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Test With Purpose

  1. Who is the client you are targeting?
  2. What is the feeling/vibe you want to achieve?
  3. What is the message you are relaying in this project? 
  4. How are you using styling, lighting, talent, and the right environment to target your desired audience? 

Shooting Tests With Models As A Trade Deal


In building my portfolio, I test often with many models as a trade deal. The problem with this is when I send the model the raw images, they ask for all of them. I don’t want my name associated with all the images, so how can I set this boundary to only share the best images? 


All photographers – make every term on your test or job estimate form clearly agreed upon BEFORE the job begins.

Term topics to cover:

1. A certain amount of final images to be shared.

2. Retouched/finished images are to be used only and cannot be edited in use.

3. Usage rights permitted for the model and photographer need to be clearly stated and agreed upon in an official talent release form.

4. Payment to models must occur on the same shoot day.

4. Copyright is the photographer’s, and the photographer must agree upon any other usage by the model in perpetuity.

Recognized Company With Low Rate


I’ve spent time sending samples of my work for a company I thought I’d be perfect to work with. They finally responded with some interest in me by holding some dates, but they released me. What shocked me was the rate of $1500 for the shoot. Is this normal? I understand I am just getting started, but it felt low for the company’s size and brand recognition.


Kudos to you for getting your work out there to the companies you want to work with. That is step one. I see the increase of $1500 rates due to a heavily saturated industry with more in-house marketing clients, more photographers, and more marketing opportunities for all of us to be in direct contact with our dream clients. Take the feedback as a stepping stone to growing your dream client list, increasing your marketing options, and fine-tuning your testing/branding focus.

Building Bigger Productions


All my work so far has been just me or me and one assistant. I want to start building up to bigger productions. It makes sense to start with a personal test project or two to expand my portfolio, practice working under new conditions, make connections with possible crew members, etc. How do I gradually build up my productions, and in what order should I start adding crew, e.g., prop & wardrobe stylists, HMU, digital tech, producer, etc.? Or does that depend on the specifics of each job?


Production Value is one of our highest industry-level rating metric systems controlling photographers’ careers. Why? Clients want to know what to predict if they hire you. They want to see proof that you can control the outcome of their project and not leave it to a moment of chance. In saying that, we must also incorporate the market’s popular trends toward a natural editorial feel of “realness.” Aside from having a consistent, steady message in your overall portfolio, commercial advertising requires high-quality styling. Whether it’s food, hair/makeup, wardrobe, or props – stylists are the #1 factor in raising the production value of a photographer’s portfolio.

Don’t Let Your Comfort Zones Limit Your Decisions

Don’t let your comfort zones limit your decisions. You are an artist and, in that job definition, means a requirement of experimentation. We are in a business based on broadening out through trial and error, not controlled by what you already know. 

Artist = Uncomfortable

Commit Yourself to Regular Testing

Photographers, don’t let your busy, complicated life in the freelance world get you sidetracked from your pursuit as an A+ level long-term photographer.

Commit yourself to scheduled regular testing to explore and experiment, seeing how far your creative eye can take you.

Testing is that golden nugget to take yourself to the highest level and make it last.

Does A Photographer’s Personal Work Define Their Style?

Does A Photographer’s Personal Work Define Their Style?


Do you think it’s a photographer’s personal work that defines their style?


As Amy V. Cooper would say, “This is one JUICY question!” The definition of personal work can mean two very different things. Personal could mean family dinners and travel images, or it can mean testing similar types of scenarios helping to grow even stronger. Personal testing work takes a photographer’s style to that next level. It is how the craft is freely explored and shaped with 100% focus from within creative inspiration vs. an industry trend or client’s guided brand decisions.

Testing With Brands on Social Media


I photographed some products at home (self assigned). I tagged the brand, they saw my work via DM. A few months later they came out with a campaign that is almost identical to what I shot. This has happened to me 3 times with 3 different companies, so I don’t think I’ll be shooting sample things and posting them on Instagram, maybe on my portfolio but that’s it…not sure. What are your thoughts on this?


It is hard to prove when a company uses your copyrighted images for their concepts, but that is one way to approach this. Before posting the images, make sure you register your copyright if you foresee going down the legal path.

My REP thought is this guidepost of encouragement showing you are right on the money with your direction instead of using this as a reason to lower viewings of your images. You have something hot happening here that may need a slight fine-tuning to strengthen the unique magic you offer. 

Cover Yourself

Make sure you are clear and cover yourself with all crew and talent on a photoshoot that you own the images, and no one is allowed to grant usage to anyone on Instagram without your permission. 

Don’t assume they know the copyright laws; that is your job.

Testing Rate


Hey there, I had a meeting today with a client that I would really like to work with. The meeting went great but they asked what my test rate is and I’m kind of at a loss. Any suggestions on pricing a test would be greatly appreciated.


A test rate usually falls within half of what the regular day rate can be for a client. The logic behind the test rate is how it does not include usage licensing fees. This principle is the same premise for how I price a pre-light day; always have the estimate read, “no usage included” next to this fee.