What is a Test Shoot? and how is it different from a Free Shoot? Some years ago, I was called by Condé Nast to photograph a Digital Nomad while in Peru for a Vogue article on the subject. This was my first call for an actual Commercial Portraiture job, and even though I had what I thought a successful Family Photo Studio, I realized soon I was new on the subject.
I received three big lessons I want to pass to you, and I hope these can help me answer the questions in my first line:
1) There is a difference between pricing for a family photo session than running a commercial production. I was in charge of the production, hiring makeup artists, transport, editor, catering, and hairstylist in that opportunity. I didn't have an art director as the magazine needed only one picture in one specific location.
2) There are different roles that photographers fit to reduce the budget, but it is not always the case. The company sent me a chart with three main lines, and they asked me to be as exact as possible. These were Equipment, Photography fees, and Production Fees. I learned here that we as individuals rent the equipment to a Project, which is part of the pricing. Also, Photography fees are the part I take away entirely for what I know and my work for the day. This was a revolution in my pricing and helped me understand what I was doing wrong.
3) Photographers in the wedding & family industry are not used to organizing commercial productions. Because we wait to be called for something specific, learning this on the job was not easy, and of course, I undercharged several items, which were noted by the client immediately. Luckily for me, they helped me do it right.
This is the reason I now organize Test Shoots regularly. Being the "owner" of the production allows me to practice creating timelines based on a specific goal or "kind of image" I want to create. Also, it makes me aware of my limitations and how to deal with situations that might happen later with a client. Finally, it helps to show work that is different than my Portfolio. Doing other things allows me to keep the passion in what I do.
Creating your production will help you understand your client's vision, add from your expertise details that will make the images more powerful, or save them time and money for what they want.
Why is a Test Shoot not working for Free? Because you are not doing the Client's work or following the Clients' goals. You are doing your own thing on your terms as the creator of your work. You are the producer, and you are accepting the charges of this production and the mistakes. Besides that, your models and personnel involved must be paid as their work is not for Free. When you choose to collaborate on a Personal Project, you are not doing it for Free. You are accepting a fair exchange for your time and work. But this is a subject for another post.
Have a great day!
Joanna, your Amsterdam photographer
(For now, only in English for a better understanding of all your wishes)