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What is a TFP Shoot & How to Use It to Build Your Fashion Stylist Portfolio

I’m sure many of you are wondering, “What the heck is a TFP shoot?”

Depending on who you ask, TFP stands for different things that all basically have the same meaning. The most common ones are: “Time for Print”, “Trade for Print” or “Time for Pictures”. 

A TFP is  a shoot that involves collaborating with others to create original images that benefit all parties involved. So, for example: you could have a photographer, a model, a hair and makeup artist and a stylist all working together on a TFP shoot. 

Everyone involved invests their time, their experience and their abilities in exchange for final photos for their portfolios. 

It’s really just a fancy way of saying that everyone is in need of imagery for their portfolio and will work for free in exchange for them. 

Typically, professionals that are just starting out in the industry are the ones who utilize this type of shoot the most.

The key to a successful TFP shoot is that all parties receive an equal benefit within the collaboration. So, in this particular example, that would mean that photographers could use the images to advertise their photography services, stylists and HMU artists could add them to their portfolio to showcase their work and models could use them in their search for additional jobs. 

The most important thing is that the resulting images should enrich the portfolios of everyone involved.

YOUR ROLE AS A STYLIST

Now that you have an understanding of what a TFP shoot is and how they work, let’s break down some of the key aspects of your role as fashion stylist for the shoot.

CONCEPT
First and foremost, you have to decide what the concept of the shoot will be. What are you envisioning it to look like? Some of you may know exactly what elements you’re looking to add and what they look like and that’s great!

For those of you who aren’t sure or have no idea, start by answering some key questions:

» What story do you want to tell? 
» Where or when will your model be?Does it take place in the past or perhaps in the future? 
» Is there a particular item of clothing you want to feature to create the setting around the entire shoot?

Next, get some inspiration. My favorite place to look are magazines. There is one magazine in particular that does storytelling the best and that’s W Magazine.

Towards the back of the magazine, there is a section that almost turns into a storybook of full page images. Notice how the first page is usually on the right – giving you an introduction into the story. Then the 2-4 pages that follow all feature the same model or models, the same concept and really, the only thing that changes is what they’re wearing.

This is more or less what you want to create on your shoot. A story that you tell with your model’s looks, poses and their expressions. 

Once you’ve gotten inspiration, it’s time to create a mood board. A mood board is a sort of collage that consists of images and text to help communicate a clear visual theme for your TFP shoot. You’ll want to include images and ideas for every single element of your shoot. This includes: lighting, styling, hair, makeup, location ideas, model aesthetic and even posing styles.

TFP shoot fashion mood board
Elle Newman

Providing all of this information in one place, whether you do this virtually on sites like Pinterest or the old-school way of cutting things and adding them to an actual board, will give your team an idea of what you have in mind. 

Your mood board should communicate a clear visual theme so that anyone looking at it will understand exactly what you want to achieve.

VISUAL ELEMENTS

Once you’ve nailed the concept of your shoot, it’s time to figure out what visual elements you’ll need in order to make it all come to life.

» Does your setting need any props? If so, list those out.
» What do you want the model to wear? Having an idea of colors and styles will help immensely when searching for clothing to purchase or if you decide to ask the model to provide from her closet.
»
What accessories do you want to include to complement your looks?

Before heading out to purchase any clothing, it’s easier if you have a set model. This way, you’ll be able to use her exact measurements as a size guide which means less fitting alterations on site.

As you start purchasing items, make sure to keep ALL OF YOUR RECEIPTS as you will be returning everything after the shoot. 

To help you with this process, go out and get yourself a tag gun. It’ll help you when it’s time to put all of the tags back on the garments. Believe me when I say, this is an important part of every stylists’ photo shoot kit.

Just make sure the tags go to the correct garments, that they are attached in the same area and that the plastic part is the same color, as some of them are clear and others are black.

Also, make sure that the model does her best to not get any makeup stains on anything!  If something does get dirty, be sure to get it dry cleaned before returning.

As you style more shoots, be sure to keep a log of everything you purchase, dates you need to return by and keep track of all tags and receipts.

STUDIO SERVICE FEE

As you grow as a stylist, you will start to pull from designer stores where you can’t simply buy, shoot and return. Some stores charge a “studio service” fee. This is basically a rental fee often billed as a restocking fee that can vary on average from 10 to 30 percent of the actual cost of the merchandise.

LOCATION SCOUTING

Now that you have a specific concept and you’ve planned the looks you want to shoot, it’s a good idea to start location scouting. As you start to consider possible locations, there are some key questions you need to ask yourself:

» Is there anywhere you can shoot that requires minimal props or setup? 
» Is there a place for the model to change comfortably? 
» Can you achieve all of your layouts at one location or will you need to move? 
» Will everyone be able to access the location or do you need to arrange transportation?

location scout tfp shoot
The Kimberly, Australia

When looking for a location to shoot, you want to make sure that it’s a place that’s easy to reach, doesn’t need any permits to shoot and will look good as is, so you only have to worry about the model’s looks and not any setting props.

