Trade Shoots: What Do TF, TFP and TFCD Mean?

By  |  0 Comments

Unpaid work: it’s the dirty little secret of the fashion, modeling and photography world. Also known “trade shoots,” sometimes we need to do a little pro-bono to get ahead. Why? Maybe we’re new to the business and looking for a cheap way to build a portfolio. Maybe we’re trying to network with new people or learn more about this industry. Or maybe it’s just to keep busy when things are slow. But there is a big difference between a ‘free’ photo shoot and a true collaboration that benefits everyone involved. So let’s dive right into the heart of the matter with the basics…

You’ll see the letters “TF” used regularly in modeling and photography, and they mean “Time For.” This is an industry-standard term that says nobody’s getting paid for the photo shoot. In a perfect world, TF is an equal exchange of time and talent and experience. But this doesn’t need to be so, and it’s not unusual for a highly-experienced photographer or designer to invite a brand new model to collaborate on a TF basis. Why? Maybe the model has a unique look and would add something new to an established portfolio. Or maybe the photographer wants to ‘test’ a model first, before considering them for bigger and better opportunities. In an industry where so much talent quits every year, or sometimes misrepresents themselves, it’s good business sense to test shoot the newbies first.

“TFP” means time for prints, but hardly any photographer provides physical copies of images anymore. It’s more common to work under a “TFCD” agreement (Time For CD) with digital images provided on a CD or DVD. Even more common is sharing images through email, social media, or file sharing services like Dropbox or Google Docs.

Photographers can be (understandably) hesitant to hand out copies of each and every image from a photo shoot. Just as most models wouldn’t want to pose for images before makeup and hair and wardrobe styling, photographers only want to share the best versions of their work with the world.  Thus, it’s more likely a photographer will only distribute best, edited images after the photo shoot is over.

Now here’s where things get sticky: rarely do all parties involved agree over which images are the best images. Makeup artists want shots that flatter the makeup. Models are looking for the right pose, or best expressions, or maybe just looking to hide something they don’t like about themselves. Photographers get hung up on lighting or composition, and so on. It’s always best when a team can look through images together and agree on what’s mutually-beneficial for all involved.

Trade shoots for publication play by a different set of rules. It used to be that none of the images from a publication shoot were released until after the publication date. This could mean months, even years before the model ever got to see the images. Social media has changed things now, and it’s becoming more common to release ‘teaser’ material, or to publish directly online and speed up the process.

Keep in mind that a busy photographer may have paid work that takes priority. It’s reasonable to expect a little delay after a trade shoot. But it’s not reasonable to wait months unless that’s what you’ve agreed upon. And sadly, it’s more common than you might think for a photographer to never deliver any images. Maybe they got sidetracked with paid work, maybe they went out of business, who knows. When a photographer tells you, “I accidentally deleted the images,” or something like that… most likely they didn’t like the results and buried them in a deep, dark hole. It stinks, but it happens.

The best advice we can offer to anyone before a trade shoot: define expectations and deliverables. In advance. Don’t be afraid to ask how many images you’ll get after the shoot and when, how they can and will be used, and anything else that pops into your head.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *