The other day I was having a discussion with a potential client who was requesting a TFP shoot that would take half a day in Camden.
(Normal basic cost for half day shoot is £200 + travel)
Initially the idea sounded quite interesting and could have been a fun shoot but when I asked for some more details I realised that unfortunately things weren’t quite as they seemed.
So some facts:
TFP stands for “Trade For Print”. In other words a shoot with zero financial compensation but that has marketing worth. A shoot that will be printed or published to a readership that is equivalent to the marketing worth of the cost of the shoot.
E.g. A magazine editorial may not pay but the potential client reach is worth the cost of the day.
TFP does not mean trade for portfolio or anything else. Anything like that is just a free shoot.
This was apparently not how this client saw things…
Any way after trying to explain this I noticed two things.
1 that I’m not very articulate & 2 that if you say you won’t do something for free then you are almost certainly going to hear the phrase “ok well one of my friends has a nice camera, they can do it for free…”
This used to kinda annoy me. I would often think “how can I compete with all these guys who just do it for free?”
It drove me a little bit mad for a while and I honestly thought maybe I should just get a boring job and keep photography as something just for fun.
But about a year ago I ended up listening to a podcast about authors trying to sell their work In a market that has a lot of similarities. Lots of amateurs who write just for the love of it. Thousands of bloggers who (like me) just create content about their passions. So again a saturated market with only maybe 5% of the professionals actually making a name for themselves.
I can’t remember the name of the speaker but they made the point that with the huge amounts of content and people willing to work for free is not going to go away and basically it is a waste of energy to worry bout it.
However you should look to it and find the best of the best to use as a base line and work until your product is more unique, better and more desirable than your competitors.
The marketing practice doesn’t change but rather than competing on price point and budget you should be using this vast amount of content to find a way to do something better and create your USP.
Although I am not great at writing this out anywhere near as eloquently as the pod caster was the point is this.
It is no longer enough to be technically proficient at your craft. Whether it’s writing, illustration, photography or whatever. You must have your style that no one else has. You must be able to create a unique product that is worth the premium.
So with regards to working for TFP a photographer should look at it like this.
What is the potential marketing reach? And not just numbers of likes or whatever. You need to look at how many potential clients may see it.
So a shoot for a photography magazine may be fun but the main readership is other photographers…they are unlikely to require your services so although the reach maybe 15,000 readers, it is unlikely to actually source any return on the time you put in.
Choose your TFP based on the market your trying to reach the same way you would with an advert. Because essentially you are paying for it.
Does the shoot benefit you in contacts?
Are you going to meet a new team of MUA’s, hair stylists and fashion stylists that may be useful future contacts? Or are they expecting you to provide the team?
Is the shoot a great chance to push your abilities and achieve something you’re not sure of without the risk to a paying client?
You should always be pushing your craft. Constantly working in your comfort zone may be easy but you will not progress.
If the shoot isn’t going to benefit you either marketing wise, contacts wise or in improving your ability then you need to figure out why you are doing it?
And for any models or people looking for a TFP shoot, you will get a much better response if you can make you can offer the photographer a non financial incentive rather than just portfolio work.
(Disclaimer: there is nothing wrong with asking for a shoot just to improve or update someone’s portfolio but this should probably not be advertised as TFP)