Working for Trade

Hello and thank you for reading! I’m Valerie Wyndham, a Model Mayhem member for many, many years who’s very thankful to have found success with this website. It’s an honor to officially contribute here with a monthly advice column. With you, my MM friends, I will share my experiences, and the tips and tricks I’ve learned for maintaining a steady modeling career. The first thing I’d like to talk about is an area of modeling I’ve been sinking my teeth into lately in an effort to appeal to various genres of entertainment: Working for Trade (TFP, TFCD)

Model: Valerie Wyndham; Photographer: Kyle Schruder

For models just starting out, working for trade (IE: no compensation, only images exchanged for your time and effort) is very important. However I want to stress the importance of trade shoots that even the most experienced model can benefit from. Ask yourself “What is lacking in my portfolio?” I believe that a good, well rounded portfolio features as many different looks as possible. I’ll use myself as an example.

Given my background in professional wrestling (as an announcer, no I do not get into the ring much! ;)) it’s no surprise that the majority of the modeling work I was assigned fit into a specific category: “Maxim Style” as I call it. Others would call this genre “Glamour” but what it comes down to is basically the glossy, sexy shots typically found in men’s magazines. Lingerie, Bikini, Skin, Skin and more Skin! Now while I do enjoy this type of modeling (who doesn’t have fun channeling her inner Victoria’s Secret Angel?) I know that my portfolio should show more range. When I started to delve into trade shoots it was for one reason only: Portfolio Diversity.

Clients looking at your book want to see every side of you in order to properly envision you representing their brand as they see fit. If you’re at a casting for a family friendly product, those lingerie photos won’t exactly help you book the job. The same is to be said for high fashion. A client will fail to take you seriously if your portfolio is one note. So when you seek out a photographer who will work with you for trade there are a few things to consider…

Creative Collaboration

When you’re hired as a model on regular assignments it is very rare that you’ll have any creative input. Working for trade above all else should be seen as a “Creative Collaboration.” For me, this is the most exciting part. A good photographer will listen to what you’re hoping to accomplish with your shoot. As a professional it is your job to also be open to their ideas as well. Be honest and up front about what images you need for your book. If you are lucky the photographer will have great locations in mind, wardrobe suggestions and even sometimes a hair and makeup artist (MUA) on hand who is also willing to work for trade. But don’t expect ANY of this. Go into the situation knowing that with most trade shoots you are the one who will need to sort out these details. Every photographer is different. It’s important to communicate with him or her so you are on the same page. Using websites like “Pinterest” to share images you find inspirational can be very useful.

Model: Valerie Wyndham; Photographer: Kyle Schruder


One problem I hear about a lot with trade shoots is that it can be “sketchy.” When you are booking a shoot completely on your own you have to use your judgment to discern whether or not the photographer is truly wanting more experience or if they’re someone who wants to shoot models for the wrong reasons. Since there is no pay involved I feel it makes the situation a little more precarious. Other than using your own intuition I highly recommend adhering to a few basic rules before agreeing to shoot. Meeting up at a public place is always a good idea. If it’s the photographer’s preference to shoot in a studio, there is nothing wrong with having someone accompany you. Most photographers do not appreciate having someone present for the actual shoot and find it distracting – as do I – so my advice would be to have whoever is with you come say hello, check the scene out and then politely slip out when you start shooting. If a photographer is not ok with this the first time you shoot, I advise against proceeding further. Good photographers know that models in this day and age must protect themselves and will respect that. Your level of comfort should be the priority.

Mutual Benefits

The end result of a trade shoot should be mutually beneficial for you and the photographer. Most times, they too are hoping to get different looks for their book. Start a dialogue with them about what they’re hoping to achieve and don’t be afraid to confirm the very important detail of how many images you’ll receive after the shoot. This is a crucial conversation to have BEFORE you shoot. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve shot with someone for hours to only receive literally 3 or 4 photos that they deemed the “best” shots. Not every photographer will let you see every single frame and let you pick which ones are your favorites (though it’s awesome when they do) so you need to determine up front what they are willing to edit and send back to you. (PS: If you have the skills to edit your own photos you should mention it to them. Most photographers do not allow this. It is their work and usually they prefer to edit before sending over. It is important to respect that. But to politely mention that you have an interest in editing and want to try it goes back to the age old “never hurts to ask” mentality.)

