The Pay me and TFP trap

Posted on January 31, 2013


One of the biggest things I see in this industry are models who expect to be paid large sums of money for their modeling, get images from their shoot, and have rights to the images that are created. At the other extreme, there are those models who link up with photographers through web sites like Model Mayhem, Model Insider, and the like who are just out to shoot images and look good. Neither of these extremes are very good and you want to be somewhere in the middle. I know this post will aggravate people, both photographers and models. Models must understand the market they are in, be rational and reasonable, and not burn bridges with people in the industry. Photographers also have to understand that they have to pay good talent when they need it.

Models who want to be paid large sums of money for their print modeling indicate to me that they don’t know or understand the industry here in Indiana (other locations are different). For instance, a typical clothed model will pull in $10-50 per hour for a shoot if they are independent and depending on the project, type of clothes, location, and a few other factors including client. Rarely do these models get paid much more than $300 for a day of work unless they are represented and have a contract with a company. Many of the photographers out there won’t pay models for clothed shoots because of the expense involved and if they do proper editing. I am one such photographer who does this with new models – mainly because it usually takes a year or two before I can get them to a point where they produce “paid” work quality. Something I find with these “paid” models is that they rarely care about the work that they do – it is strictly about getting paid. I also ask these models for a short test shoot with a limited (restricted) release when I want to work with someone like this. Almost always, the model won’t shoot or blows me off because they won’t work without being paid. To them, they have to be paid for everything they do. Most of these models end up on a “do not work” list for me. A small subset of these models who only want to be paid tell me that they will only work if they get paid, but yet they have images with several photographers who don’t pay anything (and continually work with those same photographers). Those models also get put on the “do not work” list, but with a notation that they choose not to work with me by their own choice. From my point of view, it is only worth their time if they get paid something because of some reason. It could be any number of reasons, but ultimately comes down to them not really wanting to work with me as a photographer, and I don’t ever want to force someone to do something they don’t want to do. Experience has also taught me that the work performed is mediocre at best when I do pay them as models.

The other extreme is only doing TF work (“time for”). Part of this is that models want to get their foot in the door and are willing to do it in exchange for prints or digital images. If they want to be paid, there are many other models who will do the work TF. This gets you stuck in the not getting paid type work. The problem here is that there is a point when a model needs to start making money from their modeling. You can’t expect to be paid instantly for your work as a model. Being paid is very important if you are planning to be represented by an agent because many agencies won’t work with a model who has too many TF assignments or has only had TF assignments. It is better to not have any jobs at all. Why? Because with TF assignments, there frequently isn’t a client and the quality of work is substantially lower than work where the models are paid. I am often told that models will do TF work when they don’t fit a classification for modeling – specifically height. If you are not 5 foot 8 inches tall, don’t try to do high fashion work. It is that simple. Instead, work on being an actress or lifestyle or commercial work instead. Height isn’t used to eliminate models from consideration and are open for all model heights for consideration.

What do you do to stay out of these two traps? First, you have to KNOW people. Always make connections with various people who you work, and get to know them. Make sure that they know you model, and keep you on their list of people to consider. This doesn’t mean photographers, but rather event coordinators at various retail outlets, designers, casting directors, and theaters. Second, when working with photographers like myself, be up front and honest with us. Be reasonable and show you understand the market you are working in. Don’t over price yourself. While it may be beneficial to work with some people at a TF rate, make sure it doesn’t become the normal rate for the photographers who you want to work and people who you don’t want to work are always paid. Third, don’t market yourself as a “model” unless you are taller than 5 foot 8 inches and have a 35 inch or smaller hip measure and are size 2 or smaller. Instead, market yourself as an actress. You will find there are more jobs out there and most pay more than high fashion models. Fourth, people who do casting want to see you. They don’t really care about you being in lots of makeup and fancy outfits. This means having images shown to prospects that fit your look and marketing goals. Finally, if you want to go direct, PAY a reputable photographer for sample images to submit to agencies. Research the person to make sure they create the images that the agencies want before you contract them. Always check them and the agencies who they work out completely before you trust them with your career. If you are having problems submitting to an agency, make sure you are submitting to the right standard and that they work with your classification as a model or actress and ethnicity. Also make sure you know what is needed for your specific classification to be submitted to them. You may only have one chance to submit to them. Make sure it is right the first time. Finally, know that there is more to being a model than someone who poses for a photographer. You need to be an actress and spokesperson, too. Make sure you keep your career balanced so you are valuable as a model.

Posted in: Modeling