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How to Have a Successful TFP Shoot

How to Have a Successful TFP Shoot

Trade for Print or TFP shoots are shoots where the photographer doesn’t pay the model and the model doesn’t pay the photographer. They are a great tool for when models and photographers are starting out or when they don’t have a budget. Here are some tips for how to make them successful.

Understand That Everyone Does TFP Shoots Differently

There is no industry standard for TFP shoots. Everyone has their own experience and their own set of expectations going into TFP shoots. This creates a problem when one side assumes that the other side is going by the same set of unwritten rules. Certain things are assumed and therefore not discussed, and then, expectations are crushed and sadness ensues.

Topics that Have to Be Discussed Before a TFP Shoot

  1. How many pictures is the model going to receive? It is unusual to see anyone post more than three or maybe four pictures from any shoot unless there are lots of different looks. So, if a model wants 100 edited photos from a shoot, that would be a huge waste of time to edit a bunch of photos that would never be posted.
  2. When will the edited photos be ready? It’s unfair to have a model invest time and gas money into a shoot and then have to wait months for the pictures. But after the shoot when the model gets to go home and wait for pictures, that’s when the second half of the work starts for the photographer. Editing photos takes a lot of time. That can be a drain, especially if it’s for an unpaid project. So, it is unfair to put undue pressure on the photographer to get rushed edits completed. Generally, two weeks is a good guideline to get final edited pictures.
  3. Who gets to choose the pictures? Who chooses the pictures to be edited? Does the photographer just send a message saying: “Hey, here are the five I picked and edited. Thanks!” Does the photographer send a link of a bunch and ask the model to pick his or her favorites? If the photographer sends a link, can the model keep the unedited ones? Are they going to be watermarked?
  4. What kind of edits are going to be done? Generally, you can get an idea of the editing style of a photographer from his or her page, but people often use TFP shoots to try out something new. Who gets the final say in the edits? How many rounds of edits can the model request? Can the model edit the photo after it is received?
  5. Who is paying costs? If you are renting a studio, who is going to pay for it? If you are shooting in a state park and there is an entrance fee or a parking fee, who pays?
  6. Can the pictures be used commercially? Can the photographer use the pictures in ads or sell them? Can the model sell the pictures? What if the model doesn’t sell the individual pictures, but uses them on a subscription site where people pay to view the portfolio? The default rights on this issue are complicated and not always intuitive, so agreeing beforehand in writing can solve a lot of problems. If they are going to be used commercially, be sure to get a model release.
  7. Where can the photos be posted? A lot of people have a Facebook life where they are connected with family and people they’ve known their whole life, and they have an Instagram life for their modeling or photography. If that’s the case, they might not want pictures posted on both platforms. Or, they might be okay with some pictures posted on the photographer’s website only and not on social media.
  8. Are the photos going to be used for publication? If the model or photographer wants to submit the pictures for publication through a site like Kavyar, many magazines require that the pictures not ever be posted to social media before publication. Or the photographer might submit the pictures to one magazine and the model to another and they both get accepted and then both disqualified because of the exclusivity requirements that some magazines have.
  9. How is everyone going to be credited? If you post a picture to your website, do you have to credit the other person? How do you do it? With a name, Instagram handle, link to their site? Do you use the business name or the personal name of the photographer?
  10. Is there going to be a team involved? Is someone arranging for hair and makeup to be involved? If there is a makeup artist who is also working TFP, is the makeup artist expecting some up-close beauty shots? Is there a specific hair and makeup look expected?

Plan out your TFP shoots, especially if there are specific poses or outfits that are important to one person.

Tips on How to Have a More Productive TFP Shoot

  1. Have a mood board. Pinterest is great for this. You can create a board with sample pictures of the hair and makeup look, the lighting, the poses, or the vibe of a shoot. You can easily share the link with the other member(s) of the shoot and even invite them as collaborators to add to the board. This way, everyone is on the same page about how to prepare for the shoot and the type of pictures that are desired.
  2. Set and communicate goals. Random shoots just for fun are a good way to practice the very basics of modeling or photography. Once you have an understanding of the basics, you should really start setting firm goals for your shoots. You might want to have a specific style or technique you are trying to master or a specific item of clothing you are trying to showcase. More importantly, make sure everyone involved in the shoot understands your goals well before the shoot. It could impact how everyone gets ready, the type of equipment they would bring, or any other accommodations that would be needed.

Let me know in the comments how you do your TFP shoots or any other tips you might have.

Jeff Bennion's picture

Jeff Bennion is a San Diego-based portrait photographer specializing in boudoir and fashion photography. He owns Ignite Studio, the prettiest studio in the world. He is also an attorney licensed in California.

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