Model Business
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Test Shoots and Prints for Time

About Test Shoots

As an aspiring model, you need to have photos. Photos are needed for your marketing materials - portfolio, comp card and website. Also, very importantly, you need to have experience working in front of the camera. As you do more shoots you will gradually pick up how to move from one pose to the next without direction. Another reason for testing frequently is that you build contacts. This is a business which is driven by who-knows-whom: where who you know - or to be more precise, who knows you - is important. If you conduct yourself professionally on a test shoot, you will be remembered and hopefully recommended.

If a photographer wants to try out a new creative idea, test some new equipment or film, build up his portfolio with new styles or techniques, or just wants to practice, he will need to fix up a test shoot. This is where the volunteer model comes in. The key to this type of work - also known as 'prints for time' or PFT (or even TFP!) - is that no money changes hands. The photographer gets the time of a model free and the model gets copies of the resulting pictures - by exchanging services both parties get images for their portfolio and gain experience.

Beginner photographers will be eager to offer PFT work to models while they are learning. On the face of it this seems like a great idea, but there are a few things that need to be taken into consideration. Obviously beginner photographers are still learning about the art of taking pictures, so the quality of work may not be that good - or technical problems may mean that you end up with nothing. But this by no means indicates that it is not worthwhile to do test shoots with amateur photographers. When you are starting out, any chance you have to get in front of the camera and see some results is valuable. It is a prime opportunity to gain some experience and experiment with poses, expressions, make-up and wardrobe to find out what works for you and discover your 'look'. And you never know, he might hit on something which will produce an amazing photograph for your portfolio (probably more by accident than design, but hey, what difference does it make in the long run?).

Finding Test Shoots

A model agency will often try and help find you test shoots, but if you are working independently it is up to you to track down your own.

One way of finding photographers is on the web. Some that I have worked with are linked on my links page, along with some photographer directories. Locate a photographer in your area and, if you like the look of their work, contact them to enquire about test shoots. There are also several online message boards where aspiring models can make contact with photographers.

Another method would be to turn to the yellow pages and try calling around the professional photographers in your area. Of course, not everyone can afford to shoot for free, but it doesn't hurt to ask! If none of the pro photographers in your area are available for free test shoots you might want to try some amateurs and students. Try your local community college or art college and post a notice on their bulletin board to say that you are looking for test shoots. Local camera clubs and photographic societies, too, may have amateur photographers who are looking for subjects to photograph.

What You Need to Know

This information is based on Stuart Randle's guide to PFT.

Check in advance exactly what the style of the shot is to be and what clothes and props to bring. The testing photographer will often have a certain style in mind. This may not be what the model has in mind for her portfolio but again, all experience is good.

Agree beforehand what to expect at the end of the shoot. Arrange how many prints you will receive, and in what format. Some photographers have started offering the photographs on a CD, which is good for such purposes as e-mailing out or placing on a website, but may be unsuitable for printing. It is recommended that you at least get a selection of the very best pictures in 10x8 format. Know whether the photographer will be working in colour or black & white (this also helps when you are doing your make-up etc). Will you be required to pay a nominal fee towards the cost of printing your copies?

If you are expected to sign a model release form, check it through carefully. It is quite usual to be asked to sign such a form, but it could be wise to wait until the end of the shoot to do so. It usually removes the requirement for a model to be either consulted or paid for the reproduction of the picture. Restrictions can be introduced, so that the photos can be used only for a specified purpose, with a condition that permission be requested if the photographer wishes to have more flexibility in usage. At this stage the terms can be re-evaluated. The copyright always remains the property of the photographer.

Lastly, be as professional as possible even though you're not being paid - and you might even get asked back!