Photographic Testing - Some Considerations For A New, Aspiring Model
"Testing" in the modeling industry is a term with a few meanings. It can be used to describe a photo session where a model uses pictures obtained by a photographer for their own promotion in their portfolio or composite card.
Testing may be recommended by the modeling agency to go to specific photographers that they prefer to work with. In this type of "testing" the model usually pays the "test photographer" for their service.
Whether or not the money is paid up front by the model or the modeling agency depends upon a variety of factors.
What is the policy of when their new models need testing?
This is a question that may only be answered by each individual agency.
The location of the modeling agency, how many models they represent, the types of clients and models that they use, and some other financial policies are all factors in whether the agency will pre-pay for a model's testing.
Learn this lesson, now, that only a very, very small amount of modeling agencies are willing to use their own money when paying for a model's testing "up-front".
They want to be absolutely confident that the model will work for them, be a strong earner of money/prestige for the agency, and then the agency will deduct the testing fees later from the model's first paycheck. The money for testing is ultimately paid for by the model sooner or later.
Some good news is that there are times when a photographer hires a model for their own testing. Sometimes they may "test" to either experiment with new equipment or photographic techniques.
The photographer may even just want to test a new model or experiment with their own artistic freedom without working for a paying client.
Depending on the experience and financial situation of the photographer, a model may or may not be compensated with any money, but maybe just prints for their portfolio. This type of testing may be referred to as TFPs (a.k.a. Time for Prints, Testing for Prints) or TFCD (a.k.a. Time for "picture" CD).
Many of these opportunities are found on the Internet through social networks for models.
Most likely, though, the model is the one paying the test photographer, so the model must ensure that they are investing their money properly and wisely for their services when they are required to pay.
Not all "testing" photographers are reputable, so always ask area modeling agencies which photographers they recommend or if there are ones that you should avoid. Some photographers may be new to working with models, so their rates should be equivalent to their experience.
If you are paying a photographer to give you "Commercial" looks and they seem to have only fashion looks in their portfolio is an indicator that you should have them show you examples of their commercial work.
You'll be wasting your money if you are in a smaller, commercial area and you only have high fashion or editorial looks in your book. Commercial clients want to see specific types of "looks".
It may be very vague when you are going to a go-see, so even with commercial looks you should keep working to build you book with photos of a variety of commercial looks. Testing is exactly that...testing.
Testing how you photograph, how you move in front of the photographer, or if you take direction well is part of this "test". It's not about sitting and posing and not being inspiring.
You need to clarify whether it is high fashion or commercial looks or else you are wasting your money.
If you want to model with intention of making money you have to find where your "type" fits the mold. There is an investment of money in a model's career, especially in the early stages, so the investment should be a worthy one where the photographs will qualify by the industry's standards and get the model hired to their appropriate type of work suited for the model in the market area that they will work.
It's one thing for a new photographer to need their own experience with working with models to negotiate the terms where maybe the model pays for some of the prints, but paying hundreds of dollars for a service from a photographer who may not necessarily provide the appropriately needed kinds of photography a model really needs in their book is a costly mistake on the model's behalf.
Not all photos are the correct quality and type of print that may be needed for a particular model. For example, a commercial-type model really has "no use" for editorial-style photographs in their portfolio when they are not an editorial fashion model.
The photos may impress the model, their friends, and even that photographer, but it won't get them hired commercially at their agency. Not all models are high fashion models. Not all models are catalog models.
Models must remember that there are so many people who want to be models and the industry has its' scammers and less scrupulous individuals who just want your money or really are just clueless to what the modeling industry is looking for.
They are the type of people who are like salespeople and just say what they think a model wants to hear just so they can get their money or to just meet and be around many young models (even when they know they'll probably never get the kind of work the new model desires (ex. Victoria Secret caliber).
So, testing is very important for a new model that wants to be hired for photographic work, and it's important to test regularly to keep portfolios updated especially with multiple photographers, but guidance or research is necessary if a model isn't as experienced with what they need in their portfolio or on their comp card to be hired.
A picture may appear great to the model and their family, but it will perhaps be critiqued more objectively by the modeling industry or potential clients.
Granted, many pictures are subject to different opinions even within the modeling industry, but let the professionals be the guide.