Do photo artists pay models for their collaborative work with models?

Discussion in 'Philosophy' started by 10990877, Apr 7, 2020.

  1. Just out of curiosity…

    I like contemporary photography, and I especially like types of work that artists focus on creating powerful and unique images by collaborating with models or friends(?) in somewhat staged settings. I’ve been wondering if these artists usually pay money to the participating models. I imagine it’s different from person to person, but when I read interview articles of the artists I like, they don’t seem to talk about this topic.
    The artists just come to mind now are Pieter Hugo, Ren Han, Roger Ballen, Ryan McGinley, and Asger Carlsen. I assume that photographers who take a documentary approach don’t give any compensation to their subjects in general but what about photo artists?

    I would appreciate your thoughts and opinions.
  2. In general, a pro model gets paid. If the model is starting out they might do some comp work for portfolio or pay a photographer for head shots, but if the photographer or a client wants a pro model for a project that’s the model’s job and it’s paid time. If you want somebody to model do you can try out technique or test lights or something, that’s usually going to be a friend who volunteers.
  3. Hmmm. The philosophy of paying models ...

    Nietzsche would say yes, St. Thomas Aquinas would say no.

    Seriously, though, it depends on the photographer, the model, and the context and goal.

    I generally photograph friends, more for me than for them. I've also met some people on line, through word of mouth, and through other photographers. I find actors and dancers particularly fun to work with, sometimes to the point where a shoot feels much like a collaboration. I offer files or prints of anything they like. I'm generally interested in creating characters and having fun, so I don't necessarily try to do flattering head-shot type work. But, as a trade for the person's time and good will, I will offer to do some "nice" shots in return if they'd like. I generally prefer to work with non-models because I like the human, flawed touch and am generally not looking for model-type photos.

    Gerald is a friend of a friend. I'd never met him but we got together on our mutual friend's suggestion and had a great day of shooting, some outdoors, some indoors.

  4. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    On the topic of "The Philosophy of paying . . ." - because the OP specifies "creating powerful and unique images by collaborating with models or friends": my view is in this case, St. Thomas Aquinas is correct.

    However, the OP might not have meant the question to be concerning the Philosophy of paying models? Perhaps the OP might clarify?

  5. Generally in fashion, starting photographers who have been accepted by agencies will be sent beginning models. No one is paid including the hair stylist and make-up person, they generally trade for portfolio photos. If the photographer is paid and working for a publication or a specific job all will be paid. Everything else is as Samsamson says depends. I did one fashion shoot that had student models so none of us were paid, but the models definitely knew how to pose and were quite professional in that regard. Its is a very hard profession to break into and make a living out of. There's also personal projects, or projects for friends that are just for the craic. When I do something like that (rarely), and its for a friend, I just generally charge any rental costs for lights and back drops etc. Here's one I did for a Women's Accordion Calendar and a good friend.

    [​IMG]Marla10 by Barry Fisher
  6. "When you're good at something, you don't do it for free"
    The Joker
    mikemorrell and movingfinger like this.
  7. Even The Joker probably knew that context was everything. :)
  8. By the rules of logic that means the contrapositive to the Joker's adage is also true: When you do it for free, you're not good at it. Ouch!
    samstevens likes this.
  9. I'm sure it worked in the movie and when The Joker said it. It just doesn't translate well to this discussion.
  10. Really???
    What part of "pay a model if you expect good work" doesn't generalize? :p
  11. Well, for one, the part where one collaborates with the model as an equal and there's a mutually beneficial artistic arrangement without pay. McGinley was mentioned in the OP and many of his models were acquaintances who weren't paid. They and he did quite good work, despite the lack of pay.

    While there are certainly fields in which decent monetary compensation will be necessary to get good work, depending on the type of photograph one is making, it does not hold true for all those who model for photographs. There are many amateur models in great photos who do much better jobs than some of the stilted, cliché expressions and poses you sometimes see when professional, well-paid models are used.
    Ricochetrider likes this.
  12. One of my daughters is a freelance dancer, actress, presenter and model. Sure, when just starting out, she worked with - personally known or recommended (starting out) - professional photographers without payment either way. They both invested time to help them both build up a professional photo portfolio. And they needed to agree what kinds of photos they both needed. So they mutually benefited and that was understood from the start.

    The situation in which a photographer (professional or otherwise) needs a model to express his/her 'artistic idea' is IMHO completely different. My daughter pays her rent by being paid for her work as a dancer, actress, presenter, model, etc. She doesn't - with the exception of a few 'personal interest' educative/charity projects - do freebies. Unless a professional photographer already has wide and solid (international) media exposure, there's no real incentive to participate in 'photoshoots' for anything less than a normal rate. Conversely, if a photographer already has wide and solid (international) media exposure, it's very unlikely that he/she would expects models to work for anything below a normal rate.

    Professional photographers expect to get paid (or earn money) from their work so they understand that professional models (and lighting assistants, make-up artists, etc.) do too.

    If you have family, friends, etc. who are happy to help out without charge, then great. Just don't expect professional models to work for free. They might need to build up a professional photo portfolio for their agency but different photographers' 'artistic expressions' are unlikely to be suitable .

    Just saying.
  13. I always pay in the sense that I conduct an acknowledged exchange of value. The exchange can be prints for the models portfolio, maybe actual cash, or some other benefit. The next part is to record the "exchange of value" on a model release informal or formal depending on the circumstances.
    The underlying reason for this approach is to establish who is the artist. Is the model a performance artist and the photographer a mere technical factotum recording the flow of artistic expression? In this case the artistic credit and the copyright in the work produced belongs to the model. Frankly, as a photographer I want secure artistic credit and copyright so I pay and get a signature to put beyond doubt who is working for whom.
    Ricochetrider and movingfinger like this.
  14. My main focus is in highest level candid work and not permission shooting. But sometimes I pay for a photo if I have to ask for permission. Every photo can't be perfected as a candid. And many times I've asked and have been refused. So $$ or not, I don't get the shot because a candid just wont produce what I want to get.

