How to Get Free Models
Free is always a good price. Many new/beginner models are willing to work for trade, in exchange for photos that they can use for promotion. And you, being a photographer, have access to photos which makes that trade easy to do.
If you can take some flattering photos and provide files of your photos on a CD to use, this would be of value to an aspiring model. So if you’re willing and able to be friendly and helpful, you can get novice models for free.
The buzzword to use here is “TFP.”
TFP, also TFP/CD
TFP stands for “Time For Print” (or “Trade For Print”). This is a common term in modeling to describe an arrangement whereby the model provides their time in exchange for receiving good images for promotional prints.
Previously, photographers provided actual prints but today it’s more common to provide the original images on a CD, so the concept is also termed TFCD or TFP/CD. Since images can be emailed, sent by FTP, and provided in other ways, another variant is the more general TF*. All these terms mean essentially the same thing: a trade for photos.
There is no fixed definition of the TFP arrangement. So it is up to you to negotiate beforehand what you’re willing to provide and what the model expects to receive in lieu of payment. It’s important to get a clear understanding with the model, as a happy model may work for you again, and an unhappy model may attempt to block sales of your photos.
What Can I Offer In Return?
Typically, a model is looking for some choice headshots to use in their portfolio. Some flattering photos from the chest up with nice lighting on the eyes and face will usually do. If your desired photo shoot doesn’t actually including headshot-type photos, you could add some to your shoot list.
For example, you could offer the following TFP:
“In exchange for one hour of your time modeling and the unlimited licensing of your likeness and image, I’ll take some headshots and provide you all the images on a CD for your use for your own promotion.”
This is the sort of thing you state beforehand — during the shoot you still need to get a signed model release.
When should I deliver the photos to the model?
If you have a laptop computer with you at the shoot that can burn CDs, it’d be good to deliver a CD there and then. This also gives you one less thing to remember and do after the shoot. Otherwise you could email some small JPEGs and mail a CD within a week of the shoot. Certainly you should fully complete your transaction with the model before you license the images (by uploading them to a microstock site or sending them to a client).
Who are the best models to work for free?
If you have kids under 18, they’re free as you, the parent, sign the model release. Other family members and friends are usually free as you can guilt them in to helping you start your career, ply them with beer, or offer up a trade of photos.
Aspiring models and actors are often eager to work for a photo trade. You can find such people by placing an ad on the bulletin boards of a local community college or university, particularly ones that have preforming arts classes; in a local newspaper; on modeling websites; or on Craigslist.