Simple Math: Trade Shoot Equations

Random Arrows (Trade Shoot)

Shortly before “The Lockdown”, I found myself in the middle of some rather interesting conversations. That trend seems to be continuing, so I thought I would take a moment to discuss the simple math of how a trade shoot (aka TFP, TF*, etc) typically works in the model/photographer industry.

Basic Trade Shoot Math

A trade shoot is generally defined as an agreement between individuals to trade services with one another towards a common goal. This could be just a model and a photographer. It may also include designers, makeup artists, stylists, and more. The more the merrier! Regardless, each party is agreeing to provide a piece of a larger puzzle in return for some part of the finished product: Photos!

In plain English, using the most common trade, a model and photographer work together to produce images that both can use. The model shows up ready to strike a pose. The photographer takes photos. They both put in hours before and/or after the session to make it happen. The photographer returns a certain number of edited images to the model in a reasonable time frame. Both the model and photographer have images to share. When they share, they typically make sure they are drawing attention to the other party, too.

Quick Formula Review

Model Poses + Photographer Shoots = Images for Both

The trade is agreed to before the session. The model knows what to expect. The photographer delivers images in a timely fashion. Speaking as a photographer, if it is taking more than two weeks to deliver edited images, something is up. Proof images should be available for review within 24-48 hours in most cases. Editing simply shouldn’t take that long. An experienced wedding photographer can deliver 400+ edited images and a ready-for-print album proof in a month. A photographer promising you a dozen or so images should be able to easily match that timeline.

New Math?

Back to those interesting conversations I mentioned. More than once, I’ve been approached by models who wanted to shoot for trade and they have used what I’ll call “New Math”. It comes in two forms.

First, there is the “Moving Target”. The model agrees to shoot 2-3 sets of a specific genre. Everything is set except for place and time. Then, they want to bring a friend to model as well. Can we shoot in this location and give the owner some images, too? They’ll be using them for advertisements for their business. If we can squeeze in headshots for their employees, too, that would be great!

Second is basically a Bait-and-Switch. Again, we’ve agreed what to shoot, something that will add to both of our portfolios. Suddenly, they want to shoot a set that matches my normal, paid work already prevalent in my portfolio. Sure, if we can also add a set for me that is in your wheelhouse? Nope. I am given the model’s rate because they “already do that for pay” and, somehow, the fact they just asked me to do what is normally paid work for them doesn’t matter.

Bottom Line

I’m a generally laid back, amenable guy. I love photography and enjoy working with new talent. Provide an excuse to work with you and I’ll usually find a way. All I ask is that it be a creative collaboration. Well, that and being professional enough not to launch into a misplaced, profanity-laced tirade that involves physical threats. That’s not cool.

Am I missing some new paradigm or is it just me? Let me know what you think in the comments.

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