Paid vs. Trade Shoots

This article is written by a member of our expert community. It expresses that member’s views only. We welcome other perspectives. Here’s how to contribute to MM EDU.

Okay, so you are all waiting with bated breath for me to weigh in on this heavy trade, tfp, tfcd, pay, conundrum. If you are a model/actor/photographer then you know all shoots fall into two categories: paid and unpaid (including all trade shoots; trade for prints, CD, content, etc). If you have been living under a rock with the Geico man, then let me explain.

Models: Franchesca DC, Kirsty LingmanElena Churikova, Candace

Paid shoots (where you are paid)

Pretty simple: Someone pays you money for a photo shoot. If you are a model, you are paid to model. If you are a photographer, you are paid to take photos. This is how you make money getting paid to do what you do. I won’t talk about these shoots because everyone should be doing them. After all, how else will you get paid?

Paid shoots (where you pay someone else)

These are shoots for specific purposes. You might pay someone to take portfolio photos, because you want exclusive photos for your Web site or project, because you just want some hot photos of yourself to show your hubby and/or make all your friends jealous of how gorgeous you are. In the glitzy world of high end runway and fashion modeling, models will pay over $2000 for a portfolio.

Unpaid (trade) shoots

For these shoots the model and photographer work out some sort of equal trade. The “equality” of the trade usually depends on the relative standing/demand of each party. Both photographer and model need to bring relatively equal value to the table. So if a model is well-established, published, and recognized then he/she will usually only shoot with a brand new photographer if he/she is a friend, has amazing work, etc.

Model: Megan Daniels

Pay someone to shoot with me? No way!

Psshhhh, I have people lining up to shoot with me for free. Good for you! But are they lining up to pay you to shoot? Or pay you more? Are these “free” shoots actually getting you closer to your goal? If not, you might have reached a plateau or a sticking point in your career.

It is easy to fall into the trap that you can just keeping shooting for trade until you “make it” or when people will hire you. So when you get started as a model or photographer you need to build up your portfolio first. Most people do this by shooting trade. The model gets photos for his/her portfolio, the photographer gets photos for theirs, and everybody wins.

Don’t think that a trade shoot means “free” shoot (and yes, I’m guilty of this one as well). A trade only works when both parties bring equal value. So if both of you bring nothing, you get nothing. If both of you bring a lot, you both get a lot. But because you are on the same playing field, how can you expect that the other will boost you up to the next level? Of course, you will get experience, continue getting better, and slowly improve your portfolio. But the way to make real breakthroughs is to pay someone at that next level to shoot with you. Who shot your photo and Who is in your photo makes a huge impact to your portfolio. When you have shot a well-known model, then your credibility and network expand. When you have shot with a well-established photographer, you expand your network and also get images that are most likely of better quality than those knocking your door down to shoot with you “for free.”

For years all I did were trade shoots. I was lucky that I started with a somewhat art related background so I had a natural eye for photography. I have always been able to get trade shoots with models. And I continued to grow and get better. To me, I would never think of paying anyone for a shoot.

One of my first breakthroughs was when I paid my first model for a shoot. She was much more established than me (~25,000 followers to my… well, Twitter). Once she posted our photos people started following me, I was making connections, more established models would shoot with me, etc. That opened my eyes to the fact that when you hit a plateau or ceiling, one of the ways to break through that is to setup a paid shoot.

Of course, one of the other main reasons to pay for a shoot is when you need the shots for something specific and have certain qualifications, like if you need the content to be exclusive and the other person cannot use them, even for their portfolio. And sometimes there are just people that you want to shoot with that also add credibility to your own portfolio. I paid Megan Daniels for the honor of shooting the photo above.

Hopefully, I have convinced you that you should pay to shoot. And of course, who wouldn’t want to do a shoot where YOU get paid? Well, now I want to convince you to shoot trades as well.

Model: Mel A

Let someone shoot me for free?

Psshhhh, I have people lining up to pay to shoot me. That’s great! But there is so much more to being a “professional” model or photographer than getting paid.

When you are getting paid for a shoot you can only expect to get one thing out of that shoot: Money. That is your compensation. You can’t expect a tear sheet, great shots for your portfolio, to learn something new, or even experience from your shoot. All of those things are important parts of being a professional.

One of THE BEST reasons for doing a trade shoot is because you want to do something for a friend or colleague. I am a very giving person and I like to freely share the gifts that God has given me with my friends and family.  The above shot of Mel A was done for free and I will ALWAYS shoot her for free as long as I live and have a trigger finger.  Do you know why?  Because she is THE REASON I am starting to become successful as a glamour photographer.  When she joined a prestigious group, she told all of the girls to come to me for shots. Some of them came and shot with me. Some of their friends saw my work and shot with me. Some of the girls that I shot referred me to other people to shoot… and so on.

Ironically, sometimes becoming a better professional means taking some time to not be a professional. When we are paying for a shoot, or being paid for a shoot we have to put our game faces on and get the job done. After all, time is money. When you are established and successful, you can get in a rut and get burned out. You can grow stagnant and take the same “safe” shot or bust out the same pose. I know this has happened to me and my passion for photography turned into a job, a chore.

One of the best ways to get out of a rut and get back to enjoying what you do—like when you had your first dreams of becoming a model slash actor slash photographer—is to go back to your roots and fundamentals. And shoot some trades.

There are many great upsides to doing a trade shoot:

  • You get to shoot something YOU want to do
  • There is less pressure to do your best
  • You can expand your abilities by trying something new
  • You get a chance to work with someone you might not normally work with
  • You can get some new and updated shots for your portfolio
  • You can have fun!

To wrap things up, I strongly believe that every model/actor/photographer should shoot when they are paid, when they pay someone else, and to trade with someone else.


I am Reuben. I take pretty pictures of pretty people for Glamtography. Please do not ask me to shoot nude or implied--I always wear clothes when I shoot 😉

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127 Responses to “Paid vs. Trade Shoots”

  1. June 22, 2018 at 12:28 am, NAVEEN MALIK said:

    recently , a photographer mailed me that I’m getting shopclues shoot and magazine shoot .
    but when i wnet for shoot he ask me to pay 7000rs as a shoot fee.
    AM i going wrong? plz ans me


  2. July 07, 2015 at 10:23 pm, Sakib said:

    Obviously great information! I accept your thoughts buddy.


