Trade shoots are a great way to build your portfolio when you're starting. But they are also a fantastic opportunity for experienced creatives to explore new techniques and try out interesting ideas.

While most people in the industry are familiar with paying a model a fee for a photoshoot, not everyone is confident about the expectations and agreements of a trade shoot.

This guide offers practical advice and essential tips for preparing and arranging a successful (and stress-free!) trade shoot. 

For those who are new to the model and photographer industry, we recommend you also check out How to Become a Successful Freelance Model - Top Tips & Advice and How to Start Working with Models - Tips & Advice for Photographers

The key component of a trade (TFP) photoshoot

In a trade shoot, instead of receiving money, a creative (usually a model) receives images (usually from the photographer) from the shoot they've worked on as compensation for their time.

Trade shoots are also known as 'time for print' or 'time for photos' (TFP), 'collaborations' or TF/TFCD/Trade. These and other industry acronyms are in our Glossary of Terms.

Other creatives in a photoshoot (e.g. make-up artist, studio owner, stylist, designer, etc.) can also take part in a trade shoot by receiving images from the photoshoot instead of a fee for their time. 

To work this way successfully, all parties involved in the trade shoot agreement must gain something. It might not necessarily be images; it could just be the experience of working on a photoshoot.

However, for the most part, those involved in a trade shoot expect to receive portfolio-worthy images that they can use to promote themselves. 

It's crucial to plan your shoot beforehand

Having a clear vision of what to shoot will help you achieve great shots and allow everyone else involved to prepare themselves for the shoot (e.g. source props or outfits, work out travel options when working on location, etc.).

Get a clear idea of what you want to shoot and are hoping to achieve, and collect inspiring images to create a mood board that conveys your shoot ideas.

Use a shoot plan to include anything related to the shoot, such as any props or outfits the model needs to bring, hair and make-up ideas for the model, a potential or the actual shoot location, and your mood board. The PurplePort Guide to Shoot Plans goes into more detail about this, including why you should use shoot plans for your projects and a list of things to include.

We know how important it is to stay organised, especially when you have a busy shoot schedule. That's why on, we designed our shoot plan tool so you can map out your fabulous shoot ideas privately or share your shoot plan with other creatives (with the option to grant editing rights so everyone can work on the shoot plan together). 

You can share your shoot plan and mood board with everyone involved in the shoot, so you can all agree on what sort of images you will be shooting.

Good communication is essential 

Everyone must be on the same page when arranging a trade shoot, and good communication is essential for achieving this.

We cannot emphasise enough how important it is to be clear about your shoot expectations and ensure everyone is in agreement before booking a shoot (that goes for last-minute shoots as well).

Layout and discuss your shoot ideas with whoever you're working with, and make sure everyone agrees on the shoot plan (including image agreements). Confirm key shoot information (e.g. time, date, shoot location) before the shoot takes place.

Here are some tips for maintaining clear communication with your fellow creatives. 

Keep written communications

Whilst you may discuss a shoot over the phone or in person, try to use written communications to reiterate these details. 

Keeping a record of your shoot communications (e.g. text messages, emails, etc.) means you can use this to remind yourself of crucial information for your upcoming trade shoot (and as evidence if you ever need a shoot dispute resolved). 

You may swap phone numbers for emergencies

When you've booked the shoot and agreed on terms, you might choose to swap phone numbers with everyone. This is usually only for emergencies, such as if one of you can't make the shoot. Generally, once the shoot is over, you don't need to keep this information.

If something changes that will affect the shoot

Communicate anything that may change the shoot or prevent it from taking place  (e.g. location is unavailable, bad weather, etc.) to those involved in the shoot as soon as possible. Someone you're working with may have a solution to the problem meaning the shoot can continue as planned.   

If you need to cancel or rearrange the shoot

Let others know as soon as possible if you can't make the shoot, change your mind, or you need to rearrange to a later date. There is no shame in changing your mind, so don't make excuses; be honest and explain this. 

The worst thing you can do (to your fellow creatives and your reputation) is not inform anyone and not show up to the shoot. This will not only harm your reputation, but you risk losing out on future bookings.

