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Dekilah’s Guide to Approaching Models for TF Shoots

Okay, so you are an amateur photographer and you want to work with a model on a trade basis. Or maybe you are an award-winning landscape photographer who is new to working with models. Or maybe you have worked trade before and you are having a hard time finding more models for TF shoots. Or maybe you are just reading this because you found it.

I wrote this in response to my time in MM forums, on Facebook, and my own experiences being approached for trade work. A lot of photographers seem to have difficulty finding models for TF shoots. Or maybe they have difficulty getting the models they want to work trade with to work trade with them. This article isn’t so much about talking models into trading with you, but rather about how to approach potential trade opportunities. Of course, you cannot get every model to work trade with you. Some may not be shooting trade or may feel you need to improve your skills or are not interested in the style you are offering. But these tips should be helpful with models who are open to trade.

So without further elaboration, let’s get started. I am taking what I have read (and experiences I have had and been told about by other models) into account here. Not everything here applies to everyone, but most of these are things I’ve heard other models (along with myself) talk about over and over.

1. We care most about if we feel you can shoot photos we can use (not about how awesome you say you are). All most of us want is work we can put in our portfolios. We probably need you to be able to shoot work as good or better than what you see in our portfolios in terms of quality, lighting, etc. Side Note: And by portfolio I mean our actual portfolio, not just what we post on social media, many of us have fan bases and they may enjoy content other than what we wish to shoot for our portfolio.

2. Be nice, respectful, and courteous. We like nice people and we want to be respected. Models tend to respond poorly to a condescending attitude and we usually don’t care to be called pet names. Don’t tell us that we should feel lucky to work with you. Chances are, if that is true, we already feel that way. Treat us as a colleague, as someone you want to collaborate and work with.

3. Do not lecture us on escorts. If you have an escort policy, it should not take more than a couple sentences to explain. Please do not tell us what type of man we should date. Please do not give us examples of other situations that we would not bring an escort to and try to relate it to modeling. While some of it may be true, you really are not likely to change our minds.

4. Many of us have circumstances listed in which we will in fact shoot trade, even if we generally shoot only paid work. Some of us will trade or barter for various things. Wardrobe and shoes are a common things we’ll trade for, but there are many things and they vary greatly depending on the model. There is a group shoot event called SMP where I shoot trade, and only trade, for example.

5. Tell us why you want to work with us. Maybe you like our posing style. Maybe your like our face or our eyes and think having our look in your portfolio would be very beneficial. You do not have to say a lot, but something that lets us know you are not just going through a ton of models sending all of us the same message over and over. This really should be a given, but don’t compliment specific body parts (hair, tattoos, etc is usually okay, but saying “you have great boobs” is generally not).

6. Give us an idea what style(s) or genre(s) you want to shoot with us or ask us what we’d like to shoot. Including your portfolio link helps a lot. You could also include a brief list of any projects you have going on. Basically, let’s just get talking on what we’re going to shoot. If you don’t know yet, at least send your portfolio link and let us know you’re open to our ideas or creating a concept together.

7. If our profile/post says we do not do something, or do not do something for trade please do not ask us to do it for trade. Or if you absolutely must ask, please do so nicely and do not be offended when we decline.

8. Don’t talk us out of working with you. Do not tell us that you should be paying us or that you are not that good, but maybe we will be nice enough to shoot with you. Tell us what you have to offer. Maybe you are a student and you are working on a project, maybe the images will be in a gallery, maybe you think you have a really cool style or concept. Tell us why we would want to work with you, not why we would not.

9. Do not expect us to travel long distances for a trade shoot. Some of us will, but it is not a given. You are welcome to ask, but please don’t guilt trip us if we decline.

10. Watch what you say on social media/in forums. We read these things and it does often affect how we think of you if you’re always saying rude things, saying bad things about models, or making sexual or otherwise inappropriate comments. Most of us want to shoot trade with people we think will be nice or at least tolerable to work with.

11. We do talk to other models and most of us care how you treat them, too. A lot of us tend to stay away from photographers who we have heard bad things about, even if it’s just a photographer with a bad attitude, especially if we’ve heard these things from more than one other model. We will also often avoid photographers who have treated other models badly out of respect for our fellow models.

I’d love to hear your tips on shooting with trade with models (or models’ tips for what encourages them to shoot trade), so please leave a comment below.

If you’re interested in the model version of this, here it is: New Model Guide: Finding Photographers for Trade Shoots.

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Dekilah's Guide to Approaching Models for TF Shoots

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