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Test shoot, test shoot, test shoot.

Using the new Collaborative Feature on our website, talented freelance photographer JC Candanedo recently organised an exciting test shoot with a group of freelancers in central London. 

Curious to learn more about the team’s creative vision and process, we decided to tag along to the test shoot where we had a great chat with JC.

In this article, we share some interesting insights from our sit down with this inspiring photographer. From the thought provoking concept behind his test shoot, to starting his freelancer career at 40, JC’s career journey, experience and industry insights are second to none. 


Assembling a Creative Team

JC has been a member of Freelancer Club for many years and for this particular test shoot, a fashion editorial, he connected with talent that he’d previously met through our platform among others. 

Some of this talent included long-time collaborators who he’d worked with on numerous occasions since starting his freelance career. He met makeup artist Fabiola, for example, at a Freelancer Club event a few years ago.

“I’m working with a group of creatives, some of whom I’ve known for years. Rachel Williamson, for instance, the hair stylist, I met her at another test shoot seven or eight years ago. The makeup artist, Fabiola Bastianelli, I met at a party that the freelancer club threw six or seven years ago.”

JC's creative team also included Freelancer Club member and Assistant Photographer Charlotte Dormoy, Fashion Stylist Juliet Herrera and Model Sarah Eng. 

It’s always worth bearing in mind that the creatives you meet when starting out on your career may end up being regular colleagues and collaborators on future shoots and test shoots. So, go to events, apply for test shoots, put yourself out there - you’ve got nothing to lose, only an amazing network of creatives to gain.  

Creating a Shoot Concept From Personal Experience

JC, a London based creative, uses photography to explore human rights, mental health and identity and to influence his commercial work in fashion, beauty and portraiture. 

For their test shoot, a fashion editorial, JC and his team based their project on migration, as it’s theme that many of them are quite familiar with on a personal level.

“The concept of the shoot came from a conversation that we were having one day about how all the people involved in this shoot are either first, second or third generation migrants.”

“We thought about our migration journeys and the migration journey of our families and how we carry those migration journeys on ourselves - they come in the shape of accents, skin tones, facial features or traditions. We thought that clothes as well have some sort of journey, as they carry with them the journeys of the people that have worn them in the past. We wanted to link those two ideas into one concept that we called El Viaje."

As you can see from the test shoot images in this article, this concept was beautifully brought to life through creative collaboration between the freelancers on set. 

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Using Light and Shadows to Tell a Story

JC and his fellow freelancers wanted to find a test shoot location where they’d have access to certain props and elements that would enable them to make their creative vision a reality. 

They subsequently chose to shoot in a central studio in Shoreditch because it had a black out background which was key to helping them communicate their experiences of migration in a unique way. 

As JC explained on the day:

“We needed a studio because we needed a black out background for the way we are going to explain this story.” 

“Visually we’re going to use a combination of light and shadows to create this idea that we all bring our families' journeys or our own migration journeys with us. The light and the shadows are going to create that idea of like a background, or a baggage that you bring with you, like a tunnel of history that you bring with you along your journey.”

Our key takeaway? Devise a concept that you and your team believe in and connect with and choose a shoot location that will compliment and facilitate your creative vision. 

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Using Test Shoots to Develop His Freelance Career 

JC is a big advocate for test shooting as he believes that they help freelancers develop numerous strands of their freelance careers. 

“Test shoots are incredibly important for creatives. They help you practice new skills and they help you to get to know creatives that further along the line can help you get other jobs and introduce you to potential clients.”

After starting his freelance photography career at 40, JC quickly came to understand the true value of test shoots, as they helped him to gain experience, build his portfolio and make important industry contacts. 

“For me working on test shoots, for any creative, it’s mandatory. I can tell you my story - when I arrived here in the UK eight years ago I didn't know anyone in the industry. I myself didn't have a portfolio and it was only through meeting other collaborators and people on different networks including the freelancer club, that I could put a portfolio together and start going out and looking for work.”

He’s also quick to highlight and dismiss the common misconception associated with test shoots: that test shoots are the equivalent of working for free.

“I’ve heard from some creatives that they don’t do test shoots because they don't like working for free. I think that there's this misconception that working on a test shoot is working for free.”

Challenging this misconception, JC enthusiastically explains how every team member gets value out of their involvement in a test shoot.

“Everyone on the test shoot has to get something out of the test shoot - from the model, to the hairstylist, to the photographer - they all need to get images for their portfolio and these images are the ones that they're going to use to be able to get potential clients in the future.”

“You are working on building your own branding and your own portfolio, so you're not really working for anyone else, but working for yourself.”

We couldn’t have said it better ourselves! 


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If you were unsure how to build a photography portfolio, how to build a modelling portfolio or how to make a makeup artist portfolio before reading this piece, we hope that JC has inspired you to start test shooting with fellow freelancers.

JC is a great example of a creative who identified the benefits of test shooting from day one and didn’t let his lack of experience or age stop him from getting involved. 

At forty years old, it could have been very easy for JC to avoid test shooting with creatives who were younger and more experienced than he was. Instead, he didn’t let the age difference get in his way, because he just wanted to soak up as much knowledge and experience as he could in order to get his photography career off the ground.

“I started doing this when I was almost 40 years old, and I considered myself to be like a 40 year old intern.”

“I was assisting photographers who were half my age and they could have been my children. In the shoots with them, I’d just be an assistant because I knew that this was the best way to learn how the industry worked and it was also a good way to meet other collaborators. I had a goal so I just didn't care about what people thought of me. I knew the best way to make it in the industry was to have as many contacts as possible.”

If you were apprehensive or skeptical about the value of test shooting, I’m sure JC has given you ample food for thought.

Find more images and details about JC's project El Viaje here

Want to give test shooting a try? Post your own test shoot or apply to be a part of someone else' shoot

Want to know more about how to build a photography portfolio, how to build a modelling portfolio or how to make a makeup artist portfolio? Check out The Essential Test Shoot Guide and Why Test Shoots Are Not Unpaid Work.