How to Get Free Models

By Andrew Hudson Published: June 7, 2011 Updated: November 26, 2013

Free is always a good price. Many new/beginner models are willing to work for trade, in exchange for photos that they can use for promotion. And you, being a photographer, have access to photos which makes that trade easy to do.

If you can take some flattering photos and provide files of your photos on a CD to use, this would be of value to an aspiring model. So if you’re willing and able to be friendly and helpful, you can get novice models for free.

The buzzword to use here is “TFP.”

TFP, also TFP/CD

TFP stands for “Time For Print” (or “Trade For Print”). This is a common term in modeling to describe an arrangement whereby the model provides their time in exchange for receiving good images for promotional prints.

Previously, photographers provided actual prints but today it’s more common to provide the original images on a CD, so the concept is also termed TFCD or TFP/CD. Since images can be emailed, sent by FTP, and provided in other ways, another variant is the more general TF*. All these terms mean essentially the same thing: a trade for photos.

There is no fixed definition of the TFP arrangement. So it is up to you to negotiate beforehand what you’re willing to provide and what the model expects to receive in lieu of payment. It’s important to get a clear understanding with the model, as a happy model may work for you again, and an unhappy model may attempt to block sales of your photos.

What Can I Offer In Return?

Typically, a model is looking for some choice headshots to use in their portfolio. Some flattering photos from the chest up with nice lighting on the eyes and face will usually do. If your desired photo shoot doesn’t actually including headshot-type photos, you could add some to your shoot list.

For example, you could offer the following TFP:

“In exchange for one hour of your time modeling and the unlimited licensing of your likeness and image, I’ll take some headshots and provide you all the images on a CD for your use for your own promotion.”

This is the sort of thing you state beforehandduring the shoot you still need to get a signed model release.

When should I deliver the photos to the model?

If you have a laptop computer with you at the shoot that can burn CDs, it’d be good to deliver a CD there and then. This also gives you one less thing to remember and do after the shoot. Otherwise you could email some small JPEGs and mail a CD within a week of the shoot. Certainly you should fully complete your transaction with the model before you license the images (by uploading them to a microstock site or sending them to a client).

Who are the best models to work for free?

If you have kids under 18, they’re free as you, the parent, sign the model release. Other family members and friends are usually free as you can guilt them in to helping you start your career, ply them with beer, or offer up a trade of photos.

Aspiring models and actors are often eager to work for a photo trade. You can find such people by placing an ad on the bulletin boards of a local community college or university, particularly ones that have preforming arts classes; in a local newspaper; on modeling websites; or on Craigslist.

How Do I Hire A Model?

I’m glad you asked.


Reply by Tim Jenkins

March 24, 2017

Hi, I am an artist that also takes photos as a reference for my artwork. The problem I have is that most if not all models or women that see my ad on Craigslist and think I am just a guy with a camera and flag my ad. They do not understand what I do. I also work out of my apartment. It is just the woman I am using, my camera and me. I take a photo that I think will make a great drawing then I print it and draw from the photo. Picking women from a website is hard because I can’t see the woman in motion before talking to her. All I have is a photo to go by and when they get here something gets lost in the translation. Also most of the ones that respond do not even read my ad all of the way through and it shows when they send a photo for me to look at. I need some serious help here. Thanks for reading this, sorry it is so long, and any help you can give me is appreciated.

Reply by Yeki

October 25, 2016

Hi my name is Yeki and I’m study in GCSE and I take photography and I can’t find someone to take their portrait and I really need to find someone to be my photo model. What should I do?

Reply by Andrew Hudson, PhotoSecrets

November 15, 2016

Hi Yeki,

Since you are studying GCSE, you are likely at school. You could ask a friend to be your model.

Reply by Patrick

February 8, 2015

Hi Andrew,

I would like to use a model to take pictures but do not know where to start.

Reply by Andrew Hudson, PhotoSecrets

March 6, 2015

Hi Patrick,

Follow the last link in the article: How to Hire Models. Craigslist, Model Mayhem, and other modeling community websites offer a free way to contact potential models.

Reply by Anonymous

January 18, 2015

Hi, recently I have started looking into modeling and would like to gain experience and help assist photographers expand their talent as well. I’m not exactly sure how to come in contact with local photographers who would also want to trade. If you have info on other sites to come in contact with them I would appreciate it.

Reply by Andrew Hudson, PhotoSecrets

January 27, 2015


You could place an ad on Craigslist and/or Model Mayhem. For more information, see How to Find Models Online.

Good luck,


Reply by Anonymous

December 24, 2014

Thanks for the info as I am an artist and need models to pose for my work. I take the photos of them and then draw from the photos. I find that in a photo the woman sits still better than having her sit still for 3 to 10 hours.

Reply by Shabana

July 23, 2013

hi i’ve always wanted to get into modeling but never got round to it but now i’ve got the time i’ll loved to have my photos taken, i also have 2 handsome boys 9 and 5 who would love to have some photo shoots hope to hear from you soon

Reply by Andrew Hudson, PhotoSecrets

September 23, 2013

Hi Shabana:

I am not looking to hire models so you won’t hear from me soon. But try advertising yourself as a model on Craigslist, and contact local photographers.

Best wishes,


Reply by Tracy

July 21, 2013

I’m starting an online store and need models for pictures. They will be used on my website mostly but posters, hangtags and other promotional things are possible. how do I go about getting, talking to, and hiring someone? Mainly payment.. How does that go? And finally the release..... How do I write out or where do I find the proper most professionally pre written forms to have the models read and sign?

Eagerly waiting for your response,

Reply by Andrew Hudson, PhotoSecrets

September 23, 2013

Hi Tracy:

You could try looking on Craigslist and Model Mayhem, or posting your info on Craigslist. Also try talking to friends as they, or someone they know, might be interested. Everyone wants to be a model!

Payment is up to you. Some people are OK with working for trade (e.g. you allow them to use the photos you take of them). Model releases are available online. For more info, read model release.



Reply by Sondra Woodberry

June 20, 2013

Hello i would love to try this out if possible thank u

Reply by Mr.Smith

June 16, 2013

I am currently seeking Aspiring Models to assist me with the development of a Portfolio on a Monthly TFP Arrangement[I even have the TFP Model Releases].

I live in the New York City are,and am not quiet sure of HOW to hire Aspirees for this.

What is your recommendation?

Reply by Uptown

May 10, 2013

i have just opened a model pg on my free app. how can i get some models who dont mind free promotion on my worldwide app?

Reply by Inder Singh

August 11, 2012

nice photos.....

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