The TFP Epidemic

You may have noticed a trend in the world of modeling.  Some people have spoken out about it, others stay silent.  I think there is something crucial here that needs to be said.  Something that needs to not only spark a conversation, but a change. It’s time to speak out about the epidemic of TFP modeling.

               If you’ve been in the industry long you’ve likely learned the concept of TFP or “time for print.”  In a nutshell, this phrase means “free work for free images.”  The concept has its proper time and place, but I’ve noted a shameful misuse and over-exhaustion of this principle in my time as an independent model.                

Naturally I must start this article off with a disclaimer of sorts.  If a model has no experience and is just starting out, it can be perfectly acceptable to request time for print.  If a photographer is highly notable and puts out consistently incredible work, there are occasions where time for print may be acceptable based on the model’s portfolio and what the shoot is for. And lastly, if the model and photographer are mutually looking for portfolio updates, this can be an acceptable practice as well – provided that both parties mutually benefit.

Model: Ashley BeLoat
Photographer: Yuliya Panchenko Photography
Hairstyling: Gretchen Gramlich
Makeup Artistry: Nicki Marie Makeup Artistry

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s get into my qualms with TFP.  I will begin stating that independent models get the worst of this issue.  Since they don’t have an agent consistently fighting for the highest pay and demanding appropriate compensation from photographers/clients, they are the most susceptible to being preyed upon for free work.  Keep in mind that most models are teenaged or young adult women…and the vast majority of photographers will be older than their talent. This places the independent model on average at an automatic negotiating disadvantage. 

These models will be asked to give up or re-arrange work at their other jobs, commute hours on their own gas money, work shoots as long as 12 hours (not counting commute), do their own hair and makeup, provide their own wardrobe, and sometimes even fly out of state out of their own pocket.  Why do they do this?  “Oh, it’s TFP.  Everybody does it, so it’s what I have to do to make it.” 

This is such a lie.

Yes, dues need to be paid in order to build talent, character, and credibility.  But once a point is reached where you feel your experience, talent, and name are worth something you should begin expecting as much. Acceptable compensation will change on a case by case basis depending on who is pointing the camera at you.

Another issue with this business model I must speak about – withholding photos from models that have been booked “time for print.”  Certain photographers out there are more guilty of this than others.  It can be unintentional or downright calculated.  I cannot stand when a model is never supplied with photos from a time for print shoot. The photos may be provided years down the road, completely unedited and poorly lit, or even worse…never. This has happened to myself and countless other models out there. If you are a photographer and have done this to your talent, know that it’s completely unacceptable. If this was a conscious choice because the photos were not up to your standards, know that compensation must still be supplied to the model. An easy solution is to provide the edited photos and ask the model not to tag you, or simply PAY the model for her time/money/gas/makeup and any other expenses she paid to pose for you. If leaving your talent without images was due to having too much other work, then you should never have booked talent for a TFP project in the first place. Again, I would highly advice financial compensation to your talent in this case.

There comes a point in time after experience and a certain level of quality in a model’s portfolio when he/she should severely restrict the amount of TFP he/she accepts. Once a model gets to the point they are consistently booking work, it means they have proven themselves to be desirable for the job.  Just like a reputable mechanic would never be expected to fix a car for free, a reputable model should not be expected to work for free.  As stated before, there are times that TFP is worth it to the model if it’s a project or shoot beyond what existing portfolio merits.  Or, simply, the model feels they would benefit from the images as well.

I must also include this word to the models…Be very wary of the type of TFP you accept.  Ask yourself; is the purpose of the photoshoot or event solely to promote another individual?  Is it solely to promote a brand? What will you have to show for the experience once you walk away?  If “not much” is your answer, this is surely not a job you should take TFP.  Furthermore, if the brand you’re posing for will receive advertising, press, etc. remember you are damaging the modeling industry you know and love by providing them with free advertising.

Model: Ashley BeLoat
Photographer: Luyi Zhao Photography
Editor: Xiaolin Photo
Designer: Xiaolin Fashion Designer
Makeup Artistry: Zhang Yiwen
Produced for Stars Exchange

               My advice to photographers and brands?  If you want a model to spend her time, energy, and efforts promoting your image or product you should compensate her at the level her current work justifies. Remember that modeling takes time and money even when not in front of the camera.  There are health and beauty expenses, gym time, time for adequate sleep, and often time away from another job/source of income. Remember the time you are asking your model to relinquish by working for you.  Respect that modeling is a profession and craft that takes work, dedication, and talent. It is far beyond simply looking pretty.  If you’d like to learn this quickly, ask a pretty girl with zero camera experience to shoot and compare the difference at how smoothly and successfully the shoot runs.

               I will share with you the things I’ve been asked to do “time for print” with no compensation aside from images or “exposure.”  Sometimes the images were sharable and at my portfolio.  Other times, they were not and I walked away with nothing to show from the experience…

               I have been asked to shoot for brands to promote their products or garments. Sometimes castings were held, other times they reached out to me of their own accord. But every time in question there was one common tune they sang; “This will be great exposure for you.”  My thoughts?  If you found me, like my work, and want me, I have been properly “exposed” already and deserve compensation for my services.

               I’ve been asked to walk in numerous fashion shows where the only real images received – if any – are poorly lit, blurry behind-the-scenes of getting ready or possibly 2 shareable images on the runway. If you don’t know the routine of a fashion show, it is often a 5-8 hour day for the talent once preparations and rehearsals are counted in. There is usually little to no food supplied as well.  Can these opportunities be worth it?  Sometimes.  When gone about correctly, models can make lasting connections with the designers. But again, if you start off a working relationship with somebody where you provide services for free it will be expected of you in the future.

