3 Rules of Thumb to Making TFP Work for You
Posted by Stephanie Charles, StarNow’s Head of Markets and former agent to the stars on 26 Sep, 2016

3 Rules of Thumb to Making TFP Work for You


TFP has escaped! These words really caught my eye when I read this recent blog about TFP in online mag Frai. For those unsure of what TFP is all about, it means Time for Print (sometimes called Trade for Print or Trade for Portfolio).

The basic idea is that a model and a photographer, (and sometimes a stylist & make-up artist) will collaborate on a project, with no money changing hands. Everyone taking part is gaining valuable experience and adding to, or creating a portfolio. For the model/actor that may mean a great new headshot or extra profile pics, while the photographer may get some shots of a certain style to add to their portfolio to showcase their ability.

When it’s done fairly, TFP is a great way for creatives to help each other out, and this category of jobs is very popular on StarNow.

What got my attention in Frai Magazines blog was their take on what happens when businesses and brands adopt the TFP style of working. As the author noted, at this point TFP turns from working with each other, to working FOR others. If you’re a model or actor just starting out and unsure of the difference between traditional TFP and the kind where you may be getting the short end of the stick, I have 3 rules of thumb I like to apply:

  • If the model and the photographer are gaining about the same amount from the experience, and no money is changing hands, you’re probably collaborating, great!
  • If someone is planning on profiting commercially because of your image (e.g. your picture is going to turn up in a catalogue), and you are only getting a copy of the images in return, consider whether you’re being exploited and whether this should be a paid opportunity.
  • If someone mentions exposure as a reasonable return for your work, stop and think. In the industry, exposure may put you on the map and help you get future work. However, there is a flip side. If you take part in a high profile campaign for Coke, other drink brands will be very unlikely to want to use you for their campaigns. Traditionally, if your face is going to be recognisable and linked to a big brand, you are paid (and sometimes paid above standard rates) because the brand understands you will probably miss out on other work due to taking the job. Weigh up your options carefully and understand what you are giving away if you choose to work for free in return for exposure.

The other rule I like to apply to all work in the industry is this: follow your instincts. Do you feel safe? Do you feel valued? Do your homework before agreeing to anything and hopefully you’ll always be able to answer YES to both of those questions.

At its best, TFP is such a useful tool for those who want to work together to build their experience and create a portfolio. In an ideal world, everyone wins from that approach and it should help those involved to go on and get paid work as a result.

I’d love to know what you think about TFP, and if you have any ‘rules of thumb’ that you use to decide which jobs to take. Comment below.

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