Testing 101 : 4 Tips To Prepare For A TFP Shoot

One of my most frequently asked questions is ” How do I plan a TFP ?” also know as a Test Shoot.”

TFP - stands for time for prints, it’s a term that refers to an exchange of services among photographers and other creatives for the purpose of building their respective portfolios. 

As a makeup artist, participating in TFP shoots is a great way to build your portfolio and gain exposure to the industry when you’re just starting out. Aside from building your port and networking, testing is also a great way to keep your creative juices flowing in between client work. In order to get the most out of TFP shoots, it’s essential to prepare beforehand. 

Even though these shoots are unpaid, you should treat them just as you would any other job. After all, time is money, and the resulting images are going to help you book work. Below you’ll find my top 4 tips to prepare for a successful TFP collaboration. 

1.) Create a vision for your brand 

 Before you begin building your portfolio, you should develop a clear vision for your brand. This will help you identify what kind of images you’d like to include in your book. Establishing your brand vision comes down to identifying your niche and your ideal client. Your niche should represent your passion and a style that feels authentic to you. 

To narrow down your ideal client, think about your dream job and emulate their aesthetic. For example, my passion is clean beauty, and my dream client is NARS, who is known for its timeless “no makeup, makeup looks.” Therefore, I should ideally collaborate with a photographer who specializes in beauty and shoots clean looks. 

Photo by Antwon Maxwell Photography for 327 Cosmetics. Makeup By Brittany Rogers

Once you’ve developed your vision, flip through magazines, such as Harper’s Bazaar, Vogue, or Elle, and cut out images that match your style to create a mood board. 

Mood Board - a type of collage consisting of images and text to help display an idea/concept for your test shoot. 

Studying magazines will also help you differentiate between good and lousy photography, modeling, hair, makeup, etc.

2.) Find the perfect team.

 Building your TFP team is the most essential part of the whole process. Every teammate matters and one bad egg can throw the whole team off. 

Before emailing prospective collaborators, take the time to search for creatives who are aligned with your vision. For instance, if you’re interested in doing a macro beauty test, you don’t want to work with a photographer whose primary focus is eye candy or weddings. Just because someone can shoot a beautiful picture, doesn’t mean they can shoot everything you throw at them.

photo by Antwon Maxwell

The same goes for the rest of your key players, particularly the model, who plays one of the most important roles in the shoot. A pretty face and cute selfies do not make you qualified to model–I’ve seen beautiful girls freeze on set because they’re intimidated by the camera. 

 Model Mayhem is an excellent resource for finding professional models and other creatives. You can also find potential collaborators on Facebook, Instagram, or at local networking events.

3.)Speak up for yourself! 

 Be mindful that a TFP, also known as an unpaid test, is still a collaboration, and time is money. As a team member, your ideas matter just as much as anyone else’s.

Photo by EFIKKOKO Studios

Be open to other people’s ideas, especially if the rest of the group is in agreement. However, if you believe that a particular makeup look doesn’t mesh well with the overall concept, don’t hesitate to voice your opinion. These images are going to end up in your portfolio, and you want to put your best foot forward. Furthermore, if you’re not comfortable with the concept before beginning the shoot, it will show in your work and attitude on set. 

4.)Know the terms. 

Before getting on set, you should know what you’re getting in exchange for your time. Here are a few questions to ask before committing to a TFP shoot:

How many images will you receive, and how will they be sent? 

What is the turn-around time? In other words, how long will editing take? Post-production requires patience—it can take up to 1-2 weeks. 

Will the images contain watermarks or logos? 

Nowadays, everyone wants to protect their work, and I get it! But the unfortunate reality is that a watermark or logo will not protect an image from getting stolen. It can also look unprofessional and may lower the quality of the image, depending on how it’s positioned. 

photo by EFIKOKO Studios

Lastly, If you don’t have a clear vision for your brand, you will end up accepting any photoshoot that comes your way, even if it’s not aligned with your goals. The most essential thing to remember is to treat the process (TFP) just as you would a paid job. Also, it’s likely that some people will turn you down. You may even have to pay for some photo shoots, and that’s ok! Both are still highly valuable experiences, so prep accordingly.

 I hope you’ll find these tips helpful as you begin preparing for TFP shoots. Leave a comment below and let me know how you prepare for your photoshoots? 

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