TFP is a great way for a new photographer to brush upon their skills and put together the initial portfolio. But there is a lot of debate in the community about whether or not experienced photographer need/should/can do TFP. Let’s look at some pros and cons.

When you grow as a photographer, at some point you start to get paid and (some people argue) if you get pay why do other work for free. Also is it even fair to work free with one model and ask another one to pay you? What if one of your clients will hear about your TFPs and will be upset that he/she has to pay (= he/she is “worse” than people you agree to work for free with). These are all valid concerns and if you feel satisfied and comfortable why add TFP shoots to your workload.

Here’s why I do TFP though:

  • On set with client you need to stick to what you know and produce great results fast. No client would want you to experiment and play around at his/her expanse
  • Most of my TFP are publications and I have clients who literally come in and say “I want a picture like that” pointing at a picture from one of my TFP shoots
  • Also TFP I get to pick who to work with. Not many people say “no” to me and I can pick best talents, models I like and all kinds of cool people.

Honestly, I feel like a lot of photographers look at TFP as a favor to a model/HMUA/designer. I think it’s the wrong way to look at things because in this mindset TFP really will not help your progress. You need to get from TFP as much as you give — not money, but experience, visibility, fun

As for the questions of the first paragraph, clients who can afford to pay will want to pay, because they want control over the process (moodboard, model, team, location) and result (pictures picked, post-production style, licensing). They want to get your vision, but in their controlled settings and they don’t care much if you did something with someone for free — they just don’t have time to.

Next Up: Models Bringing A Friend On Set