TFP, portraits, portfolios and meeting strangers in the park...

My work as a whole, particularly on the translation side, is focused quite heavily on businesses and marketing materials. But portrait photography is something I would really love to incorporate more. I enjoy anything where I can be creative, but the human element and the connection with a person through a lens... there’s just something extra special about it.


And, of course, there comes a time in every portrait photographer’s life when they must branch out beyond shooting friends and family. For me, that time came pretty quickly - I’m not from around here, and I really don’t know many people yet...

If you want to attract customers or even approach businesses with creative ideas, you need a portfolio. However, a) you need images that specifically represent what you’re pitching, and b) you can only get so far before you really need some variety. Not to mention experience shooting with people you don’t know.

At this stage in the game, an experienced model isn’t going to be paying a less experienced photographer. And that same photographer isn’t necessarily in a position to invest more money into hiring experienced models just for personal projects. Equally, an experienced photographer isn’t going to be working for free, and an inexperienced model might not have the cash to afford one. So... how does anyone get anywhere?

Well, this is where TFP comes in (‘time for photos’, or ‘time for prints’ if you’re from the film era). Commonly referred to today as ‘testing’ or a ‘test shoot’ in the modelling world, these provide an excellent opportunity for all parties to benefit. Whether it’s a photographer and a model or a group including make-up artists and stylists, there’s really no limit except for what you agree together. Everyone comes away with images for their portfolio and to promote their work, a ton of experience and, even more importantly, connections. It’s a chance to meet people in your area you can call on for future projects.

Everybody wins!

In my particular case, I’ve opened up this concept to everyone - i.e. not exclusively aspiring models. I’m looking for anyone who feels they fit the themes I currently need for my portfolio and who would like some free photos (fashion/beauty, dance, martial arts and couples). So, I posted some ads on Instagram! Of course, meeting strangers in a park can be quite daunting at first, and you certainly need to exercise caution - if anything in the initial correspondence seems off, it’s just not worth the risk. But, with the people you do book, it’s a great challenge and a great feeling to meet new people and spend 2 hours together to capture and showcase who they are.


Which leads me to this blog post! On 4 September, I did my first in this series of TFP shoots with Carolina. Luckily for me, we had actually met a few times in the past, as she and my girlfriend used to work together.

I picked the park in Caldas da Rainha as the location because there is just such variety in there. No matter what look you’re going for, you really can’t go wrong!

Carolina brought her brother Leo along - something I wholeheartedly recommend if you’re a young woman (or indeed a young man) going to meet a random photographer in a park somewhere! Having a friend or family member there is a great way to help the model feel at ease for that first shoot together, which in turn is great for the photographer! This was particularly true in my case, as he was an extra set of eyes looking in from the outside, able to help me communicate more effectively (although I speak Portuguese, almost all my photography experience until now has been in English). He even held my reflector and pitched in to help with the flash!

Honestly, the hours flew by and I had such a great time. Carolina was really helpful and did an awesome job modelling. (Even when I made absolutely no sense!) She got what I was trying to do and gave me a lot in terms of expressions. It was a beautiful day, and we had no end of spots to choose from, starting off with natural light, playing with some fairy lights for a bit, and later incorporating flash with ambient light. We even had time for a few bokeh panoramas*!

Coming soon: the results of Shoot #2 in this series with master martial artist Fabio Chuairi!

*Bokeh panorama: commonly known as the ‘Brenizer method’, this is a technique used to mimic the old medium-format look, combining a wide-angle shot with the compression and bokeh-ry goodness of a telephoto (portrait) lens

Featured model: Carolina (@omariacarolina)

Text and images by: Ben Lamy | Photographer & Translator