8 Steps to a Professional Collaboration TFP Photo Shoot
(From the Perspective of Kyle Rea Photography)

By Kyle Rea Photography

To all the readers out there (and subscribers!) this is my cREAtive photographers blog about things that inspire me, notes that might help other photographers on their journey, perspectives, likes, dislikes, facts, opinions, and pretty much anything else that's on my mind about cREAtive photography.  This being my first blog, I'm going to offer some imperative advice about the beginning stages of photography, mainly the TFP shoot. Don't worry I'll be very specific. 

First Topic: TFP Shoots aka Trade for Print

How do a Photographer or a Model build their portfolios when everybody wants money? (Because money = time and time is one thing humans can't get back). The goal is to grow a portfolio that will allow us to learn, grow and be taken more serious in the professional world. The higher quality and more rounded the work, the better off each artist is in the long run. People want to see what you're capable of and when you can show them proof, this will help create more opportunities for all parties involved. So how do we reach that point in our careers? Let me explain below:

A TFP means both the photographer and the client decide to trade each others time for the final product, the photos. Photographers don't always work for free, and models don't either (or the subject matter). Being a "newbie" photographer, you'll want to get in as many photo shoots as possible until you feel like you are rockin' it hardcore and can handle just about any shoot in that particular field.

Since I lived in Los AngelesI've done many photo shoots: headshot, fashion, portrait and just about anything else you can think of. I worked hard at it and I started to get the hang of it via trial-and-error lessons, studying, and asking for advice from top tier industry professionals. I finally became good enough to start charging for my services years later. This is one EXPENSIVE hobby! (My current equipment alone cost me upwards of $5,000) I've studied my ass off in order to fully understand how to take the best shots possible in even the most difficult situations (indoor/outdoor, dark/light lighting, in the woods/in the city, etc...).


When I speak of "Grind Work" I mean this.
1. Gotta learn. 2.Gotta study.  3. Gotta go out in the field and shoot!  Basically you work out a deal with someone to trade your time for their time. I've been doing this since 2010 on a consistent basis. I'm at the point where I've been mufti-published and award winning for awhile. However, I'm always interested in doing a few TFP pro-bono shoots every so often if it will help my resume or portfolio grow. I only want to show the best of the best of my work, and you should too! 

The Top? There is no top! You can always do better, create more and learn more. The Top is just a reference for being well known, respected and have a higher understanding of what it is you're actually doing with your work. Many photographers can't get a respected rate these days with the oversaturation of content and easy access to digital camera equipment and many potential clients are skeptical because of this. It takes a LOT of value, professionalism, social proof and renown to reach the consistent rates a photographer thinks they deserve.

I often turn down proposals for TFP collaborations because sometimes the prospective talent just wants to take the work, own the rights to it, and run away without giving any credit to me the photographer. Sometimes they aren't professional, sometimes all they can offer is "exposure" which I can easily get myself as I'm also a freelance marketer by trade. 

The first rule of thumb as a collaborator (or in life) is, in my opinion, to always respect each other and everything around you. If you "scratch my back, I scratch yours" is great, but I always like to give the first favor so I don't owe one later if I feel like my goals are leading me elsewhere. In this case, I'm doing much more work for an artist by taking their photos, using my equipment, setting up, snapping, shutting down, editing, re-editing, etc... for the artist whose main goal is to just look good in front of camera. I as a photographer, am doing a LOT of work, so the least the collaborator could do for the photographer is to credit them, help promote them (just like they promote their subjects) and keep positive vibes. 

Now, here's how a TFP SHOULD work (in my opinion):

1) You both agree that your time of "work" is equal to each others, that's why it's a trade. However, the photographer usually has to work more because not only do we snap the photos, we direct the subject, we edit the photos, we convert and send them to you, re-edits, etc... Obviously this takes far more time than you showing up looking good and going home that day to continue to look good.

2) You both agree to the terms of the photo usage. This means if the photographer explains the photos are for your personal use only, that means you better not be selling these photos, having them published without our permission, etc...! (LOL but yes... it's happened several times in the past). Whatever we agree upon, that is what needs to happen. We need to respect each other for we are sharing our art with each other. Let's not get greedy!

3) You both agree to promote each others' final products with links to their pages. I CANNOT STRESS THIS ENOUGH! You both agree to promote each others' final products with links to their pages. There, I said it again! The whole point of this shoot is to help each other out and by adding value to each other's lives. Remember who is doing all the extra work: editing the photo, transferring, shrinking, sending, re-editing, etc... For all of the photographer's hard work, we'd love for you to share our website links with your thousands of online followers so we can grow our businesses. I personally ALWAYS link up my client when posting on social media to their chosen social media website or accounts. When I choose to post a photo I ALWAYS credit all involved in the shoot no matter what. What you don't do is post it, wait for the likes to roll in proving that "its good enough" and then only after comment on the photo: "Photo taken by Such and Such Photography." This is a big no, no!  Admittedly I'm a social media nerd, so I know exactly how to help you link up so please just ask me if you are technology challenged. And PLEASE NEVER POST A PHOTO THAT HAS NOT BEEN EDITED YET! This just makes both of us look bad and extremely unprofessional.  My goal is to make you look as freaking amazing as possible! Unless you're a brat, but either way... I'll still make you look good, cuz that's my job! :)

4) At the shoot, you and the photographer shoot till you're satisfied. I've never had an unsatisfied client, paying or UN-paying (except for one. She went in on a shoot with her friend and didn't want to pay her portion. She lived in a mansion, too...). I will always show you the photos during the actual shoot to make sure you're satisfied and we don't move on until you think I've captured the essence of who you are, because you are an amazing person!!

