What’s this tf* thing I keep hearing about?
Simply put, tf* means a free shoot in which you don’t pay and you are not paid. TF* stands for “Time For”, which refers to how you are paying the photographer with your time, and the photographer is paying you with their photos. Originally, trade shoots were called TFCD (time for cd) or TFP (time for print). TFCD shoots would generally mean you would either receive all finished photos mailed to you on a cd. TFP meant that you would receive printed copies of the photos to use in your tangible portfolio. Since the world has changed considerably, and the way information and photos are shared has changed, both types of “payment” are practically outdated. Rather than receiving anything in the mail, you’ll likely receive photos from next to everyone via email or social network. Technically these shoots fall more into the TFCD category, but many opt to just say “Tf*” as a nickname for trading our time, regardless of delivery method.
Now that that’s all cleared up, what else should I know about TF*?
A few things, actually. How do you find Tf* shoots? The simple answer? You look for them. Many photographers will list whether or not they take on tf* shoots or not. If it doesn’t say anything on their profile, it doesn’t hurt to message and ask.
Another thing you should know is that not all photographers accept Tf* shoots, and many that do will not accept ALL Tf* offers. Usually, when a photographer works for free it is because he or she wants to shoot a concept from their own mind, or that photographer desperately wants to update their portfolio. When a photographer needs to take photos immediately, that photographer will work for free. It’s the same as when a model needs to update his or her portfolio, they will work without getting paid to do that, generally.
In the world of commercial photography, you will likely always pay the photographer. When you visit a photographer’s website and you message them to photograph your wedding, you are contracting through them. You do not expect them to photograph your wedding for free for any reason. It’s the same with modeling photography and professional models. If their work is only on a charging basis, it is likely because this photographer has a strong portfolio and no need to photograph things pro bono. In the world of modeling photography, who pays who can sometimes get a little confusing, since it isn’t always your typical contract, such as described above.
A rule of thumb when figuring out who pays, and is a basic shared rule in the industry are as follows;
1. Whoever is better gets paid.
2. Whoever messages the other pays.
This means that if a new model wants to work with a skilled photographer, they may have to pay that photographer. Alternatively, a new photographer may want to work with a well known, professional model, and they would then have to pay that model.
In this little chart I have listed the artist that is BETTER with bold, and written the most likely outcome.
Model messages photographer – Tf*
Model messages photographer – Model pays photographer, or tf*
Photographer messages model – Tf*
Photographer messages model – Photographer pays model, or tf*
So if a photographer whose work exceeds yours messages you, it will most likely be to set up a tf* (free) shoot, where neither of you pay. If your work exceeds the photographers and they are the ones messaging you, it is ok to ask for monetary compensation. It is generally considered rude to message a photographer or model and demand they pay you. If you message, it’s either because you’re looking for a tf* shoot, or you are the one willing to pay. Many photographers and models will not even reply, and consider your message as spam, because that’s what it is.
But who owns the rights to the photos in a Tf* shoot?
That depends, but usually the photographer. Many photographers will have you sign a model release form, informing you of what you can and can’t do with the photos, and establishing a photographer’s right to the photos. If a photographer does not have you sign a release, it is usually understood that you can upload the photos wherever (if you’re not making money from them), but the photographer still owns the rights. However, without a model release form you may have more legal ground against a photographer who uses your photos for reasons you deem inappropriate. All contracts are different for all photographers, so be sure to discuss the fine print and details with one another so no one is confused.
And there you have it, everything you need to know about Tf* photoshoots!