What is TFP or TFCD?
TFP Modeling Photoshoots
TFP/TFCD are terms you may have heard if you’re into photographing or modeling, but also makeup artists, stylists, designers, and nail technicians do photoshoots on a “TFP” basis. In short, TFCD is a term that doesn’t exactly mean the same as it originally was meant to. In short, TFCD means “Time for CD of digital images,” the selection of images is provided on a CD in lieu of prints. This has become a much more popular method since it provides both the model and the photographer the ease and convenience of digital distribution of high quality and high resolution images for online modeling portfolios, agency websites, printed model composite cards, and so on. The older equivalent for TFCD today would be TFP as in “Time for Prints” and is a common term used by models and photographers. It can also mean “trade for prints” or “test for prints”.
So CDs ain’t really a thing anymore, but the concept is still the same. TFP/TFCD describes an arrangement between a model or would-be model agrees to model for a photographer and gets finalized photos in exchange. Usually, this means the photographer agrees to shoot an agreed number of photographs of the model and provide the model with a limited license to use the best photos chosen from the shoot and both parties can use these photos for their portfolios and they are never used in any commercial use, but sometimes there can be exceptions if both parties need content for advertising their own businesses.
In exchange for the photos, the model provides his or her time. This arrangement works very well for photographers who are interested in trying new lighting techniques, equipment or want to build their books, and for models who need photos for their books but are unable to afford the usual photography rates.
IT DOESN’T REALLY MATTER WHAT THE LETTERS STAND FOR SINCE ALL ABBREVIATIONS MEAN THE SAME THING: NOBODY GETS PAID.
The terms agreed to between the photographer and model can vary widely from one to another. Such as, the number of photos the photographer will deliver to the model, which can range from a single photograph for the shoot, up to six or more prints for each hour that the shoot lasts. Speed of delivery can vary widely as well, from a CD burned right at the end of the shoot and given to the model as she leaves or up to several months. It is important to discuss these terms before the shoot to avoid any disagreements.
Photo Shoot Ground Rules
The type of modeling that the model is willing to do should be clearly understood before the shoot starts. Such as, will the model be fully clothed or will there be a degree of nudity with the model posing semi-nude or nude. The model must make it clear before hand what he or she is willing to do and photographers must make it clear what they expect from the model as well.
A photographer should NEVER push a model past what she has agreed to do, and a model should never feel pressured to go to a level that she is uncomfortable with. If you find that you are being asked to do things that make you uncomfortable, stop what you are doing, regroup, tell the photographer how you are feeling, and if they still push you, you must leave the set. If you are represented by a model agency you should contact your agent immediately.
Depending on your agreement and the laws in your particular jurisdiction, the model or the photographer may want to limit the usage of photos from the shoot. The agreement may specify that the model can only use specifically agreed upon photos in his or her online portfolio (to avoid sub-standard pictures being used and damaging the photographer’s reputation) or perhaps that the photographer will only use certain images in printed publications and not on the internet.
In addition to being a way for models and photographers to obtain prints for their books, working TFP or TFCD is a great way for new models to get valuable practice and to network with numerous photographers who may ultimately hire the model for paying jobs. It also a great way for photographers to meet and work with new models and get the “bugs out” before working together on paid modeling jobs.
Silent rules of the TFP photoshoots
Some of the most important rules in TFP photography are that first and foremost never demand to get paid for anything. If there are expenses all members taking part in the shoot will share the costs. Costs may be travel costs, materials, or equipment. The photographer may need to rent a space or specific lights. Make-up artists may need to use a lot of make-up for the shoot and the model may need to buy some specific props for the shoot. Of course, if the new items can be reused, then it should be discussed who is willing to participate in the costs and how much before the shoot. Some common sense is always required and it’s not ok for the photographer to ask other to participate in the costs of buying a new expensive lens as an example or for the model to go shopping for new clothes.
