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  • Brian V. Berry

How Trade Agreements are Killing Model Photography in Hawaii

Updated: Dec 10, 2020

How Trade Agreements are Killing Model Photography in Hawaii

If you haven’t heard of the term ‘trade agreement” before, let me enlighten you… It’s usually an agreement between a model and photographer/artist, which is used to trade time posing (by the model) for images produced by the photographer. It’s that simple! Acronyms like TFP (Time for Pictures) or TTI (Time for Images) are used for this type of agreement as well. Typically, these agreements are not commercial in nature (no money changing hands) and the images produced are to be used by, both, the model and photographer for promotional purposes – although there are agreements where only the models will use images for promotional purposes, while the photographer will retain and exercise full intellectual rights. This is becoming more common in our industry in respect to this type of modeling agreement – or any agreement for that matter! Trade agreements are great for, both, beginning models and photographers/artist. Both need experience honing or developing their skills and most importantly, they need the artifacts (images) to prove that they are competent at their craft. The key assumption in TF agreements, is that, both, model and photographer are offering something of equal value. But when is enough – enough?! The answer should be “when a model or photographer has enough images in their portfolio to adequately promote their business.” Does this sound reasonable or right? I would assume so... I would assume that, both, models and photographers would like to be paid for their services – right? So what happens when there is a glut of photographers shooting models for free or models posing for free? No one gets paid… Unless, you’re a model who secretly breaches his/her agreement and sells subscriptions to view their images or, more blatantly, sells or licenses them to other parties… You see it all the time – but that’s another topic for discussion.

Then, why won’t a photographer charge a model for images they want? Clearly, these models want goods and services… Then, why? The answer is: because if they don’t shoot them for free, another photographer will! And hence the conundrum! Then, what ensues, with some of these so-called professional photographers (what I call professionally unestablished photographers), are “big-dick” contests on social media – with one photographer trying to better the previous post of another photographer! Don’t believe me? Just take a look at one of Hawaii’s premiere social media sites for models and photographers, “Let’s Shoot Hawaii…” You’ll see that I’m right! Why… Just the other day, a photographer boasted that he “never pays for models.” While this photographer might have thought that his comment would boaster his male ego and credo among card-carrying males, he probably degraded his ability to shoot quality professional models. Now, ask that same photographer if he's making any money shooting models and you’ll probably hear a different story. Luckily, like myself, shooting models isn’t their “day job”; therefore, they don’t have to rely on that work for sustaining their living or lifestyle. Just my observation! So where are the "real professional photographers?" Apparently, not on social media; they're too busy making a living! And of course, looking in the shopping malls around the island and in the brochures distributed in tourist locations, there is evidence that they are doing quite well! They've graduated from the playground sandbox (social media) and moved on to bigger and better things! As for myself, Model Photography is not a fulltime job for me… I have other God-given talents! Model Photography was a hobby for me... And somewhere along the way, it became a side business! So now, I'm "semi-professional." Do I contribute to the “TF Conundrum?” No. I don’t. If someone requests my services, I usually charge them. However, if I shoot anyone under a TF agreement, it’s because: 1) I’m trying out or testing new equipment, 2) I want to tryout a new concept or genre' that I’ve never done before, 3) I'm shooting a model that will further enhance or complement my portfolio, or 4) I feel a need to sustain my level of proficiency. And of course, from time to time, I actually hire models... But I'll defer hiring models for another blog topic. Again, this is only my humble opinion… If you’d like to comment on this subject, model or photographer, I’d like to hear from you. Until then, happy shooting!

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