Many photographers, models, makeup artists, stylists, designers, and nail technicians do shoots on a “TFP” basis.
I’m sure some of you are sitting there looking at the screen thinking, “What is a TFP?” (Totally Fun People? Testing For Popularity? Tacos From Pennsylvania?)
Put simply, TFP stands for Time (or Trade) for Print (or Portfolio). You may also see the phrase TFCD used. TFCD stands for Time/Trade for CD. This term is most frequently used by photographers who use digital cameras.
It doesn’t really matter what the letters stand for since all abbreviations mean the same thing: nobody gets paid.
You won’t get a commission or hourly rate and neither will anyone else involved.
Now I’m sure you’re sitting there thinking, “Why on earth would I want to work for free?” You actually won’t be working for “free,” but in exchange for high-quality images, which you can use in your portfolio or in your marketing materials.
Generally, you find more amateur photographers and models doing TF work to build their portfolios and gain experience. Occasionally you’ll stumble across a professional who wants to do a TF shoot to get a specific look for their portfolio, or so they can sell the images independently to a stock photo company.
Outstanding work can be produced at a TF shoot.
That being said, here’s a short list of reasons why you need to be very selfish and selective when it comes to working TF.
- If you have a full portfolio and the project isn’t going to be published somewhere that will grant you a significant amount of exposure, you don’t need to work TF.
- Unless you can trust the photographer to deliver the images, you deserve to be paid for your time, product, travel, and professional expertise.
- You’re not a charity worker. Unlike the model and the photographer (the two people who are going to gain the bulk of the exposure from the work), you’re the one investing the most in terms of time and product. I’m not downplaying the value of the photographer. Many photographers spend years in school and thousands in equipment. However, once those initial investments are made their overhead is reduced to $0. Some may argue that their time is worth hundreds and that may be true, however, the majority of the time the ones who are coordinating the shoots are the photographers. Just because they’re willing to take a loss to capture a specific shot doesn’t mean you have to be.
Preparing yourself for a TF shoot:
1.) First, write up your own TF agreement.
Mine is here, if you want to see an example.
Specifically outline your policies. Make sure to include a form containing: the photographer’s name and business name (if any), the location, the names of the models involved, the types of services and the values of the services you’re going to be expected to perform. Also include the trade items agreed upon. I recommend placing a paragraph in it that states that you will not accept images that have obtrusive watermarks. Watermarked images in your portfolio are not flattering or professional-looking. (The last thing you want in your advertisements or business cards is a photographer’s watermark.)
In bold, capital letters, write this statement, “IF THE TRADE ITEMS PRODUCED FROM THIS SHOOT ARE NOT PROVIDED IN 30 DAYS, THE PHOTOGRAPHER IS RESPONSIBLE FOR PAYING THE FULL PRICE OF THE SERVICES PROVIDED.”
Put simply, this statement will ensure that you will benefit from the trade project. Include the estimated cost of your time, your travel, and the service values so the photographer understands what you’re worth, down to the penny. This form serves as a contract between you and the photographer. Have a signature line for yourself, the photgrapher, and a witness to sign.
2.) Prepare your own release form.
Make sure the release states clearly that you have the right to use and distribute the photos as you see fit and that nobody else can claim any profit from the photos. (This includes yourself. You cannot resell or relicense the photos. That right belongs to the photographer alone.)
Take photos of the model’s driver’s licenses with your phone. Include a paragraph in the form that releases you of any liability in the rare event that a model has an allergic reaction to a product you use on her. This likely won’t protect you from being sued, so make sure your Professional Liability Policy is current and active.
3.) Be sure that all parties involved have a clear understanding of what to expect from you and what you expect in return prior to the shoot.
That’s basically what this paper is for. It’s to have everyone’s expectations in writing before you waste your time on a project that might not benefit any of you.
Beware of “Commercial TF” Work
“Commercial TF” is where a client seeks professional staff (models, photographers, and support staff) to create images for commercial usage but only pays out in tearsheets or prints (usually with limited distribution rights).
