The more I delve into the fashion styling world, the more I hear the phrase “TFP”. “TFP” (or Time for Print) is typically done when photographers, models, MUAs, hairstylists, and/or fashion stylists agree to work together on a project and there’s no monetary compensation; in exchange for your time and talents on the shoot, you’re able to receive images for your portfolio at no charge. Basically, it’s the good old-fashioned bartering system.
When many are starting out and need to build a portfolio, TFP shoots are usually done until the (respected) artist has what they need in order to market themselves for their paid rate. The time frame or number of shoots that you participate in vary; while some only do it for x number of shoots, other may reach a point where they do receive paid jobs, but said work isn’t as creative or lucrative as they would like and this serves as an outlet for them. Win-win situation for all parties involved, right? Well, it depends.
On one hand, unless you’re a one woman (or man) show, you need to do TFP in order to have a portfolio to market. It’s kinda hard for companies to hire you for a job if you don’t have anything to show them to prove that you’re qualified for it. On the other, because there are people that abuse the practice, whether you’re a model, photographer, stylist, or MUA, you can easily get burned out and irritated by it all. Because of this, it makes people wonder if they should even bother with them at all, and/or argue that you should only be paid for your services, period.
Only YOU can determine how much TFP you have in your portfolio. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with doing TFP, however, I do believe that people should probably be more selective with how many they participate in, and/or who they work with. Because only you know what type of career you want to have within the industry, IMO, it only makes sense to do TFP work that aligns with that path. Definitely utilize your resources – because it’s the only way that you and your peers can grow and learn what your strengths are- but be subjective.
If we could be compensated every single time we worked on a job it would be awesome, however, market, project budgets, port needs, and even your own expertise will dictate if this happens, and how often. I’ve been lucky that all of my experiences have beeen great, and I’m happy with my port thus far but I know that’s not always the case. I’ve also been compensated for my time on occasion, so I assess each situation on a case by case basis and decide from there. I’ve even passed on a few things because they didn’t fit with my port needs, and I knew there was someone out there that could possibly need the work for theirs.
Signs that you should probably pass on a job? If you 1.) don’t like someone’s work 2.) you don’t feel like it’s a project that would enhance your port in ANY way or 3.) you don’t think that it would be a kick-ass experience. There’s nothing wrong with saying no! Don’t waste your time. It’s not being mean, nor is it a declaration that you’re better than anyone. It simply means you don’t want to compromise your portfolio just for the sake of “doing something”. Updating your portfolio is a constant, but if you find yourself always needing to do TFP because you don’t like the majority of your portfolio, then you’re doing something wrong. It may be time to take a break and reassess what it is you’re trying to achieve, especially if you find yourself complaining about how many you’ve done.
However, I will caution those that decide early on that they don’t want to do any TFP work ever. If you’re still in the process of building your portfolio but don’t want to do TFP- and you’re still not being paid for your work 100% of the time either-please make sure that YOU are in the position to pay every. single. person. that you contact when YOU are ready to create. In the same vain that you’re donating your time, product, wardrobe, film, etc. so are the other people that you work with. It’s only fair, right? TFPs are done out of necessity but they should also be fun and worth everyone’s time involved. Quality over quantity is always the way to go in my book!
Have you done TFP before? How has your experience been? What are your ground rules for participating? Comment below!