When is a job not a job?

Blog April 19, 2017

When is a “job” not a job? When should you be paid, and when is it OK to work without monetary payment? What is TFP or testing, and how can this help further your career…

rebecca gauci, makeup artist,

When is a job not a job … or, navigating your way through the TFP minefield…  So after my last blog post about setting rates, this time I want to tackle that prickly subject, TFP, which stand for Time for Print, or Time for Photos now that images are usually just emailed or dropboxed. Back in the day, the photographer would actually print copies for your portfolio… you know, like a BOOK…

When I first started out, TFP was known as Testing, and some of us old timers still use that term. The idea is to “test” out new models for the agencies, for makeup artists to “test” new products, looks, etc, the photographer to “test” lighting, camera equipment and other technical stuff, or, even just the chance for everyone to get together and get super creative, and then, for everyone to get images for their portfolio, which is our main way of getting work. This was all back in the days before Instagram and YouTube, before phones with cameras, before Facebook, and when lots of photographers were still using FILM cameras! That may sound like forever ago (and it makes me feel OLD), but Facebook only became publicly available in 2006, YouTube in 2005, and Instagram in 2010. (Yeah I had to google those dates!)

Since the advent of digital cameras, the Internet and social media, things have sure changed. Many of these changes are for the better (its much easier to network, you can get images back from tests/TFP a lot quicker) and you don’t have to pay for the magazine to get your images, you can just go to the client’s Facebook or Instagram and right click and save away! But there are so many more people out there networking on social media, and sometimes, in their naivety, and confusion, and even excitement, makeup artists are agreeing to work for “free” on jobs that should be paid.

So, to clear up all the confusion: The only time you should be working without monetary compensation, is if you are working to build your portfolio (or if it’s a charity gig, like “Look Good, Feel Better”, or something like that). If you are not getting paid, you should expect that EVERYONE working on the shoot also not be getting paid. You should expect to get some images that will advance your portfolio.

If the purpose of the shoot is for someone to sell something, or make a profit, then you, along with everyone else working on the shoot, should be getting paid. This includes a look-book for a clothing designer, a headshot for a real estate agent, or whatever else the case may be… no matter how “exciting” the job, if the purpose of the shoot is for someone to be making a profit, then you deserve to be paid.

All to often I hear stories about makeup artists doing jobs for “exposure”, meaning No Pay, but maybe a shout-out or credit on the companies social media. Sure, it might be great to be able to say you worked on a shoot for a nationally recognised brand, but it makes me sad that artists believe these “jobs” will actually advance their career… when in actual fact, all that’s happening is by working for free, sorry, for “exposure”, while someone else is profiting, you are undercutting every other working artist, and de-valuing the industry and our profession and craft.

We didn’t all spend thousands on our education and building a kit (and continue to spend, of course) to work for free or very little pay. If you want makeup artistry to be your career at some point you have to take a stand and know when to say NO.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for helping out other people starting out, and even after working in the industry for 15 years, I will sometimes reduce my rate to help out a designer who is just starting out… but one who has their clothes in umpteen stores around the country, or an online store and social media following over 100K? I don’t think so!

Testing, or TFP is a fantastic opportunity for up and coming artists to build their portfolio or work, and for established artists to keep their work fresh and up to date. As an artist who works primarily in lifestyle, commercial and bridal, I don’t often get the chance to “play” and be really creative in my day-to-day makeup jobs, so when I come up with a great idea, or get approached to collaborate on someone elses idea, I often jump at the chance… and there is no thought of payment. Getting great images for my portfolio, and the chance to get those images published in a print or online magazine is payment enough!

Hopefully that clears up this murky area a bit. Testing or TFP is an important part of every artist’s work, whether they are just starting out, or an established veteran. We all need to keep our work fresh. Next time, I’ll chat more about TFP, and how to get the images YOU want and need to progress your career in the direction you want to go.

Photo of Melbourne makeup artist Rebecca Gauci at work.

Let us know your thoughts on TFP and working for “exposure”

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