Model: Valerie Wyndham; Photographer: Sophie Abbott Photography

Now that you know what to expect when working for trade… I ask you to take a moment to realize where you are. This is Model Mayhem! Literally the BEST place online to find creative individuals with similar goals in mind. As I have done in the past, you can use Model Mayhem to create a post stating what you’re looking for. Whether you choose to shoot locally (Casting Calls) or shoot when you’re traveling (Travel Notices) you can apply what you’ve learned here and find a perfect match. I’ve been lucky enough to find some super talented photographers and makeup artists not only in Florida where I currently reside but also in New York, Toronto and even London. All thanks to MM.

Best wishes to you in what I know will be the beginning of a very impressive portfolio.

Valerie Wyndham

Valerie Wyndham is an American host/model/actress of English and Welsh descent. Valerie specializes in Fashion, Glamour/Pinup and Lingerie modeling with experience in Print, Tradeshow and Fitness modeling. She is currently a feature model for ‘MuscleMag’ and is a host for “Impact Wrestling” seen every Thursday night on Spike TV. Her website is

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23 Responses to “Working for Trade”

  1. April 28, 2016 at 10:54 am, Robert Richman said:

    I can’t get any model in the area to even respond to me for TFP. I realize I don’t have a giant portfolio, but I would think I would at least get a response.


  2. February 22, 2015 at 2:31 pm, Valerie Wyndham said:

    Thank you all for the feedback! So grateful to have you here to back me up. I also appreciate the info about photographers rights. That is something that I, not being a photographer, cannot directly speak on per say. I am so glad there are pros here that can shed light on the protocol! Please follow me on Twitter @SOCALVALERIE and drop me a line anytime if there’s a specific topic you’d like to suggest for my column: [email protected]. (Plus! If I am ever in your area and you have an idea for a shoot I’m more than willing to hear.) xo


  3. January 15, 2015 at 4:07 pm, Ray Akey said:

    Great article! Also remember that by nature of people TF(P) is sometimes fickle. Sometimes there are misunderstandings because people don’t always communicate effectively. For the most part, TF has been great for everyone we have collaborated with. As a photographer, I have had only one minor negative experience with TF where a model’s boyfriend that chaperoned tried to modify the agreement between model and photographer as agreed to and adhered to on previous shoots. As result, I no longer allow non-supportive or jealous/possessive boyfriends into the shooting area. They can still chaperon, but they must wait in our proofing room or wherever else they choose, if they want to be in earshot range. Otherwise, TF has been free of issues for us. Also, Models with respect to the industry in general, do your diligence and check the references of unfamiliar photographers. Lastly, I cannot stress this next point enough.. Accusations are cheap and so is drama. For the sake of our industry, always ask the details if there are negative references or comments. I would also suggest that you tell prospective photographers you work with about any negatives you have heard. You may help him or her clear up misunderstandings they may not know of. Happy shooting and be safe everyone!


  4. January 15, 2015 at 2:14 pm, Tony Mullaney said:

    Good read, as a photographer here in Atlanta I do as many TFP shoots as possible new and experienced models, I find I learn from both. I always request a model release form and allow escorts, not always the case with paid shoots. TonyM1


  5. January 15, 2015 at 12:28 pm, Jason Salvatori said:

    I don’t see why any photographer would complain about the model bringing an escort, provided the escort sits down and shuts up when the shooting starts. The first time I’m shooting with someone, especially a less experienced person, I want the escort there for my protection as well.


  6. January 15, 2015 at 3:31 am, RGomezPhotos said:

    Excellent article Valerie. Even-handed.

    You spoke about “the conversation before the shoot”. As a photographer, I also have to stress the importance of this. I’ve talked with models to stress that a TFP is a mutual collaboration. Everyone’s time and voice is important. Everything should be agreed upon before the shoot as to how images may be used and when they will be delivered. Even better to get all terms in an eMail or better yet: a legal agreement signed by everyone. One or two sheets of papers. Simple.

    Models: Don’t be shy or afraid to discuss, suggest or ask any questions about the shoot for fear of upsetting the photographer. You can’t go wrong by being nice and professional. Personally, I love when a model has some ideas that could work. Could make the shoot better. It’s okay to disagree. Try to work it out. If the photographer gets upset and you’re getting a bad vibe, probably someone you shouldn’t work with. Simply say “Thank you, but I don’t think this is going to be a good fit”. Just don’t do it the day before the shoot, disappear or not show up. That reflects badly on you.