Boundaries and privacy
Always respect the boundaries. You may be a photographer who wants to get some specific idea done, but the model may not feel comfortable doing that exact thing you want and vice versa. And there may be situations when the model or the photographer has agreed to do nudity and the during the shoot changes the mind on that. It doesn’t matter if it was planned, both need to respect those boundaries and just go with something else both feel comfortable with. Nudity is especially something that may sound like an exciting idea at first and then may not feel comfortable together with unknown people.
Another thing to keep in mind is the privacy of these shoots as some people are not ok with having additional assistants. Communication in advance is the key to everything.
Also, remember to ask permission from the model for publishing the photos. Not just for nudity, but overall go through all of the photos when they are done and allow all parties to remove the photos they do not like before publishing anything. Sometimes people may be sensitive about some small thing of themselves and they should not need to explain that to the photographer separately. Sometimes the model may turn down the photographers’ favorite photo and this has happened to me too. It’s a thing that we need to learn to deal with when it happens and I’m sure it will happen to most photographers at least a few times in our lives.
Photographing underage people
I follow the rule that if I’ll ever shoot with an underage model, I want one of the parents to be there. This is for both paid work and TFP. It’s something I’m really strict with and if the parent can’t come, then it’s a no go. And no a note from the parent isn’t enough.
Not every photographer is as strict as I am, but I do recommend following thing rules for all photographers, models, and parents. No matter how professional or experienced there are just so many things that can go wrong with false claims. Another reason for me personally is that I’m not that great with children overall.
Another thing to keep in mind is if you do any kind of NSFW content. Then please keep photos of underage people in a separate portfolio completely. It may come off a bit creepy if you have kids’ photos on one page and some rough nudity on the next page and even worse if they are on the same page. I’ve seen these both happen on photographer portfolios. Just use common sense and you should be fine.
Can I use TFP photos commercially?
TFP photography is for professionals to try new ideas or equipment, newcomers to grow portfolios, and hobbyists to do art for fun, but it should never be something to be used commercially (with few exceptions), for monetary gain, or to get your portrait, passport photo, baby shower photos, wedding, ads or anything that is a normal service. Most importantly when talking about TFP shoots, there should never be anything to get monetary gain from it.
One of the biggest things today is influencer work where models keep forgetting the rules and it may become a bit awkward if you as a model decide to tag clothing brands on all your TFP photos. Stuff like this should always be talked about in advance and don’t be surprised if the photographer who took your favorite photos won’t offer TFP shoots to you anymore if you start using them with sponsored social media posts. And yes it doesn’t matter if it’s a decade-old photoshoot. Always ask first and never get angry if the other party declines.
So what are the exceptions for commercial TFP shoots?
If you have a need for a photographer for your wedding as an example. It is ok if a photographer suggests doing it free for you, but never expect it to happen again. I have done a lot of free stuff either to learn new things that I’m not comfortable doing for money just yet and the same thing applies to all creatives.
When doing things like this it should always be the creative who suggests it or you may be seen taking advantage of the creative and trust me people do talk in these circles a lot about people or companies doing so. Especially if you represent a company, there may be a big chance that when you actually try to hire a professional, there may be a big flock of people not applying to your open position because they have all heard you taking advantage of creatives before. This is a career that doesn’t get the same respect as many other professions because some people think that our jobs can be done just by anyone. I have a bunch of experience with this issue and I have never been scared to turn down any offer that I feel not being fair for both parties. But if I as a creative come to you suggesting that I can do something for free, then it’s ok for you to accept it no matter if it’s commercial or not.
The second way commercial work is ok to do in TF principal is when as an example I need new content to advertise with and another entrepreneur needs something similar as well and we do a shoot to both get what we need. Many photographers work freelance or own their own agencies and may need to have the same material you need for your next make-up blog and if the mutual gain is there, then why not right?