  3. January 03, 2015 at 9:08 am, Iconographic said:

    Great Article.. I am pushing myself to find and start charging for shoots. Thank you for posting..


  4. December 22, 2014 at 11:38 pm, Shaffy Leo said:

    I wanna have photo shoots done & get paid!


  5. December 17, 2014 at 9:40 am, Tru-Graphix Photography said:

    There really isn’t anything wrong with TF projects, especially when you have a goal in mind and are smart about it. There are a lot of folks against it for one reason or another, which is understandable, but don’t focus on the negative aspect of it and see how it can truly benefit you or the bigger picture.


  6. December 11, 2013 at 10:43 am, wri7913 said:

    I would just like to through in my experience on TFP / TFCD Shoots. I understand the point the author makes about both parties gaining something. In my situation, I am just starting out with building my port so I don’t have many models shot yet. My experience with TFP/CD has not been good so far. One model pulled a no call, no show after agreeing to shoot with me. The second model did let me know things may not work out due to issues with a third party.

    The point I would like to make is this, If you are a photographer or a model and agree to do TFP/CD Shoot, treat the job as if it were a paid shoot. Be professional, act professional and act as if this were a PAID shoot. Nothing will get you blacklisted faster than a no call no show and lazy attitude towards TFP/CD Shoots.


  7. November 16, 2013 at 12:45 pm, Stefanie Jones said:

    if a model does a TFP shoot does the model have the rights to those photos to have someone else publish them? what exactly can a model do with those photos?


  8. July 24, 2013 at 1:27 pm, Duke Morse said:

    All Good points. I do have something to add.

    Let’s face it, we all want to get paid and to whomever said that “clients pay” not models/photographers…let me clue you in on something.

    ANYONE can be a client at any time.

    Now off the the real point I wanted to make.

    For the models:

    Realistically speaking, models typically have a shelf life unless they just have an outstanding look or get famous. So therefore, TIME is working against them. Why do you think that agencies specifically search out younger and younger models? Maybe because they have a longer shelf life and can earn more $ for the agency?

    Now I have seen models who refuse to pay for images thinking that they will just do free shoots to build their book and that is fine if it works for them. I have also noticed that as they shoot and gain experience, they tend to work with and attract better and better people to work with. This is generally a slow process of working your way up the food chain and can take a few years to do.

    Do you have a few years to spare on your shelf life or do you want to actually jump start your modeling career? If you have the time to spare that is awesome, keep working your way up that food chain. If you want to jump start your modeling portfolio then I would suggest seeking out and paying the best TEAM to create the best images possible. Notice that I said TEAM, that doesn’t mean pay just the best photographer you can find, get the whole team of hair stylists, make up artists, fashion stylists, etc, on board if you want the best images. One thing you will notice is that after you do a few of these type shoots, you will get the attention of the higher ups on the food chain and possibly be able to attract the coveted trade offers from the people you want. It also allows you to charge quite a few of the people you just leap frogged over.

    So if you are okay spending years to work your way up the ladder shooting trade, that is fine. If you want to leap frog up that ladder in a few short months by paying for a shoot, that is cool too.

    For the Photographers/HMUA’s/Stylists/etc:

    The same applies to you too.

    While our shelf life is much longer than the models, you may not want to wait in line hoping to work with better people. If you are okay with taking your time and doing trade after trade in hopes of improving your book then by all means, go do it.

    If you are impatient like me, you will hire the best TEAM that you can and get your book in order in the quickest fashion you can. I have seen way too many people who have spent years spinning their wheels in the trade rut and never improving. At the same time, I have seen people hire the best talent out there and jump start their book to an elite level in 3-6 months. Just depends on how much time you have, how deep your pockets are, how far are you willing to go, and how bad do you want it?

    They say that “Time Is Money” and the less Time you have the more Money it will cost.

    Just my 2 cents 😉

    Thanks for letting me rant.

    ~Duke Morse MM#2495

    Disclaimer: Dammit Jim! I’m a photographer not a writer.


  9. July 06, 2013 at 8:25 pm, Tay Powell said:

    I’m lookinh for trade shoots in ATL GA?


  10. April 03, 2013 at 3:55 pm, RosesModels Int'l said:

    I deserve 209 hour you deserve 200 hour where’s the common ground?


  11. March 11, 2013 at 1:28 pm, Demon Comics said:

    Good article. I agree.. but it all depends. If the photographer is an artist and needs the photo’s for reference than it makes sense he pays for the sitting fee as the photo’s will be used for his/her reference. If the model requires portfolio pictures and approaches the photographer than a fee should be paid by the model. Having said that if the model pays for the photo’s or portfolio the photographer should have no royalties to those photos. Basically it’s a case by case basis…. and of course the option to do the shoot on either end for free and have the option of both using photo’s…. win/win in some cases. My thoughts. Cheers.


    • March 19, 2013 at 9:15 am, reuben dixon said:

      Thanks Demon for sharing your thoughts.


  12. March 09, 2013 at 11:28 pm, Junk Fashion said:

    You paid to shoot a BBGM? How sad.


  13. March 09, 2013 at 2:43 pm, Morgan Barnhart said:

    Very valid points here. I think it’s important to know when you’re reaching your plateau as you stated, and to adjust accordingly. I also think that it’s important to give a little when it comes to compensation because in the end, it’s a win-win for both photographer and model.

    I am just starting out, and I want to pay every single model that I shoot, but at the same time, I need a little help and I want to help other models in return by taking some nice shots for free. Hopefully soon I’ll be able to pay models and/or get clients who pay models.

    But again, there’s going to be a point for both model and photographer in which we need to start charging, but, you gotta start somewhere! Just my opinions on the matter. 🙂


    • March 19, 2013 at 9:15 am, reuben dixon said:

      Yes! Everyone has to start somewhere but keep at it!


  14. March 08, 2013 at 10:08 pm, AMaginations said:

    Great article Reuben… You hit a lot of the very basic and simple highlights when it comes down to options of shooting whether you’re a model or a photographer, amateur or established. For me, as a shooter for more than a decade, I prefer to shoot TF shoots. Why? Well I find that once money is involved, it becomes very subjective as to what someone feels their skill or time is worth. Most people feel their skill or time is worth more than it truly is. You’re only as good as your customer or client subjectively feels that you are worth no matter what line of work you are in or product you sell.

