Photography is one of those fields that requires a certain amount of study, whether that comes out of books, online, or in a classroom, combined with practical exercises in order to grow in the field.
There are lots of ways to get that experience. You can strike out on your own with the equipment you can cobble together and slowly build your portfolio. Another approach is to partner up with other photographers in the area and pool your resources.
TFP stands for Time For Prints and it’s how poor photographers starting out get to work with poor models just starting out. The basic arrangement is an exchange of the model’s time for your pictures.
When it comes to a commercial release, some TFP models will sign them, but many will not. Usually a commercial release comes with a price tag. Some photographers will insist on a commercial release for a TFP contract, and more than a few get them. To me it seems a little unfair. If you’re going to sell the photos, the model should get something, even if it’s on a contingency basis. That’s my philosophy anyway, not everyone agrees. You don’t need a commercial release to use TFP photos in your personal portfolio, you may when using them on a commercial web site or for promoting your business.
It’s not unusual for two, three or more photographers to team up for a large shoot involving several models. When I say “models” most people are picturing women in the 18-24 demographic, but don’t get tunnel vision when it comes to picking talent. There is a big call for older and middle age models and don’t pick all women, either. Mix it up. The more diversity in your model selection the bigger chance you have of making a sale.
I know successful photographers who do not have their own studio. They rent studio space when they need it, sometimes scheduling several portraits on one day. It makes sense in many instances. You can rent fully equipped studios with high end lights by companies like Paul C. Buff and Bowens that even include the radio triggers and backgrounds. In some cases you’re just renting lights, space and supplying your own backgrounds.
Until you have the business to justify your own studio and equipment, this may be your only option for getting started.
This is another area where partnering up with other photographers can save money. Two photographers splitting a studio rental may be able to work with high end lighting equipment for as little as $20 an hour.
You can find other photographers in your area on Flickr, through professional associations like PPA, or just running an ad in Craigslist. Obviously, you’ll want to spend some time checking out potential partners and agreeing on the ground rules of shoots beforehand.
By looking around and working with other photographers, you’ll be able to encourage one another, learn from one another, and cast a longer shadow than either of you could alone.