Portfolio Shoots and Trading

Well the start of 2011 has taken me in a direction I didn't expect - 11 model portfolio shoots since January 9th. That's more than I did all of 2010! Not to mention - it's keeping me busy! I'm not so sure its going to stop any time soon either.

Two individual professionals (sometimes agency represented) working together - so who pays who in this case?  Well oftentimes, shoots of this sort are done on a TF (or time for print/file) basis. As in trading.  How does it work?

read on to find out - but be warned, it's a long one....

Well everyone has costs to cover. Lets go over the costs to the photographer and the costs to the model, specifically related to TF shoots. 

Models; generally arrive to a shoot with a large wardrobe selection, and for fashionable clothing - that usually doesn't come cheap.  Albeit - everyone needs to wear clothes. Period.  So in some cases they will have had that clothing in the first place. Regardless - this is the first price point to consider.

Most often, unless you are part of a large collaboration with stylists MUAs models and photographers, the model will be covering their own hair and makeup out of her pocket. Whether she does that herself, or has it professionally done is usually up to the model .  Both cost money - and vary in quality like the quality of your lenses and/or lighting modifiers. So, price point number two. 

Anyone who values their own time as money should value someone else's time as money similarly.  Being a good model is certainly a skill.  You pay a model for her time because they follow pose directions more adeptly than your average person, and they will likely have their own unique repertoire of poses and facial expressions.  Not to mention the fact that models are so often in front of cameras, that they don't usually get the awkwardness you'll associate with shooting anyone else you pick off the street.

In the same hour and same location - a photographer shooting a regular person may net only 10% of captured images as usable. With a quality model you may boost this percentage up to 30%  60% or who knows what. In turn that can drive up the value of the shoot to the photographer. Time is price point number three.

Finally there is transportation - since especially for studio shooting, it is the model who goes to the photographer. And everyone knows about the price of gas these days, so need I say more?  It's not always studio shooting though, so you could consider that the transport for both model and photographer will negate eachother. With that we will lead off into costs to the photographer.

Photographer;  Why don't I have a Canon EOS 1DsMkIII? To be blunt, because it costs to f***ing much.  When you get your first DSLR, that is only your first step through the doorway to a branded gear collection.  Proper use of quality equipment definitely shows in the finished product.

For an average location shoot (which involves less equipment than a studio shoot) I will break down the value of gear in use.  So camera, usually only one when shooting outdoors. 50D = ~$1000.  Lenses - The three that come to every portrait shoot with me are; 28f/2.8, 50f/1.8, and 70-200f/4L. Total of those - ~$1100, I may bring the 10-22mm which tosses the value up to ~$1800. Lenses and camera covered.  How about two memory cards and two camera batteries. Total about ~$300 there. So In order for me to shoot pictures of the optical quality I am accustomed to, for an average period of time being 2 hrs - runs about ~$3000.

Now what about lighting? I've known some models these days make guesses to the outcome of their shoot based on the amount of lighting being used in the set.  This can be particularly offensive to the available light photographers who can really see the ambient light differently than your average person and make beautiful things happen with it. Regardless of that, I will often show up for a shoot with my own lighting because I enjoy controlling the light.  So without going into much detail, just that I will have accessories: one or two sturdy lightstands, super-clamp, an E-TTL cord, umbrella mounts, small softbox, small umbrella, about 16 rechargeable AA's, and a round reflector. Total that somewhere around ~$400 that's being relatively conservative on the prices.
 Finally the lights themselves and their triggers, being pocket wizards - another ~$1100 right there (pocket wizards are ~$200 a piece!).
For a basic selection of gear at an outdoor or location shoot I can easily approach $5000 in gear.  That is a big price point numero uno and for the sake of this post, won't even include the costs of housing and maintaining huge amounts of data. These amounts will vary for each photographer and by the shoot of course. Since it took so long to cover, I will 'crop' the others a little.

What's next? How about time for the photographer? Like the model's repertoire of poses and expressions, the photographer has a repertoire of lighting setups, angles and their own throw on posing. These all come from experience and education, neither of which come free or easy.  What is different about the photographer's time involved in a shoot. Well unlike the model's, it isn't over when the shoot is.
For every hour of shooting, the photographer has at least another one hour waiting for him in the post processing side of the shoot.  From the organization and flagging of good-bad-neutral photos, to the polishing touch on the favorite five.  So time is a big price point number two for the photographers out there.

We covered transportation above with the models so we can leave it at these two main points for the photographer.

Making it work out;  So back to the trading time for print or file - like any trade, they work best when balanced. No one side should be losing out by doing a TF shoot.  The photographer may have more cost involved with the photo, but the model is also the one captured at that moment in time, displayed to all humanity for indefinite amounts of time with the birth of digital files and the internet.

In the end, the photographer should try to always maintain the protection of their digital negatives from the internet. I aim to have everything that is available online, watermarked. And so aim to get a good selection on a popular social networking site for use on the internet between model, photographer and stylists, etc.
Consider offering one or two files for the model to print at the appropriate resolution, from each shoot. Or print for the model and give them up at no charge, what "TFP" really stands for, or at the bare cost of printing from outside sources. 

So that's about it. I wrote this with the intent of being as objective and non-biased to any side, as possible. I am not a model and so I don't know much more of the extra consideration that may go into a shoot.  Just aimed to cover the bases as I did for the photographer.  Now for the only opinionated part of this post (leave here if you want):

I think any model charging me to take her picture better be pretty spectacular, very much in demand, well experienced with some industry professionals and have some solid exposure in one form or another to a cross section of the public I wouldn't normally have access to, just to have me consider it at this point. 

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