               Flying out of state?  Yes, I’ve been asked to do this for free many times.  I’ve even been asked to fly internationally to walk a London runway. But compensation?  Sometimes employers don’t feel it is necessary. I’m not quite sure how this mindset is justified and it still baffles me. If you want me to represent your brand so badly that you choose me versus models in your general vicinity, I must be bringing something valuable to the table for you. I find it rather insulting to expect me to do so for free.

               Exploit my connections with designers to provide you with free multi thousand dollar gowns to shoot?  Ask my bridal designer friend to give a dress to shoot outside in the dirt?  Not even bother to offer compensation to me or my designer?  It happens.  Sometimes this is a mutually beneficial situation if the images are of the highest quality and the designer consents as well. However, I am extremely cautious of who I will request to pull dresses for.  Not only am I being asked to work for free, but my designers may suffer damages to a dress. It’s my responsibility to ensure every collaboration with me is worth it for them – with minimal expenses for them after the fact.

Model: Ashley BeLoat
Photographer: Ina Pandora Photography
Makeup Artistry: Ina Pandora

                Please don’t take the impression this blog was written out of animosity.  This is truly an honest depiction of what is happening in many communities I’ve traveled to and lived in. In my experience working in New York, Los Angeles, Florida, and many surrounding islands this is what I’ve found to be common practice. Remember that I speak from the perspective of an independent model with no agent going to bat for her – I’ve been my own agent from day one. I’ve had to deal with people trying to cheat, take advantage of, assault, and rape me on the job.  I only wish to share my experiences to benefit the modeling community and provide a different perspective for photographers as they cast their talent.

               Above all, please strive to treat your entire team with respect. A bit of kindness goes a long way in front of – and behind – the camera. Conduct your businesses and practice your crafts with integrity.  Do this and success will surely find you.  Continue striving for greatness, my friends!

Until next time,
Ashley BeLoat
Print | Runway | Film | Television
Find me on Instagram @ashleybeloat


  1. William on February 21, 2019 at 3:38 pm

    From the photographer’s point of view. I show up with anywhere from $5000 to $15000 worth of gear, even for a tfp shoot. The model brings a few outfits. I’ve spent 25 years honing my craft. I’m punctual, on time. If stuck in traffic I call with updates. My tfp shoots never last more than 2-3 hours and the model’s comfort and safety is always a priority. I often ask the model for their input, and share images with them as the shoot unfolds. I don’t shoot nudes nor do I ask for compromising suggestive poses. I deliver an adjusted “best of” group of images within 24 hours and a set within a week. Professionalism and respect is common sense. One way of giving back to an industry that has given me much as to assist new models, both male and female, get a start on their careers by arranging a photo session that provides high-quality professional images at no charge. The photographers that are friends of mine are the same. There are those of us who have class and dignity…

  2. Johnny Canada on February 23, 2019 at 6:28 am

    Now-A-Days the models think they are the only ones who deserve to be paid… they talk about makeup, wardrobe and transportation cost, but the truth is, that is only a small amount of money that WE as a photographer spend in gear… and not to forget we spend HOURS editing pictures while models are sitting around or squeezing others photographers talent and time… TFP is granted if both parts are agreed for the benefit of both portfolios, but PLEASE, don’t talk like if the models are more affected by doing TFP than the photographer… Also, if photographers are not delivering on time pictures from a TFP… then pay a professional photographer to be committed to the job that a simple amateur can’t offer…

  3. RICHARD EVANS on February 23, 2019 at 6:30 pm

    Bravo William. The ‘industry’ as seen from the other side of the camera. There are unprofessionals on both sides of the camera. I believe professional models ought to be paid when they bring talent to the session, when they contribute to the photographer’s vision. I’ve worked with tons of models over the years, decades actually, who merely show up (most of the time anyway). What I need is a person who knows how to pose (a.k.a., model). If, like William, I bring equipment, decades of experience, a proven portfolio, and have to pose the model, I feel cheated. If I have to show a model how to pose, that session ought to be TFP. I don’t care if it is, what I always hear, “it is my only source of income”. Can I buy a hammer and advertise as a carpenter, paid only, because it is my only source of income? Can I expect the customer to teach me my trade? TFP has its place – portfolio building for both models and photographers. We as photographers need models to experiment with techniques and concepts. Models, especially those new to modeling can well profit from doing TFP in terms of portfolio images, experience, and networking. P.S. Sorry to vent, I was just ripped off (again) by a model who demanded a deposit for a paid shoot – then was a no-show. I paid her a deposit, drove 4hrs across the state, stayed in a hotel to ensure I was there for the early shoot, and she did not show for the Monday shoot despite having confirmed on Friday evening. Like I stated, there are unprofessionals on both sides of the camera.

    • Ashley BeLoat on February 25, 2019 at 12:54 am

      I completely agree, Richard. TFP is amazing when both parties are building their portfolio from it. However, when you’re looking for a model experienced in the style you are wanting to achieve she will definitely be able to pose better, work faster, and give you more successful frames in less time. Never do I forget or dismiss the money and time it takes to be a quality photographer, and never did I say the photographer should never be paid. When the photographer is sought out for their services and he does not feel his portfolio would be any stronger from the shoot, he/she should be paid. Likewise, when the model is sought out for his/her work and already has the experience and portfolio to back it up, he/she should be paid. It’s an extremely case by case basis. When I’m looking to do headshot updates I do pay my photographer simply because it is something that will strictly benefit me.

      And yes, I have heard many stories of how the model “flakes.” I’ve also been cancelled on by photographers as well. But seeing those things happen should always motivate us more to be the true professionals. 😉 And that’s how we last in this industry.

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