Sunday, 20 May 2018

Model Testing - TFP - Magazine Submission - Work For Free - Which Is IT?

I recently resigned from some Facebook fashion groups "Last Minute SomethingOrOthers.." for a lot of reasons really. Partly as I seemed to be spending too much time checking-in on job ops to no avail.. Partly because questioning what people were asking for, or adding informed discussion; was seriously frowned upon (and the GIF warfare was intense). And partly because a lot of people there don't a have a clue what they are talking about, seem rather lazy and incapable of doing any research; but are always full of opinions. So I should be completely safe talking about some of the groups vexed questions here on my blog. Away from the hostile schoolyard these groups seem to have become.

So what has any of this preamble to do with the title of this blog post you ask? Well quite a bit actually as one of the most common requests on these pages mentioned above is to seek out talent to work with - for free. 

Which when you are just starting out as a model or a photographer or a hair and make-up artist is fine. Actually it's great! It has never been easier to get together with people to try to make some good work. On the other hand, it's never been easier for people in businesses who need work done that they used to pay for; to also join these groups and ask people to work for free, or contra or whatever.. It is a very strange time to be a photographer. Photography is more necessary than ever as almost everything revolves around the use of visual imagery; and yet it is now harder and harder to find clients with budgets that reflect the kind of work they are asking for; or clients that respect the creative nature of the work.  - Continues after the picture..
Black and White Headshot from a magazine submission editorial - The Girls Who Fell To Earth, by photographer Kent Johnson.

It is certainly true that you can gain some valuable experience as a photographer by working on photoshoots with 'real' clients. It's different to doing shoots with your own team on self directed projects (more on that shortly). But low budget jobs; or NO budget jobs for commercial usage are, in my experience (now there's a dirty Facebook concept) unlikely to allow you to produce any portfolio worthy imagery. And from what I see more and more, even small - meaning tiny - budgets (though thank you for actually having one) you probably won't be seeing eye-ball-stopping imagery from these small campaigns either. Which should be of concern to the client as well.

Back in the day - to use that now old hipster expression - photographers typically only shot for free when doing fashion tests, model tests, or portfolio building shoots for-themselves tests. In brief - a TEST is where people of a similar level of experience get together to produce pictures to build up their portfolios - everyone; Model, Make-Up, Stylist contributes and everyone gets something out of it. Hopefully! It's a kind of mutual lifting-up of one another. For this kind of photoshoot I have typically come up with a concept I wanted to shoot and often styled it myself (yes I'm an OK stylist; but not amammmazing..) This would be a smaller say three to five outfit/looks shoot.

Fashion model in a textured black dress with ruffled sleeves, photographed in moonscape location for a magazine submission editorial - The Girls Who Fell To Earth, by photographer Kent Johnson.

If the photoshoot is bigger than this; you are really shooting some sort of Editorial (or if it's for a commercial client it's called a campaign or look book). From this photographers point of view, even if you are OK as a stylist; you can't style and shoot; it's too much work; you will miss things. You will need a dedicated stylist and possibly even a stylists assistant. This shoot is essentially a huge Test; and is typically now going to be called a magazine submission; unpaid - submitted or not. It's worth keeping in mind that BITD - Back In The Day.. magazines commissioned these shoots and you were paid for them. Everyone complained how badly they were paid (it was not that bad) and now it looks like gold was falling from the heavens!!! Of course, the magazines needed great pictures to compete for readership; which meant they could charge more for the commercial advertising that paid for all the editorial. Being published really was special. If you were untried and new to the business, it meant editors were putting their reputation on the line for you if they booked you. Everyone's job depended on keeping and growing readership. Now people just buy *readership on IG.. or so I'm told.

If you are shooting a large number of looks for a business - for free!! They are not asking you to do this so you can become a better Photographer/Stylist/Hair&Make-Up. They are doing this to save money and they hope you don't fu#k up the job because they want to use your work to make money. To sell stuff with. This is why this kind of shoot is called a commercial job. (even if it's no job at all). Even though they are not paying you (or so little it hardly counts) they will want to have heavy input with the 'creative' direction of the shoot. Not surprising as they are not paying you for your creativity - they are not paying you at all! Really. These people will never pay you; even if the shoot is a success. The minute you mention money they will roll the dice again and look for a whole new team.
Model wearing a purple dress with wide sleeves, photographed in moonscape location for a magazine submission editorial - The Girls Who Fell To Earth, by photographer Kent Johnson.

Model Tests. I have saved what is perhaps the most complex situation of all for last. A fashion test or beauty test is of course, going to require a model and the best models are most likely going to be agency represented. Once I would have just said, "come from an agency" but now "represented" is the hot term..a bit like "published" though both are not very well understood. As a photographer an agency will either like you and your work (being liked the most important in general) and will let you test some models. Or they won't like you and say no. Most importantly, "No" and "Yes" are not set in stone and will change over time. So when one says "no" try another - and keep photographing the best and most-interesting looking people you can find in the meantime.. These tests are typically done by way of exchange to build books (portfolios) and do something new or creative - everyone working for free. But sometimes an agency wants a model shot by a particular photographer - it may be the style; it may be friendship - who knows? And for this shoot the photographer will be paid. I know models who say they have never paid for an agency test. But these things can sometimes be lost in the accounting. If you want to become a model (or to get some pretty-much guaranteed really good pictures). The simplest way to get a good result is to seek out a photographer who has a body of work, (a lot) of work you like; and ask them. They will quite likely want to be paid. As a guide; if the photographer is very experienced and you are not; it is not a test; it's a portfolio shoot, which is an editorial looking commercial photoshoot!

I am hoping this has been a positive and helpful article, which is entirely my intention. To share some critical thinking and my experience as a photographer. If you have any questions, please send me an email; or even better, ask the question in the comments below. Questions like - But what is TFP? (A: It's a test shoot by another name). I think there will be a part two of sorts to this article as the whole idea was to be about my Editorial Submission - The Girls Who Fell To Earth - from 2008! Recently re-edited and I think looking pretty fresh still. You can see the current version here - www.kentjohnsonphotography.com.au/09Fashion/Editorial.html

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*Readership; Followers are to social media what readership was and still is to magazines. Magazines are audited by independent bodies to confirm their readership numbers. The amount of money a magazine can aspire to charge for advertising is based on readership; and readership demographic. Hobo News can't sell adverting for the same amount as Up-Yours I'm Rich because; well hobos don't actually buy anything.. and getting you to buy something is exactly what advertising is supposed to do.

Blsack and white photograph of clouds and sky as part of a fashion photography series by Kent Johnson.

Model Testing - TFP - Magazine Submission - Work For Free - Which Is IT? An article by Sydney based fashion photographer Kent Johnson.
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Telling Stories in Pictures all over the world..
Kent Johnson, Sydney, Australia.
0433 796 863