Test Shoots

What Are Test Shoots?

A "test" is a photoshoot organised for any or all of the following reasons: to add to one's portfolio, to try something new, or just for the joy of it. Although this is not a paid shoot, the financial benefits are substantial. You can put together a concept, book a model (we'll go over how to do that), and shoot it as a test shoot. Test shoots, or "testing," are common in the commercial, editorial, and lifestyle photography industries and involve the booking of a model by a photographer for the purpose of enhancing both of their respective portfolios.

So many things can be called a "Test Shoot," it's no wonder it's a bit of a muddle. Test shoots, also known as TFP (Time for Prints) or, more traditionally, TFCD (Time for CD), are photoshoots in which a photographer and model work together to try out a new idea or concept in order to create portfolio-worthy photographs. Each of these individuals, plus a nail artist, a filmmaker, a fashion stylist, and a makeup artist are needed for a full-scale test shoot.

Is It A Job?

No monetary compensation is exchanged for this service except for reasonable travel expenses; instead, participants are given a copy of the photos to use in their professional portfolio. Sometimes, people will pay for the services of more seasoned artists; for example, a beginner photographer may hire a seasoned model through an agency for the day to ensure she shows up and has the necessary experience.

When starting out as a freelancer, it's crucial to put your skills through the paces through testing (test shooting). Not only does it allow you to build your portfolio and try out other styles, but it is also a terrific method to network and expand your contact list.

Beginning professionals may not yet have the contacts or portfolio quality necessary to land high-profile jobs, so testing is a great opportunity to hone your abilities before applying for more advanced positions. It's a great chance to meet people you can keep in touch with forever. It will help you gain experience and confidence before you tackle real-world, paid work. A test shoot is not a job and it is not unpaid. You may build your resume and your professional experience through test shoots without giving away your services for free.

Sometimes you'll get lucky and have a wonderful shot come out of your experiments, and other times you'll get garbage that you can never use in your portfolio, but that's the beauty of it: you grow and improve as a professional as a result of your failures and successes. Making mistakes during a test shoot is preferable to doing so on the job.

Test shooting is as essential for creatives as going to the gym is for athletes who want to maintain their level of proficiency. There are always going to be new items and trends in the market, and if you haven't tested out a new product or piece of equipment, you probably shouldn't use it on a real job.

Practising with a test shot is also helpful for determining the optimal timing. Hairstylists who want to work weddings should be confident in their ability to complete a full bridal look within the allotted time. As a photographer, you should be sure that you can give your client exactly what they want. What exactly is a dry run? One way to improve one's abilities is by doing this. There are some things you might want to try out that you know won't earn you any money, but would look excellent in your portfolio anyhow. A test shoot is perfect for this.

Why Test?

Test Shoots

Tests are a great method to develop your portfolio, keep your mind active during periods of low activity, and try out novel approaches.

Portfolio Building

Are you in search of high-paying land employment but you don't have much experience to show for it? It's the classic catch-22 of trying to advance in your career without first having the experience necessary to do so. The purpose of these shots without compensation becomes clear. For a test, you don't need the experience that a paying customer would expect, but you can gain the experience that a paying client would want by doing a shoot. In our opinion, that's a big win-win situation for all parties. Almost always, test shots provide you full artistic freedom, so you may collect samples of the kinds of jobs you'd like to be booking more of.

Staying Creative

Let's be honest for a minute. Let's not even think about money. Would you still be in this field if money weren't an issue? If that is the case, then they congratulate you! We think you made a good choice in careers. If you're reading this, it's probably reasonable to assume that you have a passion for photography. It's crucial that you make time for it even when it doesn't pay the bills. To do so, you may need to take advantage of slow booking periods or intentionally schedule times when you will decline paid work so that you have the flexibility to focus on your own creative endeavours. If you want to do great things as part of your job, then you should try your hardest. Whether or not payment is received.


Innovation is sparked by taking risks. Not every experiment will succeed, but at least you'll know why one failed and can try again. This is how we advance our knowledge and our projects.

