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I was chatting to a photographer friend of mine today over a coffee in my local Starbucks and the subject of using models on a TFP basis came up. (for those non photographer readers here, TFP stands for, Time for Print, which is a throw back from the pre digital age when photographers and models would collaborate together but no money would change hands, the photographer shoots the model and the model would receive prints as payment, hence TFP. These days with the advent of digital it is usually abbreviated to just TF, same rules apply, but model receives digital images in place of prints)

During the course of the conversation my friend mentioned that he only ever provides low res Facebook quality images to models, AND they are watermarked. This did seem a little strange to me, after all, the model has given up her time for free and in most cases has travelled at her own expense to the location, so why only give them 800×800 pixel images with a watermark as payment – I mean, models want to use images for their portfolios too!

His response to this was that with the advent of the digital age, no one ever wants prints (and if the models asks for prints he will provide a print at cost price, but NOT the image file). Models are only interested in posting to Facebook or Twitter (or other social media websites) and sharing the pictures via email to all their “hundreds” of friends.

This is very true, I see pictures that I have taken pop up almost daily on Facebook profiles etc and can totally understand the immediate gratification when posting an image online, a picture posted now can be seen by someone everywhere in the world within minutes – how cool is that !

But, as the conversation rumbled on my friend said something that really did get me thinking. Lets say I do a photo shoot, it went REALLY well, the images were AMAZING and I had agreed to provide high res images to a model – what is there stopping that model then selling my work (as it is high res 300 dpi) and making money – or worse still (in his opinion) either the model, or the models partner “having a go at it” with “Photoshop” and then posting it on the Internet but still crediting me.

Wait, a “license to use agreement” I hear you all cry!

Well yes, that SHOULD do it, but lets be honest, if a model is that unscrupulous that she would think of selling your work in the first place would a license agreement deter her. After all, what are the chances of being found out?

As for the Photoshopping that can also be stopped by a license agreement, but if someone wants to photoshop one of my images, with photography being such a subjective art, who is to say that their version is better/worse than mine?

There is a whole can of words to be opened up with this, but personally I think it just boils down to trust – I trust people until proven other wise – if I found an image of mine had been commercially sold by a model that I had trusted with a high res image, then I’d never work with her again and would certainly let it be known within my circle that she (or he if a male model) shouldn’t be trusted!

This industry is very “tight” word soon gets around.

And just to make my position clear on this, I always provide unmarked low res Facebook images, I also *usually* provide high res images on a CD, with the requisite license agreement. (Occasionally I forget to do the high res images and time passes by, but when prompted by the model I always deliver)

To my knowledge I have never had an image used without my permission, modified or sold (touch wood!!)

We could both still have been sat in Starbucks now discussing this, we will never agree, neither of us are wrong, but what works for me, just doesn’t work for him….

Best – Colin