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Explore Chicago with a TFP photo shoot

A street-level view of the The Chicago Theatre

Looking for a cheap way to refresh your portfolio or try out that new photography technique? If so, a TFP photo shoot is a great option to consider. Here’s a quick look at what TFP photography is and how it might benefit your work, with a focus on the beautiful city of Chicago.

What is a TFP photo shoot?

TFP stands for “trade for print” or “time for print” in some cases. Usually, everyone is essentially working for free on these photo shoots.

(It’s not exactly working for free, as the “trade” in TFP represents the exchange of work for the final images. So, the models and photographers can all collect the pictures for their portfolios, ultimately allowing them to bolster their experience for future paid work.)

Photographers and models aren’t the only ones who can participate in a TFP production. Other professionals who can take part include makeup artists, hairstylists, and costume designers, for example.

Remember that TFP might also mean “test for print,” but this only arises in specific contexts. These do not arise from the photographer’s or model’s own accord, but a modeling agency might initiate the work instead.

Agencies will typically use a TFP to “test” new models and assemble their portfolios.

Benefits of a TFP photo shoot

Okay, so you might have cringed a bit when you saw that TFPs are work-for-free gigs. This initial reaction is understandable, but don’t worry! There are many benefits to these arrangements that might make you change your mind:

  • You can grow your professional network. Since there’s no money on the line, you may have the opportunity to work with creatives you wouldn’t otherwise be in touch with. This is an excellent opportunity to expand your connections in the industry.
  • TFP shoots save money on future work. This sounds counterintuitive, given that TFP shoots are for free. Yet, the test shoots mentioned earlier are the best way to ensure a concept will work before you waste money on hiring a crew and models.
  • You’ll work through creative blocks. All creatives hit a wall sometimes, where you just can’t seem to innovate or get the look you’ve envisioned. Exercising your photography skills in a TFP photo shoot will get your workflow moving smoothly again.
  • You can refresh your portfolio. How old are the images in your portfolio? If you’re trying to secure new clients, old work might drag you down, especially if you’ve mastered new techniques recently. Use a TFP to update your samples.
  • TFP shoots are the perfect opportunity to try out new techniques. Paid work doesn’t always present the opportunity to test new methods to improve your photography skills. TFP shoots provide more chances for exploring new techniques (plus, there’s no risk of losing money).

As you can see, there are many reasons why you should consider doing a TFP. Still, in reality, there are some drawbacks to keep in mind before arranging such a production. Here are some of the most important disadvantages to note.

What are the drawbacks?

TFP collaboration isn’t always so great. This type of arrangement does have a few weaknesses that you might want to get familiar with before jumping into a contract.

Of the most concern is the harm a TFP shoot can do to work availability. Nowadays, with the rise of social media, TFP opportunities are in abundance. This can be a bad thing, as you’ll be readily overlooked when you’re finally ready to offer paid services.

All a model has to do now is announce they’ve got a new wardrobe or secured a new location, then all the TFP proponents come rushing in. That can bury your competitive rates in the shadows.

(If you’re one of the many people offering free work, you’ll instead subject another photographer to this fate.)

So, it can present a loss on several accounts.

Another drawback to note is the potential for an unbalanced benefit. This means that, by entering into a TFP contract, you risk working for free while someone else in the group gets paid.

For instance, the model might get paid via sponsorship, by using their share of the images to advertise a specific clothing line or another product. On the other hand, you shot the photos for free, and will not earn revenue from the project whatsoever.

Of course, you can avoid this by simply enforcing open, honest communication between all participants.

An aerial view of a train passing by on West Kinzie Street in Chicago. The city is reflected in a nearby building's windows.
Photo by Christopher Alvarenga on Unsplash

Where to schedule a TFP  photo shoot in Chicago

Chicago is one of the best places in the U.S. to schedule your production, especially if you’re looking for inspiration to get your creative juices flowing again.

This city is chock full of incredible backdrops that can elevate your shoot to unprecedented heights and liven up your portfolio, unlike any other location. A few of the prime spots where you should schedule your visit include:

  • Adler Planetarium: This was the first-ever planetarium opened to public visitation in the western hemisphere. Today, it stands as a center of the connection between Earth and the surrounding galaxy. The planetarium welcomes photo shoots on a case-by-case basis.
  • Sears Tower: Stage your production high above the breathtaking Chicago skyline by journeying up to Sears Tower’s 103rd floor (aka “Skydeck”). You can either capture the city at daybreak or get in touch with TFP models for a beautiful sunset shoot.
  • Chicago Riverwalk: Reflect the Chicago metropolitan area’s full experience in your shoot by visiting this 1.25-mile-long walking path. Here, you’ll get an excellent view of the city’s architecture and urban canal.

Build up your portfolio with a Chicago TFP Shoot

TFP shoots are highly advantageous for both up-and-coming photographers and seasoned experts. All you need is a spectacular location to boost the benefits even further — Chicago is the best place to do that!

Schedule your production at any of the locations suggested here or start scouting other Chicago photo shoot venues to get your TFP photo shoot started today!

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