If you work with people, whether it be kids, families, seniors, adults, or professional models, male or female, then you have almost certainly shot a TFP (trade for print) shoot before. While the definition of TFP is flexible these days, as most commonly we mean "trade time for digital images" rather than physical prints, these kinds of shoots have and will continue to be an industry staple. The most important aspect of these shoots is the one thing that often gets forgotten: getting a return on your investment of time.
I'm not going to spend too much time defining a TFP shoot and going over what the purpose is. Also, if you're the type of photographer who will tell me that you literally never do a TFP shoot or haven't for decades, then chances are this article isn't for you anyway. For everyone else out there though, TFP shoots are an important part of your photography journey and there is a right and wrong way to go about them. When done correctly, the occasional TFP shoot can be both fun and rewarding, for both your creativity and for your business.
The first thing you need to address when asked about a TFP shoot is to be cognizant about the manner in which you, as the photographer, view the shoot. You are choosing to invest your time, which is worth money. Always try to remember that a TFP shoot is an investment, not a "free shoot." As with any investment, you want to see a positive return for your business.
This is achieved by having clearly defined expectations ahead of time. Most importantly, make sure that you have a business conversation with your model. Let them know that in exchange for the work you're putting into the shoot, you would like them to put a bit of work towards your business. Keep it simple and make it clear you're not trying to turn them into a salesman. Rather, as they go about their day-to-day lives if they encounter someone they feel would be a great client, they have your business card and be a positive word-of-mouth on your behalf.
In order to ensure that your TFP candidates are out there as a positive force rather than a negative one, you need to deliver on everything that you say you will. Your reputation speaks volumes about you. Provide a safe, fun, engaging environment in which you can create the images that you and your model are trying to create. If you promise three images, you need to deliver three images (less is more folks, no one wants 20-plus images even if they think they do). It goes back to the life lesson, don't make promises that you can't keep. Delivering on what you say you will coupled with being a good human being goes a long way to building a positive reputation and spreading positive word-of-mouth.
A few last things to remember regarding TFP shoots: do not be a creep. I wish that it didn't have to be said, but the unfortunate truth is there are a lot of unprofessional photographers out there shooting TFP with ulterior motives. Do not be one of these people. If you can't hold yourself accountable and act like the professional you're trying to be, you deserve your negative reputation and hopefully, you get publicly called out on your behavior.
A trade shoot can be both creatively rewarding and can also be an investment in your business. As long as candid conversations about your business expectations take place beforehand there is no reason to shy away from the occasional TFP shoot. Every market is going to be a bit different and as with all things, context is king. Use your head and be a responsible adult, an investment is not a free shoot. Leave a comment about your thoughts on TFP, do you remember to have business conversations? If you have a business success story that stems from a trade shoot, let's hear all about it.