During paid shootings, they occasionally think, "Let's try something odd!" but the meat They provide will always be in their usual manner. This is what the customer wants and why they hired me, therefore that is what they will get from me; although, We may throw in a few experimental twists here and there. Since they not being compensated for any time during the examinations, We was also not constrained by this. The options are wide open, allowing us to experiment with any method or theory that strikes their fancy. Whenever They come across anything That really like during one of these trials, They start incorporating it into our portfolio so that it can one day be a part of the style for which they hired. For this reason, development.

How To Arrange A Dry Run

Your portfolio will thrive on the results of test shoots. A test shoot is a term used in the film industry to describe a collaborative effort in which members of the crew work together to create new pieces of art for their individual reels. Simply said, a group of artists gets together to create stunning visuals; in exchange for the opportunity to showcase their work, they all pitch in their time and energy for free.

Because of this, shoots like these are crucial to building your portfolio. No portfolio, no matter how brilliant its contents, can be built without first conducting test shootings. How does one go about organising a successful trial run? Allow us to dissect that for you.

Make A Suggestion

You need a plan for your trial run before you can move forwards with anything. Possibly you have a list of things you've always wanted to make but never got around to. Perhaps you record them in a notepad or a task management app like Trello. Look over your list of ideas and pick one to develop further.

Make A Moodboard.

Once you have an idea in mind, it's time to put together a mood board. You can do this virtually (on Word or Photoshop, for example) or physically. You should save it digitally if at all possible, as you will likely want to show it to others in the near future.

Give this a decent amount of your time. Avoid acting hastily. It's important to have all of the visual cues for clothing, lighting, cosmetics, hair, settings, and posting covered.

Find A Team

At this point, some individuals give up, but you shouldn't! Feelings of doubt and reluctance are normal, but they want you to overcome them. These days, it's easy to assemble a team quickly. All types of fashion industry experts are hanging out in various Facebook groups to work together on projects.

Instagram has made it easy to search for professionals in any field, be it hairstylists, makeup artists, set designers, or anything else.

Insightful advice is to study the team members who have been highlighted in publications. Check to see if any of the people depicted below are local to you and send them a message.

Check out cosmetics, hair, and wardrobe booking businesses and get in touch with them if you need their services. These creators may have the time to experiment, or they may represent promising new talent that might benefit from additional assignments. There's no harm in inquiring. Finding a team takes time, but when you do it may be the beginning of something very special. 

Consult With The Team

After assembling a group, you can move on to strategic preparation. Discuss the idea with them. Make your intentions clear and share your plans. If you want to see the world in their own way, you should hear what they have to say. They can be quite helpful, but every once in a while, the ideas just won't work. As the photographer, it is your responsibility to choose which elements will enhance the final product and which will not. Let people know up front if you think they're wasting their time trying to implement something that won't work.

Before The Shoot, Meet The Team (If You Can)

Not everyone will understand, therefore it's crucial if you can make this happen. If you want to succeed as a team, you need to work effectively with others. When they had to drive a long distance and won't have a lot of time in the shoot location, They may not have had the chance to meet individuals in advance. But if you can make it work, you should. It will help the filming day go much more smoothly.

Choose A Location

Is studio or location shooting on the cards? Do you need a licence to visit the site? If you're already on location, it sounds like revising your model will be next to impossible. Is a "base camp" necessary, or may she change in public places like cafés and restaurants, or even behind a sheet in the street (pro tip: bring a large blanket with you at all times!) To what extent can you specify a time of day? Should you scout the area at various times of day to ensure adequate lighting? There is a lot to think about, but it's better to plan ahead and be prepared for everything than to arrive panicked.

Look For A Model

Models can be found in a variety of places. Find models on social media sites like Instagram, or approach a modelling agency and see if they have any fresh faces who need portfolio shots. Model Mayhem is just one example of a website that can occasionally (but not always). To get started, look through your list of Facebook friends and see if there's someone you think might make a good model.

In the beginning, most of the people That photographed were close friends. They gathered work samples and then messaged attractive women They saw on social media. They subsequently made several inquiries at various establishments. Depending on the task at hand, They continue to employ any number of these methods.


What an achievement! Well done, you! You've organised and executed your dry run, and you're finally ready to fire. Delight in it to the fullest! Think outside the box. The world needs you to bring your artistic vision to life.

Test Shoots

Things To Keep In Mind

Just a few quick pointers that you might find useful as you move along with it! They swear it won't be as terrifying as it seems to be.

