because models don't to shoot trade with me smile

Feb 17 13 10:52 am Link

Photographer

Bradley Studios

Posts: 125

Greenville, South Carolina, US

It's a mixed bag for me.  Sometimes I pay if I don't want to deal with the hassle of making sure the model gets her images.    I've also noticed that models are more responsive to emails when money is tied to the project.

Feb 18 13 07:26 am Link

Photographer

Erlinda

Posts: 7221

London, England, United Kingdom

I don't pay models for my portfolio work... It's pretty simple, a model is a dime a dozen. Who gives a fuck if one says no, so many more that would say yes. big_smile

Feb 18 13 07:37 am Link

Photographer

Erlinda

Posts: 7221

London, England, United Kingdom

MelissaAnn  wrote:
You should only TF with photographers who will benefit your port or are better than you.  Photographers who have better work than you usually won't pay you because they are providing more benefit to you than you are to them.  There are some photographers on this site who have portfolios that are better than most, so there's always a long list of top notch models who are willing to trade with them.  Why would they pay when most or all the models they're interested in working with are willing to trade?  If a beautiful model *isn't* willing to trade with them, they just move on to the next one who is.

...and then there are those who just honestly can't ever afford to pay models.

I always want better images for my port, no matter how good I get, which means I will always trade with excellent photographers.  I figure there will always be photographers who are better than me, so why not better myself (and my port) by trading with them?  Asking a photographer who's work is better than mine to pay me would just be insulting to them.

BINGO wink

Feb 18 13 07:39 am Link

Photographer

H A Z E

Posts: 82

London, England, United Kingdom

AJScalzitti wrote:
I have hired/payed a model when I simply don't want to deal with a trade.

+1

I have done some TF now and then but I would rather pay sometimes - less hassle! I just do what I want to do rather than dealing with other peoples' demands.

Feb 18 13 08:22 am Link

Photographer

Hi_Spade Photography

Posts: 897

Darlington, South Carolina, US

K E E L I N G wrote:
If I'm getting paid because of our work then the model is getting paid also, whether that be client driven or workshops.

If I'm shooting for mine and their portfolios, then no money exchanges hands... only pictures.

If I'm shooting for their portfolio then they pay me.

+1 smile

Feb 18 13 08:41 am Link