Time and ownership of images

Posted on September 22, 2011


If there is one thing a model almost always wants, it is copies of their images that were captured. I frequently hear from models to “hurry up” or “Why aren’t the images edited the next day?”. This was never an issue until about 10 years ago, as models never minded the wait and understood it would take a little time to get them copies of the prints. Something else that changed at the same time was that models who are paid want their images, too. These images are then used for just about anything and include being edited by the model when their license forbids editing. This blog entry will cover a little about this from a photographer’s perspective. Keep in mind that business works on the premise that there is a return on investment. Paying you as a model is an investment.

First, editing an image isn’t usually a quick process for most photographers. Yes, there are a few who really don’t edit the images they take very much. One fashion photographer I know frequently brags about doing 400 plus images in about five minutes. To me, that is a rarity. He has learned to do almost no editing on his images because if he didn’t, he would never stay up with things like New York Fashion week and other non-stop events. The type work you do as a model isn’t going to be like a runway show – images will require more editing than this. The best at editing images can do about six images an hour for basic editing. When you start doing very specialized editing, this time goes up. A typical image being edited for a female that I shoot will take at least an hour, and often around two. This doesn’t necessarily have to be the model who is edited. In studio shoots, it is frequently the background that needs editing or the props. For some models, I may spend even longer times. One model who I repainted her face took 14 hours to edit just the one image – a head shot – but the end result was really great and what needed to be done. Know that good editing takes time to perform. Also know that a photographer doesn’t just click and output images. As a model, you see only the shooting time. As a photographer, for every hour spent shooting, usually there is an additional five to ten hours of work at the minimum in preparation and post processing work outside the shoot.

The next thing to know is that photographers have priorities on the images they take. My priorities are paying customers always get the first priority. As a photographer, you would expect this. Next, TF* work – work where I exchange my services in order to work with the client. The last is paid work and not for a client. Paid work isn’t when I pay the model for travel expenses, which I have tried to do in the past. Paid work is when the model wants and hourly rate to do their modeling. In very rare instances, I have paid models in the past, most have been when a client wants a specific look and they paid for the model. If you have read my previous entries, you will see that others determine your worth as a model. Work with clients is one of those ways that your worth goes up. Remember that other photographers may have other priorities, but most will be similar to mine: paying customers, TF*; paid models.

While I am mentioning paid models, there is another trend that has occurred in the past ten years: the expectation of paid models to always get images. I am not exactly sure when this happened. This is one of those pet peeves that I have because it shows a lack of respect to the photographer and the work that a model does. When you work as a model, you will pay a photographer or trade services for images. If you are paid as a model, don’t assume you will automatically get all the images you want from a shoot. You are being paid a rate to do your job, and images created aren’t one of those benefits. Most photographers will be generous if they can and provide some images. The assumption that you will get any number of editing images from a shoot as a paid model is a slap in the face to everyone around you. This demonstrates a lack of understanding about the industry, and makes you come off as a diva. Paid work occurs because someone is willing to pay you. It isn’t that you are such a wonderful person as a model, and people will pay you for your presence to photograph you. This may sound harsh, but if you read this correctly, and think about it, you can see how this comes off to the people who you are working as a model. For a photographer who provides everything you need as a model (the outfits, makeup, jewelry, etc. – all costs in doing the shoot), there isn’t an excuse for this type of demanding or behavior. Worse, a few models have done this in front of my clients. After selecting you as the model, you should talk to the photographer alone (ie-not in front of the client) if there is a concern. Demanding images in front of the photographer’s clients only makes you and the photographer look bad, and makes your worth as a model go down. The work that I have done for some of them, I didn’t have the rights to the images that were created – the ownership went directly to my client. The only thing I had a right to claim was finding the used images in advertisements or brochures after the fact, and indicating that I shot those iamges (ie-tear sheets). As a model, you will have the same task… Finding those images in their use, and collecting your own tear sheets. The worst behavior is the model who expects to be paid a huge hourly rate, and demands all the rights to the images, leaving none for the photographer. Why would a photographer or client want to work with you as a model if you are like this? Yes, I am afraid some models are this demanding.

There are some photographers who would pay people as models to just shoot them, but think about this. Why would anyone just shoot you as a model for their own collection of images? It isn’t likely unless they are just starting out as a photographer, and need experience shooting an experienced model. Outside of this, the only reason you would be paid would be that they expect a return on the money they invest in your modeling – either in work for a client or to sell the images in some way to someone (such as stock images or fine art prints). People won’t just pay you to take your image unless they can recover what they pay you.

My point in writing this is so that you, as a model, know that there is a lot of work behind the scenes with images that are created. It would be great to not have the additional work, but this isn’t reality. There is a lot of time spent on images and creating them outside what you see as a model just during a shoot. Photographers have priorities, and those priorities don’t have every model they are working with at the top of their list. Their paying clients are at the top of their list. If you are a paid model, don’t demand or expect to get images from the photographer as the photographer might not have the rights to give out images. Most photographers are reasonable people and will provide you with a few images for your book and online portfolio if they are able. Know that paid work is because there is typically clients involved, and demanding images in front of the client only makes you look bad and decreases your worth as a model. Good models earn a living because people are willing to pay for their services as a model, and there is a return on the money they spend on you as a model.

Edit: And, if you really want to get into trouble and annoy a photographer, digitally edit an image without permission. That will really get them furious with you.