    Now, if there’s an article or some proof positive ideas on how to get a TF or a paid model to stay committed to a shoot and not pull a no-show or a late cancellation, that would be wonderful. Biggest pet peeve is those that can’t stick to a commitment the 24-48 hours prior to a shoot. Thanks!


    • March 19, 2013 at 9:14 am, reuben dixon said:

      Thanks AMaginations! I have been a fan of your work for years. Over the years I have become more adept at dealing with no-shows. Either I see it as an opportunity to work on my backlog of stuff to do or I double stack my shoots sometimes.

      Very good point about the subjectivity of “how good” someone is. I think about this all the time.


  15. March 08, 2013 at 10:42 am, TJ Curry said:

    GREAT article, I’m about to re-read it again


  16. March 08, 2013 at 5:19 am, Michael Abela Photography said:

    Any action you take, be it charging, swapping or giving for free has it pros and cons. Having said that, I do say that depending on your particular situation, in a given time and all other changing factors, one can interchange and adapt to each scenario.


  17. March 07, 2013 at 8:22 pm, Randall Morris said:

    Great article.
    I was about to give on trying to land a TF gig due to new models wanting pay even with very limited portfolios.
    I did land a TF gig the other day. I uploaded a few new pics. I felt that both of us benefited from the shoot as we are both amateurs looking to build a portfolio.
    This article along with the recent shoot has re-inspired my interest in TF work. For a noob like myself, TF is optimal. I do not have a problem with paying models, but at the same time, I am trying to buy new gear. I guess I have to get my priorities straight.
    Again, great reading.


    • March 19, 2013 at 9:11 am, reuben dixon said:

      Thanks Randall. It definitely is a process where you build up your portfolio over time, getting better with each shoot and shooting with better models.


  18. March 07, 2013 at 10:21 am, D b said:

    I love this article. An eye-opener indeed. Im going to share this.


  19. March 07, 2013 at 6:02 am, Elise Jane said:

    Very nice article! put’s some stuff in a new persective!


  20. March 07, 2013 at 2:35 am, $18263862 said:

    Good article. As a model you need to start somewhere….. Pay a photographer to get some good sedcard pictures and do a lot of TFP shoots to learn, to get experience (positive and negative as well) and to build up your portfolio. And when you work hard and build up a good name as well in your behavior an being reliable, you will get paid shoots by agencies or photographers as well, in time…. In other words: do not start demanding but start “building”. There is no model-eduction or university for this job; TFP shoots are the education and learning time. Paid job are the rewarding…..


  21. March 07, 2013 at 12:57 am, julian james wilde said:

    Rueben, First of all: you do a great job of writing and bringing to light a cople of subjects that are generally misunderstuood. The Real Problem–and this goes straight across the board–we ALL think we’re better than we really are. I think it’s the nature of the beast. Girls think they should get paid. Photographers think they should get paid. And 99% of those thinking they’re worth paying… aren’t. My own research! 😉 -JULIAN


    • March 08, 2013 at 10:01 pm, AMaginations said:

      Well played and spot on truth. Amen Julian!


    • March 10, 2013 at 9:37 pm, Danny Griffin Photo said:

      I don’t think I’m better than I am but I do think I should get paid. I mean, I have this $1500 lens and all.


    • March 19, 2013 at 9:09 am, reuben dixon said:

      Thanks Julian


  22. March 07, 2013 at 12:32 am, paul said:

    MM is a good place to start working on the craft but it is not a launch pad to paid projects. In fact I correlate it to a singles bar: a good thrill, a place to practice but you will find roughly the same types of people hanging out there and will get those same end results. If you want to get paid you need to find clients, and models, photogs, mua’s, etc are not clients we are commodities. And where are the paying clients? They sure as hell are not trolling MM for your sorry self. They have their people and it’s a club that you are on the outside of you have to try to get in, and unfortunately it really isn’t your portfolio that will get them salivating.
    In short, MM is great, just don’t plan to stay there long. Good luck.


  23. March 06, 2013 at 4:34 pm, Samonster Rose said:

    I honestly do not know why girls who have only had 5 or less photoshoots are charging photographers to take their photos !!!


  24. March 06, 2013 at 11:53 am, BlackSilk GothModel said:

    I think only an experienced model/photographer should be asking for paid shoots. There are too many inexperienced models/photographers demanding a lot of money.


    • March 13, 2013 at 2:21 am, WhamBamPhotoMa_am said:

      Hehe, agreed.


  25. January 31, 2013 at 9:36 pm, Hope Shook said:

    Hello, my name is Hope and really need to find someone to do a trade shoot with me! I am very eager to model and am wanting to start this if anyone can help me out please email me
    [email protected] thank you


  26. August 09, 2012 at 3:40 pm, disqus_sigQBUOApK said:

    I have been doing a lot of tfcd shoots, most of them good, some ok, some not so good. Out of the i-lost-count of how many models I ve worked with, I have only paid two, one for nudes, she signed a release model(btw, she tried to have me remove her photos for some legal issues she was going thru with her exhusband), the other, one of my latest, french amateur model, I was a little hesitant at first, but as soon as we started the shoot, I was impress how good she actually was.
    so to all my fellow photographers, don’t settle for just tfp or tfcd, even if the model is ok with $15-20/hr, sometimes its going to be well worth.


    • September 13, 2012 at 5:50 pm, reuben dixon said:

      Interesting experiences you’ve had. How have your shoots been going since then?


  27. August 07, 2012 at 10:41 am, Patt said:

    Very professionally stated and excellent advice.


  28. June 21, 2012 at 5:08 am, Fallon Ismail said:

    this all makes complete sense, but can i ask how you find models on the next level up that you can approach for paid work? where would you start looking?? thanks!


  29. June 21, 2012 at 2:56 am, Fallon Ismail said:

    this is a great article and i can relate to it a lot – ive done lots of tf shoots and now want to enter more paid portfolio work, so paying a higher level model makes sense. one question though, where would you find higher quality models who may provide your images with more exposure? completely stumped when attempting to look!! thanks


    • June 21, 2012 at 11:01 am, reuben dixon said:

      ModelMayhem is a great place to start. Or look through some of your favorite magazines. It really depends where you are, what type of photography you do, and your budget. If you do glamour photography, look up Heather Shanholtz. She’s been on the cover of almost everything. Tell her Reuben sent you. She’s awesome!


