Work without pay - why you need to do Test shoots.

A test shoot is basically and unpaid photo shoot - where the images are more for experimenting creatively or building someones portfolio.

A test shoot is similar, but differs from a submission shoot - but ill get to that in a minute.

As a working model who has been in the industry for a while, I have done countless tests. Literally I could not even count how many test shoots I have done. Some of these shoots have been to my advantage and some of them have been a complete waste of time.

If you are a new model starting out then you may need to do a lot of test shoots in order to help build your book, and give you some experience.
Your agency will likely organise test shoots for you. Sometimes if it is a "Model Test", which means it is a test shoot specifically for a models portfolio, you may have to pay to do it.
The rates for this do vary and it can be between $300-$1000.
If the photographer is really good and you are guaranteed to get images that will book you paid work then fantastic, that's great.

The thing is ... and this is just my opinion - some photographers who do model tests will shoot a few models over the course of the day, so your shoot may only be a few hours long. The issue with this might be that they are shooting all of you, probably with similar hair and makeup, styling mood and in the same location.
This can mean that the images you are getting look very similar to other models images and clients can sometimes spot these style of shoots from a mile away.
Having a recognisable photographers style in your portfolio is fine, whereas having an image almost identical to other models - not ideal.

The other issue I have with paid test shoots is that sometimes the photos are not suitable for your portfolio, or the agency decides to use only one of two images, or only use the images for a month or so.
Ideally you should be only looking to pay for model tests that will be of a high quality that will be used in your portfolio for years to come. 

A behind the scenes shot from a Submission Shoot.

I got into modelling through a competition and part of my prize was a test shoot with a really good Photographer and Makeup/Hair stylist. My images were so good that even now, years on, I still have a few of them in my book. I didn't pay for them - but if I had, it would have been a worthy investment.

Now I will be honest with you. I have NEVER in my entire career paid for any type of shoot. I personally don't agree with paying for a model test unless the photographer is well renowned, internationally published and has some killer shots planned for your shoot.

My issue with paying for test shoots is sometimes the same photographer, later down the track will want to do a shoot for their portfolio, but won't want to pay you (even though you paid them when you needed images for your portfolio). I think that is unfair. 

Doing test shoots for the books of other creatives can be highly beneficial to your book. They are usually creative concepts and the creatives on the shoot are looking for something in particular to strengthen their book, so it is more likely the images might also strengthen your book. Also as the creatives on the shoot are spending their free time to create something they are passionate about they tend to put in a lot more effort.

A submission shoot is very similar to a test shoot, except the images are being taken as an editorial to be submitted to a magazine for publishing.

This may mean the images are more likely to be strong, editorial images for your book that could end up being tear sheets.(Tear Sheets: Editorial photos torn from a magazine and placed in your portfolio) Tear sheets are often received better by clients than test images.

But there is one downfall here... Submission shoots can often take a really long time to be published, if they are even published at all. It is not unusual to do a submission shoot and not see the images for 6 months or more. Worst case, sometimes you might NEVER see the images you invested a day creating. So make sure you keep the photographers and the other creatives on the shoot's - email address/phone number and contact them regularly to see what is happening.
Or get your agency to do so on your behalf.

The worst thing that can happen is that you spend a whole day of your life working, and not getting paid - to create images that you never see. There is absolutely no point in that. 

As you progress through your career you may probably see that you are getting less test shoots or you don't get as much pressure to do them. Tests don't stop, you get more choice on who you shoot with. So be honest with your agency if you are wanting to revamp your portfolio or you feel like you have been shooting too much unpaid work. After all you are the one most in charge of your career.


Was this post helpful? Whats your favourite part about test shoots? Leave me a comment in the section below!