Learn Your Level

Any field will inevitably have a set of established ranks and levels of authority. You are not Tim Walker (and if you are, thanks for being unique, sir).

If you're here, it's probably because you're just starting out in photography and don't have a huge portfolio to show for it. There are large agencies, medium-sized ones, and small ones, known as "boutique" firms.

You can find every size of agency in major cities like New York and Paris, and even in smaller ones like Los Angeles and Chicago. Begin with a small investment if you don't have much to invest.

Make contact with modelling agencies you believe might benefit from having you photograph their new faces (and be honest with yourself). Start climbing the corporate ladder as your wealth grows.

Build Relationships

Ties with models you've worked with will be developed in addition to (and perhaps before) relationships with agencies.

Having a go-to model on speed dial can be invaluable, but forming lasting connections with them can make sessions feel more like a creative partnership, with the model learning your aesthetic and delivering desirable results with less oversight from you.


The significance of this cannot be overstated. You are restricted in the usage of exam photos based on their intended purpose (or any shoot, for that matter).

Photos taken during testing are typically acceptable for use in a resume or online profiles. What you CANNOT do with them is far more significant.

Unless otherwise agreed upon, you may not submit or offer to sell photographs (to a print shop or a business) or publish them. You should contact the booking agency ahead of time to make sure it's okay to do either of those things.

In certain cases, it's not an issue, and you can, although the model will likely want payment. Constantly seek authorisation rather than pardon. If you do, you may have to start sending out cold emails to other agencies.

Get Used To "No."

OK, you're right, that's not totally accurate. As We write this, We realise that We don't think they ever received a response to a "cold email.

On the contrary, We haven't received any feedback. Instead, you should adjust to that, especially at first. There's still hope for you, so calm down. In this case, it just implies that the agency isn't seeking photographers at the moment, or that you might not be a good fit for them. To those who are currently working on this:

Searching For Models For Photoshoots

They Agreed; What Now?

Before anything else, please accept our heartiest congratulations! Congratulations, from here on out, your path forwards will be so glittering with riches that you may as well put on ice skates (Disclaimer: exaggeration). Although it may not be simple, baby steps are better than none.


If the testing service you contacted accepts your request, they will likely give you a "package" containing everything you need to take the test. This will take you to a page where you may select from their available models (typically between three and ten). From here on out, the procedure is easy to follow. Dates, places, and specifics will be discussed and agreed upon after that.

Hair / Makeup

This is something that you should probably bring up before this time, when you are initially contacting the agencies. If they want to know if you have a "team," they're really asking if you'll be getting professional hair and cosmetics done. If They intend to do so, it will be a part of our initial message. When they haven't brought it up themselves, They choose not to. In most cases, not doing so is not fatal, but doing so is helpful.

Finding a hairstylist or makeup artist for a wedding, if you have the funds, is usually as simple as doing a Google search, visiting a local salon, or perusing wedding planning websites (blogs, etc.).

There are both amateur and professional photographers available if your budget is tight, and the same is true of hair and makeup artists.

In the same way that you would contact a model if you wanted to work with them, you would contact another aspiring creator if you wanted to collaborate (date, concept, etc.). Make it clear whether you're seeking a free partnership or a "kit fee" arrangement. What they charge you for is the product they provide for your shoot, and they call that the kit fee.


Keep in mind that your model will need to be dressed. Several possibilities exist after you have their dimensions (which the booking company will offer), and each one depends on your specific needs.

Studio Rental Policy

Studio Rentals are a service offered by several retailers that allows you to borrow an entire wardrobe for a week for a cost of about 10% of the retail price. Yay!

Wardrobe Stylist

A stylist can be a terrific addition to a set if you have the money for them. Discover a person who is a good fit for your idea, determine if you want to work with them for free or for payment, and start making contact.

A stylist will come to the set with pins, clamps, and anything else is needed to make the outfits look amazing if you hire them to do so.


Many fashion designers are like models in need of professional photographs of their collections. Etsy is a terrific location to find designers who might be willing to loan you some clothing while you get started (dresses, jewellery, shirts, etc.). Reach out to the artist via email if you appreciate their work and want to use it in your project; be sure to mention that you have a signed model with an agency. If you've made some progress, you can also hire more experienced designers to assist you.