Depending on their level of experience, other members of your team may know of some places to shoot. Be sure to ask them for suggestions in addition to scouting locations once you’ve secured members for the shoot.

ASSEMBLING YOUR DREAM TEAM

Since this is your vision and your shoot, you will also be in charge of getting everyone together. 

So where do you find other fashion professionals that are starting out in the industry and looking to collaborate on a TFP shoot? How do you build your dream team?

There are a few places to check out, however, just like anything else, remember that before agreeing to anything, providing any information or meeting up with anyone – make sure to always be diligent about researching and staying safe.

First, I recommend looking for people within your existing networks. Make a list of people you can ask and then have them reach out to their networks as well. Ask around with friends, family-members, colleagues and local businesses. 

If you’ve already secured a portion of your team. For example, the makeup artist, it’s always a great idea to ask them if they know someone who could take pictures or model for the shoot. The benefit of asking a member of your shoot team for a recommendation is that whoever they recommend is less likely to be a no-show. Yes, this unfortunately happens with TFP shoots sometimes and it’s almost always the model that doesn’t show.

Another great resource to try are schools. Many times, seniors are looking to build their portfolios in their search for jobs as soon as they graduate or some schools even have alumni programs where you can look as well.

Reach out to the school’s Career Department and check to see if they have an Alumni Association. You can find all this information directly on their site or many times, they have groups on platforms like Linkedin and Facebook.

The next resource I have for you is a site called Reddit. I’m sure many of you have heard of it and may even use it. Reddit is a fantastic tool for all things career and in this case, it can help you find a team for your TFP shoot. 

Look for subreddits or groups about modeling, photography, hair-and-makeup-or-beauty and fashion styling. Post in all of these that you’re looking to build a team for a TFP shoot. Be sure to provide specifics such as the city the shoot will be taking place in, a very brief but helpful explanation of your vision such as the type of photos you’re looking for or the look you’re trying to achieve with styling, hair and makeup.

While I don’t recommend you write every last detail about your shoot, brief information like this is helpful when building a team. Be sure to make the title interesting so people stop and read it. You could try saying something like “Looking for a photographer for a TFP shoot. Let’s build our portfolios together.” 

Another place you could look for people to shoot with is Craigslist. I know. Many people feel uncomfortable or wary of using this site. If this is you, don’t use it. I want you to feel completely comfortable during this process. 

However, for those of you willing to try it, I can tell you from personal experience that I have found some great styling opportunities on Craigslist, so don’t rule it out of your search for your dream team.

Similar to Reddit, you don’t want to give out too much information – just the basics of the shoot and a broad city where it will be taking place. For example, if the location of your shoot is a small park in Harlem, say your shoot is taking place in NYC. Once you’ve established communication with interested people and  narrowed down who you may want to work with, you can reveal the full location details of the shoot.

This is a precaution for safety.

This list wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t mention social media platforms. The ones I recommend the most for this particular project are Facebook, Instagram, Linkedin and Clubhouse.

BUT before you run to your favorite social platform, make sure you have a strategy in place. These spaces are noisy and they’re meant to distract you. For the sake of efficiency, it’s better to work smarter with a clear strategy in place than spend hours on a post that gives you no leads. Always be intentional about how and where you search. 

On Facebook, look for groups created specifically for these types of shoots.  

For example, there is a group called TFP Time for Print NYC where people post about their shoots and who they need throughout New York City. I’ve also found similar groups for Miami, Michigan and Kansas City. 

PRO TIP

If a TFP Shoot group for your area doesn’t exist, look for other keywords. Some cities have Facebook groups and pages for amateur photographers, models, hair stylists, and makeup artists where they organize shoots on a TFP basis. 

You can also consider creating your own group and growing an entire community around the topic. 

I personally love FB groups because they’re great for providing information and really creating a sense of community among professionals.

On Instagram look for relevant hashtags to find people you’d want to team up with.
Because it is a visual platform, you’ll find many creatives will post images of their projects, which works out even better for you. Take a look at their style and see if it aligns with the vision you have for your shoot. 

If it does, send them a message and connect. Remember, social etiquette rules apply here. If they don’t respond, send 1 more message after a few days and then move on to someone else. If they have a contact page with an email address, try sending them an email as well.

Similarly to Facebook, Linkedin has groups for fashion professionals.
Add your post to these groups to start your search. There are also many college and alumni groups that you can post to. Remember not to overdo it or you will seem spammy.
Create brief posts that clearly communicate the message you want to relay. Give the facts and wait until people reach out to provide the full details of your project.

For those of you who use Clubhouse, there are a few things you can do.
Create a room with a leading headline and location. You can write something like “Fashion Professionals in Paris, do you want to build your portfolio?”

Clubhouse’s algorithm favors rooms that ask a question as the title, which means more people will see your room. Don’t forget to make it public so everyone can come in. 

Within the Clubhouse app, there’s so many fashion rooms and clubs you can be a part of. For rooms that allow people to ask a question, get up on stage and let people know you’re trying to create this shoot in your specific area. Ask people to reach out to you if they are interested in working with you.

