Gas Money for Local Models

Posted on February 22, 2017


Something that I have seen become very popular with models shooting TFP (or “Time For”)  with photographers today is to ask for “gas money” after agreeing to do a shoot as TFP. First, let’s weed out those individuals who are 25 miles or more away. Asking for gas money at those greater distances makes perfect sense, and I personally have paid the models or in some cases, even gone to pick them up at their location. Instead, what I am talking about are the local models who don’t drive too far (less than 25 miles round trip). In the past six months, I have had local models who travel less than 10 miles round trip ask for gas money and expect $20 to $40 for gas money on TFP shoots. When told that I don’t pay “gas money” for this short of distance, the model quickly backs out of the shoot (usually in the week immediately prior to the shoot itself). This happened again with a model for a Meet and Greet event, and I was expected to pay because I was the one who invited her. She wasn’t being charged anything to attend, although I was informed by another photographer that she attended a meet and greet within the past week where it is pay to attend (unless you have worked in the studio over the past month).  She even did full nudes there according to that same photographer. This meet and greet event didn’t even include having to do nudes (we haven’t done them at the event so far). So, as a photographer, I am confused what is going on and why gas money is needed to go to a meet and greet event with several photographers.

One photographer mentioned that this money was wanted to purchase cigarettes, alcohol, drugs, and/or condoms [ed: he later said he said it as a joke, not being serious]. My interpretation of this statement is that the money is for “fun” by using the definition of many of my college level students at one time who said that was the only ‘fun’ things to do.  Other photographer comments aren’t much more than single words, most being about four letters long. If you are a photographer, I am curious to hear your comments on this and why you pay local models “gas money”.

In this special case of a local model who agrees to do TFP and go to the meet and greet, I personally take offense to this. Gas money of $20 for 10 miles of travel? The IRS states that their allowance is $0.54 per mile for business (or $5.40 for 10 miles). So, even if you pay someone “gas money”, anything above their allowance counts as income and if your income from one individual exceeds $600, then the person paying it must file a 1099 with the IRS (not that photographers do this always, and may be subject to penalties if they don’t). Looking at it just from a MPG perspective, 10 miles is about $1.00 (assuming 20 MPG average). A model will not go to a shoot for $1.00?

Why do I find it offensive? This is because working with people, you can learn a lot. On projects that are TFP, I view them as a collaboration between the model and photographer. For an fairly inexperienced model, this devaluation of the value I contribute to the work created, the teaching I do for them, and the prep/post work is worth nothing to them. They basically tell me that they think that they contribute more than I do or provide more than I do.  I don’t intend to argue this here in the blog, but I have had LOTS of training and put out a significant amount of money for equipment to create images like I do. Photography I shoot isn’t just a “click the shutter” and you are done. This training and experience is where the model can learn a lot. Apparently, someone who is like me has nothing they can learn from and they think they will teach me, someone who has worked on the East coast including New York. There are also almost always costs involved with a shoot. My daughter, when she modeled, would cost me around $300 to $500 for each shoot she did because it is expected of models to pick up those costs (and because of my experience with her modeling, I rarely pick up those expenses any more). But, at the same time, there are expenses for the photographer. Don’t forget that we have costs and “gas” to get to the shoot, too.  The point here is that it is agreed to be TFP, then the model wants TFP + now an excessive amount of gas money. This is why it is offensive. Had the model stated that she were running low on money until her next paycheck and needed $2 or $3 to cover gas, this wouldn’t have been offensive.  As with everyone who has done this to me, “I don’t shoot unless the gas is payed for” and then promptly states an unreasonable amount for 10 miles (her round trip). They then wait until the week before to let me know that they won’t be doing the shoot because I am not paying their “Gas Money”.

I should also state something else that many forget as models. If you are paid, you don’t get the images. Do some of us provide a couple “thank you” images? Yes, we do. But, if the model wants images, the model won’t get paid. Sort of a choose one: paid or images. And yes, a few people will give models almost all the edited images when the model is paid, but that is the exception (usually really poor quality images are returned, I might add). Just the same with TFP, there will be a reasonable amount of images for the time I work with a model actually shooting and it doesn’t mean that every image from the shoot will be edited and given to the model.

If you are a model, please message me if you can explain why models ask for “gas money” and even more so if you are a model who asks for “gas money” and you are local to the photographer.

Update: 27 Feb 2017

After hearing several comments from various people, I thought I would add some more information about yet another time this happened. In this situation, it was a test shoot with this model, and she seemed to shoot mostly bathing suits with other photographers. From what she told me, she didn’t want to shoot bathing suits and wanted to do something more like a “real” model with some real clothes and not a bathing suit. When I looked at her portfolio online, it was very heavily weighted on bathing suit types of shoots. I wanted a full length skirt and fully covering blouse. Since it was a test shoot, I planned to shoot for about an hour. When we shot, she indicated to me that she is always paid and at least “gas money” during the shoot and while we were shooting. I immediately stopped shooting and we waited for her husband to return to pick her up. Again, this is yet another time that a model does something to offend me in their actions. In all fairness, I don’t know how much she wanted for gas money, but round trip to her apartment was about 2.5 miles. What should I give her for “gas money”? A quarter? Maybe a few bucks? I don’t know. I attempted to do a shoot with her but she was “busy” when I asked, and after about two months, she unfriended me so I have to take it that she doesn’t want to work with me again.

My point in putting these up here is to let models, who read this blog, get to know things like this that bother photographers. Most people who shoot don’t have a budget of any kind. You will mostly, today, deal with people who are starting out and learning or they just want porn images. That is an article for a different time. “Gas Money” for me, as a photographer, is meant to offset undue travel expenses in getting to where I am shooting. It is not intended for someone to go to work and pay every little cost that they have. I understand that the model wants to be paid, but me working with these models really adds very little to my portfolio that I present to others. So, when a model wants to be paid, there are two questions in my mind: a) What will working with them add to my portfolio, and b) is there an undue distance to travel to shoot. I haven’t included when a client wants them to work because more often than not, these are the first time that I work with them. I don’t just any model work  with a client without knowing that the model can do the work required before letting them actually work with one of my clients. Adding to my portfolio is meaning that they will create something good and lasting that I can present as my work with them and the model looks like a professional model. Their modeling work MUST be at my level or better to be paid. The distance part was already covered earlier in this post.

Let me mention that two photographers admitted to paying the models “gas money”, one indicating that they would never again do this (and haven’t since that first model). Another indicated that they paid them because they wanted “gas money” and it was their tax problem to deal with being paid the “gas money”. That was the best I could get from him, but wasn’t clear why he would pay a model $40 for gas money who is just 5 to 10 miles down the road. He never answered. As for the models that responded, the nicest thing said was “What an idiot!”. I won’t go into the other things that were said. Of the models who did promo work, they wondered why any model would be expected to be paid gas money because they travel very long distances and never get any mileage paid for the distances that they travel. That is just part of the rate they charge.

If you can illuminate me a bit more on this practice, please message me. Maybe you can present it in a way that makes sense why any local model would want gas money.

Posted in: Modeling