Call Sheet

There will be no more changes after this. You're all set, and the time to travel has come! The final list, known as a "call sheet," will include the location, the model's call time, the hairstylist's call time, the makeup artist's call time, and the various hair and makeup looks you've chosen.

The purpose of this document is to ensure that everyone is on the same page and will be present at the appropriate time and place.

Just like We stated, the mood board will come in very handy. Right now is the right time. After securing a model through an agency, They convert the mood board into a call sheet and fill in the necessary information. They provided a link to a free example call sheet below.


It's safe to assume that, as you're here, photography is something you're interested in. Even if it doesn't bring in money, you should still devote some time to it. Take advantage of sluggish booking times, or plan ahead to decline paid labour, to achieve this. Without a successful test run, a portfolio is incomplete. It's simple to put together a high-caliber group of people to tackle complex tasks today.

Instagram has simplified the process of locating experts in any given sector, whether you're looking for a hairstylist, makeup artist, set designer, or something else entirely. Talk to them about it if you're thinking about it. Declare your goals and offer your strategies. It will be quite difficult to make changes to your model once you have arrived at your destination. Here are some considerations to make as a beginner photographer.

You can find major agencies, smaller ones, and even "boutique" ones. It is generally okay to utilise test photos on a résumé or online profiles. You are NOT permitted to submit or offer for sale any of these images. Sometimes it's not a problem, but the model will expect compensation. In that case, you may need to send out some "cold emails" to several other organisations.

Searching online for a hairstylist or makeup professional for a wedding is a common practise. Get in touch with the rental firm for the model's specifications before using it in your work. Studio Rentals offers the opportunity to rent a whole wardrobe for a week at a price that is roughly 10% below the retail price. A wardrobe stylist will show up on set with pins, clamps, and anything else is required to make the clothes look great. If you're just starting out, Etsy is a great place to connect with designers who might be willing to loan you some clothing. Location, hairstylist call time, and makeup artists' call time will all be included on the final list, or "call sheet."

