Today we are going to have a debate! And the subject is TFP, something which I have a had a fair few debates on already in Photography groups on Facebook. Now I’m pretty sure you all by now you know what TFP means and what it entails, if you don’t, you are either very lucky, or very unfortunate……or you have been stranded on a desert island from birth, catching fish with your shoelaces and drinking your own urine. If you are said, bearded castaway then let me explain :
Time for print (or trade for print, test for print, time for pics, TFP, and sometimes print for time, PFT) is a term many online photography communities use to describe an arrangement between a model and a photographer whereby the photographer agrees to provide the model with an agreed number of pictures of the best photographs from the session, and a limited license to use those pictures in return for the model’s time. A variant of this arrangement is time for CD or trade for CD (TFCD). With TFCD, the photographer provides the selection of images on a CD instead of prints. Similarly, with the ease and convenience of digital high resolution images, the generic term TF* has evolved, where it does not necessarily refer to a tangible CD or Printed image since the same accepted rules apply. (wikipedia)
Every photographer at some point in their career will do some TFP work, its like a rites of passage. I’m sure in her youth, Annie Leibovitz did her fair share of TFP. It is how many amateurs hone their craft and gain some experience. But like everything else in this day and age are we overusing and abusing this once time honored tradition, is it creating more harm than good, and how will our beloved photography cope.
I know what my opinion is and I have voiced it many times, but this is a debate, so let me don my debate hat (a giant sombrero, I don’t know why, they are just cool!) and put forward both an argument for, and an argument against….and remember these are only my opinions, I am not saying they are Gospel, and that I am correct…..but freedom of speech yo! haha
The argument for TFP
Ladies and gentlemen of the court, let us put forward the case for TFP. Above everything else, working TFP helps you grow as a photographer (not attack of the 50ft woman kind of growing), which on its own is probably the strongest argument ‘Team For TFP’ ….as creatives we need to experience, learn and evolve, and TFP facilitates this brilliantly. I myself have greatly benefited in this way, if it wasn’t for all the experience in the early days I would still be taking photos of birds on a stick, or close ups of flower petals, unsure how to communicate with models correctly, how to plan shoots and the list goes on. Not that there is anything wrong with ‘bird on a stick’ but……….zzzzzzzz oh, um haha sorry (YAAAAWWWN) I must have fallen asleep, as I was saying there is nothing wrong with bird on a stick……oh what am I saying, there is everything wrong with bird on a stick. If the most interesting subject you can photograph is a bird on a stick you are either not trying very hard, or you have the creative flare of a tin of beans. The next time I see another bird on a stick image, I will force said stick up your……..anyway where was I.
Another point in the case for, is that TFP keeps costs down or helps those with no budget or cost at all to create images they wouldn’t normally be able to afford. We live in a day of age where everything costs too much, prices are high, wages are low, the rich get richer and the photographers get poorer due to spending there hard earned cash on white labelled 360 pocket polaroid tripods haha. So being able to get that talented MUA, or pro model to work on with you, and take your work to the next level doesn’t have to break your bank, and you can sleep contently at night that your wife will still be there in the morning.
If you take money out the equation, what is it doing? Well it is bringing together creative folk who wouldn’t normally have the chance of working alongside each other, and that can only be a good thing! TFP helps build connections within the industry, Mua’s, models, costume designers, these are the people you need to help take your work to another level. Money, schmoney, if you all collaboarate TFP, you dont have to be Mr Money bags to get that badass, steampunk, costume in your photo!
Test shoots benefit greatly from TFP. Even the most professional of Photographers do not have money to throw away on a shoot that will never make it to a portfolio, or to test some crazy ‘lets throw coloured paint at someones head shoot’. Only to realise you have no usable images, just photos of a shell shocked girl, with tears in her eyes and a scoop of velvet blue in her mouth, and dribbling out of her nostrils. Paying for every test would either make you bankrupt or at least give your accountant an aneurysm. Again, in this situation, both models and photographers benefit, the model gets experience and maybe some usable images, and the photographer gets a free test dummy.
