Editor’s Introduction:  Jess Robinson is very popular, highly accomplished “Internet model” who makes her living booking shoots with photographers (and occasional clients and publications) for glamour, often nude shoots all over the country.  While her experience is not directly applicable to every independent model, and not applicable at all to mainstream agency models, the evolution of her thought process on TFP/TFCD shoots nicely illustrates the role that “trade shoots” play over a model’s career.

TFP/TFCD and its Place in My Career

- by Jessica Robinson

Once upon a time TF work literally made Jess Robinson.  I used it for experience on set – which taught me most of what I know about my job.  I used it to build a portfolio – some of these images are *still* booking me work.  I was floored by every picture – ‘wow, is that me!?’ And I was green enough that I hadn’t been disappointed yet.  I was lucky enough to work with amazing photographers early on and I went through a personal artistic Renaissance.   To any new model, I always recommend booking TF with a) anyone, at first – just to get used to the motions of a photoshoot NOT with concern for the final product and b) then some better photographers to start building a collection of images.  A caveat, if you have a specific image you want, and fail to produce a TF result to your satisfaction, I recommend hiring someone vs. attempting this over and over again in TF fashion.

After a certain point, if you are selling your modeling services, accepting much if any TF work is stupid.  In any industry, giving you product away for free is bad business.  I learned this the hard way, I booked TF after TF, probably a year after I should have stopped accepting any.

My use for TF work expired when it clearly became a waste of my time.  In a perfect world, I’d be able to do the work that inspires me with an equal collaborator/friend on a monthly basis.  In lala land, an MUA is involved and I have an active role in the editing (image selection) process.  Also, unless we are shooting fine art, I want non nude images in addition to whatever nakedness we shoot.  I am willing to share expenses.  Naturally, we also have to make images I actually like. These are my terms for shooting TF, and it doesn’t really exist for me so I opt out.

Last summer I spent 6 weeks on LA.  During that time a booked several TFs, hoping to benefit from the local talent, and had horrible experiences with nearly all of them.  Left and right MUAs ‘cancelled’ (or more likely were never booked), photographers dropped off the surface of the earth after our shoot, or neglected to send me any non nude images, which I expressed as important.   And that was the end.  Don’t get mad at LA though, my disgust began much sooner. Photographers with beautiful fashion/art portfolios interested only in erotica, final products completely lacking any resemblance to the quality of the portfolio, and photographers who were generally uninspired by my efforts towards a collaborative shoot.  One photographer even said to me, ‘is that supposed to be a pose?’ as we were shooting a set that was clearly a stretch for me as a model.

I don’t care about TF for networking, it never pays off.  I don’t care about TF because the photographer is important in the community.  I don’t care about TF work for potential paid jobs, they never materialize.  Most importantly, since this was my weakness, I don’t care about TF because someone asked really nicely.   These will be your hurdles as you transition into taking less and less TF work.

Now, I am happy to trade with a few select photographers that I worked with in the beginning; we blissfully journey to lala land and make wonderful images.

You can read a lot more of Jessica’s experiences as a traveling glamour model on her blog at http://modeljessrobinson.wordpress.com and see her portfolio at http://modeljessicarobinson.com

This article copyright 2010, Jessica Robinson