Content Summary

  1. A "test" refers to a photoshoot that has been planned for any of several possible purposes, including but not limited to the expansion of one's portfolio, the exploration of novel creative territory, or the simple pursuit of fun.
  2. As a practise run, you can put together an idea, book a model (we'll go over that process later), and take some test shots.
  3. The practise of scheduling a model by a photographer for the aim of increasing both of their portfolios is known as a test shot or simply "testing" and is widespread in commercial, editorial, and lifestyle photography.
  4. Test shots are photoshoots in which a photographer and model collaborate to test out a new idea or concept in order to make photographs that can be used in a portfolio.
  5. It's important to put your skills to the test when you're first starting out as a freelancer (test shooting).
  6. In contrast to popular belief, test shoots do not typically involve no compensation.
  7. It's better to mess up during a practise session than on the job.
  8. A test shot can help with timing as well, so practise is recommended.
  9. The results of these trials can be used to build your portfolio, keep your mind engaged in slow times, and explore new avenues for improvement.
  10. You don't need the same level of expertise as a paying client for a test, but that's exactly what you'll get if you do a shoot.
  11. It's safe to assume that, as you're here, photography is something you're interested in.
  12. Even if it doesn't bring in money, you should still devote some time to it.
  13. Do your best if you care about doing big things in your work.
  14. All avenues are open for exploration, so we can try out any ideas that sound interesting.
  15. If they find anything they like during one of these trials, they will begin adding it into our portfolio so that it can become a permanent element of the style for which they hired us.
  16. In Hollywood lingo, a "test shoot" refers to a group effort during which the cast and crew work together to create fresh works of art for their personal reels.
  17. For this reason, such shootings are essential for expanding your portfolio.
  18. You can't put together a portfolio, no matter how impressive its contents, without first practising your shot.
  19. Before you can do anything else, you need to have a plan for your trial run.
  20. Create a mood board.
  21. After you've settled on a concept, it's time to create a mood board.
  22. It's simple to put together a team rapidly today.
  23. Pros from every subfield of the fashion industry are congregating in online forums to share ideas and collaborate on assignments.
  24. Instagram has made it simple to find qualified individuals in any industry, be it hairstylists, makeup artists, set designers, or something else entirely.
  25. Cooperation is crucial to the success of any team.
  26. They might not have had time to meet people ahead of time if they had to go a considerable distance and wouldn't have much time at the shoot location.
  27. To begin, consider who among your Facebook friends may make an excellent model.
  28. A large percentage of That's earliest subjects were friends and family.
  29. You must give form to your creative ideas so that they might change the world.
  30. Find Out Where You Stand
  31. The grades and levels of authority in any field have to be established at some point.
  32. We don't think you're Tim Walker (and if you are, thanks for being unique, sir).
  33. If you're reading this, chances are you're just getting started in photography and don't yet have a substantial body of work to display for yourself.
  34. If you don't have a lot of money to put down, start small.
  35. Get in touch with any modelling agencies you think might appreciate having you photograph their up-and-coming models (and be honest with yourself).
  36. As your nett worth increases, you should begin climbing the corporate ladder.
  37. You'll build relationships with models you've worked with alongside (or perhaps before) you build connections with agencies.
  38. Depending on why the images were taken, you may be limited in how you can use them (or any shoot, for that matter).
  39. It is generally okay to utilise test photos on a résumé or online profiles.
  40. It's not a problem sometimes, and you can, however the model will likely expect payment.
  41. In that case, you may need to send out some "cold emails" to several other organisations.
  42. Here, it simply means that photographers aren't in demand at the moment, or that you might not be a suitable fit for the agency.
  43. You might as well put on your ice skates, because from here on out, your future is so paved with gold that you won't even need to look at the ground (Disclaimer: exaggeration).
  44. If the testing provider you contacted grants your request, they will likely provide you with a "package" that includes all of the materials you will need to complete the examination.
  45. The rest of the steps are straightforward and simple to perform.
  46. You should probably bring this up when you first get in touch with the agencies, though, to avoid any awkwardness later on.
  47. If they enquire if you have a "team," they mean they want to know if you plan on paying for a professional to do your hair and makeup.
  48. Just like you'd reach out to a model if you were interested in working with them, you should reach out to a fellow aspiring creator if you'd like to form a creative partnership (date, concept, etc.).
  49. Specify whether you like a "kit fee" or "free partnership" structure.
  50. You'll have to pay a "kit fee" to cover the cost of the props and supplies used in the photo shoot.
  51. Find a person who can help you out with your concept, decide if you want to collaborate for free or for money, and start talking to them.
  52. Many designers of clothing and accessories are just like models in that they need to have their collections photographed by a professional.
  53. If you like an artist's work and want to use it in your project, send them an email expressing your admiration; just be sure to note that you're working with a signed model and an agency.
  54. You're ready to leave, and the moment is now!
  55. The final list will include the location, the model's call time, the hairstylist's call time, the makeup artist's call time, and the different hair and makeup looks you've selected.

Frequently Asked Questions

Even while you can keep copies of the images for your portfolio, you will not receive any payment for participating in a test shoot in the vast majority of instances. However, if you are doing a test shoot on behalf of a client, you are entitled to reimbursement for your travel expenses and any other costs related to the shoot, such as renting a studio space.

In photography, the word "test shot" refers to a snapshot or series of photographs taken at the beginning of a photoshoot for the photographer to determine the appropriate exposure, lighting levels, colour balance, and depth of field to utilise during the actual photoshoot itself.

Before beginning any job that pays you, you should always put in some practice time by firing off a few practice rounds. This is true regardless of where you are or who you are working for. Because of this, you will need to be at the place with plenty of time to spare before you begin working there; nonetheless, this is a professional habit to get into and a good habit to get into overall.

In most cases, photographers will provide clients with digital image files and await instructions from those clients on how to proceed. In most cases, clients only need to pay photographers for their services if they want prints and other physical copies of their photos. However, users are free to use the digital assets in virtually any way they see fit and are not required to pay any fees.

If you are a wedding photographer or booking a baby milestone package or something equally pricey, it is a sweet gesture to provide a payment plan to your clients. This is especially true if the service you provide is expensive.

When this is done, the strain of paying hundreds or even thousands of dollars is alleviated financially. You might want to think about equipping your customers with individualised payment options.

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