  30. December 30, 2011 at 11:38 pm, Equestrianlana said:

    interested in hiring a photographer for explicit artful photos with my boyfriend. Can you tell me how to go about that?


    • December 31, 2011 at 12:44 am, reuben dixon said:

      I would ask your friends for a recommendation. If you find any luck there, you can always use Model Mayhem to find a photographer 🙂 And ask them for any references.


  31. November 01, 2011 at 3:08 am, Victoriawest40 said:

    I have been doinf tfp for a while now.. I’ve got a great port put together and I’m ready to start “gaining something from it.” Best way?


  32. October 26, 2011 at 1:29 pm, Ben Alabaster said:

    I think this all boils down to “what’s in it for me?” TFP/Pay/Free all have things to take from them. Those that are in it for the product rather than in it for the models stand to make the biggest gains. For me, I’m just starting out in the world of model photography after coming in from the street and landscapes – I’ll probably do some shoots with friends and referrals to start to help me hone my techniques. There’s a lot for me to learn that’s different on this side of the field lighting, direction, make-up/hair/clothing. Until now my photography has been opportunistic, I’m now finding that I will need to do far more research than just knowing how to set the options on my camera, which filter(s) to use and where to point my lens.

    It’s a new world for me, with a lot to learn, but that’s why I’m getting into this – great article; it’s given me some new perspectives to mull over. I look forward to reading more.


  33. October 24, 2011 at 9:10 am, Shaerosemayhem said:

    Thanks for the great info !


  34. October 24, 2011 at 3:55 am, heavy port., lite gallery said:

    Why is there always and emphasise on the photographer’s and models portfolio with TF* shoots. When a trade shoot happens why are models so reluctant to sign releases so the photographer can actually use the images (gallery shows, derivative artworks, etc.).


  35. October 24, 2011 at 3:31 am, Knightlife said:

    I like the article. One of the ongoing discussions have been that if a model gets paid, then why are they expecting images as well. Their form of compensation has been monetary, so why are they expecting images as well. It’s an interesting discussion I guess. Because you’re not ever really “shooting for free.” There is always going to be at least one pic that you will use for your port (even if it’s just a party pic) and if you are working well with a model, then there will be at least one pic that they will use or post somewhere else. My tf jobs have led me to more paying work than I’ve thought I would get for someone who hasn’t been in this very long.


  36. October 23, 2011 at 12:05 am, Dave said:

    Great article. This really made great sense to me. I am going to try a few paid shoots not to see so much if I can become established as I still have much to learn, but more to see what kind of images I may be able to produce with experienced models. I think that it might really make a huge impact. Thanks for the tips! Have a blessed day!


  37. October 20, 2011 at 6:47 pm, Melissa Weist said:

    Hi, I am 41 and i just started modeling in June this year. I have 3 Children and Married. I have done many photoshoots and have gotten a lot of Experience. I am very petite, And i have Stretch marks on my Stomach. And i have noticed that going to meet and greets there are younger girls then me that have Stretch marks to, and they won’t show their Stomach, But i just let it all hang out. I’m not afraid to show it. Is that wrong of me or should i keep doing it ? I want to get out there and be somebody. I don’t like beating around the bush. I have Beautiful long leggs and Beautiful hazel Eye’s. I want people to notice me for who i am, Not who they think i want to be. I love modeling and my Photos alway’s come out Beautiful. And i am now looking for Paid Print work, fashion and Runway. Any advice on how i can get started ?


    • October 22, 2011 at 1:59 am, reuben dixon said:

      Thoughts from any other models?


    • October 30, 2011 at 12:28 pm, Zlolita70 said:

      think what you really want to do in this industry.. go mainstream or whatever else they call it. honestly determine if you’re a commercial or fashion model. then reconsider you’re port/book and you’re experience…lastly shoot with a photographer who can help you get on the right track.

      ex. if you’re more the commercial type.. then shoot similar style to catalog –, j.crew, eddie bauer…shoot for your age. or if you look young- then go 5 years younger look (styling is very important)- some smile, laughs, etc etc.

      if there’s an agency or mgmt in your area- develop your prints and go see them or email them…

      if the photographer knows people- and if you develop good relationship with the photographer, he/she can help introduce some cool clients to you- as well..



  38. October 20, 2011 at 3:57 pm, brandy anderson said:

    you have really enlightened me:) i’m hitting that point where more and more photogs are contacting me for “tf”, and i honestly don’t have time for all of them. i was wondering if i should start charging.. and i think you have answered my question.:) thank you so much. i really do feel better about my business aspect of modeling now.


    • October 22, 2011 at 1:56 am, reuben dixon said:

      Awesome!! I’d love to hear more about your thought process and your situation. It’s great being able to hear about things from the model’s perspective.


  39. October 20, 2011 at 2:29 am, Bizou Photography said:

    Well I’m a beginner model photographer in Toronto with thousands of dollars of equipment. I’m offering it up for free if a model can help me out in return. The way I see it, the photographer gets the short end of the stick let’s be honest. I’m giving no hate at all or taking sides or anything.. but you guys need to understand, just one of my lenses cost me $750. That’s just a single lens. Not even the camera, other lenses, flashes, backdrops, umbrella’s, soft boxes, lights, etc.

    Imagine someone has a dirty car. And I have a car wash worth thousands of dollars that I’m offering up for free if they want their car washed. The person says ‘I’ll come out to your free car wash if you pay me, if not, then I’m not coming’.

    If you were a VERY influential person that could get me more business, then I would pay you to come out. But the chances are you are not.

    So no hate at all, if you are a beginner or have been less than successful modeling, then there’s no harm in spending a few hours doing a free shoot. You are using facilities that costs thousands of dollars for free and you only have things to gain.. nothing to lose.

