Indochine's Top Shelf

How Models and Photographers Can Compromise on Photos After a Shoot

NOTE: This article has been edited as of 1/28/10.
There's a war brewing between models and photographers these days and it comes down to this: after a photo shoot, models want their photos and photographers often fail to deliver, at least to the extent promised. So what's the solution? I understand models needing quality images to keep themselves in circulation. Moreover, why should the model have to wait indefinitely and keep pestering a photographer to give them their own images? But I can also understand photographers not having the time to retouch photos for free!

The Problem

The biggest problem here is the lack of professionalism in how these photo shoots come about to begin with. Let's be honest; photographers often shoot models for reasons that go beyond building their portfolios. And models are frequently willing to hustle a shoot on the cheap. Thus, the TFP shoot was born. But many times, after the photo shoot is done and the fotog has gotten what he wants, he's "over it" and ready to move on to the next model. Sure, he may retouch one or two photos, but now that he's seen his favorite model in all her unretouched realism, stretch marks, cellulite and all, the fantasy is over and retouching the photos is just... well, work. The model on the other hand has only received a few photos for her efforts. Enter conflict. She starts demanding that the photographer give her all the photos. The photographer refuses, reminding her that she hasn't paid him a penny and is not in a position to be making demands.

The Solution

Models, pay for your photo shoots and have a contract in place stating what you are entitled to receive in clear terms. I really don't think it's too much to ask that the model receive all the photos the day of the shoot on a USB drive. However, the contract should state that the model can't post any photos until and unless the photographer breaches the agreement - i.e., a reasonable time (21 days) passes without the photographer delivering the agreed upon number of post processed images. In the event of breach by the photographer, the model should be allowed to have the photos retouched by a mutually agreed upon Photoshop wizard at her own expense, and subject to the photographer's approval (not to be unreasonably withheld and to be timely given, e.g., within 48 hours). This allows the model to move on with what she needs to do post photo shoot.

Oh, and if the model breaches - i.e., posts photos before the safe harbor period expires and without the photographer's consent - there should be a penalty granting the photographer a set amount of damages per image disseminated without his permission (e.g., $500 per image).


A simple contract to this effect should prevent problems after a TFP shoot. With the model in possession of all the pics, the photographer is unlikely to fail to deliver the post processed images promised in a timely manner. Likewise, with a liquidated damages clause rewarding the photographer $500 per image distributed without his permission, impatient models have a real disincentive not to upload those unretouched photos on Twitpic.

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