So what do all these factors work towards, the overall goal of TFP……It helps you build up or grow your Portfolio! Photographer, make up artist, model or designer this is always your aim. The tool that will either make you or break you in the industry, can be built up on a foundation of TFP. Eventually, if you worked the systyem in the correct way, all your collaborating (a fancy word for TFP) should lead you to the point where you start to get paid, which then means you can open your wallet, and pay people to use their services……..the world is in balance, you are now part of the cycle which keeps the flow of money in this industry turning. Well done, pat yourself on the back!
The argument against TFP
Could the prosecution of the witness, please stand up, you now have the floor! Where to start! Lets begin with this statement, TFP is like The Force, it can be gift or a curse, use it wisely young Padawan.
The TFP word gets thrown around often these days. In Facebook photography groups it has pretty much become an institution, with models no longer paying to build a portfolio but posting a group status along the lines of ‘got a new bra want to shoot some images’, which then proceeds with a tidal wave of photographers bursting in to the comments all offering their services for free, whilst the photographer at the top who posted his rates gets washed away in a sea of GWC’s. Dont get me started on GWC’s, I could write a whole essay on that subject!…..Anyway, not so long ago, any aspiring model would have had to pay a photographer or a series of photographers to build up a portfolio. It was like a small investment. You get a solid portfolio of images which then could lead to paid work, or an agency. The cycle was in balance, photographers made money, models made money. As social media grew, so did the TFP word, and over the years it has been diluted down to the point where now it has now become the modern day currency. Who needs cash when you have TFP, and guess what, TFP costs nothing!
So common as it is now, people, mainly models, automatically think that if they contact you, you will be offering TFP from the get go! How many times have you had this conversation.
Model: Hey love your work.
Photographer: Thank you very much, I appreciate the kind words.
Model: I would love to work with you, I love your style.
Photographer: Cool, lets book something in then.
Model: wow, yes (gives dates)
Photographer: Brilliant, here are my rates.
Model: Rates!!?? I thought we would be shooting this TF
Photographer: Unfortunately I don’t offer TF, but my rates are very competitive
The model then proceeds to be rude, defensive or you never hear from them again. Or they try to explain that they don’t pay for photographers, but photographers pay for them (this has happened far too often)
If you contact a photographer, whose work you admire, expect to pay! You wouldn’t walk in to your local butchers, proceed to tell them how delicious their beef is, then pick up a steak, and a few slices of bacon and walk out without paying! No, no, no. And the same should apply to photography. And before I get an army of models with their knickers in a twist, marching upon me, covered in war paint like a scene from Braveheart, I am not solely laying the blame at their feet. NO, photographers are just as much to blame for this current climate. If you constantly offer everyone and their grandma TFP, then you are as much the problem as anyone else. Be selective!!! That goes for models, mua’s, photographers….anyone. You need to be selective with your TFP!
The issue that worries me the most though, which I have seen happening more increasingly in Facebook photography groups, is the general public, have now somehow stumbled upon the TFP word. Recently I have seen non industry folk, posting in photography groups asking for someone to shoot their family photos, TFP!!!!!!! If that is not alarming enough, only last week I saw a posting for a couple looking for a wedding photographer, to shoot their special day, for TFP!!!!!!!!
The public should not get images for TFP, not now, not ever! If you are one of the photographers taking up these offers, you are only harming the industry, that you are hoping to make money in later down the line. Break the cycle and you will only have yourself to blame when you cannot get paid work, once your TFP days are over.
I myself have shot many TFP images and still shoot TFP on many occasions for unpaid personal work. It allows me to collaborate with experienced models, mua and designers, who in turn get professional images. It is a beneficial partnership where everyone gets a piece of the pie. And even though there are no written rules, I guess that is what TFP should be about. It should be used for the correct reasons and in the right manner. In me eyes it shouldn’t be used as a tool to get ‘Free stuff’! If an amateur model contacts me about building a portfolio, they get my rates. If I’m deemed too expensive I pass on another photographers details who can do it cheaper. I would rather another creative get paid. We need to keep the cycle of money flowing, and the industry turning.
Which side of the fence do you stand on? Is TFP friend or foe?