What is TFCD / TFP / TFDL / TF Photography?

Let the Monster Loose •

TFCD is a term you may have heard if you're into photographing or modeling, but also makeup artists, stylists, designers, and nail technicians do photoshoots on a “TFP” basis. In short, TFCD is a term that doesn't exactly mean the same as it originally was meant to. In short, TFCD means "Time for CD of digital images". The modern equivalent for TFCD today would be TFP as in "Time for photos" because nobody gives out the photos on CD anymore. It's even rare to see a computer with a CD drive anymore after all.
So CDs ain't really a thing anymore, but the concept is still the same. A model or would-be model agrees to model for a photographer and gets finalized photos in change. Usually, this also means both parties can use these photos for their portfolios and it's never used in any commercial use, but sometimes there can be exceptions if both parties need content for advertising their own businesses. Commercial TFP is close to similar as students work together to build their portfolios.

Then there is also the term TFDL which means "Time for download" and that is the same as TFP, but I haven't heard anyone really using that anymore. TFCD is still the most used term, but TFP would be the correct one to be used today.


Silent rules of the TFP photoshoots

Some of the most important rules in TFP photography are that first and foremost never demand to get paid for anything. If there are expenses all members taking part in the shoot will share the costs. Costs may be travel costs, materials, or equipment. The photographer may need to rent a space or specific lights. Make-up artists may need to use a lot of make-up for the shoot and the model may need to buy some specific props for the shoot. Of course, if the new items can be reused, then it should be discussed who is willing to participate in the costs and how much before the shoot. Some common sense is always required and it's not ok for the photographer to ask other to participate in the costs of buying a new expensive lens as an example or for the model to go shopping for new clothes.

Ilmatar - Kalevala
Ilmatar - Kalevala Themed Maternity Photoshoot with Tiia

Boundaries and privacy

Always respect the boundaries. You may be a photographer who wants to get some specific idea done, but the model may not feel comfortable doing that exact thing you want and vice versa. And there may be situations when the model or the photographer has agreed to do nudity and the during the shoot changes the mind on that. It doesn't matter if it was planned, both need to respect those boundaries and just go with something else both feel comfortable with. Nudity is especially something that may sound like an exciting idea at first and then may not feel comfortable together with unknown people.
Another thing to keep in mind is the privacy of these shoots as some people are not ok with having additional assistants. Communication in advance is the key to everything.

Also, remember to ask permission from the model for publishing the photos. Not just for nudity, but overall go through all of the photos when they are done and allow all parties to remove the photos they do not like before publishing anything. Sometimes people may be sensitive about some small thing of themselves and they should not need to explain that to the photographer separately. Sometimes the model may turn down the photographers' favorite photo and this has happened to me too. It's a thing that we need to learn to deal with when it happens and I'm sure it will happen to most photographers at least a few times in our lives.

Photographing underage people

I follow the rule that if I'll ever shoot with an underage model, I want one of the parents to be there. This is for both paid work and TFP. It's something I'm really strict with and if the parent can't come, then it's a no go. And no a note from the parent isn't enough.

Not every photographer is as strict as I am, but I do recommend following thing rules for all photographers, models, and parents. No matter how professional or experienced there are just so many things that can go wrong with false claims. Another reason for me personally is that I'm not that great with children overall.

Another thing to keep in mind is if you do any kind of NSFW content. Then please keep photos of underage people in a separate portfolio completely. It may come off a bit creepy if you have kids' photos on one page and some rough nudity on the next page and even worse if they are on the same page. I've seen these both happen on photographer portfolios. Just use common sense and you should be fine.

Can I use TFP photos commercially?

TFP photography is for professionals to try new ideas or equipment, newcomers to grow portfolios, and hobbyists to do art for fun, but it should never be something to be used commercially (with few exceptions), for monetary gain, or to get your portrait, passport photo, baby shower photos, wedding, ads or anything that is a normal service. Most importantly when talking about TFP shoots, there should never be anything to get monetary gain from it.

One of the biggest things today is influencer work where models keep forgetting the rules and it may become a bit awkward if you as a model decide to tag clothing brands on all your TFP photos. Stuff like this should always be talked about in advance and don't be surprised if the photographer who took your favorite photos won't offer TFP shoots to you anymore if you start using them with sponsored social media posts. And yes it doesn't matter if it's a decade-old photoshoot. Always ask first and never get angry if the other party declines.

So what are the exceptions for commercial TFP shoots?

If you have a need for a photographer for your wedding as an example. It is ok if a photographer suggests doing it free for you, but never expect it to happen again. I have done a lot of free stuff either to learn new things that I'm not comfortable doing for money just yet and the same thing applies to all creatives.

