It is very hard to get sponsors, grants, and investors in our cause, so the phenomenon of models, photographers, stylists, artists, and other professionals all wanting to barter or trade time is more prevalent than ever. So what exactly is barter?
According to Merriam-Webster, barter is to exchange things (such as products or services) for other things instead of for money. Wikipedia states barter is a method of exchange by which goods or services are directly exchanged for other goods or services without using a medium of exchange, such as money. Simple enough right? So why are there so many people complaining about trading time and services on the message boards?
When people decide to trade services, time, or products, there has to be a satisfying element for everyone. There must be something that you bring to the table that is in need, and the other party or parties must bring something to the table that you need. Otherwise, what’s the point?
I have been bartering for most of my 13 years in this industry. It’s just part of doing business. I have also been burned very few times, because I implement a few very smart elements to the process. The first key to a successful trade arrangement is make sure the person you are bartering with has a product or service that meets your needs, or satisfies what you are looking for, and has a good reputation and can deliver. That’s easy enough to find out by messaging some of the clients in his or her portfolio and getting references, or, simply by asking for references. You are certainly entitled. After all, you’re getting ready to invest your valuable time. Those that do not offer references do not have any positive ones to give to you. Move on!
Once you’ve established a reputable partner to barter with, you now need to be as specific as possible as to what you want out of the barter relationship.
As a photographer, how much time are you wanting? What genres of modeling are you wanting to shoot? What types of wardrobe are you wanting to shoot? Notice I use the word “wanting” and not the word “expecting.” Things get shady when you’re expecting something. What you expect is not as definitive as what you want. You need to be specific as to what you are wanting.
As a model, stylist, designer, or makeup artist, how many images are you wanting? What size? What resolution, and by what date?
Now, you need to get those details in writing that will be signed by all parties involved. I am not suggesting you need to get a lawyer to draft up a legal document for everyone you barter with, but you can simply state in writing what you are to give and what you are to get, and by what date, and have everyone sign it. Then, there should be no “expectations” or empty promises or misunderstandings. What you put on paper is what you are to deliver and what you are to receive. Period! It’s not that difficult folks, but you just need to do it.
As a photographer, my barter agreement states how much time the model will provide for me, what the wardrobe will consist of, if there is any nudity or semi-nudity agreed upon, who’s responsible for hair and makeup, and what time the model is to arrive. I also state what I am to ultimately provide to the model, how many, what size, what resolution, retouched or un-retouched, and by what date. There is also a monetary figure in the agreement that I will owe the model if I do not deliver by the stated date. After all, she provided her modeling skills to me, so she delivered her end of the bargain. There is also a monetary figure stated that she will owe me if she decides to be a no-show. After all, I had time involved in setting up and getting ready.
You can get very intricate or you can keep it very simple, but everything must be in writing.
My contracts happen to be reviewed by my attorneys so that they hold water in the courts of Maryland or wherever I may be shooting. I take my photography very seriously, and I take my obligations to the models, artists, and stylists very seriously. Reputation can be everything. Because of that, I owe it to myself to protect my interests as well. If I need to take a talent to court, of if they need to take me to court, I have the documentation I need to proceed with. You should too.
In closing, let me state that I have never been taken to court in my 13 years in the photography and modeling industry, and have never had to take anyone to court. Putting the specifics in writing works