Trade for print… Time for print… Trade for portfolio?
They can all be true and correct. Better question is why do it? First off take a minute to figure out exactly what you are trying to accomplish by doing such a session. There is generally no compensation in monetary form given in either direction when a “trade” is agreed to by both parties. Then determine if the other party or parties are going to benefit number 1, that’s right , is it going to benefit you. Many times these “TFP” sessions are truly one sided and should stand for Time for Practice.
Think about the setting, what you hope to gain and what the photographer is expecting of you. Is the shoot to take place in a public place, a studio, outdoors or in the middle of nowhere 30 miles from cell phone reception? Take the time to get to know whoever it is that you are collaborating with to ensure that you are gaining the exposure you want. Read their reviews, their social media interaction, who they associate with and if they have done portfolio work for other models in your area, talk with them about their experience. Look through the sample images provided in the photographers portfolio, website, print, videos or any other sources provided. It is highly encouraged to scrutinize the images privately, after all just as the photographer is judged by his/her worst image you as a model will be as well. Are there obvious flaws in the images, like strange spots, parts of the people randomly cut off, fuzzy faces, dull colors, awkward looking images etc? If so this is likely not the person you want to shoot with. On the other hand if you are the one searching, find a local photographer who has images that bring an emotional response, those images that are obviously well thought out, the colors are rich and tasteful, the eyes are very clear, the background that is visible is free of distractions, the model looks like she is into the production and not just a pretty face. It is a social world where nearly every community has a modeling network, a photography group and the like on facebook, instagram etc. Those fancy cameras are becoming more and more affordable, new photographers are appearing every day, many just want practice others want perfection. If you want to succeed in the modeling world or just to have fun and get some great pictures out of it a TFP session with an above average photographer can take you a long way toward reaching that goal. If you are serious about making modeling a career paying a professional to take your images might be the most cost effective method, as one bad image or set of images can make a hole for you to have to dig out of right from the start. Remember your safety is more important than that “once in a lifetime” traveling photographer no one has ever heard of taking some great boudoir shots for you in the dark alley at 3 am.
Put yourself on the other side of the camera for a change. Take a peek at your portfolio and consider what you are hoping to gain by doing a trade shoot. It is far different from the photographers perspective, maybe there is a portion of your portfolio that you want to beef up a bit or maybe you want to move into a new genre. It could be a concept that is close to your heart or artistic vision brought to life. Whatever it is, it has to benefit both sides and you will attract far more of the models you want to shoot by stating clearly what it is you want to accomplish. As a photographer I have made the mistake several times by simply asking a large audience, “who is available for a TFP shoot on blah blah day”. That gets you one thing, every single time, the exact model that for whatever reason you really do not want to shoot. Putting out a model call stating what the concept is, what is in it for them ie. 11×14 print, 5 digital images etc, If you have sizes specific to wardrobe you are providing, must have items in their personal wardrobe or expectations for the model to provide her own make up hair etc. will net you much better results. Include where the shoot is to take place and when so that any scheduling conflicts can be solved before they appear. In addition throwing out there that you are only looking for x number of people for a specific shoot lets you off the hook if you do not find who you are looking for or if the said model above shows up. As we know gaining multiple faces is far more effective than having a hundred different sample images of the same person when presenting to a paying client. If any way possible have a backup plan if the weather is not desirable or if you show up to a great location to find a huge wedding going on 5 minutes before your shoot is to begin, I know both of these from experience. Have a prepared model release/contract that explains each persons rights to the images for printing, social media, publishing, copyrights and crediting. These are vital to your success, many examples can be found through a simple google search for model release. Check their ID if there is any question at all that they could be under legal age, this is probably the most difficult and overlooked item when working with models in the social media age, but it goes without saying, who is responsible for that great swim suit image if the model is not of age, it takes 30 seconds and can save your career.