Preparing for a photoshoot is one of the most important things a new model can do. It shows you are a professional. It provides a boost of confidence the day of when the photographer starts snapping away. And it ensures you look your best.
But what do models do to prepare for photoshoots? What beauty, fitness and dietary guidelines should a model follow?
From dieting and skin care, to practicing and communicating with the photographer, preparing for the photoshoot should be at the top of your priority list. Here are a few tips to ensure you’re ready, rested and confident the day of the shoot.
Preparing for a Photoshoot: Looking Your Best
As a model, you get paid to look stunning. Your hair, skin, nails and teeth should look perfect. Because if not, they’ll distract from your beautiful eyes and figure.
Fortunately, the right beauty regime in the week leading up to a shoot can help you look the part. From haircare, to skincare, here are a few beauty tips that will help you look great for your photoshoot:
Haircare: The day of the photoshoot your locks should be luscious! That starts with a deep conditioning – at the salon or at home. And make sure the color is even. If you dye your hair, touch up your roots to give your hair that healthy, even glow. Finally, a quick trim will make your hair look healthy and neat.
→ Avoid last-minute changes to color, length or style
Skincare: Dry or blotchy skin doesn’t photograph well, and adds hours of retouching time for photographers. Make sure your skin looks healthy and vibrant the day of. Start by drinking lots of water – which naturally moisturizes. Also, exfoliate regularly, use masks and schedule a facial about a week prior to the shoot.
→ Avoid popping or picking and products that irritate your skin
Nails: A few days before the shoot get your nails done (or the day before, if you’re worried you’ll break a nail). Use a neutral shade like nude, or French manicures are another popular choice. And shorter is better. Do the same for your toenails, as well.
→ Avoid bright colors and long nails
Tanning: The key is to keep your tan even. Most fashion and commercial models don’t require a deep bronze tan, which is more common in the fitness modeling industry.
→ Avoid tan lines, especially for lingerie, glamour or bikini modeling
Waxing/Shaving: Shave your legs and underarms the night before. If you plan to wax, shoot for 2-3 days before to avoid visible irritation. Also, reshape your eyebrows a few days prior and wax any facial hair. If you’re doing a lingerie or glamour shoot, be sure to wax the bikini area too.
→ Avoid shaving the day of or waxing the day before, as the skin may still be irritated
The Photoshoot Diet: What to Eat and Drink
Your diet matters when you’re preparing for a photoshoot. Poor diet causes blemishes, bloating and dry skin -- which are all photoshoot killers.
If there’s one rule of pre-photoshoot dieting, it’s this: Drink plenty of water. At least 8-12 glasses per day. Hydration is super important for healthy-looking skin, hair, eyes and lips.
A few additional diet recommendations include:
Avoid high-fat and greasy foods the week prior to your shoot, as fast food and greasy meals can cause breakouts and bloating
Stick to a diet rich in whole foods in the days leading up to the shoot. Fruits, veggies, nuts and lean proteins are best.
Cut down on salt three days prior, which increases water retention and bloating
Avoid alcohol 4-5 days before the shoot. Alcohol causes dehydration, dry skin, puffy eyes, and blotchy skin
Get plenty of sleep as you prepare for the photoshoot. Being well-rested the day of will ensure you look refreshed with rested eyes
Avoid dairy the week of your shoot, which can cause bloating
Start a workout regime a month before that focuses on toning and tightening arms, stomach, thighs and shoulders.
Prepping for a Fitness Photoshoot
Fitness models must follow the same photoshoot preparation guidelines as fashion or commercial models. But fitness models have a few extra requirements.
They often exercise just before a photoshoot, have a golden bronze tan, and generally, appear at peak fitness. Here are a few tips specific to fitness models:
Work on Your Tan: Get a spray tan the day before the shoot and wash it off the morning of. A great tan helps to define muscle definition. Use a shade that looks natural, and try to avoid blotches.
Drink Lots of Water: Fitness models typically train right up to the day of the photoshoot. And that makes drinking water especially important. Try to drink 4-6 liters of water per day the week before the shoot, and then limit your water intake the night before and morning of the shoot.
Photoshoot Workouts: The day of, fitness models typically warm up their muscles on set. A resistance band, dumbbells, or doing push ups usually does the trick.
Practicing for the Shoot: Posing and Mood Boards
Getting prepared for a photoshoot isn’t just about looking great. You also want to practice, practice, practice!
Practice your posing. Work on smiling with your eyes and conveying emotion. Really, you should be practicing even if you don’t have a photoshoot to prepare for. What do most models do to practice for photoshoots? Here are some helpful tips:
Do Mirror Work: In the modeling industry, “mirror work” refers to practicing posing in front of a full-length mirror. And before your shoot, this is something you absolutely should be doing. Practice posing in form-fitting clothing and focus on perfect posing form. (Need some posing tips? Check out our how to guide.)
