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Colorado Modeling and Photographers - How To Get Started

Getting Started In The Modeling Industry

Have you ever wanted to get involved in the modeling industry? There are some key factors to help you succeed in finding the right tools on the front range.

“There are no perfect models just as there are no perfect photographers. There is no right or wrong way to accomplish great images which can earn both parties paying gigs.”

I grew up shooting mostly weddings and nature with my family and it was a quick realization that photographing people in Colorado had it's own set of rules. There really wasn't any paying opportunity for nature photographers while living in a state oversaturated by visitors with various capture talent.

Getting Involved

My first foray into the modeling industry was by accident. I met a woman in Denver who saw the photography I was accomplishing west of Fort Collins and in some abandoned towns east of Greeley. I was also taking social media photos for various businesses as well as keeping up with my DLSR and 35mm medium format film capture of anything nature or beer related. She asked if I would be willing to help her with modeling portfolio photos. At first I declined and upon further thought I realized it would be an amazing opportunity to learn how to work with a live subject outside of the lifestyle photography accomplished for the brewery I was working for at the time. Finding models in Fort Collins was not something easily accessible to me, so I wanted to make a good impression and learn all I could.

The Shoot

“I don't think you know what you're doing but you've got a great eye and I'm willing to work with you until we get images we're both excited about!”

I'll never forget how long it took to set my camera to the proper settings, especially when it's a live environment. I had never done urban photography in Northern Colorado before. I was immediately in love with the way the light made interesting shadows and allowed different parts of a human to be the focal point. "I don't think you know what you're doing but you've got a great eye and I'm willing to work with you until we get images we're excited about!" It was the most backhanded compliment I've ever received and I'm forever grateful. A professional model was willing to be patient until I could figure my shit out. I started to get into a groove and the images we created that day are still some of my favorite to date.


"Time for print" or "trade for print," or even "test for print" are all terms within the industry. Models (and photographers) who are starting out are often attracted to this arrangement. TFP describes an agreement between a model and a photographer to accomplish a certain set of images while the model is given a limited license to use the best photographs in exchange for the time it took to shoot the session. It's almost like a right of passage for both photographer and model. It is a great way for both parties to gain industry knowledge, experience, and media in order to gain exposure for potential future projects. However, this can be abused by both parties. This is extremely evident in many photography groups on Facebook for creatives living all around Colorado. There have been many situations where photographers do not compensate the model for their time or the model sells their photographs illegally. All licenses to the photos are retained by the photographer - no matter what. Under U.S. law, copyright in a photograph is the property of the person who presses the shutter on the camera - NOT the person who owns the camera, or even the person in the photograph. Additionally, a likeness of person release is imperative for new photographers. Gaining profit through future business from an ad being run using a TFP session digital print can put any new photographer in hot water if they did not retain the proper release to do so. While a photographer may own a photograph, ensuring you can use it to gain profit is a must. When models or photographers are unfamiliar with these laws it makes for some awkward conversations when someone steps outside what's acceptable.

Many established photographers still do the occasional TFP for established models or brands who have a decent following as long as they're willing to do an agreed upon amount of promotion as an influencer before a shutter is ever being pressed.

Paid Sessions

A sure-fire way to enable future success is to book a model or photographer you want to work with. Unless there is some exposure or other trade that's acceptable to both parties, there is nothing wrong with shelling out the money for quality work and to build a new relationship. If your success for an upcoming event relied on you having the best Ice Cream Social a critic could attend, I can guarantee you're not going to take a chance on a new ice cream maker to carry your event. You're going to pay for a catering company with experience to ensure you impress your event guests and critics. The same should apply to the modeling portfolio you're putting together as well as the models photographers choose to book to accomplish their vision. In any form of self-marketing, it's an investment.

Body panting by Twisted Lotus Art
Savvy all panted up.

The Experience

Fast forward a bit. A few years ago I was doing approximately six paid modeling gigs a month. Word had gotten out that my work was unconventional and there was a certain mystique in the images I take no matter the subject being captured. Growing up shooting film prepared me to be creative with people and environments where the unconventional can be celebrated. There is no wrong crop or placement. It's all about the user experience. If someone sees an image with a model which inspires them to want to purchase canvases or book that model (or photographer) for work, the effectivity of your work is blossoming into a form which can evoke emotion and feeling. There is no higher compliment for an artist than to be compensated fairly for their time and creative vision.

Good luck Colorado, Ablaze Studios looks forward to seeing the awesome images you create.

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