When doing things like this it should always be the creative who suggests it or you may be seen taking advantage of the creative and trust me people do talk in these circles a lot about people or companies doing so. Especially if you represent a company, there may be a big chance that when you actually try to hire a professional, there may be a big flock of people not applying to your open position because they have all heard you taking advantage of creatives before. This is a career that doesn't get the same respect as many other professions because some people think that our jobs can be done just by anyone. I have a bunch of experience with this issue and I have never been scared to turn down any offer that I feel not being fair for both parties. But if I as a creative come to you suggesting that I can do something for free, then it's ok for you to accept it no matter if it's commercial or not.

The second way commercial work is ok to do in TF principal is when as an example I need new content to advertise with and another entrepreneur needs something similar as well and we do a shoot to both get what we need. Many photographers work freelance or own their own agencies and may need to have the same material you need for your next make-up blog and if the mutual gain is there, then why not right?

Photoshoot with Tribal Fusion dancer Anni Dohlen


Slightly similar situations with commercial works are competitions. Sometimes these competitions may have prices that are not something all participants can really share. As an example, I could shoot the competition photos for a hairstylist and the prize includes hair products that I can't really use. Then you should agree in advance on how to make it fair for all parties. Some photography competitions for example have fairly big money prizes and some may have really expensive equipment as a prize. It will be really hard to share the prize if you only win a lens worth a few thousand euros and there's a model, hairstylist, and make-up artist who participated in the shoot. It's really up to you have you agreed to work on this, but I know the worst option is to try it out and decide later if or when you win something.

How to prepare for TFP photoshoot?

Always try to plan everything in advance if you have something specific in mind. I have done shoots that had only the basic style and the location planned and some that had very specific sketches drawn for the idea. Both are fine as long as it meets the purpose. In my case, as I do digital paintings I can use that skill to create quick mood paintings to show what I'm after, but it's not really something required. Most of the time I just use Pinterest to create mood folders for each shoot. Try to look for posture, lighting, colors, and costumes. These will all help with the communication between all the creatives taking part in the shoot as sometimes there may be more than just the photographer and the model.

If there are multiple people bringing equipment, remember to label them! I've done this mistake a few times now, but then I just decided to make stickers with Samael Creative "S" logo and stamp it on all of my gear.
This makes packing much faster and there's no need to argue "whos battery this is?" or "who forgot their hairdryer to the bathroom?". Stickers are cheap to make today even in small quantities and personally I love using Stickerapp because they have such a nice option for different materials. But there's also Stickermule if you do not care for the quality and just want some cheap sticker. And then there are just label makers that are easy to find everywhere.

Be on time and remember that sometimes people do have a strict schedule. It may not be their fault that they need to leave before you get the shoot done because parents may have childer to pick up from the care and some may have a next work shirt starting soon. Communicate in advance and if it looks like your going overtime remember to say it early enough so everyone knows and can tell if they need to leave early.

When can you expect to get your photos?

This seems to be a sore subject in TFP social media groups at least where I'm in. Photographers do work and they do have a life outside free TFP shoots and so the TFP photos will always be the last priority.
I know it's annoying to wait because your work is already done and all that is left to do is waiting, but for the photographer, the work is only half done after the shoot. I know some photographers do not edit their photos much, but as an example, I do spend hours and sometimes even days with just one photo to adjust big or small things that most people won't probably even notice without seeing the raw version of it. I know I've had a hard time keeping my estimated times a lot because I work on multiple projects at the same time and it only needs on schedule to change and everything changes. This is also one major thing to never use TFP shoots for commercial use because you may not get those photos fast as you hoped for.

Sometimes the photographer will deliver the stuff really fast and sometimes they may even get edited right in front of you. All photographers are different and hey some even still shoot with real film.

Spirit From The Ashes
Spirit from the Ashes shoot with Sister Obscure


I know most do not use contracts and I rarely bother to use them either, but it may help with the situation when there are disagreements. All participants have put their time into the shoot and deserve to have the loots from that time and work spent on it. A simple contract may help with putting down any suspicion of what is agreed especially if someone has spent money for props, materials, etc. Some type of compensation should be provided if the final product isn't delivered at all. Here in Finland, I have never heard of anyone using contracts, but I'm sure there are some and I'd prefer to use them if there was a bigger budget or minors in the photoshoot.

...and lastly!

Always one very important thing to remember is to beware of the creepers! There's no denying there are some creepy pervs offering TFP photography and it's your job to make sure you're not throwing yourself into one of them. Make sure the photographer has a portfolio. See if there is some info about who the models are and try to connect with one if you do not know the photographer in advance and there's even the slightest thing with him or her. And an honestly same warning for the photographers because when I started photography first as a hobby when I was young and naive. I did have a few creepy models and it almost threw me out of the hobby completely.

Do also note that these are my personal views on the rules and traditions. Some people do have different rules to follow and it's always important to communicate clearly what you're all after who are taking part in the photoshoot.

Stay safe and go do some amazing photography magick!

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