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A test shoot is an opportunity to let your creativity flow, try out new things, form lasting bonds with potential clients and network among your peers. While you are test shooting you have the perfect chance to experiment with your ideas, build up your portfolio and have some fun without the usual pressures of a more formal shoot.
A test shoot, also known as ‘testing’, is usually an unpaid photoshoot where you can try out new things with a model or prepare on location for a future photoshoot. Fundamentally, a test shoot is a working collaboration when a photographer and model try out new ideas for their portfolios. Most test shoots are small in scale but a large test shoot might involve several creatives, including hair stylists, videographers and even set designers.
If you’re working with a model then the shoot will generally be ‘time for print’; which means that in return for the model’s time they receive copies of the photos that you’ve taken with them. The model can use these photos to expand their own portfolios, which acts as payment for their time. Of course, you can keep copies of your photos to add to your portfolio as well.
Test shoots are a relaxed and fun way to try out new things, build relationships with models and clients without the pressure of a paid gig. In a sense, despite the lack of money, test shoots can end up being some of the most memorable and productive days in your career!
When you’re just starting out in the photography industry, test shoots are absolutely essential to further your progression. For instance, if you’re trying to land a contract with a potential client it will be your portfolio, including the test shoot photos, that will help you get that job! In this way, you can’t underestimate the importance of test shoots, not only in the present but also in the future.
Is Test Shooting A Job And Do You Get Paid?
In most cases you won’t receive any money for doing a test shoot although you will be able to keep copies of the photos for your portfolio. If you’re doing a test shoot for a client then you should be reimbursed for your travel costs as well as other associated costs, such as renting a studio space for the shoot.
Sometimes, photographers actually pay for more experienced models to work with them in a test shoot. This can be a useful way to start building your portfolio in the early stages of your career, since without paying for their services you won’t have access to professional agency models.
At the start of your freelancing photography career, test shooting is an absolutely essential part of gaining exposure and putting yourself out there. When you’re doing a test shoot it’s always a good idea to hang on to the contact details of people that you have worked well with. This way you can start to expand your professional network and make life long connections that you can call on for future projects and jobs.
Test shooting is a practical way to fine tune your skills and build up your experience of photoshoots; and so even if you aren’t earning money from it directly, testing should always be a part of your overall career strategy.
So, although test shoots are not precisely ‘jobs’, they are a type of unpaid work that you can reap the benefits from in the future. Continuously adding new photos to your portfolio will keep your work looking fresh, up to date and is vital to grow your personal brand.
Payment Options And Arrangements For A Test Shoot.
In most cases no money changes hands at a test shoot unless you are paying for the services of a more experienced model or the help of another photographer. However, usually the ‘payment’ for a test shoot is done on a ‘Time for Prints’ basis, or ‘TFP’.
This means that in exchange for your model’s time they can have copies of the photos for their own portfolio, just like you can also have copies for your own. The copies of the images can be transferred digitally or in print form; although in the modern world it’s generally more convenient to send them to your model digitally after the shoot is finished.
What Does Taking ‘Test Shots’ Mean?
When the term ‘test shot’ is used in photography it refers to a photo, or series of photos, which are taken at the start of a photoshoot so that the photographer can establish the right exposure, lighting levels, color balance and depth of field to use during the actual photoshoot.
This is done to save you time during the shoot, which is particularly important if you’re paying models and other people by the hour. Getting your test shots done before you get started means that you won’t have to waste time adjusting your camera’s settings once the shoot has begun. Before your model arrives for the shoot you can just use a stand in, such as an assistant or an object, for getting your settings right.
After you’ve taken your test shots you need to look through them and quickly determine what you’re getting right and what still needs to be adjusted; then, repeat this until you’re satisfied with the results.
How To Plan A Test Shoot.
Test shoots are fun and exciting ways to experiment with new concepts but even so you should try to do a little planning in advance so you can make the most of the time you have with the model on set.
- Firstly, you need to come up with an idea for your test shoot. There may be things that you’ve wanted to try out for a while and if so, a test shoot is the perfect occasion to do so. It’s a good idea to keep a notebook where you can jot down any ideas you have so that later you can refer back to it for test shoots and other similar types of projects.
- Secondly, you should create a mood board for your test shoot. You can do this online or on a large piece of poster paper; whichever you prefer. To make your mood board you just need to find photos and images which you would like to emulate and work from. Try to include visual prompts with as much detail as possible; for instance the style of the shoot, the types of lighting as well as the clothes, hair and makeup of the model. This will give you plenty of concepts to experiment with but it’s also extremely helpful when you’re trying to explain your vision to the model during the test shoot.
What Are The Circumstances When You Would Do Test Shots?
You should always be doing some test shots before you start a paid job, regardless of where you are and who you’re working for. This means that you’ll have to be on location with plenty of time to spare before you start work; but this is a good habit to get into and shows professionalism.
For instance, if you’re working at a wedding then you should certainly arrive early and make sure that you have your camera properly set up in advance. After all, the last thing you want to be doing while the bride and groom walk down the aisle is to be frantically trying to adjust your aperture and shutter speed!
Of course, any event including conferences and tradeshows, will require that you take some test shots in advance. Fundamentally, if you’re shooting an event or have a job that is limited in time and can not be repeated, then you have to make sure that you’re all set up and ready to go before it starts! This includes fashion shoots, real estate photography, conferences and events, weddings, product photography and portrait photoshoots.
Create Agreements Before The Test Shoot.
It’s always a good idea to create an agreement with the people you’ll be working with before you start the test shoot. For instance, if you’re doing a fashion test shoot, then you might agree with the model that as well as them getting copies of the photos from the test shoot you’ll also take a few extra photos, such as headshots of them for free at the end.
Before the shoot, have a discussion with the people you’re planning to work on the test shoot with to find out what you can do for each to get the maximum benefit from the shoot. Being generous with your time and skills will not only help you to cement long term relationships in the industry but it often tends to be reciprocated by the people you work with! Your agreement doesn’t have to be too formal though and usually you can just sign a simple document which says you’re all in agreement on the conditions of the test shoot.
Etiquette While You’re On Set In A Test Shoot.
While the main focus of your test shoot should always be coming away with some excellent photos, it’s also about forming new relationships, improving your skills and growing your network of professional connections.
This means that it’s important that you are easy to work with and accommodate the needs and wishes of other people on set. People that find you can work well with can become long term contacts that you can call on when you need models, stylists or set designers, depending on their skillset.
While you are on set you should always maintain a professional demeanor however afterwards there’s no harm in going for a coffee to debrief and learn from each other’s observations.
Test Shoots Are An Important Part Of Your Photography Career.
When you’re starting out in the photography industry, test shoots will be your best friend! They’re the perfect opportunity to make new connections as well as expand your portfolio and try out new concepts.
However, it’s not just pre-arranged test shoots that you need to remember because in reality you should be taking test shots before any one of your paid gigs. This will ensure that you’ve done everything possible to prepare for the shoot beforehand, which is not only a good idea but it’s also a sign of professionalism that will be noticed by your clients.
Test shoots and test shots are important parts of working as a photographer and once you have made a habit of doing these regularly it’ll soon become second nature.
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