    It’s types like myself that had to front the thousands and thousands of dollars So try to look at it that way. If you HAD to say who benefits more, the model always is the benefactor, not the photographer. No hate just my opinion. 🙂


    • October 20, 2011 at 2:41 am, john slade said:

      well not to sound negative, but say you have a car wash that cost a million dollars. what can your car wash do better or differently than the one down the road that cost ten thousand dollars. also you need to ask yourself, why did you get into this business to start with. was it something you enjoyed doing or was it with a profit in mind? i do totally agree wit what you said about models putting in some time if you do the same that’s a fair exchange but as we all know it doesn’t put food on the table…yes it is true photographers spend a lot of money on equipment but a lot(not all)models spend their money at the gym, wardrobe, make up shoes, hair, nails, and even their tans all these expenses add up, plus unlike photo equipment their expense is a continual thing they deal with. sorry i didn’t mean to sound negative about your post, i was just trying to shine a light from a different direction.


      • October 20, 2011 at 3:04 am, Bizou Photography said:

        Actually my equipment is mostly to shoot weddings and such on the side. I just like photography as a hobby. But I always wanted to try my hand with models. The photography group I’m with will be looking for models all winter. The groups is probably going to have $20,000 worth of equipment combined with shoot 3 areas. All the model has to do is show up. The planning, financing, preparation, etc. etc. is all done by us.

        The facts are, the money for the model comes from real clients. We all know how few ‘real clients’ there are out there to pay out to models. These guys mostly deal with established agencies.

        Actually, back in the old days, the models would have to spend like $750 for a portfolio just to join an agency. Models should realize that those white color lenses that they see cost between $1,500 and $5,000. I think a lot of people don’t realize just how much this equipment costs.

        I just don’t feel that models should be looking at photographers to pay them. I think it’s actually a bit silly. I’d pay for travel expenses to come out and foot half the bill for hair and makeup. I think that’s more than fair.

        Maybe if we take good pics, then they can get some paid work from real clients. Or maybe I might get contacted for work and contract the models.


        • October 20, 2011 at 3:33 am, john slade said:

          I strongly agree with what you are saying. However other than the obvious model photography is a lot different than wedding work…I think a lot of the models have very little of their portfolios shot by a professional photographer. I have however seensome amazing work in portfolios. I think a lot of the models feel that they can get enough work shooting with the hobbyist or casual photographer that they don’t need to spend the money for a true portfolio. As much as I love the internet digital photos have done a great deal of harm to have having a actual print portfolio. So someone like you has a lot of money invested in their equipment doesn’t get the recognition they deserve… lets face it the digital cameras these days do a pretty good job, and that is good enough for most models. They could get a friend with a 100 dollar camera do your job for them and save around 650 dollars… I read a models profile the other day she said in there that “time is money and she doesn’t have enough either” that is the mindset these days…


          • October 20, 2011 at 4:26 am, Bizou Photography said:

            I agree. What I would do if I was serious about modeling, is I would pay a professional to make me a real portfolio. This would need hair makeup, assistants, etc. You’ll get much better results this way.

            If the model is young and/or cannot afford it (which is very understandable), then there are some people who are in the same situation who could take some good pictures who also have studio lighting. You might not get the hair and makeup, but you can get some pretty good results. If you want those great shots, you really need that glam, pro hair and makeup and that will never be for free. I’m willing to go halves on that because I know how dramatic the pics can be and it would really help both of our portfolios.

            But I would wouldn’t compare someone with studio lighting to a hundred dollar digital camera though. The pics will come out looking very different under studio lighting because of the shadows. The person who is experienced knows how to make models look flattering, etc. If they are good with computers they can do all sorts of things like smooth skin (and make it look real!) and other techniques to beautify the model. There are a lot of photographers on the site and most of the work seems to be acceptable.

            They need to realize though in the long run, they shouldn’t depend on photographers themselves to actually pay them. That’s not how the business works. Honestly I think a lot of the new models really believe that payment comes from photographers and that’s just not how things are supposed to work. Payment is actually supposed to come from real clients (like Sears for instance). Sears contacts the modeling agency, the agency discusses the models with Sears, the Sears people decide what they like. The modeling agency hires a photographer, hair, makeup, and models. Then the modeling agency bills Sears the cost of the shoot plus profit and everyone gets paid. That’s the way it’s supposed to work.

            Many of the models and photographers who aren’t getting work should work with each other to build their portfolio and skills. They say ‘practice makes perfect’ and I think that Trade photo shoots are a good thing and models should be more open to them until they are making a living from modeling 😉

          • March 06, 2013 at 8:28 pm, bosguy said:

            In general I agree, I do not mind paying a model if she has a lot more experience and can teach me new aspects of photography and getting a certain look I want for my website etc. Other wise I think tfp/tfcd is a fair trade. Unless your a top photographer working for some fashion type of magazine your probably not going to make a lot of money photographing models. I see this as way to get great shots and meeting new people in the industry. A newcomers view anyway!

          • March 18, 2015 at 8:21 am, AbiribaBoy said:

            Let’s not forget though that the cost of equipment does not automatically translate to great images. There are some photographers that create amazing images with minimal gear. I started off with point and shoot cameras coupled with photoshop before graduating to DSLRs and yes, I’ve now spent thousands upon thousands on all sorts of gear. However, I’m not a full time photographer, but I enjoy it a lot. I do mostly TF shoots with models, and I get paid to shoot weddings, portraits, families etc. I have a full time job that affords me the opportunity to invest in my creative endeavor. I’ve never paid a model for a shoot yet. The closest I came was a group shoot I attended once, but didn’t do the 1-on-1 with any of the models. If I come across a model that has a killer portfolio and they fit something that I’m interested in doing…by all means, I will pay them for their service.

      • March 07, 2013 at 7:57 am, becky said:

        you think the same as me. thanks


  40. October 19, 2011 at 7:02 pm, Inspired said:

    Amazing post, may have changed my life 🙂


    • October 19, 2011 at 10:59 pm, reuben dixon said:

      Wow, really?!?! That’s so cool! 🙂 Would love to hear how your “new life” is going and what you are changing.


  41. October 19, 2011 at 4:02 pm, Silkegabrielle said:

    Excellent article!


