What is the Difference Between a Test Shoot and a TFP Shoot?

by Paul Manoian on May 20, 2012

If you ask 10 photographers, models, stylists and makeup artists to tell you the difference between a Test Shoot and a TFP Shoot  (Time For Prints), you will get 10 different answers. In fact, you may even get 10 VERY different answers.

Why is it so complicated? Well, part of the problem is there are a lot of different types of test shoots based on who’s requesting the “test”.  If you think of a “test shoot” as an actual “test” you’ll quickly understand what it really is and why it’s called that.

Before we get into the details, let’s discuss the easier one … a Time For Print session better known as TFP in the industry (you may also hear of a TFCD session which is simply Time For CD).  It is best to think of this type of session as an exchange of time or effort between multiple parties towards a common goal of creating images for everyone’s individual portfolio.  The photographer, model, hair stylist, makeup artist, etc essentially all donate their time and talent towards a photography session so that everyone can benefit from having the final images in their portfolio.

TFP sessions can attract a very wide variety of individuals with an even broader level of experience. Even so, this is how many people start building their portfolios.  Unfortunately, the end result highly depends on the individual skill levels of each person involved.  If everyone is very experienced, you will likely get very good results.  Of course, the results can be mediocre at best if any one individual (i.e. the model, stylist, photographer, etc) is not on par with everyone else.  Nothing’s worse than working with a model that doesn’t know how to pose and all of the shots look like a 9th grade yearbook photo or an inexperienced photographer whose pathetic lighting make the scene look like a cheesy horror flick.

With that said, the photographer expects a model with some level of proficiency and the model expects images they can use.  Essentially, they both hope to gain something they can include in their respective portfolios.

In a Test Shoot (stressing the word “test”), the photo session is done to test out a new concept, a new piece of equipment, a new lighting technique, a new photographer/model/stylist, etc.  The sole intent is test out something new. That’s why it’s called a “test”!  You may end up with some amazing images or you may fall flat and end up with useless material. The two main types of test shoots include:

  1. Photographer Test - This is a test shoot where a photographer pulls together people to test out a new piece of equipment, a new lighting technique, a new new model/stylist or anything else you can imagine.  There may or may not be monetary compensation for those involved.  Usually, if the photographer is good enough, everyone will donate their time to participate since there’s a high probability the final results will be useable in a portfolio.  The reality is, if the photographer has an established reputation, models, makeup artists and stylists will work with the photographer for the networking and an opportunity to work together.  Even so, there should not be any expectations of useable images in a photographer test shoot, consider it a bonus if there are. :)Pin It
  2. Agency Test - This is a test shoot that a modeling agency coordinates for a new model to see how they perform in front of a lens for potential clients.  The agency may send the model to a photographer to see the quality of images the model is able to produce. In Agency Test shoots, the agency may pay the photographer directly or the photographer may charge the model a rate that has already been predetermined with the agency.  The purpose of the shoot is primarily for the model’s portfolio; however, the photographer may use the images in their portfolio as well.  The agency and model fully expect the images to be usable.

A TFP Shoot isn’t necessarily more or less formal that a Test Shoot.  In either case, releases should still be signed since they have nothing to do with a Test or TFP Shoot. Releases are about copyright, ownership and usage even if it’s just for use in a portfolio and not included in a published work like a book or magazine.

Like anything else, the more accomplishments you have under your belt, the higher up the ladder you are able to climb.  The top is just like the bottom except shoots become more complex with more people involved and with more added stress to perform your A-Game to achieve higher quality results!

If you are located in the Metro Detroit area and are interested in participating in a test shoot, please feel free to contact me online. I’d love to hear from you!

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Don Giannatti

As a photographer since the late 70′s I can affirm that the term ‘test’ was and is the same as the newer term TFP.

A model test or a photographer testing with an agency would shoot the model for his book and the model/agency would receive prints for their books in return.

The term ‘test’ was born somewhere in the early 70′s and related to the photographer doing ‘tests’ to see how the models may work in front of the camera.

As to model releases. I never worked with any model agency who would allow the models to sign releases. A release is just that… the model now has NO rights to the images. Photographers who get releases from models when doing TFP or Tests disgust me. They are blatantly ripping off the models – the models get nothing and the photographer gets stock to sell.

TFP means Time for Print – NOT “time for me to make some images for sale and the model gets a file or two”.

I have used small contracts that explain the usage of the images (constraints upon model and upon my use as well) for decades. If I were to ask an agency model to sign a release, I would no longer be on the test list.

Model agencies use Vouchers when working on commercial assignments and they ARE the limited release of the models image.

Paul Manoian

Don, you definitely have some great insight! I couldn’t agree with you more on TFP means Time for Print … that is, NOT “time for me to make some images for sale and the model gets a file or two”. I’ve certainly seen it get abused!

I guess the terms are not interchangeable in my area. I’ve spoken with many people at agencies here that see a difference between the two. As for releases, I’ve shot a number of events for agencies and they always requested that I use my own releases if I want to use the images in my portfolio or post them online.

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