Slightly similar situations with commercial works are competitions. Sometimes these competitions may have prices that are not something all participants can really share. As an example, I could shoot the competition photos for a hairstylist and the prize includes hair products that I can’t really use. Then you should agree in advance on how to make it fair for all parties. Some photography competitions for example have fairly big money prizes and some may have really expensive equipment as a prize. It will be really hard to share the prize if you only win a lens worth a few thousand euros and there’s a model, hairstylist, and make-up artist who participated in the shoot. It’s really up to you have you agreed to work on this, but I know the worst option is to try it out and decide later if or when you win something.
How to prepare for TFP photoshoot?
Always try to plan everything in advance if you have something specific in mind. I have done shoots that had only the basic style and the location planned and some that had very specific sketches drawn for the idea. Both are fine as long as it meets the purpose. In my case, as I do digital paintings I can use that skill to create quick mood paintings to show what I’m after, but it’s not really something required. Most of the time I just use Pinterest to create mood folders for each shoot. Try to look for posture, lighting, colors, and costumes. These will all help with the communication between all the creatives taking part in the shoot as sometimes there may be more than just the photographer and the model.
If there are multiple people bringing equipment, remember to label them! I’ve done this mistake a few times now, but then I just decided to make stickers with Shogunmaster Photography “S” logo and stamp it on all of my gear.
This makes packing much faster and there’s no need to argue “whos battery this is?” or “who forgot their hairdryer to the bathroom?”. Stickers are cheap to make today even in small quantities and personally I love using Stickerapp because they have such a nice option for different materials. But there’s also Stickermule if you do not care for the quality and just want some cheap sticker. And then there are just label makers that are easy to find everywhere.
Be on time and remember that sometimes people do have a strict schedule. It may not be their fault that they need to leave before you get the shoot done because parents may have children to pick up from the care and some may have a next work shirt starting soon. Communicate in advance and if it looks like your going overtime remember to say it early enough so everyone knows and can tell if they need to leave early.
When can you expect to get your photos?
This seems to be a sore subject in TFP social media groups at least where I’m in. Photographers do work and they do have a life outside free TFP shoots and so the TFP photos will always be the last priority.
I know it’s annoying to wait because your work is already done and all that is left to do is waiting, but for the photographer, the work is only half done after the shoot. I know some photographers do not edit their photos much, but as an example, I do spend hours and sometimes even days with just one photo to adjust big or small things that most people won’t probably even notice without seeing the raw version of it. I know I’ve had a hard time keeping my estimated times a lot because I work on multiple projects at the same time and it only needs on schedule to change and everything changes. This is also one major thing to never use TFP shoots for commercial use because you may not get those photos fast as you hoped for.
Sometimes the photographer will deliver the stuff really fast and sometimes they may even get edited right in front of you. All photographers are different and hey some even still shoot with real film.
I know most do not use contracts and I rarely bother to use them either, but it may help with the situation when there are disagreements. All participants have put their time into the shoot and deserve to have the loots from that time and work spent on it. A simple contract may help with putting down any suspicion of what is agreed especially if someone has spent money for props, materials, etc. Some type of compensation should be provided if the final product isn’t delivered at all. Here in Japan, I have never heard of anyone using contracts, but I’m sure there are some and I’d prefer to use them if there was a bigger budget or minors in the photoshoot.
Always one very important thing to remember is to beware of the creepers! There’s no denying there are some creepy pervs offering TFP photography and it’s your job to make sure you’re not throwing yourself into one of them. Make sure the photographer has a portfolio. See if there is some info about who the models are and try to connect with one if you do not know the photographer in advance and there’s even the slightest thing with him or her. And an honestly same warning for the photographers because when I started photography first as a hobby when I was young and naïve. I did have a few creepy models and it almost threw me out of the hobby completely.
Do also note that these are my personal views on the rules and traditions. Some people do have different rules to follow and it’s always important to communicate clearly what you’re all after who are taking part in the photoshoot.
Stay safe and go make some amazing photographs!