Before I start, I don't want you to think this is going to be another "TF" bashing blog. For those that do not already know, in the photography industry, we have a term called "TF" or Time for… This could be time for Prints, CD, or even food.(TFF?) Unfortunately there is a large consensus of starting photographers and models that this means free shoots, because there is usually no money changing hands. While I don't want to get into my college economics, and discuss the value of Time, just understand that all business has a cost. For a photographer or model to show up for a shoot, someone's car had to be driven using gas, someone's makeup got applied, and oh, someone had to buy a camera. There's always a "cost" involved. While I know I can't change the "free" mindset for people starting out, I do want to touch on the mentality, and how it applies to their business.
When a new model or photographer sets out on the task of portfolio building, without money, they are often left to the mercies of the TF shoot. More times than not, the results of those shoots will determine that photographer's or that model's career. Case in point: Let's take a model and photographer, Mary and Bob respectively. Mary is 5'8", 120lbs and has a desire to do print fashion. Bob, recently laid off from his job as a network engineer, has tons of photography equipment from when it was just a hobby, and wants to shoot artistic nudes. They both join a model social networking site. Bob's portfolio only has a few photos from workshops he's attended, and Mary's online portfolio has the requisite four shots that she captured on her camera phone. What do they have in common? They both want to get more shoots under their belts, but like many new photographers and models, this can be easier said than done.
I will say this; it is EASIER FOR A PHOTOGRAPHER to get shoots from new models than it is the other way around. Simply put the photographer has 1) put in the investment of the camera and 2) supply and demand. There are simply more models than photographers. If you go on one of most popular modeling sites, Model Mayhem, you will see that models out number photographers almost 2 to 1. Unfortunately with both models and photographers, they usually both will opt for the other, who is actually sought out and actively shooting. Photographers want to shoot models other photographers shoot, and models want to be shot by photographers who are shooting other models.
I say all of this because, models and photographers will do countless photo shoots and yet cannot command or receive a rate and often are bewildered why; especially when they feel they are able to produce better work around them than those that are getting paid. When they ask me why, and I take a look at what they have established, not only is their portfolio filled with TF work, but it is glaringly weak and not portfolio quality. Regardless of whether or not money changes hands, a TF/collaboration shoot, should look like the kind of shoot that money DID change hands. If you are currently doing TF shoots, and you can't seem to get out of the rut, think about what you are REALLY investing in that shoot. If you are unable to do great with little, who will give you the chance to do great with a lot? Unfortunately, that is the nature of this business.
If you are trying to get more commissioned and paid gigs, be choosy about trade/collaborative/free gigs that you do. If you wouldn't pay that model to shoot, then why shoot a TF with that person. Likewise if you wouldn't pay that photographer for a session, how will TF improve your portfolio with that photographer?
p.s. The images contained in this blog are either of a collaboration or trade sessions. I personally make it a point to only do TFs not just to add to my portfolio but only of images to a service I provide to other paying clients. I still have a makeup artist, hair stylist, wardrobe specialist for my TFs as if I were doing it for a commissioned shoot.