This is another To Do Or Not To Do discussion! For anyone who is unfamiliar, TF is an acronym for Trade For. TFCD = trade for CD, TFP = trade for print, etc.

Pros: When building, or rebuilding, your portfolio on a small or extinct budget, TF shoots can be most beneficial. You link with other like-minded individuals who are also building or rebuilding that match the caliber of the work you are aiming to produce. If you have the right team, you can produce gorgeous images that may be used as awesome portfolio pieces. These images can be used to take your career to the next step – show them to agencies or potential clients and book jobs doing the type of work you prefer vs jobs just to make ends meet.

Cons: When you’re asking someone to work for free or at low-cost you may not always receive the best quality.  Typically quality responses are a needle in a hay stack, especially in comparison to simply hiring paid experienced talent. It’s like playing russian roulette; more than likely you’ll deal with no-shows, cancellations, inexperience which results in more time prepping shots than actually taking them, etc.

Personally: I’ve benefited from most of the TF shoots I’ve ever done in my career. I usually cast TF shoots when I want to experiment with new lighting techniques or if I’m adding a new member to my team or whenever I draft some extreme concept. The journey has been headaches and learning experiences but in the end I’ve made life-long connections and have some pretty awesome port pieces. Lots of people make the argument that everyone involved should be paid, which I always agree with, but bartering is the next best thing when you do not want money to jeopardize relationships!

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