For me personally, a tfp contract is a clear sign of quality, professionalism and mutual respect of each others work and art.
In my opinion and out of experience, a model, photographer and make up artist, have to do a lot of portfolio projects along the way. These projects, where everyone brings in their profession and gets out the finished photos as a payment are called TFP-work.
TFP projects serve as a specimen for projects you emphasize on or you would love to do more in the future. An artists portfolio. The work you, for example, show on instagram or facebook to represent your business.
Even though tfp projects are often named as ‘free projects’, the term has nothing to do with it being ‘free of charge’ – than meaning ‘a project, which can be anything creative, on any given topic, chosen by all the participants of the photo shooting’. The finished product is the payment. The currency is the service and knowledge every participant provides to make the photo shooting work. The level of trust and respect for each other and each others work, is just as high as at a paid job.
WHAT IS A TFP SHOOT AND WHAT DOES TFP STAND FOR?
TFP stands for ‘Time (or Trade) For Print (or Portfolio)’ and is a collaboration of artists of a photo shooting project, whose ‘payment’ are the final photos. Participants of a photo shoot are/can be the following.
- the photographer
- the make up artist (MUA)
- the model
- the hairstylist
- the designer
- the clothing stylist
- the florist
- the manager
- the conceptioner
- the copywriter
- and many more parties
SO, WHAT DOES TFP EXACTLY MEAN FOR EACH PARTY?
Like I mentioned before it means, that each party brings in their profession. The make up artists contributes the make up and skills, the model her modeling skills and often the clothing if not contributed by a designer and/or stylist (who can also be a part of a tfp photo shooting) and the photographer the photography equipment and his/her skills. Location/studio, wardrobe and accessories are well constituted and financially taken care of by everyone involved in this shoot – if not already being the reason of a certain tfp photo shooting, in the first place. All the essential information on a photo shooting are written down in a tfp contract.
WHY WOULD I WORK ‘FOR FREE’? WHAT ARE THE/MY PROFITS?
Well, the answer to it is simple and there’s more than one reason to it:
- The first reason, would be to create something of high quality together.
- You gain experience. The good and the not so good ones, but each experience makes you stronger, defines your personal goals and helps you walk your own path.
- You have the time and the space to try out new things together and see if and how they come together.
- There’s only the rules of the team and no one tells you what to do – so it’s full of creativity and inspiration.
- TFP projects are also important to expand your networks and social environment – in order to exchange skills and thoughts and ways of working. You get to know great artists and personalities, who can be important business relations for jobs. If someone is happy with the work you do, he/she is likely to recommend you for a job if it fits your profile. I, for example, got to know my best friends through TFP projects, as most (not everyone) has the same goals and dreams and love motivated and euphoric personalities who would love to have a good time working on something really cool.
- Last but not least … to have fun.
DO NOT CONFUSE A TFP WITH WORKING FREE FOR CLIENTS
If everyone would start working TFP for clients (commercial advertising work), the work no longer has any value and the whole scene would perish piece by piece and let me tell you – a lot of people will not be happy with your way of working and your decisions. Also, you won’t feel valued for the hard work you do. A proper payment is not just only paying your bills – obviously – but is also a sign of respect towards your work, your person and your commitment on what you built up over the years. How much you put into your education and profession.
Please note, that there is a difference in using 1 or 2 fashion pieces for one of your ‘free’ project or if you do a whole campaign for a concept.
HOW TO PROPERLY PREPARE YOURSELF FOR A TFP SHOOTING
Preparation is key. I think we can all agree!
I always like to say that the perfect photo shooting starts with a proper and open communication! If you’d like to work on tfp base, you have to put a lot of effort in your requests to write more than just a single ‘I am in Vienna from … to the … , let me know when you’ve got time’ or ‘I saw your portfolio and I want to work with you’ – uhm, NO! First of all, it would be nice to ask me if I actually want to work with you, but let’s put this aside and focus on the points that actually matter.
A proper tfp request should be out of your own interest – in the first place, but let me list you a few important things your request should cover:
- Who are you?
State your name, origin, current location.
- How did you become aware of the person you’re asking for a tfp collaboration?
It is always nice to let somebody know how you got on their profile or aware of their work.
- What do you like about the person’s portfolio?
This is actually stating the intention of asking someone for a photo shooting. Do you like the style, the color code, the composition? Get into details, or you could actually just ask anyone.
- Tell a little bit about yourself.
Give the person you’re asking for a tfp shoot a short description of your personality and why you do what you do and why you think you would make a great team.