This is not an appropriate use of TF because you are giving someone else the ability to make money from your work without getting compensation in return.
Don’t confuse this with working in exchange for an editorial tear. Obviously, if someone wants you to style some models TF for a spread in Vogue for free, do it. What I’m talking about is commercial advertising. If everyone starts working TF for clients, our work no longer has value.
If you work is good enough to be printed in magazines, you’re good enough to be paid for your time.
“Experience” and “exposure” is not a good reason to do commercial work for free. You need those two things to get commercial work to begin with. Unless you’re able to use those images how you please, don’t work for someone else for free just so you can tell others that you did so.
Just because you’re not getting paid does not mean that you have no obligation to perform.
Once you’ve agreed to work TF, you must follow through with that agreement. Everyone else has committed to the shoot. It’s a lot like when a client no-shows for an appointment. You booked that time for her. That slot is now open. You could have put another paying client there. That missed appointment represents time and opportunity wasted. Your time in the salon is money. Same for the support staff, the model, and the photographer involved. Not to mention that most professionals that work in modeling and photography know each other. Almost everyone I’ve shot with knows several other photographers and many of the models I’ve worked with.
If you aren’t dependable, word will get around and you’ll never get work.
Do you have any tips for working TF? Want to share your shoot stories? Let’s talk about it in the comments!
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Beauty industry survivalist, salon crisis interventionist, tactical verb-weapon specialist, and the leader of at least a hundred workplace revolutions, Tina Alberino is known as much for her extensive knowledge as for her sarcastic wit and mercilessly straightforward style. She’s the author of the book The Beauty Industry Survival Guide and the blog This Ugly Beauty Business. When she’s not writing, educating, or consulting, she can be found overthinking everything, identifying problems people didn’t know existed, and stubbornly working to change the things she cannot accept.
All of the definitions here were written by me, unless other credit is specified. Not everyone will agree with my definitions. You're welcome to contact me to make suggestions or request changes.
- Refers to an image style that is primarily created for, or oriented toward, sexual stimulation by depicting actual or implied sexual behavior. It can also refer to an image style that includes blood, gore, and/or apparent violence.
- A Commercial image specifically styled for use in advertising.
- This is a very general term that broadly means creating images for artistic expression.
- Artistic Nude
- A type of photo in which a model appears to be nude or partially nude, where the intent of the image is artistic expression (as opposed to marketing, viewer arousal, etc.). Not exclusive of other photo types (e.g., a photo could be artistically erotic).
- Artist's Model
- This refers to a model who will pose for an artist -- which could mean a painter, a sculptor, etc. The model might intend for this to exclude photographic art, but an artistic photographer might think it does include photographs. Clarification of this term would be a good idea when initially contacting a model or photographer.
- A photo in which a model is dressed in casual/informal attire and is placed in a casual setting. Not necessarily exclusive of other photo types (e.g., a photo could be Casual and Commercial).
- A Commercial photo intended for use in a paper or online catalog.
- See the Runway entry.
- A photo primarily intended for commercial (i.e., business) purposes. See the Catalog and Advertising entries for examples.
- Comp Card
- This is a promotional card for a model, which shows the model's very best photos and basic statistics. A typical design would include one side that displays the model's best Headshot and name, and the reverse side showing a few more photos in different styles along with measurements, eye/hair color, etc.
- Concealed Nude
- A photo in which a model is fully or partially nude to the photographer without showing that nudity to the camera, such as in the common “hands/arms over nipples” poses.
- Copyright License
- This is a legal document from the owner of a copyright which allows (licenses) another party to use the copyright-protected work, in a manner described in the document. In this context, this normally means a document the photographer gives to the model allowing the model to use the photos that the photographer took of the model.
- Erotic Nude
- A photo in which a model appears to be nude or partially nude, where the intent of the image is to express eroticism, i.e., sexuality (as opposed to marketing, etc.). Not exclusive of other photo types (e.g., a photo could be artistically erotic).