Confirm image agreements before the shoot 

Planning your shoot ahead of time and maintaining clear communications with your fellow creatives will go a long way to ensure the success of your trade shoot. Another critical aspect of a successful trade shoot is confirming image agreements beforehand.

You need to know what everyone involved wants and expects from the trade shoot. Leave nothing to interpretation because there is so much variance in "you'll get some images". It's best to get these things ironed out before committing to a trade shoot because if everyone expects something different, it will probably result in bad feelings.

Below are image agreements to confirm before the shoot that will help your trade shoot run smoothly. 

How many images will be provided, and what size/format will they be in?

Be clear and upfront about how many images you expect or will supply from the shoot, the sizes and the format of the images. 

Web-sized images will be useless when sized to print because the images you print will be small or very blurry, so bear that in mind when negotiating image sizes. Some photographers will happily supply A4 or larger prints, so don't be afraid to ask.

How will the images be delivered, and what's the timeframe for delivery?

How photos are delivered images depends on the format of the images. Images could be emailed, provided on a USB stick/drive or CD, sent via a Dropbox/Google Drive link, and so on. If the photographer agrees to provide prints, these images could be posted or delivered in person. 

Discussing this beforehand is important because what might be fine for you could be a nightmare for someone else. 

A typical agreement for delivery of images is somewhere between a week and three weeks after the shoot, though some photographers will deliver images more quickly than this. Agreeing on a time scale to provide and receive images is vital.

Late delivery of images long after the shoot has taken place runs the risk those images may no longer be relevant to the creatives involved. For example, a model waiting two months for images when their hair was red but is now blonde means they will get images that do not reflect their 'look' anymore.

Will the images be edited or watermarked?

Be sure to agree whether the images will be edited/unedited and whether they will be subject to a watermark.

Some watermarks are barely noticeable, and others are incredibly distracting to the image. Whether the photographer will watermark the images needs to be agreed upon beforehand. 

Will there be any restrictions on image use? 

Confirm and agree on any restrictions for the use of the images beforehand. It's no good to assume that images will or will not be allowed to be used anywhere. 

Can the model (or others) edit the images?

Never assume you can edit images you receive from a photographer; always ask if you can do this. Most photographers do not allow anyone else to edit their images (including cropping or removing watermarks). 

Confirm any other contributions

Make sure you confirm any other contributions to the trade shoot you will be making (and the contributions of others too). Besides images, there may be other things to consider.

This may include whether the model is travelling to your shoot and if their travel expenses need paying. Determine who is paying, how much, and when the model will receive these funds (e.g. before, during or after the shoot).

It could also include whether the model's hair and make-up are required. Confirm if this will be provided by the model, a make-up artist, or a hairstylist. 

Involve everyone in choosing images 

Everyone involved in the shoot must end up with images they can use in their portfolio. It's good practice to allow your fellow creatives to select images they want to receive.

Here are some ways that everyone involved in the shoot can choose images:

  • Back of the camera (usually at the shoot)
  • Download and select the images on a computer 
  • Upload the images to a USB stick or CD
  • Upload the images to an online gallery (a private one that no one else can view) and provide a link

Failure to provide images will critically harm your reputation

Everyone expects that they will receive images from a trade shoot and that these images will improve their existing portfolio and are paid in exchange for their time.

A model (or other creative) trades their time in exchange for photographs; they are not working for free. They must get some payment and will be within their rights to demand financial payment if no images are forthcoming.

It is unacceptable for a photographer to fail to deliver images from a trade shoot. Not providing images as agreed will damage your reputation.

If you fail to provide images, you will probably lose out on future bookings with those involved in the shoot and anyone else they speak to about their experience working with you.

A trade shoot can be a fabulous opportunity!

Whether you are a model, photographer, make-up artist, or other creative, trade shoots are a great way to start and build your portfolio when you begin your career.

But they are also a fantastic opportunity for experienced creatives to branch out into other projects, experiment with new techniques or equipment, and work with unique and exciting collaborators. 

Remember, your trade shoot is more likely to run smoothly if you communicate clearly with everyone involved in the shoot, confirm image agreements, and ensure you hold up your end of the bargain. 

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