How to perfect your first model photoshoot

Last checked and updated on November 25, 2020

So the time has come as a photographer that you want to do your first model photoshoot but you just aren’t sure how to make it happen.  The key to any photoshoot is preparation, planning, communication and professionalism always.  I can’t emphasize this enough, sit down and make lots of notes on the looks you want to achieve. Spend time doing research on the type of visual you hope to create by using Pinterest, magazines, other photographers websites and social media images.

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  • Create a mood board or book of the theme and feel of the shoot. (This will be used later to show everyone involved in the photoshoot).
  • Decide the location for the shoot but make sure you have permission to shoot there, do you need a permit, is it safe, accessible easily for the team and if it is indoors make sure you have an address that is easy to find on google maps or another cell phone app as most people will use this to find it.
  • What else do you need for this shoot? Clothing, props, makeup artist, hairstylist, lighting, model releases (basic model releases can be found online: Very important if you decide to submit images to magazines).
  • Unlike a tree or a building, a human body moves nonstop, therefore you will need to study poses, where to stand, lighting effects and camera settings. Don’t worry it will come over time as you find your style.
  • The most important thing to remember is this, don’t expect perfection because shooting people is a skill that takes time to learn. As in my past articles I am always stressing the point of practice, practice and more practice will make you better. It is great experience for everyone involved from the models to yourself.

You are ready, lists have been made, ideas set but now you need a model or two to begin your journey, but who?? Your best resource is and always will be friends and family. Most people like to have their photo taken so ask those closest to you. There are a few reasons for this.

  • You need to practice and I will be the first to say this to you….you need to practice a lot! Shoot anyone who will say yes. Just remember these people are doing this because they want to help you and ultimately want nice photo’s for themselves so make sure you send them some in a timely manner. Don’t forget to thank them as well, courtesy will get you very far in this industry.
  • Times have changed and many models won’t just shoot with any random person who asks them to be a model, so never be rude or aggressive if they say no. Most models now work off a referral system or a fact checking system. They will generally google you to see who you are and what people have said about you. There are many Blacklist sites available for models to quickly check up on a photographer so you have only once chance to make a good impression. If you have no history you will need to build some good will and work on getting your name out there. Every friend you shoot will probably at some point say to you, I have this friend who is a model and you should work with him or her. This is your first referral, ask the friend to reach out for you.
  • Now you may opt to skip the friend route all together and reach out to an agency instead where models can be hired for photoshoots. They will also check you out and less apt to work for you if they know nothing about you. I have always given first time models the option to bring a chaperone (which is a very common practice in the industry, even supermodels have chaperones for all shoots). This is a very good practice as it relieves the stress and concerns for all people involved.
  • Always think of the model’s needs, concerns, safety and fears over your own. These people do not know you, do not know where they are shooting and who else will be there. Like I said earlier you get one chance to create a great impression. Professionals do not touch models, do not make models feel uncomfortable with unwanted behaviors, jokes, innuendo or anything that would upset your mother. Remember if this goes well, they can now be used as a reference and another step forward.

You have your idea, your vision, the location and the model, so what’s next? You now need to communicate clearly and in a very organized manner.

  • I have found some people are very visual, while others need to hear the spoken word to understand, so always plan for both.
  • Email everyone involved the mood board I mentioned earlier, along with a detailed shoot list starting with the date of the shoot, the exact address and parking directions along with anything else relevant like buzz codes for buildings, the time you expect everyone to arrive by and a tentative end time. This shoot list should also contain all the items you need everyone to bring and what you will supply. Repeat by phone or face to face as well to ensure you have covered both the visual people and the talkers.
  • Always be flexible and understanding as these people are helping YOU! Always be appreciative and thankful. Bring food and or beverages as well.
  • As I am insanely organized I tend to create Facebook groups and attach everyone involved so they can talk which helps build excitement for the shoot.
  • Several days before the photoshoot reach out to see if everything is still a go, then again the day before.

One last tip I have is  when Shoot day arrives, make sure you are there early walking through your shoot location, checking the lighting, the camera settings, where you will stand and having your equipment ready for the team.  Preparation, planning, communication and your professionalism will help you through any fear that is trying to creep in.  Breathe, go to the mood board and just talk to everyone about what you want. Remember every photographer who has every shot another person in a photoshoot is feeling what you are feeling right now.  Shoot lots, move, move and move some more. You are finding out who you are as an artist. Make sure everyone is having a good time and enjoy your shoot.

Don’t worry you will get good images if you have followed these steps but remember an organized artist is already successful. Learn from every shoot what you can improve on, look back on these shoots and always find something to get better at.  Have fun!

Attached photo: Model : Katherine Smits

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