If you are looking to launch a career in photography, chances are you will quickly become acquainted with the concept of TF work. In today’s post I’ll share my perspective from both a photographer and a models point of view on how to make this partnership the best it can be!
So what is TF? TF stands for “Time For” and is often seen as TFP (Time For Print). At it’s most basic level, TF means that a photographer will work with a model with no money being exchanged between the two. The photographer “pays” the model for her time by providing her with prints (this is why it’s sometimes called TFP) or digital files from the shoot. The model pays the photographer by giving up his or her time to be photographed. Sounds easy enough, right? Truth be told there are a myriad of pitfalls that can end up making a TF shoot a complete waste of time and money. Let’s look at the issues surrounding this arrangement.
TF shoots are an excellent way for you to build up your portfolio. Starting out you will most likely be working with newer models so it’s very important to be clear in what you’re looking to get out of your photo shoot with them. In order to do this you should come up with a theme/concept for the shoot so that you can communicate that to the model. TF shoots where the model just shows up with whatever usually end up being a waste of time for all, since the photographer may not get the shots they want for their portfolio and the model gets sub-par work for their own. Starting out I would look at fashion magazines, blogs, and other photographers websites to get ideas for the shoot. For example, one of my very first photo shoots was inspired by a spread in Vogue Italia of Dakota Fanning. For a beginning studio photographer it was quite a challenge to try and replicate that work but we both ended up with a great series of images to add to our portfolios.
Another thing that I see regularly are photographers with a million genres of work in their portfolios. Starting out, you may not know exactly what type of photography you want to get into (ie weddings, boudoir, fashion, beauty, etc) so it’s okay to experiment a few times to see what you like. Once you start to see where your passions may be I would recommend sticking to that one genre when shooting TF. You’ll notice that each and every photo shoot you complete will have work that is constantly improving when you stick to what you love. I really loved shooting beauty, headshots, and portraiture and to this day that dominates the majority of my own portfolio. If I would’ve done TF shoots in every genre under the sun my portfolio would lack vision and customers would have no idea what my specialties are. It would also be difficult as you progress to get better models to work with you, since you won’t have a consistent body of work to show them. That has been the key in my own business to improving the quality of models I’ve been able to work with. The most important thing that I can stress to a photographer shooting TF is that you have to have a clear vision for the type of work you want to shoot. If a model approaches you to shoot TF with them and they are wanting a genre of images that you don’t specialize in then you should feel comfortable turning that down or referring them to another photographer. All too often I see photographers venture outside of their niche and post images on social media that take their photography brand several steps back.
This brings me to another point, which is being selective over which images you choose to post from your shoots. While you might give the model 5 images from the shoot, that doesn’t mean you have to post all 5 to your social media page or website. Take the image that best represents your work and post just that one. When selecting that image you basically just look for the one that “speaks to you”, the one that you think will cause others to want to work with you. As you do more and more shoots you’ll develop that eye, but each shoot is an opportunity for you to exercise that.
Some of the things I would recommend to you will sound very similar to what I’ve recommended for photographers. The main one being that you should find your niche and find photographers that excel in that type of photography. If you’re looking to get into fashion, you may not want to shoot with a photographer that has a lot of bridal pictures in their portfolio. I often ask models during my shoots with them what type of modeling they would like to do, and often times get blank expressions in return. Determining what kind of modeling you want to do will help you to develop all of the skills and characteristics necessary to be successful in that line of business. Each genre of modeling has it’s own skill sets, so don’t waste your time shooting TF with photographers that don’t shoot in a genre that you are passionate about.
For models starting out, your expectations from a photographer are probably very low. Just showing up is half the battle, but it doesn’t end there. Take each and every shoot seriously! Go to bed at a decent time the night before so you don’t end up looking or feeling worn down. Take care of your skin, nails, and body. Another big one is grooming. It is completely unacceptable to show up to a photo shoot not having bathed, shaved, brushed your teeth, etc etc. You may be reading this laughing to yourself but I only write this because I’m thinking of several times where one or all of these “rules” have been broken. Remember, today’s high resolution DSLR cameras can see just about everything! Don’t make extra work for the photographer in Photoshop by neglecting to take care of something that a simple razor or tweezer would’ve fixed.
Also, practice your looks and poses! As a photographer there is nothing more annoying that shooting “dead face” models that have no expression, or lack a variety of expressions. Connecting with the camera is crucial to making sure you get spectacular images for your portfolio. As a photographer I spend hours every day looking at images, attending or viewing workshops online, testing out new equipment and lighting techniques, and much more. As a model you should invest just as much if not more time into your modeling. Look at models that inspire you, and take note of their expressions and poses. Practice in front of a mirror. Find the angles and looks that look best so that when you show up to shoot you don’t have to rely on the photographer (who may have no clue) to tell you what to do.
It all boils down to professionalism. I’m sure you’ve heard of the idea “fake it til you make it”, and I believe that this concept works in the modeling industry. Show up to every photo shoot as if it was for your favorite magazine. You never know when that photographer you’re shooting with might hit the big time and will remember what a pleasure it was working with you and how great the images of you turned out.
The Bottom Line
Photography is a business, and it’s important for both photographers and models to understand that. In future postings I will continue to unravel my thoughts on the business behind TF shooting, but for now you can put these few ideas to work and begin seeing immediate results!
I would love to hear your comments and feedback on this article. Feel free to leave those comments below!