Top Tips for Successful Shoots with Models


Whether you’re working as part of a large production shoot or working just yourself and a model, there are still a lot of factors to take into account to make it a successful shoot. Below I will discuss how to make the most of your model shoot, whatever the motivation and give you some tips on how to take it to the next level;



The point first and foremost which is ultimately the most important is… What do you want from the shoot? It’s very easy to go into a shoot with no ideas, no real concept of what the images are going to look like and without worrying too much about the results. The problem with that is that it is inefficient in terms of getting great results and it’s not very often you’ll deliver something outstanding. We all know the phrase “failure to prepare, prepare to fail”

Researching the particular theme or genre that you want to shoot using tools such as Pinterest is a simple but extremely effective way of planning either on your own or as part of a bigger team. Being able to share ideas and concepts and build a plan of what you’re doing through images is the easiest way to explain to everyone involved exactly what you have in mind. This also gives opportunity for those with better knowledge of certain aspects a great opportunity to influence. So for instance when I am planning a shoot I will give my Make Up Artist a general idea of what I am looking for and then she will go away and research that and come back within definitive ideas on what will and won’t work. This is true across many aspects of a team shoot whether it be hair, styling, clothing or location.



This process for me can start as soon as 2-3 months before a shoot is due to take place depending on the size and the client. The quicker you can do this and communicate with everyone involved, the better chance you have of having a consistent approach and goal.


Professional Help

So, you’ve got your concept and you have your model. What next? In my eyes its extremely important to utilise those who have skills in the areas you don’t. I have zero experience in applying makeup and I’m bald so my hair styling skills are fairly minimalistic too!

Although many models will tell you they can do their makeup to a good level you will find that a Make Up Artist (MUA) will apply it in an entirely different way that photographs better. They will use a host of different products and techniques to achieve the look you’re after which most models just couldn’t achieve. Remember, most MUA’s have studied this and gained qualifications making them professionals in what they do! The same is very obvious about hair styling, even if it’s just a messy hair do, stylists will do this in a different way to ensure it stays that way for much longer and again will use techniques and products to ensure it photographs perfectly.

Hair and Makeup aren’t the only professional services I look to use in a shoot. Clothing Stylists are hugely influential in the work I do, from picking which shoes go with each outfit, to influencing the location for each particular style. This is their job, they have experience in doing it and can delivery excellent results. This to me is a no brainer.

Voice Activated Light Stands (VALS), these may sound really futuristic, but in fact, it is just a helper holding a light stand or acting as an assistant. I will never use a VALS who isn’t a photographer. It is essential that I keep as much dialogue going with my model while in the shooting aspect of the day, so having to keep advising and explaining to my assistant what I want just isn’t going to work. Having someone who is experienced, understands light and most importantly understands the concept of the shoot (through prior planning) is vital. This enables me to speak quickly but effectively on changes I’d like to make to lighting without breaking the dialogue with the model.


Location and Context

Context! Context! Context!!

It’s a word I often scream into my head when I see photographers who have done the Professional Help bit and hired an extremely creative hair and makeup team to deliver something brilliant, and then its been photographed against a plan grey or white background. It just doesn’t work, it doesn’t fit together, it lets down the Hair and Makeup team as it just doesn’t have Context!


If you’re shooting on location its much easier to create context by finding a location that suits the theme and idea of the shoot. However, shooting in the studio can be a bit more difficult and requires a little more thought and creativity. Adding texture into a set, props, using gels to add colour to a background can all be useful ways to help stitch the idea together and link the model to the background behind them. Always keep context in mind when shooting and don’t be afraid to change the location/set during a shoot if it isn’t working.


Shooting Tethered

For those who aren’t familiar with what “shooting tethered” means, it basically is shooting with a laptop or screen nearby which shows the images as you shoot. There are several ways of doing this and lots of software that enables a quick transfer. I use a Tethertools TetherPro 5m cable linked into my Macbook Pro and use Lightroom. It’s very easy to set up and images transfer in 3-4 seconds for me.



The advantages of shooting tethered are very useful. From your own perspective as a photographer it lets you seen the image on a bigger screen rather than the camera LCD meaning you can better judge the exposure, focus and overall look of the image. Turning the screen to your model can also be very useful in that the model can see exactly how their poses look and you can give them instant feedback with examples without really have to move around too much. The biggest advantage I find is when shooting with a bigger team, if I set the Tether to my 27″ iMac in the studio it means that everyone from the client, to the stylist to the model can see exactly what is going on and what the images are looking like meaning instant feedback from the client is available and changes can be made if needed.


Less is more

My creative team knows me enough now that I shoot very quickly and once I’ve got a frame that I think is a winner, I won’t shoot beyond that. What is the point?

I’ve worked with my creative team now for nearly three years so they fully understand how I work, but If I’m working with new people or a new team I always communicate clearly just how I work and that I won’t be shooting thousands of images. If I get the shot I want and its only 5-10 frames in, I will still stop at that point. Otherwise I’m just creating more work for myself and everyone else involved. This also inspires a lot more confidence in your models, clients and creative teams if you’re not shooting 100’s of images without really getting what you want.


So there it is, just a few top tips on getting great results from your Model shoot. Thanks for reading guys, and I hope that your next shoot is an awesome one!




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