Test shoots are the perfect opportunity to reinvigorate creativity. This is why many photographers choose this industry in the first place—because they love to create. On a test shoot, in the absence of a client or art director, you have complete creative say over everything and can push your artistic boundaries.
Experimentation is key and paramount to personal development, growth and honing your photography skill set and toolbox. Photographers need space to get to know their variables, whether it’s new lighting or a new lens, and become comfortable playing with new techniques to then carry back to their paid work.
A professional photographer depends on his or her portfolio to demonstrate talent across a range of settings and ideas. Because hiring so often happens on the basis of demonstrated work, it’s important to build a portfolio to showcase everything you can do—not just what you’ve been paid to do yet. Test shoot work can eliminate gaps in a portfolio, tightening your presentation of your work. Portfolio building also is a place for its owner to consciously maintain a trajectory in his or her career—for a photographer, the day you stop portfolio building is the day you need to get out of the game.
For a profession that must keep constantly producing new work, it’s important to keep your public face up-to-date. New work generated during a test shoot can help populate websites, e-letters, printed mailers, and social media. If done well, these outreach efforts will attract new clients.
A test shoot can be a great place to get to know talent you haven’t worked with yet. Every shoot is a team project that can involve stylists, assistants, and digital techs, among others. Without pressure from a client or a specific assignment, testing allows you to build professional relationships with people that you might want to collaborate with down the line.
Professional photography is an career that demands lots of teamwork between clients, photographers, stylists, and everybody else. No one part can operate without the others. Test shoots provide an opportunity for professionals to come together and experiment with new ideas without the pressure of a paid assignment. This allows them to practice new skills and enrich their individual toolkits, while ending up with material they can use to further their careers.