Barter Agreement: What's In It For Me?
Let me first start off by saying - for most of 2016 and 2017, I test shot nearly every weekend. Every. Single. Weekend. I wasn’t paid much for my beauty work and I’m not saying that I am now that I live here in Tampa, FL but I also no longer randomly test shoot to build portfolio or get better at beauty photography.
Collaboration is a great method by which to learn and grow while networking and finding your creative team along the way. It is an invaluable method to hone one skills with nearly nothing in monetary cost. But time is money as most people say. So are you using your time, photoshop subscriptions, camera clicks, lighting flash count appropriately and does the collaboration benefit you?
Over time, I’ve become a huge proponent for needing to have a suitable trade off for collaborating and creating that satisfies the needs of all parties, not just one. It might just be that I’m going through the maturing process in the field of photography and this is one of many gateways I’ll go through.
I do not believe in photographing a model, local celebrity, wanna-be influencer, etc for free if there’s nothing to be gained from the efforts. I’ve been burned too many times by these types of folks to justify taking the camera out and allowing them to not appropriately credit images created in collaboration or to not actually post images cause “oh they’re a model and they don’t like to post photos of themselves to their followers” or they simply “forgot” to tag the photographer, makeup artist, etc.
Well, what was the point then? Images aren’t meant to sit on a hard drive somewhere. They’re there to showcase as a visual representation of what it is that you actually “do” - which is make photographs so others can see.
But those types of people exist in this world and take advantage of what you offer without giving credit to the team for the collaboration efforts. Their promises are not kept and everyone ends up feeling used. It’s not a nice feeling.
Chase Jarvis put this best:
So I now am implementing my own personal policies and sharing them with you:
#1. Collaborate with people who are going to help you grow and be challenged.
If testing in your local market doesn’t inspire you, then don’t do it. If you’re not challenged, then don’t do it. If you’re not learning, then DON’T DO IT. If it doesn’t benefit your portfolio, then DON’T DO IT.
Saying it louder for the people in the back…
To be honest, my challenge for beauty photography is in NYC, Miami, and Los Angeles. I don’t live there. I don’t even operate there on a monthly basis. But if I want commercial and editorial looks for my portfolio, that’s where I need to go. I don’t need to test every weekend like I did in Seattle if I spend three days in LA shooting beauty non-stop. Nowadays it’s the challenge of putting my portfolio out there for modeling agencies to review, finding the unique faces currently within the modeling world to work with, and creating well-planned photoshoots to add value to my portfolio. That’s the real challenge for me.
In 2016 and 2017, it was completely different. I wasn’t great at beauty photography and still don’t think I’m that good. I’m not making my living off of it (I actually am a full time military officer right now). But when I look 7 years down the future, it’s something I’d like to try my hand at when I retire.
My recommendation to you is to take time out to identify what’s a challenge to you and collaborate to create work that meets those challenges head on in order to grow and develop as an artist. It will help you focus on what’s important and artistic growth.
#2. Ask how the collaborative photoshoot is going to benefit you.
It’s a fair question and should not be taken lightly. I didn’t come into this world owing someone “something” just because they exist and I have an expensive camera and lenses. Just because they’re a pretty face doesn’t mean it warrants anyone a free photoshoot. I’ve learned this after working with so many models in Seattle that it’s just like - “thank you, next.” I’ve gotten to that point where I don’t feel pressured to “owe” anyone anything. If you want something more out of me, then you can pay me. Easy as that.
If you don’t see any benefit to doing this photoshoot, then charge what you would a normal off-the-street client. If you’re going to waste time pulling your camera out of your bag, driving to agreed upon location, photographing, and then spending multiple hours at home on a subscription based program (that you pay for) to edit these very images, and not really needing any of the images like what you shot for your portfolio - then you need to charge that client whatever your fair rate is.
It’s not a collaboration if you’re not getting anything out of it. So define what you want out of collaborative photoshoots and if an opportunity presents itself and doesn’t meet that criteria, kindly pass it on to the next photographer who might be a better fit.
#3. State the terms and conditions by which you will agree to collaborate and do so in writing.
Put. It. In. Writing. If someone will go through the efforts of actually reading a document and signing their name, then you probably know they’re legitimately worth their salt and understand your values as they probably have the same values.
Ask for what you want out of this collaboration. It might take some modifications and that is okay, but at least you state what you want upfront. If the others aren’t willing to compromise, then they’re the wrong people to be working with. This agreement not only holds them accountable for their half of the collaboration deal but also holds you accountable for producing the final images.
I recommend mocking up a barter agreement and get it legally vetted. Design Aglow has a great barter agreement that’s simple and straight forward and you can find that document HERE. We all deal with those unscrupulous characters that believe they can get commercial work for free if they frame it as an “amazing collaboration” that gives lots of “exposure.” We all know that exposure doesn’t pay the bills. If you want to keep someone in line with their stated agreement and terms of usage of images, this document will be especially helpful to retain - especially if they’re using that image to promote something, sell something, or otherwise violate copyright rules.
Side note, don’t also be persuaded by FREE anything. Not unless you really want whatever they’re offering for “free.” I would also not suggest giving any company, educational company, any images without written terms stated. Believe me, they will use your image to market their product and give you some “free” tutorial or gift voucher as compensation. No dear, they’re making way more money off your image than you’re led to believe. As a new photographer, it happened to me once and I paid for it three-fold.
Keep in mind, this is just one photographer’s opinion. There’s a ton of opinions out there but the big thing is you need to set the standards by which you will create by. You have to love what you’re doing first and foremost.