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When it was time to redesign my website, I knew my products needed to be showcased on actual children. I had been taking pictures of my products on dress forms, but that lacked the polished, “retail” appearance of having photos taken with child models.

Because my products are baby bibs, I’d need to find infants and toddlers to model them — something that came with a unique set of circumstances. Like many handcrafters, budget is one of the first considerations in the process. A local colleague was building her photography business and we bartered our services. We chose to use nonprofessional “models” and ran the photography shoot in a local rental studio.

This article outlines options for choosing models, the legal aspects of working with children, payment of minors, as well as the logistics of running of a photo shoot with children.

Photo courtesy of Jamie Bourgeois
The results were the professional look I was hoping for, but required some research and prep work in advance.

Model Options

When it comes to finding child models, there are several options available: You can use one of your own children, use a friend or family member’s child, or seek out a modeling agency.

Professional agencies can provide “experienced” models for a fee, but this is typically out of the budget of the small handcraft business. Fees can run several hundred to thousands of dollars, depending on many factors.

Boutique modeling companies, however, typically offer a more affordable way for makers to hire a child model. Most boutique child modeling companies consist of a photographer and their models (typically, their own child or children). Because a number of photographer-parents in this situation are hoping to build a portfolio for their child as well as for their own photography business, many are willing to do so for no monetary payment. Instead, the model and photographer keep the handcrafted products in exchange for the high-resolution, quality photos showcasing the maker’s products. Depending on the cost of your products, this may be a cost-saving avenue.

Photo courtesy of Jamie Bourgeois

Independent, professional photographers may also offer commercial shoot packages. The photographer may have a pool of local child and infant models to pick from, and — based on your needs — be able to coordinate, shoot and edit a certain amount of product pictures for you.

One such business is Hello Charlie out of Des Moines, Iowa. Emily Butterworth, owner of Hello Charlie, is a professional graphic designer and photographer specializing in stylized photos for small business and handcrafts. She offers product-makers several add-on services to help give products and online sites a more professional look.

As mentioned earlier, I chose to use non-professional models. I posted a casting-call on my business Facebook page, expecting little interest. Within 12 hours, I had more responses than I could have imagined. Given the variety of ages and characteristics of the children we used almost all of the “models” to create a variety of looks for the products, website, social media and marketing.

Lastly, using your own children may be the easiest way to obtain product photos that you need. It also is an option with many advantages like access and the freedom to schedule a shoot around your own personal schedule. However, this is still considered work for the child regardless of age when you use the pictures for business related purposes.

Paying Your Child Models

When using hired models, professional or not, payment should be made in the child’s name. The parents can deposit the check into a bank account, a 529-college savings fund, or an IRA set up in the child’s name. Paying in goods or via gift cards is acceptable. According to Edward Flynn, a certified tax preparer and accountant in Nashua, New Hampshire, the child’s income is reportable to the IRS and filed by the parents on behalf of the child. A receipt should be prepared and kept on file by both the handcrafted business and the parents for tax purposes. Income (including goods) that totals more than $400 per year needs to be reported and filed with the IRS.

Legal Aspects and Liabilities

When your agents or employees are children, you need to address a unique set of legal aspects. Some states require that children of certain ages require a working permit or an entertainment work permit. This is the parent’s responsibility to obtain, but as the agent hiring the child you must ensure that the proper permits are in place.

A contract between the parent, business and photographer should be reviewed and signed prior to the photo shoot. Important aspects covered in a contract should include:

  • Copyright ownership
  • Where and how the photos will be used
  • Release of harm of the photographer and business*
  • Understanding of the use of digital manipulation of photos (i.e., Photoshop™)

*Release of harm to the photographer and business covers any damage caused by misuse should the photographs be misappropriated by a third party. With the use of photos on your website, there is always a chance that they could be stolen and used on other websites, promotional materials or companies that were not licensed to use them. With the sensitive nature of children in images online — and the ability to alter images digitally — you need to be aware that, despite the best efforts to protect the copyright of the photos, there is a chance that your photos could be used for purposes other than their original intent.

Want to see a sample contract before you arrange your photo shoot? The American Society of Media Photographers offers several sample release forms on their website. You can also download a sample contract here and change it to suit your needs.

Photo courtesy of Jamie Bourgeois

Logistics of Working With Children and Infants

Given that many handcraft business owners do not have large budgets and the ability to hire via modeling agencies or professional commercial photographers, doing the shoot yourself or collaborating with a local photographer means that you will need to plan accordingly.

If you’re using several children at a shoot, flexibility is key. Having a photo-shoot agenda will keep things running smoothly. Know which products will be modeled by which child. Ideally, plan the time of the shoot to occur when the infants or children will be most cooperative (avoid nap times) and overlap two different children during the shoot to save time. If one infant is uncooperative or needs to nurse, the other child can be used. Parents also appreciate that you are willing to accommodate their children’s needs.

Some states require that children working as models have an entertainment work permit, which is the responsibility of the parent to obtain but a business’s final responsibility to make sure one is in place for each child. Additionally, provide the contract to the parent before the photo shoot and make sure all questions are answered before photographing their child.

Jamie Bourgeois

Jamie Bourgeois

contributor

Jamie owns Bourgeois Baby, LLC, lives in Nashua, New Hampshire, and loves all things craft.

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