The concept of fairness and entitlement in the photographer-model relationship

This topic comes up often. What is fair in the model/photographer relationship? The definitive correct answer is what is fair is whatever the people agreed to and ultimately received. Beyond that, everyone has their own concept of what is fair or unfair. Usually when one party decides something is unfair, there is usually some entitlement issues at play. That’s the flip side of the coin.

What is fair in the model/photographer relationship? The definitive correct answer is what is fair is whatever the people agreed to and ultimately received. Beyond that, everyone has their own concept of what is fair or unfair. Usually when one party decides something is unfair, there is usually some entitlement issues at play. That’s the flip side of the coin.

Trade for portfolio images

So let’s look at some typical scenarios in a trade shoot. The basic premise of most trade shoots is to produce images for portfolio use. Beyond that, there is also trade for commercial use which can include one or both parties using the end results commercially. But let’s just talk about trade for portfolio images first. If you subscribe to this concept, a group of people are collaborating to create images to market themselves. The images are used for a printed or online portfolio but they are not used for micro stock, selling clothing in a designers website, or used as paid content on the model’s website. Those shooting agency models refer to this as an unpaid test. Although this is the premise or starting point for many TF shoots, many go far beyond that.  At that point, it becomes something else altogether. Many people will pitch their shoot as a basic portfolio collaboration when in fact, they mean something beyond that. They won’t mention it because it’s in their interest to try and get something for nothing. It happens with both photographers and models. A photographer may pitch a portfolio collaboration when in fact he means a commercial stock shoot. A model may pitch a portfolio collaboration when in fact she may mean subscription content for her site. If you’re familiar with Craigslist, you have no doubt seen the “shoot my CD cover” for your portfolio ads.

A typical trade for portfolio image session scenario may contain these elements:

  1. Model signs no model release or a limited model release. Agency models typically sign no release or may issue a limited release contained in the voucher.
  2. Photographer issues non commercial image license.
  3. Everyone pays their own expenses.
  4. At minimum, the model receives a few web resolution images but may often also receive high resolution images for printing. Physical prints are typically not included.
  • Yeah, it kills me when I see (or saw, now that I’ve left) photographers on modelmayhem who think a model should be grateful for one websized photo with a watermark on it when she does a trade shoot… being able to print out photos is a huge part of working trade, to build a proper physical portfolio. Sure, many models will only ever require the web sized photos, but it’s ridiculous the photographers who would refuse a print size file or even charge the model to get it.

  • Yeah, it kills me when I see (or saw, now that I’ve left) photographers on modelmayhem who think a model should be grateful for one websized photo with a watermark on it when she does a trade shoot… being able to print out photos is a huge part of working trade, to build a proper physical portfolio. Sure, many models will only ever require the web sized photos, but it’s ridiculous the photographers who would refuse a print size file or even charge the model to get it.