A reader brought a few questions to the table on testing, and I thought it would be a great subject to touch on. My previous post on ABS, is a good preface for this post, so it may be worth the read before diving into this one.
Testing is the way to shoot what you want, and push your creative vision for your portfolio. It's a very necessary part of the business. I've heard stories of reps dropping photographers because they became stagnant, only shooting client work. Creating fresh work to show potential clients is crucial, especially this day in age with the influx of new talent. Most of my portfolio is made up of my tests, or personal work. It's a depiction of who I am, what I do, and how I do it. Most of all, what I can bring to the table.
The great thing is, testing can be whatever you can dream up to shoot. What ever you want to shoot. I'm actually writing this on the way back from Hawaii. I decided I wanted to shoot some surfesque lifestyle on the North Shore of O'ahu. So I created a test for it. (Kualoa Ranch Girls)
That said, when bringing a team together to create a test, ultimately it's your vision and YOU are the team leader. YOU set the tone for your team, and the shoot. It's YOUR job to instill vision and motivation into your team members. Your work also is a catalyst for people to test with you. Just like a client asks themselves, Will I get good images? Is this photographer capable? You are the sum of your team and the creative that comes out of that. You need to lead and direct, but be just as open to collaboration with your fellow crew. How much depends on each person involved. Testing also gives you a bearing on how people will mesh with you on a real job. For me, personality on my team is crucial. I like to spend my time with positive, fun people. Are they capable and flexible? It's also your job to take care of your team and make sure everyone is doing alright. A happy team results in better attitudes. Even though I'm the team leader, I always talk with "We, Us, Our". Simple as it is, we all want to feel a part of a whole. Those small words help create a synergy and camaraderie with everyone.
Getting your team together for something that is unpaid can be frustrating sometimes. I've had models bail at midnight the night before a 9am call time. Models get sick the day of the shoot in the morning when you have a full team in place. Shit happens. Everyone has different schedules, and everyone has the opportunity to take a paid gig over a non-paying one and that's the way it goes, unless you have the money to pay your team. That's why it's good to have relationships with a few hair and makeup artists that are down to test with you so you can call on them if one happens to flake on you. Finding people that are in a similar place to you career wise also helps. Find people that you can grow and develop with. My stylist and I get together as much as we can to dream up new projects that we both want to do. We're both at very similar stages in our careers.
The bigger your tests get the more they will cost. Typically it's up to you if it's all your vision to fund the shoot. Sometimes that even means paying people if that's what it takes to commit. We are the ones that get paid the most on a normal job, so creating a better product is part of our marketing. Paying to create is part of the game. If I'm collaborating with my stylist, she will usually invest in her part of the project. She too realizes the significance and investment of creating new top notch work. This last test in Hawaii, I did the styling, so it was done at my cost. Every shoot is different. The fact of the matter is, do what it takes to get it done.
Lastly, I give everyone who worked on the project a CD of Hires images in jpeg form. It may be just of their selects, or all of the images. That's why everyone does it. It's up to them from there to print them and resize them for web or whatever they are using it for.