TFP, Charity, Non-Commisioned and Test Shoots

TFP Shoot with Stylist Janneke Rodenburg | BTS by: FalkPictures

Shooting Test, TFP, Non-Commissioned and Charity
I have seen this pop up soo many times in Facebook groups and other photography communities and I wanted to demystify it a little bit. I wanted to know what exactly test, TFP, non commissioned and charity means and why one came to be. So I started researching this and I think no one really uses the right term. It’s a mush of everything together in one big pot. But this is what I’ve found searching online and asking fellow photographers.

Let’s start with the hardest one:

TF(x) – Time For (Prints, CD, Download, Haircut, Food, Sex,….)

This is the big one. It’s one that has been evolving over the years and its meaning has been changing. Everyone has their own opinion on what it should be, or what it is to them.
Back in the days there was only a “Test” Shoot. With the new photographers growing really fast and anyone being able to get a camera, “TFP” came into play. A TFP shoot would be a trade for goods. One would do a TFP shoot to expand his/her portfolios. It’s a bunch of people coming together to do their art and walk away with a nice print of it. In its essence it’s still pretty much this (give or take), with little changes like:

– Photographers rarely still deliver prints. Nowadays, this happens with a download link from some server or website or some other photograph exchange website.

– The outcome to what the prints could be used for has also changed.
A lot of photographers & models say TF(x) is for self improvement. There shouldn’t be a commercial use at the end for anyone involved. Some might find it commercial use if the model goes around getting agency’s and paid gigs based off the TFP images. Same for photographers that go around showing their tfp work and getting gigs because of it. But in its core this is what TFP was for. So I still think something needs to happen with the prints, otherwise there is no value in the print or the shoot. Others don’t mind the commercial use and have contracts that everyone signs that says so. They want to use the TF(x) to get the prints published or to land bigger commercial gigs. Nothing wrong with that, as long everyone knows and agrees on it.

To me, TF(x) means that there is a benefit for everyone involved. The input is the time, effort, skills, props and whatever costs the people involved are prepared to make (like, travelling, make-up material, etc etc). Everyone lets each other know what their special thing is they can give to the shoot and what their expectations are. When everyone agrees, you can put it in a contract and ROCK! Some might think they have a more expensive craft than the other, but when agreed to do a TF(x) shoot on set rules, you agree that your craft and everyone else’s has the equal amount of value in this project. You are expected to deliver your share- it’s a mutual exchange in goods.

Ethics: I often came across people who think a TFP shoot is a shoot where appointments are less important and of less value. In my opinion, when the date is set, it has the equal value as a PAID shoot. And I would never cancel! Sadly, there have been quite some people who let a whole team down for the reason of being offered something paid or something they think to be more beneficial for their portfolio. A lot of creatives I know don’t work that way. Our word is our bond- paid or not. We put everything into it and keep our appointments. It has something to do with being a professional as well.

Photographer Test Shoot | Hair&MakeUp:Ismahan Obenali| Dress:Skeletons in the Closet Clothing and Corsetry | Model: Nienke

Test Shoots!

If you talk to the older generation of photographers, this is the term they know. Before the new generation kinda morphed it into TFP. Test can be split into a few categories.

Agency Test
This is when an agency sends a model (mostly a new face) to get good portfolio-worthy head and body shots for their portfolio to show potential clients. It is a way for the model to get nice images of her work and the photographer’s advantage of getting to work with real agency girls.
Often the photographer will shoot some extra for his own portfolio. And you can build a long term relationship with the agency.

Photographer Test
A photographer test is when the photographer is just playing around. You would like to test a new concept or a new lens, new lighting setup, new whatever. And you need a warm body to stand in. Not knowing if anything good will come from it. They are for evaluation only, not for publication or portfolios. Although later on it could be agreed that they can be used for something if they turn out good. Sometimes a makeup artist could be present and it would become a little makeup test as well.

Team Test
You could also have a team test. Let’s say there was a big client gig and you found a team, but haven’t worked with anyone yet. This is when you can do a ‘team test’. To see how everyone performs or if it needs any changing of members before you go for the big show: The Client.

RichardTerborg_BTS1-2    RichardTerborg_BTS2-2

Non Commissioned

Freedom! Non commissioned work is when you have total creative freedom in your work. There is no client, no expectations. Usually the artist will try and sell the non commissioned work or have it featured in magazines or galleries. This is where the artist can just relax, be him or her self and let that shine through in the work. Great example of non commissioned work: Beethoven’s Third Symphony – Eroica


Charity. This is the only time it is really free. Charity is giving something to someone or to a cause you care about, and you stand behind. You can give charity to help save poor Godzilla’s or to help rescue Barney the Dinosaur. But you can also have a mother and daughter ask the community for a shoot because they have never had a pictures of them together and are low in cash. Will every photographer jump for this opportunity? No. But there always will be someone who is touched by the story and has some time and wants to help. I do a lot of charity. I just love giving people that are stuck in some sort of rut something to smile about. Even if it’s just a memory of a smile on a photo. What I mostly find now that people hide behind the word TFP while they actually mean charity. And I think they should just name it what it’s called :).

In all these types of shoots, one thing is very clear. Whatever term you use, or meaning you give to it, have a contract that states your rulez. Then have everyone involved read it beforehand and sign during the shoot. This clears out anything and that way everyone knows what they are getting into.

If there is anything you missed or something you might want to add, let me know!
We’ll make it the ultimate shoot guide! hahaha

non commissioned – MC DRT

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