Play with Expression: Experiment with different types of emotions and use facial expressions and body language to convey moods. If the call sheet or mood board asks for props, start experimenting with them during your practice.
Review the Mood Board: Professional model photographers create mood boards to help models visualize the creative concept for a shoot. Take a close look at the mood board, as well as the reference photos that are typically included. This will help guide what you practice – in terms of posing and emoting.
Find Inspiration: Always be on the lookout for models who inspire you with their posing, expression, style, etc. Use inspiration to help inform your practice. Pinterest is a great tool for collecting and building modeling mood boards of your own.
What to Bring to the Shoot
A model bag, or model kit, is a must-have for every shoot. Your bag contains everything you might possibly need for a photoshoot, and by packing the right items, you’ll always be prepared.
Here’s one item you should always bring: Your portfolio or a comp card. A model’s comp card is her business card and models should bring them to every shoot they go to. If you’re still working on a portfolio[g], bring a selection of your most recent photos.
But what else should your model kit include? No matter the shoot, there are some items you should always plan on bringing:
Bring a basic makeup kit. Your kit will have a bit of everything: Eyeshadow, eyeliner and mascara, as well as bronzer, concealer, foundation and blush. And don’t forget a mirror!
Pack the most necessary haircare items: Brushes, combs, hair ties, headbands, and bobby pins. Also, you’ll need to bring haircare products (e.g. gel or spray) and appliances (e.g. curler or straightener).
You’ll need the essentials: Moisturizers, body makeup, and concealers.
Every model kit contains a few key clothing items. You’ll need black, nude and white undergarments. And focus on a few different types: Regular and push-up bras, a strapless bra, panties, thong, black and white socks, and stockings in black, nude and tan. A few non-essential items that are great to have include: A dressing robe, a makeup mask, and/or dress shields.
Male models should bring a variety of boxers, boxer briefs, briefs and white and black tank-tops.
Be sure to pack a variety of shoes, e.g. heels in different heights and flats in neutral colors. Ask your agency or the photographer prior to the shoot about what types of shoes to bring. But if you’re unsure, bring a lot of different looks.
A few items that can be useful include: Toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, mouthwash, makeup wipes, tissues, cotton balls, a first aid kit, and a small emergency sewing kit.
Water and Snacks
Bring plenty of water and healthy snacks to munch on throughout the day.
Pack your phone – which is great for staying in touch and taking down notes during the shoot. A tablet is also great, you might wish you had one during downtime.
The Day of Photoshoot Checklist
The No. 1 rule for the day of your photoshoot: Be early! Photoshoots are costly endeavors. And if you’re late, you’re holding up the day for the makeup artist, hair stylist, fashion stylist, photographer, creative director and client.
In other words, don’t let yourself be late. Plan ahead.
Review the call sheet – which provides the what/where/when and how for a photoshoot. Schedule transportation prior to shoot day, think about parking, tolls and give yourself plenty of time to get there early.
What else should you plan on the day of? Here are a few dos and don’ts:
Do arrive well-rested. You don’t want bags and circles under your eyes at the shoot. Get plenty of sleep and don’t drink alcohol night before.
Don’t wear form fitting clothes. Socks, skinny jeans, tight-waisted pants… they leave marks on your body that stick out in photos. Wear loose and baggy clothes for hair and makeup.
Do drink plenty of water. Staying hydrated will help you look your best.
Do bring your portfolio. Make it a habit to bring your portfolio with you to every shoot.
Don’t drink coffee or foods that could stain your teeth. Keep your teeth looking sparkly white.
Do keep your hair down and natural. This gives the stylist a blank canvas to work with. Plan on clean and product-free unless the agency or photographer says otherwise.
Do wear stain-free deodorant. Avoid deodorant that could possibly leave streaks or stains.
Don’t wear makeup. Give the makeup artist a blank canvas to work with.
Do take direction from the photographer. As my NYC headshot photographer friend Joe Loper once mentioned, “If you can take direction, I can make you look amazing.”
Now You’re Ready for Your Photoshoot
Nailing your photoshoot starts with preparation. You’ve got to take care of your body, practice and show up with all the right tools and supplies to get the job done.
Now, you know what to do. And whether you’re preparing for a photoshoot for your modeling portfolio, or a paid gig, you know exactly what you need to do to prepare.
Perfect10 Portrait offers fashion, commercial and editorial model photography and is based in Fort Lauderdale, FL.