What is a test shoot? We get asked this question all the time and, worryingly, we hear the wrong the wrong answer more often than not. Knowing what a test shoot is, how they work, why they are important to your brand, portfolio and career, and the best practices around test shooting will set you up for successful freelance life.

There are so many different definitions of a ‘Test Shoot’; no wonder it gets confusing! Also known as TFP (Time for Prints) or, the very old school, TFCD (Time for CD), the definition of a test shoot is in the name. A basic test shoot is a collaboration between a photographer and a model testing out a concept or idea to produce images to use in their portfolios. A larger scale test shoot includes the aforementioned plus a makeup artist, hair stylist, fashion stylist, videographer and even a nail artist.

What is a test shoot? It's the key to building your portfolio, staying on trend, meeting other freelancers and expressing your creativity.  

Traditionally, no money changes hands, apart from perhaps travel costs; instead, people receive a copy of the images to add to their portfolio for their time. In some cases, people will offer a fee to more experienced creatives eg: a new photographer might pay for the services of an agency model for the day to guarantee she shows up and has experience.

Testing (test shooting) is really important when you’re starting your freelance career. Not only does it allow you to expand your portfolio and try out different styles, but it is also a great way to network and expand your contact list. When starting your career you don’t necessarily know the right people or have the standard of portfolio needed to land big jobs, so testing is a way of refining your skills so that you are ready, and it’s the perfect opportunity to make life-long connections. It is a way of practicing for the real thing too, and getting you prepared and confident to take on paid jobs. 

what is a test shoot

You might end up with some great shots from your tests, but other times you might end up with rubbish that you definitely won’t be able to add to your portfolio, but that is the charm of it, you learn from your experiences and in the end, your career will benefit from it. It is much better to make inevitable mistakes during a test shoot than a real job.

Just like an athlete would go to the gym, creatives need to test shoot to practice and keep their skills up-to-date. New products and styles are always hitting the market and if you haven’t tried out a new product or piece of kit you don’t want to risk using it on a real job if you don’t know what to expect or how it will turn out. 

Test shoots are a really useful way to work out timing too. If you’re a hair stylist and are interested in taking a bridal job, you want to be sure that you can complete a look in a certain time period. If you’re a photographer, you want to be confident that you can provide the client with a certain type of image. What is a test shoot? It's a way to hone your skills.  

There are some things you might want to try out that you know you won’t get paid for but it’s good to have it in your portfolio to show you can do it, and that is what a test shoot is perfect for. 

Even the most seasoned freelancer will often be seen test shooting as it allows one to work on concepts that they truly believe in with no compromise (a rarity when working for someone else). If you’ve been putting it off, check out our new post a test page and post your test for free now!  I WANT TO TEST SHOOT