  42. October 19, 2011 at 3:30 pm, Brett said:

    Great info here Reuben. You really explained why paying for good shots will improve your port better than a ton of free crap.
    I do wonder what my partner and I are doing wrong then. I have spent 5 years in front of and behind cameras and he has a natural eye for great shots. We’ve got great equipment, some of the best around and know how to use it very well but we still can’t get good quality models that will work hard even when we pay them. And yes I said pay THEM. I’m starting to think they’re aren’t any good reliable models in Atlanta anymore. Furthermore almost all of these models have taken horrible shots with photogs that are merely perverts with cameras and they think that spreading they’re legs in some nasty cheap hotel room is better than what we shoot. Hell we don’t even really do nudes unless we can do them justice. The kind that Helmut Newton would approve. Hell just two days ago a so called model blew us off to go shoot the exact crap I mention here. Not to rant or soapbox at all I would just really, REALLY like to know how all these perverts with cameras get all these models that could actually do good work if they weren’t shooting with these perverts, put some clothes on and came to a real studio, reel them in. Maybe they’re just smooth talkers or maybe most of the people in Atlanta are idiots. I don’t know but anybody else out there have the same problem? Thanks a bunch and once again Reuben, you did a fantastic job here.



    • October 19, 2011 at 5:09 pm, john slade said:

      i think it’s all in how you approach the models. i have been shooting since the 80’s and have worked with models of every experience level. i have had misunderstandings very few times but all of them were worked out and everyone ended up having a good time. from my experience and talking to models over the years, i’ve learned that arrogance and attitude are what can turn a model away quicker than those so-called perverts you mentioned that are out there. also every ones interpretations of what we do is different. what you or i see as perverted might not be to everyone. don’t get me wrong there are real perverts out there, and i’m not upholding them, but don’t be so quick to judge. art-is-art. models will work for you, as long as you pay a rate they are comfortable with. usually the rate of pay is equal to there experience level…remember you get what you pay for. didn’t mean to preach, sorry.


      • October 19, 2011 at 10:01 pm, Brett said:

        Thanks John,
        I enjoyed your reply. I understand completely how arrogance and attitude will ruin everything. That’s why I know it’s not that. Oh and the perverted photog I mentioned earlier, I found out from a friend that shot with him, he asked her if he could perform oral sex on her, which he says most of the models that shoot with him ask him to do so. He has no equipment at all and no car. Sadly she said that he came highly recommended from other friends of hers. I just fail to see how he can be highly recommended and get hard working models and I can’t. Oh and I wish you could have seen these images. I don’t see how anyone could see them as art. They really are that bad. Oh and about the pay, my partner and I have overpaid just about every model we’ve ever shot because almost all of them have told us they never get paid because it always a TF print type thing. They welcome the money but always flake out somewhere down the road. Oh and we’ve come across many drug addicts too in Atlanta. I’m thinking we’re going to start going to modeling agencies and try and get talent through them. I do thank you though for your comments though and hope Reuben doesn’t get mad for us getting off track a bit. Thanks once again John,



        • October 19, 2011 at 10:24 pm, john slade said:

          i know what you mean about the drug addicts, sadly drug addiction has invaded or little part of the world. fortunately i haven’t met any from model mayhem yet. as for whatever their addiction i don’t ask a lot of questions but i do expect them to be straight and sober for our shoot. what they do any other time is their business…i used to have a lot of high end equipment and felt like i had to make a cover of a magazine. but i knew i would never be able to quit my day job, so i sold the biggest part of it. now i shoot only for the fun of it as a hobby and have never been happier. i do underwater photography and i will shoot anywhere there is water and it is safe for the model, you would think it would be hard to find models for this type of work(used to be), but if i had the money i could shoot day and night for a long time, with a different model. not bragging here so please don’t take it that way. the way i find my models who i want to work with is simple. i never judge a model by her portfolio i try to take her away from everything in the pics, and look at her, then i imagine how she would look in the pics i want to shoot. i always remember an old saying never overlook an orchid while searching for a rose. everybody goes thru what you are going thru, just don’t give up… sorry i got to preaching again


          • October 19, 2011 at 10:51 pm, reuben dixon said:

            By all means, continue! I love that questions have come up and discussions started!

  43. October 19, 2011 at 1:41 pm, PublishedGuy said:

    I think focusing on Reuben’s writing prose would be missing the point. He has some great things in this article that I agree with. Thank you Reuben for putting this out there. It’s a good article.


    • October 19, 2011 at 10:58 pm, reuben dixon said:

      Thanks. I will admit that this article wasn’t my best writing-wise. But just like photography, I’ll keep getting better!


  44. October 19, 2011 at 10:15 am, acie_imoet said:

    unfortunately there are some well-known photographer who has not tried to take advantage of opportunities to not pay the models, although I am not a lover of money but they should also have to work professionally if they need models for their portfolio, because I think all the talk can be beneficial for both.


  45. October 19, 2011 at 12:32 am, john slade said:

    the concept of a free shoot would be great, however the model is the one doing all the work, all i do is hold the camera. i would feel guilty if i didn’t pay anything, even on a trade shoot i am still letting go of the much needed green backs…how or should i say overcome these feelings?


    • October 19, 2011 at 12:54 am, Kgphoto said:

      Well one way would be to do more than just hold a camera. 😉 Use your vision, give direction, realize how many more hours are spent before and after the shoot for prepping and post production.


      • October 19, 2011 at 1:06 am, john slade said:

        oh i do, i am right there with them thru the whole thing. and i am always thinking of the end result…as far as prepping to goes with out saying. thanks for your suggestion though…it still just dont seem right for a model to work for free or only get pictures. i understand that a trade shoot is just that a trade…plus with the underwater stuff. if a model hasn’t done this before i always train them for free.


        • October 19, 2011 at 10:57 pm, reuben dixon said:

          Don’t sell yourself short, John! All Picasso did was stand there flicking a brush back and forth 🙂 I don’t even think his model gets work any more… haha 🙂


    • December 31, 2011 at 12:10 am, Rob said:

      I count not disagree more with your statement that the model is the one doing all the work. For any shoot, there is significant preparation before the shoot, whether it is preparing a set or scouting locations, each of which can take several hours. After that, there are several hours in reviewing images and editing the keepers. In between, there is coaching the model and providing feedback.

      On top of that, there is the real risk that the model is simply not up to the job, especially with beginners. Whenever I do a TF shoot, I always supply the model with the better images to help her build a portfolio, but that does not mean that I get any images that make a useful addition to my portfolio.

      From my perspective, TF is a one-way bet in favour of the model. I have had some very good TF shoots, but they are clearly the minority.


