When would you work for free & What is testing ?
When would you work for free & What is testing ?
TF, TFP, Testing, Tear Sheets, getting paid or just helping someone out. Everyone has there reasons for being part of a shoot, be it models or photographers. There seems to be a growing trend of people not being happy with the arrangements they make with other people. Until the last few months I have been pretty lucky in working with people who have been professional and understanding of the complex pit falls that TF shoots can throw up. So I have decided to write this blog.
TF, a term used to describe a shoot in which all parties of some of the parties in a shoot work for free, The TF stands for Time For… anything but money in 99% of cases. This explains TFP too, Time for Prints or Photos, or in these modern times, digital versions of the photos. Higher up the food chain, when professional photographers are working with professional models, shooting for tears is more a common place. Or you can just get paid, or pay for the service your using. I guess there is also the “muse” thing too, where photographer and model just really go town and creatively work looking at common areas of interest, I would not say this is TFP, this is more common interest shooting. When expecting digital versions of photos, I am going to skip the , what is high res thing.. and leave that for another day. Just make sure you understand what you are getting and what you are asking for.
Lets break this down a little.
Why shoot for free, as in, why do TFP? Well, as most people who read this post will have their own insight to this, I shall just say, that I would never have been able to create my portfolio with out the trust of some amazing people working TF or testing , with me. Testing is all about trying things, shooting new things to create and reshape your portfolio to ensure your right at the cutting edge of what you’re trying to do. It’s there to ensure good ideas get shot and creative ideas form and blossom. I think all of my best work has come from tests.
Get a good group of like-minded people, a model, a make-up artist and stylist then go play. TF shoots are great training grounds for learning the skills needed in real world shoots. Finding those models you trust and understand, finding the make-up artist you can trust to work quickly and not chat for hours and hours. Try and find stylists that don’t kill your shoot by trying to make everything look like what Gok Wan did on the TV last night or some crazy new trend that does not fit your style.
Testing is a great way to network, get noticed and create your dream portfolio without spending mega money.
When first starting out, yes, its hard to find good people to test with. You have to prove that you’re not going to waste peoples time, energies and ideas. Its hard when you first start out, I know !! After a couple of shootings with your friends, approach people on sites like Purestorm, Purple Port, Model Mayhem but, remember to ensure you do your homework on people. try and only invest your time in good people. Check out their work, get active on the sites, find out who is worth working with and who to stay very clear from.
Be understanding of your own level and where your own work , and who you’re talking to. Expect bad and good things to be said. Not everyone is going to play nice and come running to work with you for free, get some amazing shoots under your belt first. Give people a reason to want to shoot with you. If you not offering money, what are you offering them that they can not get elsewhere ? How much work are you putting in to the shoot. Show people you are willing and serious in shooting. Find great locations, show them great ideas, show them that they are not going to be wasting their time. Start slow and build up to the bigger models or photographers. Be willing to listen, talk and be part of a team for tests or TF shoots, remember both people are giving up their time. If you don’t like this.. pay them. Talking of money, When you ask people to come on a TF or a Test, if your asking them, do offer to pay their travel or something to sweeten the deal.
[note: don’t just look after the models, all people involved should be looked after, if you ring them, you should look after them.]
Models, Photographers and every0ne in the creative sector tests, if they say they don’t, what they really mean is… they won’t test with you. Its nothing personal, so don’t let it be.
Don’t let ego get in the way
So what is this “shooting for tear sheets”, in fact, what is a tear sheet ?
Well, after you have your great portfolio, you may be wanting to shoot a front cover for Vogue. Easy !! Just shoot the best models in the world with the best creative team for year after year. After your portfolio is brimming with tear sheets from Prada, Gucci, Elle, Cosmo, Rolling Stone and Time. Vogue might let you e-mail them. Easy – right ? Nooope.
Tear Sheets , I guess, are the pro-level “TF” way method of working for free. Shooting amazing things and submitting them to magazines and getting published works for free. Think of this as a TF shoot with the magazines and creative teams. You give them content, they give you PR. This is the standard way that magazines get their content. Very very few photographers get paid for editorial magazine spreads. In many cases, Photographer/ model/ MUA/ designer/ stylist work on amazing shoots, no one getting paid, then the work being submitted to a magazine. The compensation in this manor comes, if and when, the magazine use them. There are two types. Online and Print. Online tear sheets are a little easier to come by than printed tear sheets. Tear sheets are called so, because, you can tear the page out the magazine and add this to your portfolio. If you really want a powerful portfolio, it should be full of impressive tear sheets, not just pretty photos from test shoots. Think of it as a points system. The better the magazine, the more points, the bigger the spread, the more points, and covers are worth their weight in gold when you get the right magazine. I would very often turn down money for a good tear sheet. If you want to get ahead in the photography world, even more relevant in the Fashion world, tear sheets are a magic key to open some doors. But.. its high risk, and a long hard road to get those inch’s of printed glory. I guess tear sheets so that you really know your stuff and know your industry. It can be used as a way that the industry can use to judge a creative person. A GWC ( guy with camera) would not be looking for tear sheets.
There are many downsides with these routes of getting people to work for free, in many cases it can feel like signing a deal with the devil. Unhappy models, photographers getting stressed about use of photos, miss-understanding of copyright, photos taking years to be released back to models and MUA’s. It’s all about trust and communication. There is one thing that never changes though. The photographer owns the photos, model release or not. Unless he has signed a deal to hand over copyright (I have never seen this) Even, when someone pays him for his time, he still owns the copyright unless this is signed to say not. This is the main place where frictions starts.
If after a shoot, the photographer decides to never release the photos, that’s up to him or her. Unless there is a contract in place (I have never seen this in a TF shoot) there is nothing the other parties that took part in the shoot can do. (I should point out, this is why I say, do your home work on who you’re working with) If I did a test shoot and the model had an off day, or the make up was rubbish or I messed up, those photos would never see the light of day. I would just say they are not coming out, this is why its called testing. It’s why testing is so important.
For me, I like to keep a very control of who has my work on show. I know that people judge me on who I work with just as much on as how good my work is, this can also have an impact on when and why photos are released into the world. It’s why I kept a tight control of when I shoot and who I shoot with. This is one negative aspect about working in the creative sector.
The system works for people who want it to work, it fails and breaks down when a lack of trust is created after the shoots, or when people start thinking they have ownership of the photos that they don’t have. If you didn’t take it, it’s not yours, it’s really simple. There can be very long times from the date of shoot to when or if a photo might get published, so sometimes extra care is needed to ensure photos and used and shown in their best light. Some magazines won’t take photos or stories if they are on display in places ? The photos being on display on a photographers portfolio is one thing, the photos being plastered thought Flickr, Facebook, Model Mayhem and Purestorm is another thing completely. This can cause more problems when Models are waiting for work to use in their portfolios. Problems like these are very easy to solve. Just be clear upfront about why you are shooting and understand who you are shooting with. When I shoot with a model, I like to try to get published works from the shoots, so my teams can expect long waits before photos are released, however, if a model came to me wanting to shoot some new photos to update her look, she would get these back very quickly, because that was the purpose of the shoot. I guess the message here is, be clear and ask if you’re not sure.
Anyway.. testing is the best way to network, create amazing works of art and practice your choose skill. It’s a great way to get creative. If your going to give your time up for free, make sure you know who you are giving your time to and how much they expect back.
Be nice to people, play the game and don’t piss people off. Now go forth and create !!
[edit: Via a facebook link to the blog this was posted, funny and useful – http://shouldiworkforfree.com/ – Jessica Hische 2011 ]