There has been a long-standing debate on if photographers should give all of their images to a client. In most cases, the debate had leaned toward “No.” But what if you agree to trade a model your photography experience for their modeling? Here is my personal point of view when both parties agree to exchange their skills and collaborate on a shoot.

Benefits of trading

Trading your skills — known as a TF or Trade For shoot — is designed to help both the model and photographer build their portfolios.

Photographer’s benefits:

  • Shooting experience
  • Creative projects
  • Experiment with lighting
  • A chance for future paid shoots
  • No out-of-pocket expense for a model

Model’s benefits:

  • Images for a portfolio
  • Getting comfortable in front of the camera
  • Work on posing and expressions
  • A chance to be creative
  • Social media promotion
  • A chance for future paid shoots
  • No out-of-pocket expense for a photographer

As you can see, there are many benefits from a collaborative TF shoot. The key word I used is collaborative. The TF shoot has to benefit both parties for it to be effective — check out “How to Decide to Take It or Leave It.” So, when a photographer only gives a model some images, how is that fair? Can you see which side I’m leaning toward?

Why a photographer SHOULD give access to ALL images

I know this will ruffle a lot of feathers among some photographers. Before you shut me out, keep an open mind then comment with your thoughts.

Imagine at the end of the shoot, the model takes the memory card and said they will send you a few images to review in a couple of weeks. How is that fair? As a photographer, you want to review all the images so you can select your favorites and you want to analyze them to learn from your mistakes. This doesn’t sound like a collaborative shoot, does it? How do you think models feel when photographers do that to them!

Why photographers don’t give access to all images

The common reason I hear why most photographers don’t give access to all images is because they don’t have time to edit every image. This is a valid reason, but who is asking for you to edit every image? The answer — again, I’m going to ruffle some feathers — your ego. Let the model have access to all the images and agree not to post unedited images. If you fear they will post the images, place a watermark on the image stating they are proofs or unedited. Besides, why would a model post an unflattering image of themselves? Before you say “what if they think the image is good” but you see photography errors — unfocused eyes or bad composition — remind them unedited images are not to be posted as per your agreement before the shoot.

What if a model edits my image?

This is a tough one, and one I had to deal with. I photographed a model just starting out. She was so excited after seeing the unedited images that she thought she would help me edit the image by using an Instagram skin softening filter. You know the one that makes the skin look waxy and totally fake. She posted it on Instagram and tagged me. At the time, I was developing presets for Perfectly Clear — an image-editing software for portraits. They weren’t impressed.  I assured them she edited the image, not me. To solve the problem, I explained to her I have a certain style I’m known for and it conflicts with what she did. I asked her to change the post slightly to add me as the photographer and her as the retoucher. Problem solved, plus I learned a lesson on how to communicate better.

Still not convinced?

If you’re still not convinced to share access to all the images (minus out of focused or flash misfired images), a simple solution is to pay the model. The shoot now becomes a work for hire photo shoot. You have full control over all the images and, depending on how much you paid the model, you are under no obligation to give them any images. This solution defeats the TF concept, but in some cases — shooting stock photography, learning a new concept or a personal project — it may be worth it.

What are your thoughts?

If you made it this far, thank you for keeping an open mind — especially if you don’t agree. Please share your thoughts in the comments below. Do you agree or disagree about giving access to all images from a TF shoot?