Often you'll see a casting call and the remuneration will be listed as TFP - but when is TFP appropriate and when is it just asking for you to work for free? TFP stands for "time for print". You'll also sometimes see this as simply TF, which means, "time for" as it is very rare you'd actually have images printed out these days! TFP is when a model, photographer or any other creative gives their time in exchange for the images from the photo shoot - usually sent in a timely manner to all parties via Drop box or some other kind of electric communication. It's a great way for newbies to get a foot in the door, gain experience, meet new people and have a fun time doing what they love! TFP really is a great thing. Unfortunately though, this can often be exploited or an opportunity for one party to not take the shoot seriously.
So when should you be agreeing to a TFP shoot?
- If you're new to the industry and what to gain experience: No one is going to pay you for your first photo shoot! It is expected that when you are starting out you will offer your services for free to learn the tricks of your trade, gain experience and see what it is all about.
- If it is a creative shoot just for fun and no one else is getting paid: Many people have no real interest in being paid for their work - of course no one is going to turn money down but for a lot of people it's not why they are doing it. They simply enjoy creating a concept, planning and executing the photo shoot as a hobby in their spare time. These shoots are designed to be fun for everyone and therefore will almost always be TFP. Usually the only way money is ever exchanged hands in these cases is if there is particular expenses incurred by one party and not by others. For example, everyone may pitch in to cover the cost of the makeup artists products or to buy props or hire a location.
- For a charity event: This a chance for you to offer your services in order to keep costs down for the charity and help out even if you can't afford to donate.
- If you really want to work with a particular person for whatever reason: Maybe there is a blogger you have been following for a long time who has a really large audience and you would love to shoot with her for your own benefit. You may offer your services to them in exchange for an agreed amount of exposure on their social platforms. This is more of collaboration than a TFP shoot but is still a valid way of getting your name out there. Lets just note that this isn't a clear cut issue though - if a blogger is being paid to promote products and asks you to shoot them for free, that's not really the same thing, is it? This leads us in to the next point...
When shouldn't you do TFP?
- If everyone else is getting something from the shoot: If other creatives are being paid but not you you do have the right to ask why? Maybe there are reasons but if not you need to decide whether it's worth it for you.
- If others are going to make money from your work: If you're shooting a catalogue, look book or any other promotional material for a brand ask yourself, if they're going to make money off the use of your images, don't you have a right to a piece of the pie? Often they'll throw around "experience and exposure" as benefits for you but experience and exposure don't pay the bills like the cash they'll be earning does.
- If you're not 100% committed to the job: If you're not excited and really interested in being involved, just don't do it. There are plenty of other people out there who will jump at the opportunity. If you're not into it, it's going to be very obvious in the resulting photos.
- If you're waiting for something else to come up: There is absolutely nothing worse or more disappointing than when someone pulls out at the last minute. Please don't commit yourself to a TFP job only to pull out because "they're not paying me anyway". Go into the shoot with the exact same mentality as if you were being paid.
So there you have it - if you're just looking to let our your creative side and work with others in the industry or you're just learning and want to gain experience than TFP is going to be a really great tool for you. If other people are making money from you and only offering "experience and exposure" in return than maybe let that one slide. Use your instinct to know when the deal feels like it's mutually beneficial. Remember, no one asks a plumber or electrician to fix something in their house for the experience and exposure...
Let us know your thoughts in the comments!