What is a test shoot? What's the meaning of a TFP shoot? We get asked these questions all the time and, worryingly, when we flip the question around, we get 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.

What is a Test Shoot

What is a Test Shoot?

There are so many different definitions of a ‘Test Shoot’; it's no wonder it gets confusing! Also known as TFP (Time for Prints) or, the very old school, TFCD (Time for CD), the most basic definition of a 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, and sometimes even a nail artist, videographer and fashion designer.

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

Test Shoot Meaning. Is it a paid job?

Traditionally, no money changes hands at a test shoot, 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, for example, a new photographer might pay for the services of an agency model for the day to guarantee she shows up and has experience.

TFP 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. Test shooting 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 also a way of practicing for the real thing too, and getting you prepared and confident to take on paid jobs. 

Test shoots are not jobs nor are they unpaid work. Test Shoots are a great way to develop your skill, gain experience and add professional work to your portfolio without having to give up your services to a company for free. 

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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. You'll also be improving your skills every time you agree to a TFP shoot and forge new contacts that may very well lead to paid work directly.  

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, equipment 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. Think of TFP shoots as test grounds for creatives before they do the real thing. That's not to say you shouldn't take it seriously. When on a TFP shoot, it's vital that everyone brings their A game. A lot of work has gone into organising the shoot so take advantage of the opportunity. 

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, a way to add new images to your portfolio whilst developing your style and an opportunity to meet like-minded freelancers. 

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. 

Another amazing benefit of TFP test shooting is that it's proven to be good for your mental health. Just like singing in a choir or joining a 5-a-side football team, test shooting as a collective with a common goal will make you feel connected and creativity satisfied. 

How to set up a test shoot

New to freelancing? Don't be daunted about reaching out to other freelancers (you'll find loads here) and asking them to take part in test shoots. Chances are they'll jump at the opportunity, as you'll both have something to add to your portfolio after the shoot. TFP test shooting is also a great way to meet new freelancers and talk to them about the industry and potential opportunities out there. 

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 tool that enables you to post a test shoot and connect with local creatives. Try it for free now!  I WANT TO TEST SHOOT

If you came across this article by googling 'test shoot definition', 'test shoot meaning' or ''what's a tfp shoot', I hope this has given you a better understanding of all you need to know about test shoots. Now, get out there and start shooting!

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Liked this article? Now that you know how to set up a test shoot, check out our articles Virtual Fashion Shoots in Isolation and How to Set Up An Online Virtual Shoot.

Photo: Tim Gouw