    I paid a buck for this one in Vegas. He brings out different signs throughout the day if a sign is not working.

    This one I paid $5.

    freemont-street-no-2-2014-daniel-d-teoli-jr lr.jpg

    This one was candid. They wanted 5 Euro, but I didn't pay them anything. I got my lens smeared with her greasy hand as a bonus right after I shot this.

    hen-party-amsterdam-2014-daniel-d-teoli-jr lr.jpg

    This one was $1. He is a pro busker, so gave him something for his show on the subway in NYC.

  15. Interesting discussion.

    If you don't know, most of the f@c3b00k photography groups (and I'm a member of more than a few) feature many instances of, usually, guys- posting nude or semi nude "art" photos of youngish women. From what I gather these are, in large part, paid models. As you may imagine, many of these photos are not all that .... amazing. And yes, quite often the images seem forced and the models appear bored or just not into the shoot.

    More than a few people decry this type of photography and of course they get slammed hard- as only those on social media who criticize others get. AND, while some groups speicify "no nudes" or words to that affect, in their group rules, most groups allow it. F@c3 b00k, who also owns inst*gram now apparently, makes people posting nudes blur nipples and other "body parts". So censorship is alive and well on social media where any kid with a smart phone can view this stuff, and no matter how egregiously questionable the site owners' ethics are in any other regard (right or wrong- your decision), they appear as having some standards.... of some sort.

    There are a few instances here and there, of folks doing some nice, creative work in this realm. Clearly they are professionals, and some of them work in fashion or some other similar industry where their photo shoots are fully paid. All of these people have websites as well, with at least some of their work, personal, professional, and otherwise- may be seen by the general public. Yet they also, are posting photos on social media platforms.

    I get the thing of working. with friends and friends of friends. I'd love to do some of this myself. I have a couple ideas I'd like to explore, at some point. A buddy gave me some old analog incandescent photography flash units that I could cable together and hook up to my camera- it'd be fun to mess around with them- although I don't have a studio or any sort of space where I could create a set-up like this.

    I'm not talking about a full-on pro level photo shoot with wardrobe, make-up and hair artists or professionals making up models. Pretty sure most of these guys posting nudes on social media aren't doing all that either. But it does seem as if they are paying models to photograph.

    We all know not to give our work away and at least some of us also know not to undervalue our work. There is damn little to be gained from doing so and in the end it hurts everyone of us if a few are doing work for free or for little.
  16. I think in the modern era, this is often what they train and get paid for. It's very often the desired look, as off-putting as it sometimes is. I think it's supposed that it reads as "sophisticated," when in fact it's often quite shallow.
    I don't know this. I love giving my work away. When it's appropriate, I sell it. Lots of times, I'm very happy to give it away. I don't rely on photography for income, however, but there are plenty of pro photographers confident and generous enough to do pro bono or charity work, or give back to the community, or make relatives and friends happy for free.
  17. Giving work away hurts more often than you may realize. A friend of mine, to cite one example specific to photography, shoots commercial and fashion stuff in NYC- and has lived there for decades doing exactly that- until recently. Much of his work his disappeared- largely because A everyone with a phone is now a "photographer" and B because there are so many young kids willing to shoot for very little- or no pay at all. He's having a bit of a come-back within the past year doing specialty work- doing super high rez 360 product shoots among other things- but he's really struggled in the last 5 or 6 years. The way I see it, pretty much anyone with a skill who doesn't ask top (or whatever the local prevailing wage is) wages for their work is hurting those of us who are trying to make living at our craft. Whatever that craft may be.

    Of course if we want to gift our work to someone we love, or have a bartering agreement where we trade work for work, that's different and perfectly fine. Pro bono, charity work, giving back to the community, all acceptable in my book. It's when people knowingly undercut others that the harm is done. In NYC, for example, a professional photographer has heavy load of expenses. So they need to make X amount per shoot (or whatever) to not only make a living, but just to even get by. A bunch of youngsters doing free or cheap work mightily affects people such as my friend, who has a mortgage and other expenses. That's not even in the same category as a top tier professional doing pro bono work for some charity.

    By my way of seeing it, tho, a photographer gaining financial success doing "fine art" work isn't even in the same universe as a fashion or commercial photographer in NY, L.A., Paris, London, or any other major market. That's a whole different world in which each person calls their own shots, and anything anyone else is doing has little if any affect.
  18. Sorry, but I disagree. All industries change over time for one reason or another. There are many reasons why photography as a business has always been tough and will likely continue to get tougher. Other people doing work for less may be a factor, but I wouldn't over-emphasize it.

    A lot of people think they should be able to make a living at photography who just don't have the skill, know-how, or business sense. For some of these people, it can often be too easy to blame others.
  19. Success depends on person-to-person sales activity and subsequent referrals, rarely from online marketing.

    Skill comes cheap. Sales relationships depend on upfront sales efforts.

    Lots of wannabe pros are no better, for practical purposes, than typical iPhone can see that on various websites that ask for ratings or other inputs on products and services.

    Top-tier cameras are owned more often by your dentist or uncle, than by pros.

    Do you really think pros waste $thousands on most recent DSLRs or Leica M?
  20. I should have mentioned that my clients have paid for my models and that I've actually gotten significant work thanks to referrals BY MODELS that had worked well in past for/with client. In other words, good models can bring good business.

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