This article is primarily geared towards freelance (non-agency) models who are curious about when to make the transition from TF to paid work and how they can get a idea of what to set their rates at. I am also a little more focused on model-photographer shoots vs. shoots with a third-party client involved.
Let us lay down some basic firsts. TF can be replaced with any form of trade that does not include the payment of cash (with the exception of gas money in some cases). You may also see this referred to as TFCD. TF means trade for (or time for) and CD stands for a CD of pictures. You will often also see TFP which can stand for trade for prints, trade for photos, or trade for pictures.
Most people start out doing TF work, particularly in model photography. Sometimes in modeling, a model may decide to begin charging rates. Deciding to charge money for modeling and settling on rates, or more accurately a system for rates, takes time and a little guesswork.
How do I know when I can start charging rates? How much should I start at?
One key sign is that you are asked for your rates. However, this is not an indicator everyone can use. The best thing to do is to look at other models who shoot styles similar to you and are in the same area, or a similar area. For example, in my case I could not find any other fine art models in my immediate area, but there was a girl that did implied for $50 an hour. I started at $25 an hour.
If you would like to know more about when you might consider charging rates, I strongly recommend you read my article called When & Why Might a Model Be Paid.
How do I know when I can raise my rates?
As you improve or as you start booking more work than you have time for, you may consider raising your rates. I recommend keeping this increase small, perhaps between $10 and $25 an hour. You probably do not want to jump from $25 an hour to $75 an hour over night.
Do remember that you should never raise your rates for a specific shoot after you have been contacted about that shoot. Once you are booked, you are booked at that rate even if you decide to increase your rates for other shoots before that shoot happens. It looks very unprofessional and will you get a bad reputation very quickly.
Can I charge different amounts for different types of modeling?
There is a term in modeling that some people use called “stripper rates.” This refers to cases where the model charges more and more the less and less clothing she has on. For example: $10/hr fully clothed, $25/hr swimwear & lingerie, $50/hr topless & implied nude, $75/hr full nude. Some models seem to be quite successful doing this, but I do not know the specifics of what they are booking. I do know that some photographers supposedly refuse to shoot with models with this sort of rate system.
My recommendation to give a rate range (example: $10 to $50 an hour) and/or simply ask what the budget is for the shoot on a shoot by shoot basis. This means you do have to negotiate a bit, but this is what most of the freelance models I know do.
I’ve seen people charge half day or full day rates. What’s that about
I will be honest in saying that I do not have much experience in this type of rate. I have always been asked for an hourly rate. This has much to do with my area and they type of modeling I do, I think. I would recommend you look at other models in your area and see what format they are using (hourly vs day or half day).
I can tell you that in general a half day is 4 to 6 hours and a full day tends to be around 8 hours. The important thing is to either denote your definition with your rates, or ask the photographer exactly how long they would like to shoot. Communication is key.
Is there anything besides location, style, and budget that I should consider in choosing my rates?
Yes, and usage of the images is a big consideration. Will they be submitted to websites? Sold as prints? Sold to private sellers? The budget of the shoot will often reflect the usage. For example, if the photographer is going to sell prints or to a private buyer or website, they are likely to have a larger budget than if they are simply hiring you for artistic or portfolio purposes. This is not always true, of course, but often. Usage information will often be given in the release, but I recommend asking as you book the shoot and it never hurts to ask for specifics if they are not already given.
Should I charge more for nudes?
There are two “principles” that frequently come up with getting paid for nudes: 1) supply and demand and 2) the value of nudity.
Supply and demand simply means that there is a fairly high demand for nude models (a lot of people want to shoot nudes), but there seem to be fewer models willing to shoot nudes. So high demand, low supply. Because of this, photographers are more willing to pay for nude models then for some other types of models (because there are more models that do non-nude work, and more willing to do TF).
The value of nudity means that many people think that because they are getting naked that automatically entitles them to get paid. Some photographers will agree with this while others are very, very annoyed by this theory.
In general, if you are a good model, comfortable in her skin, and you know how to pose, then yes, you can charge for nudes. You might be able to charge more for nudes, but that really depends on your look and your market.
I cover this point a bit more in another article called When & Why Might a Model Might a Model Be Paid.
Should I list my rates on my webpage/profile?
This is one of those points that people seem split right down the middle on. Some people say photographers want to see your rates and do not want to have to ask. Others say that if you list rates you might be missing out if someone would have offered you more. I personally give a rate range from the lowest I will take to the highest I have been paid. In the past I have also said something like “my rates start at $25/hr dependent upon content and usage of the photos.” And from those points I ask for the budget of the project and negotiate.
Now if you are set on a particular rate and you simply will not take less than that and you know people never want to pay more, then you can just set a rate. In that case there is no harm in putting that on your profile since you are not going to work for less anyway. I think this is a rare circumstance.
Or you can simply say “Please message me/send me an e-mail for my rates.”
Each one has its pros and cons. My advice is to look at other similar models around you and see what they are doing that works for them.
Should I keep doing TF after I start charging rates?
Most people agree that the answer to this is “yes, under the right circumstances.” The whole idea behind doing TF is usually to build your portfolio. And if/when you begin to charge rates, you will still want to update your portfolio, but generally when you are paid, you no longer receive images. There are exceptions to this, but in the general “rules” your payment is what you get out of the shoot. So when you want to update your portfolio you will either need to do TF or pay a photographer.