When I first started natural light portrait photography, one of my biggest road blocks was building my portfolio. I was able to ask friends and family to pose for me, but I wanted to start working with more seasoned models who were comfortable posing in front of the camera. I came across the term “TFP” in some of the photography groups on Facebook, and I knew I had found the answer.

What is a TFP shoot?

Depending on who you ask, TFP shoots can stand for 2 different things. It can mean “Trade for Prints” or it can mean “Trade for Photos”. Both pretty much mean the same thing, and refer to a type of shoot where a photographer and model agree to work together but no money is exchanged for services. The specifics around the shoot can range, but one specific detail remains constant between the photographer and model. Each agrees that the shoot that is setup is strictly a trade shoot. The model does not get paid for her time, and the photographer does not get paid for his time.

Before the shoot starts, the photographer and model agree to a certain amount of retouched photos to be delivered to the model within a timeframe after the shoot is completed. Photographers will also add in some of the JPGs from the shoot, but not all do this. Both photographer and model in this agreement can utilize the photos for marketing and building portfolios.

Working to trade services?

I remember when I was just starting out, I wanted to work with models that specialized in more fashion style shoots. I didn’t have a large budget to pay the models, but I knew it was important to build my fashion and portrait portfolio. There was no problem reaching out to models and asking them if they do TFP shoots. There are also many Facebook groups that specifically deal with bringing together models, photographers, stylists, and make-up artists to do TFP shoots.

Why you should do TFP shoots as a beginner

Building your portfolio is one of the most important steps in getting started in portrait photography. Being able to show a professional portfolio can help you find clients, and lets people get a glimpse into your style of work. When you can build your portfolio for free (minus the time spent on a shoot and editing), this is a great way to practice and get more comfortable working with other industry professionals.

Getting started with TFP shoots?

90% of all the people I have come across in the photography/modeling industry know what TFP stands for. I knew it was something that was instilled into the industry, and I was glad because it gave me the opportunity to grow. If you are ready to start working on a TFP basis, your first step as a photographer is to decide how many photos you are willing to edit and hand over to a model.

I started with this general guideline. I edited 6-10 photos per 1 hour of shooting. These photos were the best of the session, and fully edited to the best of my abilities. I always tried to keep my shoots to a single hour, and occasionally they ran over with the permission of the model and any assistants I had with me.

Who does TFP shoots?

To be honest, I have worked with models, stylists, and makeup artists on a TFP basis. I usually scheduled a shoot 2 weeks in advance if possible, and all details were emailed to everyone involved so that it gave plenty of time for questions if needed. Keep in mind, that since no money is being offered for work, some people tend to back out easier then when it was a paid shoot. It will happen more then once, but keep in mind that sometimes life happens.

Now get out there and practice

Don’t be scared to reach out to models and others to see if they are interested in a TFP shoot. Keep in mind many people are looking for a particular look for their portfolio so you may get some “no” answers along the way. Keep practicing and trying to reach another level with your photographer, and you will find that many more people will be coming directly to you for these type of shoots.

Happy shooting!