A Model’s Tips for a Successful TFP Photo Shoot

This post comes from Rebecca McIntosh – a Melbourne, Australia based model. Rebecca is currently a contestant in Miss World Australia. In this post on Beyond Here we discussed TFP (time for portfolio) shoots being an excellent way for a photographer to build their portfolio. Rebecca outlines a model’s tips for a successful TFP photo shoot.

You have a great photo shoot idea. A model is happy to collaborate with you. You speak to a make up artist, a hair stylist, and have a stylist on the team who all want to work on your photo shoot. They are so keen to work on your photo shoot that they are happy to do it without monetary compensation – as long as they receive photos for their time. This is called a TFP arrangement (time-for-portfolio). These unpaid collaborations can be extremely useful for enriching your folio, building your reputation, and challenging your skill set as a photographer – organisational skills, social skills, technical skills etc.


Rebecca McIntosh

Photo credits. Model Rebecca McIntosh, photography Alchemy Designs, clothing Casey Marie Demko

However, when photos are the only compensation it can be difficult to please the team, especially the model, who is probably a harsher critic than you are when it comes to her image*. (*I refer to the model as female, simply because I am speaking from a female model’s perspective. The same advice applies for male models too.)

Here are seven tips from my experience to holding a successful TFP photo shoot. From my point of view, a successful TFP shoot will never only result in good photos, but also in establishing positive relationships, and pleasant experiences.

Rebecca McIntosh

Photo credits. Model Rebecca McIntosh, photography Mariana Navarro, hair, styling and makeup Victoria Marie

1. Check out the model’s folio. It’s not creepy to look at her work, as long as you are looking at her StarNow / Model Mayhem / Facebook page that she has provided specifically for her modelling work. See her good angles, and generate a realistic idea of how you can cooperate. If she has shown interest in your casting call, it is most likely that she wants to add that concept to her folio regardless of her experience with that theme. Nevertheless, it is beneficial for you to see what poses, angles, and facial expressions she chooses to put in her portfolio. If the photos that make it to her folio often include a catwalk sultry pout, she may not be the bubbly, surprised pin-up model you’re looking for. That does not mean you should rule her out straight away; consider asking her what she thinks of your casting call in relation to her style. Perhaps she has misinterpreted your casting call and is not really interested, or perhaps she has interpreted it correctly and simply wants to branch out into that field. It is a portfolio building experience for her as well. Knowing your model’s capabilities and motivations makes it much easier to coordinate a shoot to please both parties.

2. Create a concept board. Pinterest boards are a convenient (and free!) way of putting together inspirational images that constitute the atmosphere you are trying to achieve in your photo shoot, to share with your model. Alternatively, consider making a document with inspirational photos to give to your model at least a week before the shoot. When you and your team members have the same images it is easier to achieve the desired result. At the same time, be honest with the model about your experience and expectations and provide her a link to your portfolio.

3. Agree on the compensation before the shoot, in writing, in detail. Frustration arises from TFP shoots where compensation is ill defined. Try to address all points:

  • How many edited, high resolution photos will the model receive? Will she only receive edited photos? What do you consider to be high resolution?
  • Who will select the photos for editing? Will the model have choice in which photos are edited?
  • Will there be proofs for the model to look at? To save? How soon until these will be available? Can she upload these anywhere as teasers?
  • Will the model have any say in how the images are edited? If she is unhappy with how you have edited the photo, will you have the time and motivation to alter it for her?
  • How long will it take you to return usable photos after the shoot? Will you be watermarking the images?
  • What can the model use the images for?
  • How will you transfer the images to the model? Dropbox, CD, USB, Facebook, email? Keep in mind how the web can compress images.
  • Write up or find a relevant model release form to provide models at the shoot to legalize your specific agreement.

Try to remember that your model, make up artist, hair stylist etc are only involved in this shoot because they believe it can help their folio. If you want total creative freedom and exclusive rights to the images, pay the people you are working with.

In my experience, one method which pleases everyone is that the photographer uploads all of the low resolution, unedited proofs for the team to see, and then they choose which images they want edited. Of that choice pool, the photographer edits which ones he likes best, as well as any additional images he feels will be useful for his portfolio. Whatever method you decide on, make the whole selection process and compensation details as clear and comprehensive as possible to the model before the shoot.

Rebecca McIntosh

Photo credit. Model Rebecca McIntosh

4. Respect each other at the shoot. Never touch a model unless you have her permission. If you think she should do one pose instead of another, try to explain why. For example, I recently had one photographer suggest that I raise my chin while posing, which went totally against what another photographer was saying the previous week at another shoot. However, this photographer patiently explained how raising my chin elongates my neck, and took comparison photos on the spot to show me the difference, so I respected his opinion and him as a photographer, even though it differed to the popular opinion.

5. Let your model move! It can look unnatural if you try to stage one particular pose. Encourage your model to fluidly move into the pose, even if means repeating the movement multiple times.

6. Communicate and credit as arranged. Follow up the agreement. If something has happened which prevents you from returning the photos in the arranged time, tell your team. Even if they say nothing, they are most likely wondering what you are doing with the photos and when they will receive them. In a TFP agreement, withholding photos is like withholding money.

7. Don’t expect the shoot to be perfect. This is the worst injustice you can do to anyone, including yourself. A TFP shoot will never look exactly like the concept image on page or in your head. If you are disappointed in the photos, ask yourself what exactly you could do to make it better. Satisfaction has more to do with attitude than outcome.

Rebecca McIntosh

Photo credits. Model Rebecca McIntosh, photography Alchemy Designs

As you can tell from these tips, a successful TFP shoot does not just have to do with producing good photos, but assessing your team, assessing your team’s needs, and assessing what you can realistically offer and expect of yourself. TFP arrangements can require a lot of effort, patience, and personality to satisfy your team as there is no instant monetary guarantee. Nevertheless, it is worth taking these measures to build a strong network, upscale your reputation, improve your folio, and challenge yourself as a photographer.

Thank you for your post Rebecca – a model’s tips for a successful TFP photo shoot. If you would like to follow more of Rebecca’s work, follow this link to Rebecca McIntosh’s Facebook page.

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