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Insights & Thoughts

TFP Collaborations | The Good, the Bad and the ugly

By Brittany Smith on August 7th 2017

“Trade for print.” These three words are found to be nauseating and a slap in the face by a number of photographers, especially after paying one’s dues. What is even more alarming is the number of hypocrites among us asking up-and-coming hair and makeup artists and wardrobe stylists to provide their talents for free on a paid shoot in exchange for exposure.

A photographer that works with people will most likely be asked to be a part of or actively choose to participate in TFP shoots while nurturing a blossoming career. There are definitely some advantages that can come from unpaid work. These collaborations can build a wonderful network, establish a solid creative team and exponentially increase the caliber of a portfolio. As a common courtesy, take the time to properly tag everyone involved on social media. Some future jobs are attained by word of mouth from these TFP shoots.

Since there is no monetary compensation for product used or services rendered, every TFP shoot should be mutually beneficial for all parties involved. Trade shoots are a time to try out new hairstylists, makeup artists and fashion stylists for future work. There are a large number of creative teams that are founded by testing together and developing a good working relationship. Everyone works together to improve their book and get to that next level, whatever it may be.

Model Alise Shoemaker. Hair and makeup by Samantha Maxcy.

Some good uses of TFP are wedding vendor collaborations for publication or advertising, testing out new gear and lighting, and fashion stories or editorials. Everyone is working toward a common goal and end product. Everyone’s time and efforts are valuable; they should be treated as such. I currently plan out my editorials and curate my team for the best results with the understanding that a good team will invest in higher end products. Since I am not paying to renew my co-collaborator’s kits, I will often provide food and coffee throughout the day as a sign of my appreciation.

[REWIND:] GETTING STARTED AS A FASHION PHOTOGRAPHER PART 3 | BARTERING FOR STUDIO TIME, FRESH FACES, & HOUSING

Situations arise that fall beyond this scope of practice and not everyone gets something out of it. For example, a makeup artist may request a photoshoot that demonstrates a skill set that falls outside of the established repertoire of your book. In this case it is perfectly acceptable to request compensation as you are doing them a favor. Say the shoe is on the other foot and a better working model is necessary to properly execute a shoot. It would be wise to invest in the model since they are doing you a favor.

TFP fashion editorial for Posi+tive Magazine titled Cherry Lane. Model MIchala Zambon of Major Models, NYC. Hair and Makeup by Kim Kreit.

When money is guaranteed to be involved
At the end of the day, we all want to get paid to do what we love. When money exchanges hands, services are no longer considered fair trade, therefore it is not ok to expect a creative team go without compensation. Nothing says I don’t respect you quite like asking for free creative services in exchange for exposure while getting paid. Treat everyone the way that you would want to be treated and the reward is plentiful.

Many photographers, retouchers, and other members of the trade are offering workshops. If a workshop is on the horizon as a business endeavor, it is essential to invest in the Team and price it accordingly. I have seen firsthand the immaculate quality of work that comes out of a properly budgeted production and what happens when a sledgehammer starts chipping away at it. It should come as no surprise that going the bottom of the barrel route typically produces less than mediocre work and it also brings up the question of integrity, neither of which is good.

For example, I was once asked to cut the bulk of the team’s budget and offer exposure across a company’s social networks as compensation while halving the models’ previously agreed to day rate. The creative  team was there physically, but there was a lack of energy and magic that usually ensues. The models, on the other hand, didn’t show up and finding replacements delayed the entire workday by several hours.

The quality over quantity route is definitely the way to go. Choosing to gut production value for the sake of a slightly larger profit margin only causes unnecessary stress. Invest in the team with the final product in mind and people will see its value. You get what you pay for.

Brittany is a fashion and beauty photographer who works between NYC, Montana and LA. She photographs the way she has always wanted to feel and believes in the power of raw simplicity. When not behind a camera she can usually be found at a local coffeeshop, teaching fitness classes at the YMCA, or baking something fabulous in the kitchen.
Instagram: @brittanysmithphoto

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Alex Petrenko

    Learn how to say “no” and let clients who try to pay with exposure go peacefully :)

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    • Brittany Smith

      There are some instances where trade work is really worthwhile. Some of my best editorials have been TFP. If a client is just starting off and the relationship may blossom into something worthwhile, it is definitely worth considering. However, when a client has a budget for it but is only offering exposure, I agree with you. Sometimes they don’t know otherwise and a simple conversation will fix it. Other times, they don’t value the work enough and it’s safe to walk away.

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