It is a Free For All

Posted on July 7, 2014


One thing in this industry that you will constantly hear is how you need to work for free. Several models take this out on me every so often, that they aren’t making the money they expected as a model. Often, photographers say the same thing. You get tired of hearing it all the time. With both of these situations, the one thing that I can say is that this is what we expect with the number of people who call themselves “models” and people who call themselves “photographers”. Both are a consequence of digital imaging and how inexpensive it is to create images. That is a good thing and can be a bad thing.

The good is that more people can be models and photographers – meaning that there is a lot more opportunity. I often see many more new faces a year than ever before, and just as quickly as they come, those same faces are gone. This also means that consumers can choose from more images being created, and that there is a lot more variety out there.

The bad is that there are many more images being created and so many, that it is hard to filter them all to choose what I want to see. There are literally billions of sources of images of any kind you pretty much want.  This also means that with such a supply, there are very few people who are willing to “pay” for images. Five years ago, I could get $25-$100 for an image used in a magazine or book. Now, everyone expects the images to be “free” for use and that the publicity alone should be worth doing the job they want. While this is what is going on, I find it hard to swallow a $1,000-$5,000 bill to just submit for publication, and no guaranty of being printed. Since this is a magazine shoot we are talking about, the images have to be under wraps until they are published. Often, the magazine will want exclusivity, too. When you add this all up, I have to wonder if it is worth this cost.

As a model, the number one thing I hear is how they want paying work. I can tell you that the majority of photographers who are out there can’t afford to pay models in this economy. Gone are the days I didn’t think twice about it. Today, it is completely different. If you want to model for a photographer, you won’t ever get paid. It just won’t happen. Where you get paid is building a “fan” group up, and selling your images to them. The fan group should include corporate and personal people. Corporate is where you get hired to work on a project, usually advertising of some kind. Personal is selling directly to end consumers – usually posters, calendars, and signed prints. They both go hand in hand – you won’t get corporate deals until you have a solid “personal” consumer who is following you and that the corporate entity sees a market by using you to market their products. If you don’t have a large enough following, then you need to keep working at building that following. Introduce yourself to other people – specifically art directors and people in business. Take time every day working on building that following. If you have enough people follow you, you will get paid. Don’t keep bothering photographers who can’t afford to pay you. Bugging the same photographers who won’t pay you will get you no where fast. Yes, you can get published in a magazine or book or similar, but it isn’t something you can make a living.  In my case, I no longer pay models in general. Why? Because I can’t recover that cost. If I have a client who needs a model, I am right there for the model, but it is up to the client to pay the model, not me.

As a model, I hope you can understand that not all photographers can pay their models. Many (almost all) no longer pay them. In order to get paid, it takes work – you have to go out and build a following of people behind you. This should include individuals and corporate people. They should also include art directors and others who do hire people to do work. Once you have a good following, people will want to work with you and pay you.

Posted in: Modeling, Photography