I see it’s been over a year — I went travelling, which I wrote about here: http://fleetingexperience.wordpress.com/
But I’ve determined I need to pick up the camera again, after largely ignoring it for six months or so. More than that, I want to return to the fashion side of photography that I was doing. So I dusted off my website and cleaned up my camera gear and, since I have moved cities, plunged deep into the quagmire that is social media as it relates to photoshoots.
Thus I have rediscovered that hoary old chestnut, TFP (Time-For-Print/Portfolio/Photos). This is the system whereby instead of exchanging invoices, the creative team for a photoshoot (photographer, model, makeup artist, hair stylist, fashion stylist, etc) opt not to charge on the basis that all will get copies of the final images for their portfolio and are thus ‘paid’ in-kind. Its a win-win (or should that be, win-win-win-win-win?) or at least, so it should be.
So, here is what I think TFP is good for, and what it is not for, and why I am very selective now about doing it myself (and that doesn’t mean I will always be paid instead, it actually means I sometimes wont shoot).
TFP in its ideal form is a collaboration between peers. This implies a few things:
1) That you collaborate – The photographer is often the ‘manager’ of the team, and this can be frustrating at times because wrangling creative types is like herding cats, luckily often a good fashion stylist will bring together the elements. So, the photographer puts in his prep time, shoot time and post production (think hour-for-hour at least – each shooting hour probably entails at least an hour outside the shoot), stylist sources, develops and implements outfits and looks, hair and makeup do their magic on game day, model works it like a boss. The thing fails if someone is being slack, and it shows. The photographer cannot be expected to correct lazy mistakes on behalf of the others in post production. Equally, the photographer should be bringing their full talent and experience to bear on the shoot.
2) It’s between peers – So, a good photographer might collaborate with a good model for a shoot, and then they bring in the rest of the creative team, who will benefit from the photographer and model’s experience and talent. But a new model cannot expect that an experienced photographer will shoot TFP with them unless that photographer sees a particular talent in the model. Equally, a great model will not shoot TFP with a new photographer unless she/he feels that the photographer has special talent, which will be evident in the photographer’s portfolio. Put simply, your TFP shoots should be mostly between people of similar experience and talent. If a particular member of the team is wildly more experienced than the others, then that member may well expect payment. All this is common sense really, and, of course, none of this affects a person’s right to do their work for free, though that be a strange choice (unless its family I guess).
Two-way vesus one-way relationships
So a collaboration is a two-way street, a model might come to a photographer with an idea for a shoot, the photographer likes it, likes the model, they discuss it and work through the concept. They find hair and makeup artists who are likewise interested. All agree this shoot is worth their while and agree not to charge, instead making it TFP.
If, on the other hand, a new model sees an experienced photographer’s portfolio and decides she’d love to have that photographer shoot her and then just asks him straight up if he’ll shoot ‘TFP’, that’s a one-way street. That’s the same as asking for your vegan orange and fennel salad for free at that cafe where you park your fixie. No difference at all. Nothing has been offered in return for the photographer’s time. TFP is a form of payment, something is offered in return for something else. It’s a TRADE.
Now, when I say ‘offer’, I mean something that the photographer can benefit from. Such things include: a model with a look and experience that could see the photographers career progress, a makeup artist or hair stylist with particular skill and experience, a fashion stylist who’s on trend and has perhaps been published before (actually that one applies to everyone). In ALL cases, it must suit what the photographer needs in their portfolio, just as it should suit the rest of the team’s portfolios. There are no free kicks here people, we all spend a deal of time on these shoots, we need something in return (and that’s before we mention the costs of these shoots, so many times have I been the sole bearer of the cost of studio hire that frankly I am tempted to NEVER shoot TFP in a studio).
So, don’t be offended if a photographer’s choices don’t include what you want to shoot and he says no to TFP. This is a matter of personal choice after all, especially for TFP. Also, perhaps be a little circumspect about directly approaching a photographer with a request for TFP, many consider it rude, considering it to be the same as asking for free stuff…
Then again, if you want that photographer badly enough, there is always the more traditional option: PAY FOR IT. Few photographers will say no to that.