Some of you may be asking “Aimee, if you are a professional photographer, why do you sometimes do shoots for free?” That is a terrific question, and one I am more than happy to answer.   To start simply, as a photographer, if I get a new piece of equipment, such as a lens, or if I need to practice some technical elements like speed lights, or flash photography, I don’t want to be learning as I conduct a shoot with a high paying client.

Secondly, being a model or a photographer essentially means that you own your own business. You become your brand, and you need to build your portfolio and learn how to market yourself to get jobs.

A strong portfolio entails having several pictures showcasing your best work and range of abilities. Often it takes months or sometimes years to build a good portfolio. This is because you may have to do about 100 shoots before you find even 10 useable portfolio images and portfolios must always be up to date and continually evolving.

One of the problematic elements of building a portfolio can be the cost. In the past this could stop an artist dead in their tracks if they did not have the financial backing to build their portfolio by hiring expensive professionals who could provide the necessary pictures. If you are constantly paying for a high cost model or photographer this can surely cause you to reach deep in to your pockets.

However, being the problem solvers that we artists are, things have changed. We can rely on communities of collaboration and TFP shoots to allow us to continually improve, evolve and produce new work.

TFP shoots have become a slightly controversial issue over the last few years, but I believe, that if done correctly, TFP shoots can be one of the most useful tools for both, models, photographers and MUA’s alike.

The best place to find people who could be interested in collaborating is to join groups of entertainers, or photographers. For example, as a photographer, if I am looking to update my portfolio but am lacking the funds to hire a professional model, I often look to groups of actors, performers, or models online. I then post a general request for people who may be willing to collaborate for a TFP shoot and from there, I work with those who respond and try to find the best fit that mutually benefits both parties.

One thing I never do, is scan the internet for professional models and then request that they work with me for free. This is wrong. They are professionals and if I directly request their services I need to pay them. Their work, much like mine, is valuable and they must be compensated accordingly.

However, I also want to be clear that I don’t work with just anyone. Usually, I try to find other experienced artists who are also updating their portfolio, and we can help each other, and mutually benefit. I would never agree to do a TFP shoot for anyone of the general public, for a magazine, or weddings. I strongly believe that artists need to be paid for this kind of work and our skills have become largely under valued when people agree to do this kind of work for free.

           Now, some of you may be asking ‘What is a TFP shoot?’ Well, a TFP shoot is an agreement between a model and a photographer where the model poses for the photographer and the photographer provides them with a specified number of edited photos. Usually the general rule for an unpaid shoot is that photographers watermark their images, and request that any photos that appear online are linked to their websites or business pages. Likewise, the model or MUA will also be linked in any photos the photographer publishes online. I hope to have another post up in the future detailing more about the common agreements between the parties.

Some people may be wondering what the benefits of TFP shoots are. For me, there are a couple of paramount reasons aside from being able to save a few bucks and gain the increased exposure. I get to constantly be working on my craft. Trying new things practicing, and constantly developing your work is so crucial for success.

However, the most important element, for me, is the relationships that I establish. Meeting like-minded people, and having fun while I develop my skills is the best feeling. Second, to the joy I find in working with like-minded supportive people, it really helps in business. Time and time again the relationships I have developed doing TFP shoots have brought me more business than any other means.

There will always be some controversy surrounding TFP shoots, but I believe this industry is not a zero sum game. We can work together, and there are enough pieces of the pie out there for us all.  In my mind collaborative shoots, if done correctly, are some of the best ways to develop as an artist and as a business.

Feel free to share your thoughts and ideas below, I love to hear what your thoughts on TFP shoots are.

And until next time, may the wind be at your back, the sun upon your face, and the wings of destiny to carry you aloft to dance with the stars