I’ve been behind the camera for some time now and have worked with hundreds of models. For every model I have worked with, at least three say they want a session but never follow through. There are a variety of reasons that only 25% end up in front of my camera. They range from basic “life issues” to the infamous “no-call, no show”. The most popular reason of late has been their desire to shoot on trade…without trading.
How Trade Shoots Work
An amazing model demands a high rate. A talented photographer is expensive. A trade shoot occurs when both parties see value in a collaboration. They agree it is worth trading their time and talent with each other. This is usually called “TFP” or “Time For Prints”. Variations, like TFCD or even TF*, are seen, but they basically mean the same thing. Instead of one party paying the other, they find common ground that helps each add something new to their portfolio.
The single largest investments for any session is time. Discussing the session. Preparing and gathering materials. Packing the car. Driving somewhere. My rule of thumb is that for every hour of photography, I spend one in preparation and another in post-production. The same applies to models, usually weighted to the preparation side. This doesn’t consider months and years of work to get to their respective levels of experience.
Breaking The Equation
Lately, this has become a one-sided equation. Models literally point at images in my portfolio saying they want to be in that picture. They like my work and they want to recreate one of my standards. That’s great! Let’s do it! Now, what are we going to shoot for my portfolio?
I suggest something and they quote their modeling rates. They clearly see something to gain from my work, but they show no interest in producing work for me in exchange. I already have that shot. The model was inspired by my existing portfolio. If I’m inspired by their portfolio, I am expected to pay.
I am hopeful that this is a temporary glitch in the matrix. If the word “trade” now means that what I do for you should be good enough for me, then it is time to step out.
On a related topic, if you still want me to reproduce my own work with you as the subject, I will trade for Benjamin.