    Working TFP can also be a good way to network. And networking is especially crucial when starting in this business. As a photographer, I want to know as many great and dependable models I can for projects and paid gigs I may have in the future. Yes, paid definitely happens. And models can do the same for me. Just don’t do trade after trade after trade with the same photographer unless you are truly getting something worthwhile you want. Important: Some people you should network with and others you shouldn’t.

    I’ve worked with great models new and experienced that I’ve met on Model Mayhem. Many as good as any agency model I’ve worked with. Model Mayhem has been crucial in developing my portfolio especially in the beginning. It can be as much win-win as we desire. Really. There doesn’t have to be a “Me win, you lose”. I’m very grateful for Model Mayhem and the people I’ve met and worked with on it.


  7. January 14, 2015 at 6:01 pm, Jim Lewis said:

    Well, a couple of things:

    – the safety issue doesn’t necessarily increase because the arrangement is TFP. Even with pay, a model should check a photog’s references. I concur with the person checking out the scene and not disrupting the shoot. Bringing a jealous boyfriend to a lingerie shoot is also probably a bad idea.

    – I saw nothing about photo releases. I require a full model release on TFP as life happens (a model finds God or her new boyfriend doesn’t like her being a model). Just be fair with your a model release…meaning, all because you have the right to plaster a model’s image everywhere without her permission, do the right thing and talk to her before the images are sold, etc. But remember, the photographer owns the image and copyright.

    – Any photog who says you absolutely cannot get good results with TFP is obviously trying to compete financially with something they’re not offering for free. While unfair to those guys trying to pay studio rents, don’t believe it. True, good pros are used to being paid but that doesn’t mean you can’t get good images from trade.

    – I use MM for TFP castings and have very good results. If you’re not having good results, talk an honest look at your portfolio and see if you need to up your photographic game. Any model worth her/his salt is going to try and work with photogs that will maximize their time, not waste it.

    My two pesos and worth considerably less.


  8. January 14, 2015 at 5:36 pm, Patrick said:

    Nicely written article Valerie,
    I hope that the models as well as photogs will take the advice. So many thing you touched on I am sure that the photogs can appreciate.


  9. January 14, 2015 at 4:25 pm, Lawrence Keeney said:

    Nice article Valerie. I have been photographing models on a TFP basis for about 14 years. However, the past couple of years I have not been able to get models to pose for me when I want to check out a new lighting setup in my studio.

    All of my previous TFP shoots have turned out great. I always request to meet the model at a local coffee shop a few days prior to the shoot. I figure this way, if the model doesn’t like me this is an easy out for them to let me know they don’t want to do the shoot. However, of all the models I have met not one of them backed out of the shoot. I believe this meeting is a very important part of the TPF shoot, as when the model comes to the shoot it is more like meeting an old friend rather than that awkward first time meeting, and the model is much more relaxed and it really shows in the images.

    I don’t know why the reluctance lately with the models not wanting to do TFP shoots.


  10. January 14, 2015 at 4:16 pm, David Meyer said:

    I would still advise a model to plan her portfolio and pay someone to consult her ideas with her and prepare her the basics, such as polaroids, headshots and one or two looks along the lines of work she’s hoping to get. Because this way she has at least a decent start and, what is very important, something showing consistency. Personally I tend to refuse TFP requests from the models, unless they have at least some images in their portfolio, something that allows me to understand what project I can put her in. Blurry party snaps are not good enough. I do tests once in a while just for the fun of it and working with new people although even then I’d rather find a model suitable for my project and contact her myself. The problem with models asking for TFP is that they frequently either have a very vague idea of what they want to achieve and what they should focus on, or the opposite, they have a very clear idea and push towards it whilst it may be work in a direction which is of absolutely of no interest to me. There are even models who don’t put any effort in writing the message properly or to introduce themselves. Which for me is a big no. That being said, I’m always open for good ideas and propositions. I just want to know, what value that model is bringing to the table. There are plenty of pretty girls out there. But I want to shoot with people who mean business and not people who are just fooling around. Even, or maybe even more so, when I’m doing a test shoot.


  11. January 14, 2015 at 3:11 pm, David said:

    I must agree with Jason C. I am finding it impossible to get a model through MM to respond to a TFP request. Sure would be nice for some model to give of her time and talent to meet with at least one TFP a month as her schedule allowed. I believe it would be a great thing to help each other out this way, in the least encourage those who want to improve their portfolios…


  12. January 14, 2015 at 2:25 pm, Jason C. said:

    Glad you posted this. I’ve found it virtually impossible to find a model to help me build my portfolio on trade. I’m totally willing to meet in advance in a coffee shop, edit images, get a MUA and more, but never get any bites. It’d be great if burgeoning models and burgeoning photographers got together to shoot and help each other out. Not my experience so far.


