Test Prep: How to Get Ready for a TFP Shoot

TFP shoots are key in building your portfolio. But just because there is no client doesn’t mean you shouldn’t put some serious effort into making it the best shoot possible. In fact, this shoot is for your book– and the images in it will likely be around for a long time, so pay attention to details and create the sharpest looking photos possible. Here are a few tips:



1) Plan ahead.

Sit down and chat with your shooter, or at least have a digital conversation with them. Use Pintrest to create inspiration boards for different looks and locations.  If you need certain shots be sure to make that known, and your shooter will do the same… then you can decide on wardrobe and makeup ideas.

Follow Cynthia Popper’s board Tokyo Shoot Board on Pinterest.

Sometimes shooters don’t know, and sometimes they do. Don’t discount a shooter simply because he doesn’t know the right lingo for fashion or makeup (though the most experienced ones will know what’s up). I had a photographer once tell me he wanted a “raw edgy look” then suggested I wear a cardigan and pants. In this case, words are failing where images need to be, so I showed him a few photos for reference and we quickly got on the same page. Communicate clearly and often in the early stage.

2)Get a MUA

MUAs need portfolio pieces just like the rest of us and often are more than happy to jump in on a test. Networking with people through Model Mayhem or other bookings is a great way to get a MUA who is down for testing. And it’s a great opportunity for him/her to play with new looks and products so if you can err on the side of creative, go for it!


3) No MUA? Keep it simple.

Keep it Simple

If you can’t get a hair and makeup person on-board, and you’re not an expert yourself, I recommend keeping makeup and hair pretty simple. Hair extensions are an easy way to add thickness and definition to hair and a camera-ready face with either big eyes or bold lips is a relatively safe call. If you try to get super fancy with art makeup and you’re not a pro… well, the results are likely to reflect your skill level, and it’s very hard to edit out weird makeup. I’m not a makeup artist. so if I’m doing my own makeup I like a nude shimmery eye, simple cat liner, and a nude or deep berry lip depending on how vampy I want the end shot to be. It’s classic with a bit of drama, and works with most looks.

Audition Wardrobe Tips

Audition Wardrobe Tips

4) Wardrobe is Key

Even if you’re doing a simple t-shirt, sexy girl shoot, you need the clothes to really be on point. So many times I see models and actors bring crap clothes to set, and I’m not talking about expensive stuff. Go to Forever 21, go to H&M for basics and thrift shops for funky stuff. Clothes should be clean (duh), pressed, and not falling apart. Some shops let you do a ‘Stylist’s pull” and buy a bunch of clothes and then return all the stuff you don’t use. I’ve done this before and it’s wonderful– the more options the better.

Don’t forget about hardware: a big necklace, cool rings, bad ass boots, nasty stilettos. If you’re doing business shots, great glasses, gorgeous pearls, a sleek handbag or briefcase.


This is so not me, but why not have fun? 🙂

5) Take Risks

I like to try expressions and looks that would be very unlikely to ever be asked for in a commercial print shoot. Ideas and emotions that are very against character for me as a Cynthia-human are perfect to play with during tests. Why would I spend the time doing that if they’ll never get used? Because it’s fun, and expands your range. New shooters help guide you too. Just go with it!

6) Details

Are your nails done? Are your teeth white? Is your hair shiny? Is your skin clear? Just like a booking, you cannot afford to skimp on these essential details. Make sure you don’t have a busted blue manicure and a bunch of hair ties around your wrist lest you look like a total scrub in a great shot that will haunt you daily for the next two years. Photos really are forever now. Make them as awesome as possible.


Have fun and show me you shoots!


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