- Date specification.
Let the person know, when you would like to work with him/her. Example given: during the next month, at a specific date or time frame (if you travel to a certain place and only stay a couple of days) or whenever him/her has time (ask for a a couple of dates).
Please, SEND A PORTFOLIO and/or – if you’re just starting out – photos of good quality with your request. I think it is obvious, that THIS is the most important bullet point. Just assuming that people will check your instagram or facebook or even private page, will not do the job. For Models: sometimes a photographer or MUA want to see so called ‘polas’, which are bare face, no make up, no retouched photos from different angles of your face and body. Believe me, I’m also not a fan of it, but they actually make sense at times in order to see the canvas that is going to be worked with.
A moodboard is a sheet of paper (mostly digital), which shows the look, the mood, the colors, the accessories and the vibes you’re going for in your hoped for tfp shoot are shown in form of a photocollage and in words. It will be shown to all the members of a photo shooting, so all know what the shoot will be about. I give you an example down below. Sometimes there is no specific idea or you leave it open for the whole team and everyone works on it together. Pinterest is a good platform to do so.
- no tfp.
Some artists do not work on a tfp base and quote it on their website, in their instagram or facebook feed – and it should be highly respected if they just don’t have the time or the interest in working tfp. Although I have to say, I met a couple of amazing photographers by requesting a tfp photo shooting even though they don’t do tfp often or at all, but I wrote a proper mail with an appreciated content and luckily they were interested in my look and/or personality and were open and interested as an exception.
- Tfp contracts – are always a matter of opinion and contentious matter. Some find it useful, some might criticize the actual value at law. In my opinion tfp contracts fulfill a couple of useful purposes. Firstly, for me personally it is a sign of respect and appreciation for each other and the work of my partners. That is my main reason, why I always set up one for each photo shooting. Secondly, a contract also regulates the purpose and the use of the final product (the ‘payment’). It summarizes all contact info such as mail address, telephone number, address, website, etc. in case of any subsequent questions. Read more about my tfp regulations.
THINGS YOU SHOULDN’T DO AT AND AFTER A TFP PHOTO SHOOTING
- Don’t be late! Just like at a paid job, you need to be on time because others are too – especially if time is limited by renting a studio for only a couple of hours. Excuse yourself by notifying the other participants in advance, if you’re running a bit late (speaking of 5–10 Minutes, because of terrible traffic or public transportation, NOT because you overlooked the time and it is ‘just a portfolio project’.
- Don’t be selfish. A tfp project gives each participant the chance to try out new things and to share ideas and thoughts. Don’t only try to get through with your own idea – be open minded and discuss things you do not agree with or don’t like.
- Don’t be disrespectful by telling others how to do it right. Work your own skills and do not unproductively criticize the work of others by saying what they have to do, which doesn’t mean you cannot suggest something that could look great. Everyone is here to learn and to gain experience through each other.
- Don’t post a photo if the other parties don’t have the photos yet and if it hasn’t been decided on the release date. Sometimes the team decides on sending in the project to an online magazine and those photos have to be exclusive (meaning: not shown to anybody or published anywhere before).
LAST BUT NO LEAST, IT SHOULD BE SAID THAT …
that it is always a privilege, if you get asked to work in a team full of creative heads and visionaries, which doesn’t mean you need to accept every single request. Define your own goals, interests and wishes you have for your tfp photo shootings. If visions overlap and if the work of each party is convincing, it makes sense to accept the request. It makes no sense to attend a photo shooting, if it gets you nowhere and if you’re not in the mood to work – which would actually be disrespectful towards the other team members.
At the moment I would love to do more studio portrait work with lots of creative make up and a sleek styling, but I get asked for a lifestyle outdoor photo shoot. I am not likely to accept the request, as my dreams differ a lot. I would only make an exception if the photographer has been on my invisible ‘secret dream list’ or I have worked with the artist before and the photography is just outstandingly great.
Learn to say ‘no, I’m sorry’ the nice way. If someone really put energy in their request, but it just isn’t what you’re am going for at the moment – always write back a proper appreciative response, as that particular person deserves to know. Out of the requester’s position said, it is always better to know that you don’t fit someone’s portfolio, than to be left in the dark.
Don’t wear yourself down, if you don’t get to do a collaboration right away. Firstly it takes time to find ‘your’ people, but you also cannot be everyones model type. Ask for feedback, learn through your experiences, reflect and make things differently the next time.
And now – be respectful, be reliable and have fun!