Free Photos for All!

So you decided to give modeling a go and realized you need pictures of yourself to book jobs.  You looked at a few photography websites but the rates are just too rich for your blood.  This calls for tfp.

Tfp stands for trade for print.  When a photographer posts an ad mentioning this acronym, she is offering to take photos of a model for free in exchange for the model’s talent and looks.  In the end, the idea is that both parties will walk away with photos to use for their portfolios.

A photographer will offer a tfp to either build a portfolio from scratch, ad a new look to an existing portfolio, or to simply take contemporary photos of a style she has previously done.  Before computers existed, pictures from tfp shoots were delivered in printed format. Now, these photos are generally burned onto a cd (tfcd), saved onto a flash disc, or sent in digital form to an email address via websites like Dropbox.

Doing tfp photoshoots is a great way for beginning models to build their portfolios, and is also highly recommended for freelancers and part-timers when updating existing bodies of work.  For tips on booking photo sessions, make sure to read our post Book It.  The same rules apply for finding your own tfp shoots!

Ok, you’ve booked a shoot.  Now what?

Do your research
Here’s an important question, have you studied the photographer’s work?  It’s recommended to view several photos before making a decision.  A good photographer should be able to get at least a couple decent shots of you, even if you have absolutely no idea what you’re doing.

Ask the photographer for links to his existing online portfolio.  If one doesn’t exist but the photographer is claiming to be a professional, pass.  It is likely that this person is either not up to date with current practices, does not have as much experience as originally claimed, or is running a scam.  Ew.

When looking through the photographer’s portfolio you want to find out if he has experience shooting the types of looks you want to add to your portfolio.  If no such photos exist, simply make sure you really really like the photographer’s work!  This is very important.  While you will be walking away with free photos and experience, it is best that you are also walking away with photos you can use; which is the main point of doing this in the first place.

If you are still willing to work with a brand new photographer who has no previous work to show, keep in mind that you might not end up getting any good photos at all.  At the very least, however, you can use that shoot as a practice round to get yourself familiar with being in front of the camera.

Modeling Tips - Posing

The other side of doing your research involves learning how modeling is done.  Browse magazines and Google for photos of models posing in the exact style of the shoot you are planning.  One of the worst and most annoying things, for a photographer, is having to direct a model the entire shoot.  This is distracting and can take the focus away from taking great photos.  Yes, the photographer knows you are a newbie but you don’t want to show up completely unprepared; that is just unprofessional.  Asking for a bit of direction is acceptable but you shouldn’t spend the duration of the shoot standing there waiting to be told what to do.  It’s always better to try and fail then to not try at all.

Be professional and polite
If you are a brand new model then you have everything to gain, at this point.  Remember that the photographer booking you is a professional and is basically working for free.  While she will hopefully get something out of it in the end, there is a chance that you won’t provide the photos that are desired, at all, because you are still green and don’t know what you’re doing.  That said, always remain humble.

If the photographer is offering a tfp shoot for swimsuit photos, for example, don’t assume she will also be willing to take fitness photos of you.  Politely ask if additional looks can be added to the shoot, once you have established a dialogue.  Another option is to wait until the end of your shoot, thank the photographer, then mention that you would love to work with her again and to please consider you for future tfp shoots.  If the photographer says no or does not call on you for future shoots, drop it.  Remember, you are an amateur and this person makes money taking photos.  What you are asking is that this person do more free work for you.  Pressing the issue or acting entitled would be the same as saying you don’t value the photographer’s work.

Ask all questions necessary to know what to expect the day of the shoot (i.e. what to bring, how long the shoot will last, what type of hair and make up the photographer desires etc.).  Arrive to the shoot on time and be prepared.  If you are expected to provide your own hair and make up, do it before you get to the shoot or arrive early enough to do it on-site.  It is also usually expected that you bring multiple outfits so that the photographer can decide which will be best.  Bring what you know will make you look good.  You will be most comfortable and confident if you feel that you look great.

Modeling Tips - Wardrobe

Be safe!
Don’t let your excitement and eagerness for this new venture cloud your judgement.  Unfortunately, there are a lot of bad people out there who prey on hopeful and inexperienced individuals, such as yourself.

Always meet in a public place.  It doesn’t matter how great the photographer’s work is or how well known he is for his style; if your safety cannot be ensured, it’s not worth it.

Try to bring someone with you who won’t be a distraction (preferably someone who knows self defense).  If the photographer has a problem with you bringing someone to a tfp shoot, that is a huge red flag.  The photographer should understand your desire for caution, as any normal human being would.

It also wouldn’t hurt to tell a third party where you will be shooting.  Worst case, someone will know to be on alert if you are unreachable for an unreasonably prolonged period of time.  Best case, you can tell that person all about your fun new experience!

What are some things you do to prepare for shoots?


Photo Credit: Lola O Photography

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