You got the looks, poses, and wardrobe down. Now all you need is a photographer to bring it all together.

Let’s go find a test shoot photographer so we can start building our modeling portfolio!

But first… what is a Test shoot? What is a Test photographer?

A “Test” is a photo session where a professional photographer agrees to shoot a model FREE of charge.

The session is FREE because the photographer may be testing some new equipment, style, studio, experimenting, or just plain love shooting.

There is another modeling term called “TFP” which is an acronym for “TRADE FOR PRINT“. This also means that the photo shoot is FREE, as you and the photographer are trading services for photos to build each other’s portfolio.

The important part is that the photo shoot is FREE for the model.

Why are we repeating the word “FREE” so much?


There are some photographers out there that charge for Test Shoots.

This is silly and ridiculous because the word “Test” automatically implies “Free of Charge” for both parties in the modeling word.

Now why would these photographers use the term “Test” if they have no intention of working with you for free?

Monalyn Gracia Corbis Photography modeling humor

Some do this to capture the model’s attention, build interest, hype their services, schedule the appointment, and at the last moment, nonchalantly mention that it will cost you $$$ for the shoot. By using the word “Test” throughout the planning process and explaining their awesome services to you, you would less likely back down at the last minute.

So be careful, and always confirm that the shoot is FREE before putting all that work into planning.

Now that we got that out of the way, let the search begin!

So where to start?

These are the 6 popular ways of finding a test shoot photographer to build your modeling portfolio.

1) Model Agency Recommendation

model agency main board Not all reputable model agencies are stuck up and intimating.

Some can be helpful and even offer recommendations on Test Shoot photographers to work with. Some may even do this prior to you signing with them! If this happens, take the offer! This is by far the best case scenario.

The professionalism of the photographer (conduct and photo quality) is almost guaranteed if recommended by an agency. Also, the photos that you receive from the shoot is very likely what the agency is looking for.

If this opportunity ever happens to you, jump at the offer. Just make sure it is a test and it is free.

2) Word of Mouth

whispering secrets modeling photoshoots test shoot photographers

The second best way to find a photographer is by word of mouth. Quite simply, if your friends or people you trust have worked with them and are happy with the experience, you should too. They can also tell you about the photographer’s style and work ethic.

Ask around and see if your friends and family have worked with photographers in your area before.

3) Model Networking Sites

A great way to find photographers is by searching through different model networking sites. These are online communities that exist to connect people who are interested in photography.

model mayhem modeling link breaking into the model world

For example, one of the most popular sites is called 

Model Mayhem is an online community where models, photographers, make-up artists, stylists, etc. network. From our years of working in the modeling industry, we find their site to be one of the most effective resources in connecting with photographers. They even have a casting section where different projects are posted looking for models. Some even paid. 

Signing up to these types of sites are free. All you need is to create a profile and upload some of your photos.

Our experience working with Model Mayhem has been positive. However, just like any other online community, don’t expect everyone to be professional.

4) Photography Workshops

Another good resource that many models are not aware of is the photography workshops.

Where do professional photographers come from?

Photography Workshop model's pov

Are they born gifted ready to shoot? Or do they take classes and polish their skills over time?

The later is definitely true. 😉 One way photographers learn and practice their skills is by taking photography courses led by an experienced instructor. They progress through the day by each taking several shots at models and learning about their own style and equipment. 

If these sessions are occurring around your area, why not be the subject of their photos?

We highly suggest that you search for and reach out to these photography workshops. Not only are they a good resource for getting photos, it is also a great opportunity to get shots of you from all different kinds of photographers in one setting.

5) Direct Contact

The default way of finding photographers is to contact them directly.

google for photographers in your area for test shoot modeling

Search for photographers in your area and check out their website. If their online portfolio is decent, then sent them an email asking if they would be interested in having a test shoot with you.

Some may turn you down but some will be up for it.

Our advice is to contact all… yes, ALL of the photographers in your area. That way, you are bound to find someone close, who is ready to shoot.

6) Online Classifieds

The last resort in finding photographers is by searching through the online classifieds like Craigslist.

Why is this the last resort?

craigslist online classifieds websiteThere are plenty of creepy and unprofessional people on there looking for models.

The fact that we even included this option as part of our list, is because we have discovered some legitimate opportunities here and there.

It never hurts to try, and who knows?

You may be able to find someone professional.

The key is to exhaust all available options around your area…

Let’s Plan for the Photo shoot!

Once you have found a photographer that you are comfortable with, you can start planning for your photo shoot!

modeling photography test photographer clipart how to get into modeling

Keep these points in mind:

  • If it is a Test Session, you should not be paying for the shoot
  • For girls: bikini shots are fine but absolutely NO NUDITY or IMPLIED NUDE shots. (Most agencies will not use implied nude shots unless they are done very tastefully)
  • For guys: topless shots and underwear shots are fine but nothing more
  • You can have a friend attend the session with you if you are not comfortable. (Get the photographer’s permission before you do this)
  • If the photographer asks you to sign a model release, READ IT carefully! Do not allow them to sell your photos!

Remember:  A professional model runs the photo shoot session. Meaning,

you should not wait to be told what to do. You should know what you need for your portfolio.

Congrats! Your modeling life has officially started.

We are so happy for you!

Don’t forget, you are a star, you just don’t know it yet.

Let us know if you need any help on the way and we’ll be there for you.

June top model on Orange is the New Black Season 3 Episode 6 XingKai Wu

We have a chair waiting for you.

See you on set! 🙂

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