Money Changes Everything

PatreonThere’s a model on Facebook I want to photograph. She has the “girl next door” look I like, lives near me, and has experience in front of the camera. I contacted her about doing a shoot, and she was amenable. She has always liked my work and wanted to shoot with me. Plus, she said, “I’d love to have some of your photos on my Patreon page.”

Patreon is (emphasis mine):

…an internet-based platform that allows content creators to build their own subscription content service. It is popular among YouTube content creators, webcomic artists, writers, podcasters, musicians, and other categories of creators who post regularly online. It allows artists to receive funding directly from their fans, or patrons, on a recurring basis or per work of art. (Wikipedia)

I am a Patreon subscriber for SV Delos, and love their content. Every time they post a new video, they get some money from me.

When the model said she wanted to do a few sets with me so she could add them to her Patreon, I told her my rate for such a shoot (VERY low rate, by the way). She was confused. Why would I charge her for a shoot when she usually charges photographers? My reply was simple, “You want to make money from my photos.” There were a few back and forth emails, but it ended with me not setting up a shoot with her because I wouldn’t shoot her for free so she could sell photos on Patreon.

I have seen other models selling prints on their sites. I contacted one photographer I know when I saw a model selling his photos. He didn’t really care. I normally wouldn’t either, but he paid her for the shoot. He. Paid. Her. She was paid – by the photographer – for the shoot and now she’s also selling the photos. And he doesn’t care!

Well, I do.

Models, here’s something you don’t know. You do not own the photos a photographer takes. Unless you pay the photographer, the photographer owns those photos. The photographer owns the copyright and controls (to a point) the use of those photos. LEGALLY, short of a written agreement between you and the photographer, you CANNOT sell those photos. If you want to sell them, tell the photographer up front and make a business arrangement. Ideally, you will pay the photographer. Or, less ideally, you work out a share by sales agreement.

I, generally, shoot with models for free in what used to be called a “TFP” shoot (trade for print). But, since we no longer use prints, it is now just a Trade shoot. The trade is now a selection of digital images the model can use for her on-line portfolio to promote herself. That is the extent of what she can do with those photos without a use agreement from me. Not a model release – a use agreement. A model release is for me, the photographer, not the model. The release grants the legal permission from the model to use those photos for my own profit and gain. Seriously, models, you should read a standard model release. That release doesn’t protect you. It protects the photographer.

If you want to use those photos for your own profit and gain, you need a use agreement – getting permission from the photographer to use those photos. That includes making money on Patreon, selling prints from your website, or even submitting photos to magazines.

And photographers, this goes for you, too! As creators we can do a LOT with the photos we take without a release. We can do a lot more than the models can. But if you are going to turn around and sell your sets – either on Patreon, your website, or to content aggregators, you should pay the model for her work and have a signed model release. On the other side, stop giving your work away, man! If someone sees financial value in your work and wants to use it, charge them for it. Work out a fair and equitable deal. But giving it away (especially after paying for it!) is bad business.


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