  46. October 18, 2011 at 11:06 pm, Leo Avery said:

    Ok, now this is how I do things and what I think about paid vs. TFP. I’ve been shooting for a lot of years now and I am a published photographer. I think photographers who are just starting out and want to come in with there [A] game really have to pay models in order to put together a really good portfolio. Now, you can do it with new models but the chances are not that good because new models have no experience at all or a least most of them anyway. So, in order to get to where you want to go you have to pay the best of the best. Now I’m not talking about someone who just likes taking there cloths off for money but someone who has a super strong portfolio and has really worked with some great image makers. Let me give you a few examples. A model like Kerri Taylor, Lee loo, V Nixie, Stephy C, Wendy Rider, Nikki Magnusson, Henna N, and so many more that I can’t name at this time can produce some powerful work that you will be proud to put on your page.

    Now, the other side of the coin. This is what gets me. If you are a new model and have some really bad images on your page and what $100.00hr just because you think someone wants to see you naked then don’t get mad when you don’t get the work that you thought you were. Most pro image makes have no problem getting models to shoot TFP with them. Just because models want really good images on there page are at least the serious ones any way. At where I am now if I pay a model then you know she is really, really good and has an outstanding portfolio like the models I just named. It’s really a two way street and the respect has to come both ways. This is how it works for me. No pro image maker likes to waste time or money. If you want to get paid then you have to be good but some out there will pay a model just to see them naked. They are not pros but if it works for you than more power to you.


    • October 19, 2011 at 10:55 pm, reuben dixon said:

      Exactly. Great thoughts, Leo.


    • October 20, 2011 at 5:13 am, Chrisvlinton said:

      Right on Leo. I tried to make this point to a new model and she got offended and blocked. I commented on her photo, she sent me an email, I said if you wanted to pump up your port hit me up. Her response was I’m not interested in pay photographers. I gave her an explanation similar to what you said and told her to reconsider based on the images in her port. Well she lost it at that point. Totally agree with you.


    • August 07, 2012 at 11:39 am, Ultimatefantasygirl said:

      Great reply info ,and I agree with you. I pay for Experience ,and not for some experience . I want to take my network to another level . I pay for exposure too. If you have social network followers across the board I will pay again .


      • September 13, 2012 at 5:51 pm, reuben dixon said:

        Great point about social networking. Do you have any specifics you’d mind sharing?


  47. October 18, 2011 at 9:30 pm, Chris Felices said:

    Being a complete amatuer tog, TF has certainly opened the door and allowed me in to this wonderful World. It has afforded me the opportunity to learn the basics without the pressure to perform. A lot of my previous works have been based on trial & error, and a degree of experimentation. TF has helped my confidence grow, and my network to expand. I am now at a stage where I am looking for more experienced models to help take my confidence & abilities to the next level.

    At this stage it has not been about whether I should be charging or not, but whether i should pay or not!

    Paying for more established models, one would assume that they can, and will bring more to the table; giving confidence levels a severe kick in the arse, and take a network to a whole new level. Bringing the possibilities of paid work to the fore.

    Having said that however, one can’t deny the insurmountable benefits that can be found in TF work. Trial & error, along with experimentation are things that cannot be afforded when moneys are involved. the freedom that TF offers is, i’m sure a breath of fresh air to many “professional” photogs who, by design, have their creativity stifled by the client.


    • October 19, 2011 at 10:54 pm, reuben dixon said:

      Cool, thanks for sharing that Chris!


  48. October 18, 2011 at 7:45 pm, Helium Xenon said:

    Great article and I also agree, some people are extremely anti-TF and others are not. I don’t really have a problem with either case.

    One thing I will say is that if you are a photographer and you start charging, then yes you will see a drop in the amount of work you are doing. This can be a very good thing, giving you an opportunity to plan better shots, hunt rummage sales for old gear, study retouching techniques, find locations or do other things which will enhance your work a lot and take YOU to the next level instead of spending ALL your time on people who want stuff for free. You can be very, very busy if you just do “free” stuff all the time, so busy that the quality of your work will suffer.


  49. October 18, 2011 at 7:09 pm, Sergei Rodionov said:

    I think you overly confused yourself towards second half of writeup, sorry. You starting to talk about “free”, then it suddenly turns into paid/paying then suddenly its TFP and then suddenly its both and none.

    Might consider writing a plan next time, before putting out article in the world.

    Its very hard to follow point that goes into woods, spends seven days in wilderness, then rolls around and twists like snake back to where it all started from.


  50. October 18, 2011 at 6:26 pm, Tbone2t said:

    I think it’s important to mention that trade shoots are also paid shoots, it’s just that the pay is not cash. It’s wrong to assert that someone doing a trade shoot is working for free. – Wolfy4u


  51. October 18, 2011 at 5:37 pm, Guest said:

    I have finally decided to do paid only shoots, but what happened? a sudden and stark decline in work…of course this would happen…in a world where photographers want to get paid as well…still though…I do some tfcd but only if I know I will be able to put the images in my portfolio…for the most part my area of the usa that doesn’t come too often


    • October 18, 2011 at 5:52 pm, reuben dixon said:

      Thanks for your input. Ironically, It is when I stopped looking for paid work only and just focused on writing tutorials (like these ones for ModelMayhem) and shooting things that were interesting to me (for trade) that paid work started finding me.

      Good luck finding more paid work! 🙂


  52. October 18, 2011 at 4:08 pm, Tony M1 said:

    What a great article i totally agree too !
    Do not just ask what this industry can do for you but what you can do for it !
    We all start somewhere.
    I do trade shoots too !
    Tony M1 the new guy to MM


  53. October 18, 2011 at 3:44 pm, Angel Grey said:

    Learning has taken place today, I am not at liberty to say what, but, nevertheless the cycle or pyramid of education has increased by one more. Thank you for paying it forward.


    • October 18, 2011 at 5:51 pm, reuben dixon said:

      And thank you for the encouragement and kind words 🙂


  54. October 18, 2011 at 2:19 pm, CSDewittPhotography said:

    Fantastic Article to explain why each service is provided and Used… More people need to read and understand this…. Kudos to the contributor(s) and/or writer(s).


