James Patrick Photography landscape photoIt doesn’t happen often, but every now and then a model will send me a message to inquire if I am willing to offer them a TFP photo shoot. Their responses vary slightly calling it “Trade for Print” or “Time for Print” or “Trade for Photos” but the gist is always the same – they are inquiring if I am willing to give them a photo shoot at no cost.

My response, albeit slightly snarky, is unwavering. “Okay, you get photos, what are you trading me?”

Typically a bit surprised or taken back they reply with “Well, you get the photos too.”

But I always get the photos. Regardless if I charge someone or not, I still get the photos. As a photographer I own copyright of anything I photograph as soon as my finger clicks the shutter button. So why, as a professionally, would I forgo making money in exchange for getting someone I would have already which is the rights to use the photos?

I get and understand that amateurs may be willing to hire professionals or trade with others to grow their portfolios. I did that when I started. But here is the key – they are getting images they are not presently being hired for.

When someone contacts me and asks for a trade, they are asking me to give images that thousands of others are already paying me for. Why would I offer that for free, ever? How does it ever benefit me?

Images I am willing to shoot without payment, more often than not, don’t really involve models at all. I started a personal campaign of photographing portraits of veterans. There is no exchange of finances – but I am doing work that satisfies the artistic side of me. When I go camping and make images of the scenic landscapes I find, once again there is no exchange of revenue. I am just making images I could not otherwise.

I am not saying I will never, or have never, given a free photo shoot to a model. But there has to be something in it for me to make it a trade. If the model is getting photos, what is the photographer getting? Offering what I get anyway is not the solution. It is like one kid asking to trade baseball cards with another but really just wants to get more cards and give none.

So what are you offering? Quick hint, it is not offering sexier images. That is a sure-fire way to get your e-mail deleted. If that works on a photographer – I’d encourage you to be worried at their motives.

Perhaps offer a style of photography they want to try but never have that you could provide for them. If that doesn’t work – consider just paying them for the images you personally want.

James Patrick
IG @jpatrickphoto