5) You follow the directions of the photographer for wardrobe, shooting locations, time of day, and get there prepared. I can't stress this enough either. After the photographer (in this case, me) confirms the shoot, I will send out a form that explains the whole logistics of the shoot; what is required by you and what to do in order to make the shoot be as smooth as possible. For example: Please bring a variety of accessories and UNWRINKLED clothes. Please make sure you have our meeting location mapped out the day before (unless it's a rushed shoot).  Most often we will be meeting at my studio which is my home base. This is LA there is always traffic so please keep me updated with your ETA (Estimated Time of Arrival) or if you're running late so we can both utilize our time together. Just... be prepared, bring your positive self and most importantly let's have a good time!

6) Please do not rush the photographer for the final product minutes, hours, or days later! (This is a TFP, nobody is getting paid. We BOTH still need to pay the bills and that may take the focus away from a TFP shoot) We/I will get to the shots when I can; there are a number of other paying clients I'm constantly working with as well as seeking out more potential clients that always take priority over TFP shoots.  This is whyI LOVE referrals, it gives me more free time to create. Besides being a photographer I'm also a filmmaker/actor/voice-actor so I'm a busy busy man. Also, quality takes time. So you'll get them when you get them. And they'll look good!

7) You and the photographer both agree to the photos that will be color corrected and posted online. NEVER post photos online that are not edited first, especially if you are going to link them to the photographers site, as agreed upon before the shoot.  I'm sure I mentioned this above but yeah... Just wait... We'll both look a helluva lot better with the final product. You don't want Steven Spielberg or whoever to think you're a half-assed artist, do you?

8) Be kind, if you truly are happy with the shots, leave a positive review on Yelp, Facebook, or the Official Website so that we may share to the world how happy you are! That's the point of a TFP, right?  Let's promote each other so we can both look like rockstars!


1) Someone told me they like my photos but it's not what they want for their TFP shoot. 

SMH!!!! Then why do you want to shoot with me? I'm willing to stretch myself and go places I haven't gone before, but I'm not willing to do it when its a free shoot for headshots... Sorry. Maybe if it was body painting or something super cREAtive I would take suggestions. Remember, we do most of the work...

2) Here's a snippet from a TFP photo shoot awhile back I'll never forget.

I'd arrived at our scheduled shoot location to meet up with a client I had not seen in many years. When she arrived shelooked different than the pictures I'd recently seen of her. I kinda expected that (obviously that's why she wanted new photos). As a busy professional I always do my best to arrive at least 10 mins early for my shoots. Just like any other shoot I arrived early, our shoot time was to be from 2-4 but didn't start shooting till 3:15!  Her make-up was smeared, hair extensions appeared to be added by an amateur, and she had contact lenses that weren't her natural eye color. All the clothes to pick from in the wardrobe selection were dark colored, or I was told, were clothes from the past that were not worn anymore. So we mix and matched and ended up with some clothes that just didn't fit the feel of the character. 

I learned that I should always meet the client ahead of time in person to make sure all is visually well if you really are looking for the best shots from this TFP shoot. I did, however, send the photo shoot requirements ahead of time, which explained how to avoid having a "bad photo session" due to light, clothes selection, looking natural, etc. As soon as we wrapped the shoot, she wanted all the photos at once. I do NOT give out raw photos ever, unless it's a big job and they have their own editors and I'm paid. We decided what photos to pick out from the shrunk versions of all the photos. I gave it a go with the editing but due to to all the "above visual differences" I was unable to edit the shot "exactly right" because I had to try to fix all the hair extension problems ( It was literally the worst hair extensions I'd ever seen). Next thing you know, I see they posted the unedited RAW photos from the shrunk version I had sent after the shoot on a major website seen by loooots of people. This was specifically mentioned to NOT DO EVER. It was never removed from the site even after I mentioned it. 

3) So... I guess I don't really need to give another example right now of how a TFP shoot should go. Basically, be humble (both the photographer and the client). Be professional and on time. READ the photo shoot requirements letter ahead of time and agree or deliberate on any thing that seems "out of place" ahead of time or before the shoot. Know that, especially the photographer, is always super busy and they are doing the bulk of the work. And yes, WE (the photographer) get to keep the rights to the photo. We can find a client anywhere that wants a free photo shoot, especially when the photographer does most the work. That's the easy part.

I DO NOT PAY PEOPLE TO PHOTOGRAPH THEM! (On an extremely rare occasion, I'd hire a model for a clothes line or body painting shoot if, and only if, there is some $ involved. Other than that, I'm an artist just like you trying to get my work out there. It's not easy. It's really not. It's years and years of trial and error, training, learning, and bettering yourself and your craft. You can only make it so far in the world or your business if your work looks great but you are not on top of your game. 

If I ever think of anything to add to this post that may help you out, I'll definitely do it! I'll never post anything on this site I don't think will help you better your craft, understanding of the photography world, or harm someones reputation. I'm not that kind of person. I just want to make art. cREAtive art! (And I want to pay my bills!)

I hope you learned a lot! I'd love to hear your comments or feedback in the comment bar below. If you have any other questions, don't hesitate to ask! I'm always looking to add value to your lives any which way I can. Thank you for your time!

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