  55. October 18, 2011 at 1:02 pm, said:

    Photographers shouldn’t pay models…the clients should.


    • November 17, 2011 at 2:37 am, Anonymous said:

      Often the photographer is the client.


      • March 13, 2013 at 2:20 am, WhamBamPhotoMa_am said:

        In art; no. The model and the world is.


  56. October 18, 2011 at 10:32 am, Zexmodel said:

    @Fatal: well not necessarily. I’ve turned down a lot of publication shots because I wasn’t interested in the photographers port. I’ve also declined a lot of paid work if the vibe isn’t right via email.

    I think it’s good how this is clarifies that trade is good. I usually get frowned at by a few friends/photographers for doing it because I’m an erotic model and people who do what I do tend to earn big bucks. They are many incredible artists who I feel it’ll be rather insulting for me to ask for money from them.

    Like they say, sometimes art is better than food.


  57. October 18, 2011 at 9:42 am, Jay said:

    I am in the unusual position of having switched from landscape and wildlife photography to shooting with models at a time when I had both time and money to spare. So for my first six months I regularly paid models to shoot with me. Not every choice was a good one but I did have the opportunity to work with some amazing models who taught me a great deal.

    I have since moved somewhere with very few full time professional models and so most of my shoots are with beginning or even first time models. And I am really noticing the difference. As Reuben said the people willing to pay me are usually the shoots I gain the least from other than financially. More and more I am coming to believe that with models you often (not always) get what you pay for. Presumably the same holds true for photographers.


    • October 18, 2011 at 5:49 pm, reuben dixon said:

      Glad to hear you had a great transition experience. Good luck finding more experienced models! I’d tell you about a great site to find them but …. 😉


  58. October 18, 2011 at 7:47 am, Jeff McNeill said:

    Great article. This is exactly what I have tried to explain to people around me. I am doing my first shoot where I pay someone. I know that adding her to my portfolio will be well worth the price I am paying her. Once again, Thanks for such a well worded article.



  59. October 18, 2011 at 7:14 am, Kaitlyn lavery said:

    how do we see your port!!?


  60. October 18, 2011 at 5:03 am, Julian Wilde said:

    That is a Flawless rundown! Hope Everyone reads this. -JULIAN

    PS. I don’t shoot nude either. Well, ONCE. But that’s another story. 😉


    • October 18, 2011 at 5:46 pm, reuben dixon said:

      Hahahahaha! That was hilarious Julian! And thanks 🙂


  61. October 18, 2011 at 4:50 am, Fil_Torres said:

    Great article!!! Please email me a copy to [email protected]

    I love you comment “Nude” Comment!!! LOL…


    • October 18, 2011 at 5:45 pm, reuben dixon said:

      LOL, thanks! You will have to ask the editor for a copy of this article.


  62. October 18, 2011 at 3:48 am, FATAL said:

    I agree, that a beginning photographer can work with an established model. It’s who the photographer works for, and what the shoot is particularly for that is most important! If he lets say, works for MAXIM Magazine, a very well known established mens magazine, well she’s going to get ample exposure for that shoot, as well as pad up her portfolio no matter who he is! Also, I noticed a lot of established models on this site always have a comment about they will no longer do tfp because they should always get paid for the shoot. Well, I guess they haven’t met me, because any favor done for me (I’m actually an entertainment producer/fashion designer/agent – the one hiring the photographer) will result in a boost in ones portfolio. It’s the only reason why I work in this business, to get people started in the various areas of entertainment (film/tv/modeling/music/etc…). I hope they take your advice! Relaxing for a bit with the right people is enough to move on to better things! Ask model Jenna Bentley, who actually never heard of me, now she’s ready to do an album. All because I work with models, and she took an interest in finding out more about me. FATAL


    • October 18, 2011 at 5:53 pm, reuben dixon said:

      Great to hear your (non-photographer/non-model) comments and thoughts!


    • March 09, 2013 at 11:29 pm, Junk Fashion said:

      Calling MAXIM a worthwhile magazine is like calling a Big Mac low calorie


  63. October 18, 2011 at 3:44 am, Fred Gerhart said:

    Great article and addresses both sides of the fence. Well written.


  64. October 18, 2011 at 3:25 am, semi234 said:

    I’m not impressed w/ how this article.

    Just to name a few reasons…its presentation is confusing to read, making comprehension difficult even for someone familiar with the subject matter; nor is it very concise (to many personal antcedotes that have little bearing on the subject at hand); it also assumes a good majority of the readership does what they do for the same exact reasons (to get paid).

    Instead of focusing on one topic & explaining it well, the article expends the energy throwing 30 things against a brick wall in the hopes of getting one thing to stick.


    • October 18, 2011 at 5:44 pm, reuben dixon said:

      I’m sorry to hear that you feel that way.


      • October 18, 2011 at 7:51 pm, semi234 said:

        If one is going to be a grammar & spelling Nazi as their SOLE basis for criticism, it helps their creditability if they actually use proper forms of words (two = to, comment’s = comments) in their retorts.


      • October 22, 2011 at 9:32 am, Rob said:

        In my day job, I run training workshops to help researchers get their work published in scientific journals. I have been doing it for over 20 years, so I have a pretty good eye for good text and bad text (I also have a Ph D) and I have to say that semi234’s comments seem totally without merit.

        The perfect text does not exist, but yours is a highly creditable effort and I hope you continue to contribute to MM in the same pleasant and helpful style as in the article above.


  65. October 18, 2011 at 2:05 am, Kgphoto said:

    I think the only point that may need clarification is that both the model and photographer do not need to bring something “equal” to the shoot. An experienced model could work with a beginning photographer and vice versa. Also a Photographer may want to shoot a very involved lighting and set and just need a pretty body to fill it. So there may be times when unequal contributors work together. However, not matter what, both parties need to get something out of the shoot that makes them glad they did it.


    • October 18, 2011 at 5:42 pm, reuben dixon said:

      I totally agree. What equals things out is what each person expects from the shoot. Both parties need to be content with what they are receiving whether that is trying out some new lighting or getting to shoot with a known photographer. Great point.


  66. September 27, 2011 at 5:58 pm, CleeIB said:

    Testing comments functionality 1-2-3!


    • October 18, 2011 at 5:05 pm, C Drzymalski said:

      Commissioned and non-commissioned.


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