Tips & Tricks – Modeling / Photography Lingo

Modeling Lingo
Photo taken by F64 Photography

Between 2002 and 2007 I was a self-employed model. It was a great way, really the only way, I could pay bills at the time. As a single Mom who left the country to live in the big city, it was a whole new world in many ways. It took me quite a while to get used to how things worked, how to speak the language and how to market myself well; even though I never wound up on the cover of Vogue, I still made a name for myself for quite a long time and that was something to be proud of. I have been published in a few books, calendars; my photos have been sold at galleries and I have tried my hand at runway modeling.

Modeling Lingo
One of my photos Illustrated on Becoming the Villaness by Jeannine Gailey.

I receive a lot of emails asking questions about how to get into modeling, how to answer modeling pitch emails, what to bring to shoots, etc. One of the biggest questions I am asked is how one can get their children into modeling and although it is an avenue I have never approached, I assume the beginning is relatively the same for everyone. So I decided to begin with the Lingo because in order to get what you want you have to understand what is being offered/asked of you. I am going to specifically deal with self-employed modeling terms instead of getting into professional agent based modeling terms which I am not completely knowledgeable of.

TFP – Trade For Prints

TFP and/or Trade For Prints (Time For Prints) is generally one of the most requested form of ‘payment’ between a Model and a Photographer. It essentially means what it says, the Photographer will Trade with the Model for Prints instead of Commission (or in reverse). The Model will have rights to the Prints he/she is working for, all of them and/or half of the copyright. This means that if either the Model or the Photographer wants to sell and/or use the images on the Prints they must come to a mutual agreement and/or split the shares of the future commission.

Here is an example: The Photographer wants to work with me and/or I want to work with a very good photographer. We come to the agreement of doing TFP, I will work for 2 hours and receive 10 choice digital shots along with 5 prints for shared copyright. The Photographer pays for the printing of the photos (sizes pre-agreed upon) and the disc for the digital photo copies. Both parties can use the photos for promoting, etc.  However, if I wanted to sell my photos at a gallery 1/2 the profit would go to the photographer for his partial copyright / ownership of the photos. If the photographer then sells those shots to a magazine, I would receive 1/2 of the profits for my partial copyright / ownership.

In some cases TFP means that the Model will receive all the photos for the photographers use of them in his portfolio or the other way around. Meaning one will hold full copyright but the other has use permissions. This is agreed upon before ever working together and generally depends on who is more prominent between the two. If the Model is more well known than the photographer it could be the photographer’s payment to work with them so that they can have a good model in their portfolio or it could be the Model’s payment with the photographer to have his work.

Model Release Form

This is the agreement form, usually just a one page sheet that lists the conditions that have been agreed upon by the mutual parties. It should have the restrictions outlined, rights for use and/or waives for ownership.  Make sure when setting up an agreement you have a Model/Photographer release form that has the information regarding ownership, copyright and the right to sell/share and that it is signed before you ever begin working on a project. Even if it is just a local photographer, friend or otherwise. If you are serious about modeling you want to be serious about your photos and who has rights to them later on down the line; especially if children are involved.

Exclusive – Non-Exclusive Contracts

An Exclusive Contract means that you can only work with the agency you are signing the contract for, a Non-Exclusive Contract means that you can work with other agencies with limitations (read the fine print).

Portfolios / Book  – Tear Sheets 

Your Portfolio is essentially your Resume. It consists of the best of your work as a model and/or photographer as well as your Tear Sheets. Tear Sheets are literally sheets that are torn out of publications for show, such as if you had your photo in a magazine you could use it the page as a Tear Sheet. Your Portfolio will make or break you in the modeling world, which is why a lot of amateur Models / Photographers do a lot of TFP in the beginning in order to build their Portfolios. We’ll go over how to create a decent Portfolio at a later time.

Commerical / Print 

Commercial / Print work is Paid work. It promotes a product or a brand – think magazines, billboards, labels, etc. Most Commercial / Print work is found through Agents, which will also be covered at another time.

Fashion / Runway

Fashion and Runway Modeling is sometimes paid and sometimes not. Often you are paid through the clothes you are modeling. You must typically be of a certain size, style or figure depending on what the product and/or brand is and generally is used in advertising.

Editorial Modeling 

Generally the same as Fashion/Runway and Commercial, however specifically works with publication works.

DOE – Depends on Experience 

This is the same in any field of work. What you are paid depends upon your experience.


Any photos that are not professionally done. The photos in your Facebook that you made with your cellphone and/or digital camera? Snapshots.

Camera – Ready 

Sometimes Models are asked to show up to a shoot Camera – Ready, meaning you must be done up before arriving so that you can begin shooting right away.

Photog / Photographer – GWC / Guy With Camera

A Photog and/or Photographer is a professional photographer with references, a resume, a place of business – meaning it is his job (or side job) which they actively pursue. A GWC and/or Guy With Camera is a person who owns a nice camera and as a hobby likes to go out and shoot photos; most assume themselves to be photographers – however they are not. I’ve worked with quite a few that have had a great eye for the camera (see below), but if you are looking to build a great Portfolio it pays to have Photographers.

Modeling Lingo

That about sums up the Lingo for basic starters. The important thing is to be aware of what you are being asked before agreeing to anything, to ask for a photographer/models portfolio, references from previous work that you can contact and also the understanding of ownership. For me, it was simple, if I was paid then I waived ownership, if not then I TFP with ownership of the photos with the photographer having permissions for use. It is very similar to Blogging in the fact that we are given products for a review as a payment for our services and if we are not given a product then we are paid for promotion. It is a give and take, but if you are not aware of the Lingo then you may not know what you are giving away and sometimes that can come back to bite you. I’ve lost thousands of dollars in ignorance of my usage rights. If you are ever uneasy about signing a contract or release, consult a professional.

Next we’ll talk about how to create / build a good Portfolio (for yourself or for your children) and where and what to do with it so make sure you subscribe so you won’t miss out on my Tips & Tricks!

Have a question about the Lingo and/or want to add to it? Comment below!



  1. This’s Very helpful blog, I used it and i like it, this is very useful.

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