    • January 14, 2015 at 4:32 pm, David Meyer said:

      Can’t see your portfolio, so I can’t say if there is something you could build upon already there. When I started shooting portraits, I didn’t actually have any photos of people in my portfolio. just flowers, bugs and stuff like that.
      But, maybe you could do a few things: 1. Shoot some relatives and friends (sign the release with them anyway) to start with. 2. Post advertisement somewhere that you are doing TFP shoots to build your portfolio up. 3. Approach some models with no photos other than blurry party snaps in their port (and brace yourself for a lot of rubbish images getting out of your camera, models not turning up or not being great a t posing) 4. In your messages be brief and polite, introduce yourself, offer a shoot (have some mood boards, location and reference images at hand) with some idea for it, ask her to bring somebody to accompany her. 5. Prepare for lack of response or broken communication in many cases. 5. Instead of posing, have a relaxed chat whilst shooting. Just ensure they are not squeezing their arms against their body, not giving themselves double chin, that there is no rubbish in the foreground and background and that areas underneath her eyes are properly lit. 6. Avoid retouching other than global adjustments and healing brush. Limit the amount of photos you’re giving her to maximum 5. 7. Deliver the photos back on time.


  13. January 14, 2015 at 2:03 pm, Beto Alanís said:

    what about the rights? can the photographer and/or model use the images commercially more than just portfolio? I know it will depend on each agreement, but I’d like to know your opinion on that, as most of this article is based on “what generally happens”.


    • January 14, 2015 at 3:30 pm, Aaron K said:

      No. Photos from TFP shoots should never be used for any commercial purpose unless both the photographer and the model give written consent for such use, and both the photographer and the model are paid a fair and reasonable amount by the end user.


    • January 14, 2015 at 4:20 pm, David Meyer said:

      My policy is that if the shoot is TFP, the main goal is for the photos to be used for marketing purposes (portfolio, social media, website etc.). The model doesn’t get to publish or sell the photos without my consent. However, if I have somebody interested in buying a photo of her, she get’s a cut after the sale. If she was paid for the shoot, she will still get some images from me, but she doesn’t get a cut from any work I manage to sell.


      • January 14, 2015 at 4:25 pm, Beto Alanís said:

        This is an awesome answer, thanks a lot, it makes me understand the situation a whole lot better. What would a fair cut be? 20, 30, 50%?


        • January 14, 2015 at 4:47 pm, David Meyer said:

          I consider each shoot to be done with a whole team, so the cut depends on what roles people take on (each role is 10%). If her role is to turn up and pose, it’s 10%. If she does her own makeup, another 10% and so on. And typically, you take on several roles as well (photographer, retoucher, admin, art director etc). But, this is just my idea and what I do. I’m not saying everybody should start doing the same. In general, I tend to avoid selling images obtained as a result of a TFP shoot, and it doesn’t happen frequently that I sell them. But I believe in the value of sharing good stuff with people when it happens.


  14. January 14, 2015 at 1:23 pm, Adwb said:

    Very good and important information for both models and photographers , I’m glad to see I fall in the style of the photographers you recommend, I had this very conversation with a model today in my studio to prepair for a shoot with her this Saturday on a TFP basis. We decided on themes, clothes, and I always offer all the images via Dropbox to the model to select her favs for enhancement along with the ones I have chosen, final ones all hi -res supplied on DVDs to the model.


    • January 14, 2015 at 4:33 pm, Beto Alanís said:

      Awesome approach, I will do so myself, thanks for sharing 🙂


  15. January 14, 2015 at 8:36 am, Amalia Ritch said:

    Thanks for sharing Valerie! I’ve found a lot of joy in modeling, but sometimes we forget that diversity is what really has us stand-out season after season. I’m still very new to this but will be considering what kinds of shoots I do moving forward.


  16. January 10, 2015 at 12:24 pm, Ryan Cooper said:

    Great article, and pretty dead on. I might be just nitpicking verbiage but you mentioned “models in this day and age must protect themselves” which I agree with but I just wanted to point out that it really has nothing to do with “this day and age”. Models should always protect themselves but we should all be comforted in knowing that “this day and age” is the safest day and age in the history of mankind.


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