- This is a style of photo that focuses attention on a model's clothing and/or accessories. To see examples, skim through a fashion magazine.
- A definition I have seen in many places is, in essence, a photo that focuses attention on the model rather than the model's surroundings, attire, etc. May include full or partial nudity, but nudity is not always an element of glamour.
- A photo consisting of the model's head, either with shoulders or close enough to not show the entire head (i.e., just part of the model's face).
- Implied Nude
- A photo in which a model appears to be, but may not actually be, fully or partially nude. An example would be a photo of a female model showing her from her head down to the small of her back, with no apparent clothing because her bikini top strings are concealed by her hair.
- A photo in which the model is wearing lingerie, which — at its most general definition — can mean any undergarment not normally visible in public. Often this implies sexier attire than "grandma underwear!"
- Model Release
- A legal document signed by the model (or the model's parent/guardian if the model is a minor) which allows the photos of the model to be used as described in the document.
- This refers to modeling for the purpose of creating photos of body parts (e.g., hands, feet, eyes, etc.), rather than a photo in which the model is more identifiable.
- This refers to a model who is physically smaller than the range for a "typical" model, especially a typical runway model.
- Photographer Release
- As I see it, this is more appropriately termed a Copyright License, since it is a document regarding copyrights, not photographers. See the Copyright License entry for more info.
- Technically, this is the name of very popular image editing software from Adobe. As a sign of just how popular that software is, many people mis-use this trademark as a verb to mean "digital editing" and, in that usage, it is often shortened to just "PS" which, for users of other software, gives rise to silly statements like "I just PS'ed the acne away in Paint Shop Pro" (another image editing program). Using "Photoshop" to mean "digital editing" is a pet peeve of mine, I will admit.
- This refers to a model who is physically larger than the range for a "typical" model.
- This term has varying meanings. It can be used to distinguish between online (Internet) and offline (paper) publications. It is also sometimes used as a synonym for Fashion, or for Commercial. See those entries for more information.
- A legal document that allows a photo to be used. See Model Release, Photographer Release (or Copyright License).
- This refers to modeling live on a runway, which is a platform extending into the audience to provide viewers a 360-degree view of the model and his/her clothing and accessories. Can also refer to photos of a model on a runway.
- This is in reference to a model acting as, or appearing with, a spokesperson for a product, such as at a trade show, and often in a live venue rather than in a recorded medium (although see the Video entry).
- In terms of modeling and not acting, this refers to modeling live on a stage, similar to a runway.
- This refers to a photo, or a set of photos, that can be licensed to a wide variety users, normally for a fee which is often based on how the image will be used. A single photo in a stock library could be used for a postcard, a magazine advertisement, a calendar, and a Web site, with each licensee potentially paying different amounts accordingly.
- Swimsuit / Swimwear
- A photo in which the model is wearing garments generally associated with swimming and/or beach activities.
- A photo shoot in which a photographer is testing some aspect of his/her work, which could be new equipment, a new model, a different lighting concept, etc. Not to be confused with TFP because testing refers to why a shoot is done, and TFP is a compensation agreement. However, a testing shoot may also be done under a TFP agreement.
- This is a variation on TFP, where "CD" refers to a CD-ROM of the photos from a photo shoot. See TFP for more info.
- Time For Prints -- an agreement between the model and the photographer to do a photo shoot without paying each other monetarily. The idea is that the model "pays" the photographer with his/her time spent on the shoot, and the photographer "pays" the model with prints. Can also be used to refer to similar arrangements with other non-monetary compensation; for example, this general term can be used in place of the more-specific TFCD.
- A photo in which a female model is, or appears to be, nude from the waist up. May or may not imply visibility of nipples.
- This refers to modeling for video/motion pictures rather than still photos. Depending on the market and the context, it may imply Adult videos, but this is certainly not always the case.
- Zed Card/Z Card
- See the Comp Card entry.