TFP/TFCDs are, etc. But that's the funny thing about this business. Anything goes and there is a pro and con to everything we are told to do or not do. So I just want to make a post justifying why it is okay to pay money for a photographer when doing a photo shoot.
I'm not saying that all your photo shoots you do for portfolio building should be TFP/TFCD. These types of shoots, while they are free of charge and very beneficial to both parties, can also have a huge downside. For example, because there is often no model release form or other type of document involved, many models end up never receiving their CD or prints of images from the shoot.
I've already discussed this annoying occurrence in a previous post about waiting for photos. Although there are MANY great photographers who do quality work and actually enjoy doing TFP/TFCD shoots, there are just as many who will not be as motivated simply because they don't stand to gain any profit. You get what you pay or don't pay for, so keep that in mind at all times when doing free shoots.
On the flip side, the only time I can readily justify paying a certain amount of money for a photographer is when it comes to signing with a new agency and putting together your portfolio. I always have said that any agency who makes you pay upfront before signing you is a scam...and that is very much still true.
But to clear up any confusion, if you do get signed to an agency and they tell you that you've got to pay for your photos to start your portfolio, this does not mean you are getting ripped off. This is a normal part of the process. The way this part usually operates involves the agency evaluating your look and the best possible way they can market you.
In order to do that, they need a photographer who knows how to shoot exactly the looks the agency needs. The agency will refer you to one or more photographers who they personally have worked with for a long time. There is no TFP/TFCD to be found here so expect to pay out of pocket. While it sucks to have to fork out some money, think of it as a test. Every agency invests a lot of time, money and manpower into each model it represents and they want to make sure you will show them a profit in the end. So be true to that and prove to them that you deserve their representation.
Each photographer your agency recommends will all charge different rates so you're bound to find one who fits within your budget. That being said, please remember that this photo shoot is very professional! You will have outfits picked out (whether they are your own or whether a stylist has helped you), a professional makeup artist will be there as well as a hair stylist (usually the makeup artist also doubles as a hair stylist).
So you are not just paying for some stranger to take your photo...you are paying for a mini crew who has been hired to make you look good. With these types of shoots, you will NEVER be required to do your own hair and makeup. If you find yourself in this situation, something is wrong and you need to talk to someone at your agency, especially since this is coming out of your (or your parents') wallet.
To clarify about the hair thing, yes, you will still have to technically do your hair, but the hair stylist will be on-hand to make sure every strand is in place and will curl, brush, comb your hair to make it look good...so when I say you should never have to do your hair for this kind of a shoot, I don't mean you get to roll out of bed and head right on over expecting a complete makeover. :)
You'll find that when you invest a little bit of money into a shoot, you will see a huge difference in the final images, compared to those with free shoots. Most TFP/TFCD shoots don't have a crew, makeup artist or stylist. Often the model him/herself is responsible for all this, which can be a hassle and stressful. But when you put your money into people who are paid to take care of those things for you, you will be much more relaxed in front of the camera.
Agencies cannot force you to shoot with one of their photographers, but in all honesty, if you spend the time shooting TFP/TFCDs with photographers the agency doesn't know, in an attempt to give them images they will approve while saving you money, you will be sadly disappointed. Agencies do not trust photographers they don't know and it isn't always guaranteed that the TFP/TFCD photographer you shoot with on your own is going to know what the agency wants.
The photographers that agencies refer new models to specialize in getting shots that agencies want. That is a big difference between a run of the mill photographer who does regular photo shoots. And that difference will show up in your images.
Modeling agencies aren't there to be your friends...this is a business and that is the focus they are going to turn to first. They will not hesitate to tell you they do not like the images you've gotten on your own and they will be snobbish about it. That is their job. Yes, it isn't fun to know you have to cough up $400+ for a photo shoot, but this is your part in investing in your modeling career. Your agent wouldn't have you spend that kind of money if they thought they couldn't get you work or believe in your potential.
So continue to do TFP/TFCDs to build up your portfolio, network, etc. but when it comes time to drop some money for a professional shoot, especially if it's suggested by your agent, suck it up, save up and show them what you've got! In the end when you see your images, the money part won't even matter, especially since you'll end up making all of that money back and then some once you start getting bookings. And in the end it shouldn't matter as long as you are dealing with a legit agency that is on your side.
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