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New Model Guide: Paying Photographers & Who to Trade With

Dekilah's New Model Guide: Paying Photographers and Who to Trade With

A lot of newer models start out being told they need to:

  1. Pay photographers to build a portfolio or they won’t succeed.
  2. Shoot TF/trade with only the best photographers or they won’t succeed.

Both of those pieces of advice are at least a little misguided and they are not solid advice for most of the models starting out. I’m not saying that these two pieces of advice are totally wrong, I just think they’ve left some important bits out and they need a bit more information included so I’d like to help you understand the bigger picture.

Let’s start with the idea that you’ll only succeed if you pay photographers. What I think people mean when they say this is that it can be faster to build a quality portfolio if you hire quality, professional photographers with the skills to shoot solid portfolio-worthy images with you. This can be challenging because there is no shortage of photographers who will tell you they can shoot these images for you, but only a few of them may be able to actually give you what you need. I think that paying the right photographers can definitely be worth it and it can be a great boost as long as you do your research. If you are interested and able to hire a photographer, find a couple local experienced models in the genres you would like to shoot and ask them for recommendations on who to hire. 

I will also tell you that it is possible to be successful and not to pay photographers. However, it will probably take longer to build your portfolio and you’re going to have to be more dedicated to going after what you want specifically. This is how I did things because I was not able to pay photographers and I can tell you from experience that there is a lot more trial and error, patience, and dedication required to go this route.

I can’t really say one of these or the other is better or worse. You have to decide what is best for you and your situation.

Now let’s talk about the idea that you should only trade/shoot TF with the best photographers in your area. What I believe this really should say is that you should shoot trade with the best photographers available to you and not to take trade offers that do not benefit you.

If you are shooting trade it should always benefit you, but keep in mind that the other person will want the trade to benefit them too. This means that if you are a brand new model, chances are the best of the best are not going to be willing to shoot with you for trade. People usually trade with those who are at about the same level they are, so very experienced photographers may not see much benefit in shooting with a brand new model. Similarly, when you are first starting out you may end up shooting with photographers who are decent, but not great. As long as they are shooting something that you think is better than what you currently have and it’s in a style that you want to pursue, it can be worth it to shoot with them.

It is also quite likely that you might do a mixture of both hiring photographers and shooting trade. Maybe you might do a few trade shoots to see if you really want to pursue modeling and then hire a photographer or two to boost your portfolio. Or maybe you might hire a photographer or two to get a foundation for your portfolio, then you can trade with some other photographers. Or any of a number of other combinations. I know plenty of models who did a lot of trade and weren’t able to pay until they got more successful, but then they would hire skilled photographers to help keep their portfolios updated.

So in conclusion:

  • Paying a photographer to help you boost your portfolio is a great option as long as you choose someone who can help you meet your goals.
  • You should be selective in shooting trade, but be open to trading with anyone who can help improve your portfolio.

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