Now you all know how much I love Clubhouse. If you’re new to my show, make sure to check out Episode 3: The Power of Networking. It’s my personal story of how I landed a job at my dream school simply by networking on Clubhouse. Head to mariahedian.com/networking to listen, get the show notes and a free download of the massive Clubhouse guide I created specifically for fashion professionals. 

Finally, there are a few additional notes that I want to give you in particular when searching for models to join your shoot.

On Instagram, models will often use their city + the word model as a hashtag. For example, it would be something like #LondonModel. Search for your area and see what results you get. 

Reach out to models whose look you think will go with your aesthetic. Ask for portfolio links and offer your own if you have. If not, provide information about your shoot and make sure to let them know it is TFP and not paid.

Another great option when searching for models is a modeling agency. This is something many people don’t consider because they assume that if a model’s been signed, they don’t need images for their portfolio, but they do. Models who have just been signed tend to need a lot of portfolio padding. Contact agencies in your area and see if they have any new models who are looking to be part of a TFP shoot.

Another great source to look for models is ModelMayhem.com. Here, you can post your casting and search for a particular look that aligns with your vision. Similarly, you can condense your search and make it specific for new models in your area.

ADDITIONAL DETAILS TO DISCUSS

Once you’ve assembled your team, it’s important you’re all aligned on the shoot itself and what the final outcome will be. 

The first thing you’ll wanna do is create a storyboard. This is where you break down the sequence of shots you’ll need the photographer to take. 

tfp shoot fashion storyboard
PDN Online

When creating this storyboard, make sure you’re specific. Figure out the number of outfit changes and hair and makeup touch-ups you’ll need. If you’re working outdoors, you may need to adjust shooting times or modify your sequence based on natural lighting and the positioning of the sun.

Keep in mind that this shoot is not only for your portfolio, so a few close-up shots of hair and makeup should also be included.

Other topics you’ll want to discuss with your team before the shoot are things like:

» How long will the shoot last? 
» What if it rains?
Be sure you have a
contingency plan. Either have an alternate date or location—or both—as a back-up. This ensures that your shoot will happen—and you can retain your team’s commitment to the TFP shoot, even if the weather doesn’t cooperate the first time around
»
Will you have a TFP Shoot Agreement?
While it’s not a must, it does put to paper all terms that are discussed as a team and it serves as a legal document

Things to specify in your agreement include: 

» Important details like equipment or rental cost split 
» Usage parameters: How can the team use the images? Consider social media usage. Also consider that the photographer may have a no-filter clause for social posting.
»
How many images will the photographer send to each team member? 
»
What is the turnaround time for final images (the general TFP rule is a 1-week turnaround)
»
What are the terms for sharing images online: does everyone on the team need to be tagged?
»
Will the images have the photographer’s watermarks on them?

These are just some questions to think about as you’re drafting your contract, but it’s always a good idea to have a lawyer check it over just to be safe.

CREATE A CALL SHEET

Once you have your team confirmed, a clear storyboard, a location and all details of your contract, there is only one thing left for you to do before your shoot: create a call sheet.

Many TFP shoots don’t include this because many people are just starting out and don’t know to create one, but you’ll want to make sure you have this on your shoot. It’s what all professionals use industry-wide on the day of any shoot. 

Trust me, you will be that much more prepared if you start creating these for your TFP shoots.

A call sheet breaks down all of the important information your team needs to know on the day of the shoot. This includes: 

» The concept or shoot name
» The shoot date and time
»
Shoot Location or locations (make sure to include any directions on how to get there or parking so that no one runs into any issues)
»
Contact information for every member of the team – this includes an email and a cell phone number
»
Each person’s title or responsibility for the shoot
»
A detailed schedule for the day, including lunch and breaks depending on how long your shoot is
»
Any additional notes or callouts that you deem necessary for everyone to know or be reminded of

I know a call sheet doesn’t seem that important, but believe me … everyone refers to it on the day of the shoot. You’ll definitely be glad you made it!

RESOURCES & REFLECTIONS

I know that this is A LOT of information to learn in one sitting, but the good thing is that you can read this post or listen to the podcast episode as many times as you need to!

As a bonus and to help you create a positive and seamless TFP shoot, I’ve put together a checklist for you to reference as you put everything into play. You can access it here.

Starting out in your career journey is hard, especially when you’re doing it all on your own. But every win and every success in your life is that much sweeter when you look back at everything you’ve accomplished and see how far you’ve come.

TFP shoots are not required, but if you’re serious about your career and need an online portfolio, this is one of the best ways to build it and add to it over time. Ask any fashion stylist and they will all tell you that they started with some form of a personal project to add to their portfolio. 

One final word of advice: remember to treat TFP shoots like paid shoots. In other words, dress professionally, be respectful and punctual, don’t ever be a no-show and give it your absolute best. As professionals, our most valuable asset is our time and nobody wants to see it wasted. 

Keep at it, build your portfolio, make industry connections and who knows, maybe one of the shoots you create will be the one that catches the eye of a brand, a producer or a designer that will launch your fashion stylist career.

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