When it comes to putting together a photo shoot, if there is anything that I’ve learned (and continue to learn), is that the time spent working out the smallest details will save you from at best a tremendous amount of work after the fact, and at worst, the horror of having to scrap the shoot entirely. That’s why when you’re putting together a photo shoot, no detail should be overlooked, least of all the talent that you choose to work with. In the last section, we covered the importance of concept development and creating a mood board. Both, in my opinion, are of vast importance to creating and pulling off a great photo shoot. In this second part, we’ll look at how to find and contact and work with makeup artists, hair stylists, and wardrobe stylists as well as examining the importance of using the highest quality talent you have available to you.
*Disclaimer: I am a lifestyle photographer, so while you can gather up some good information for other genres, this How-To will obviously be geared toward the type of work that I am most comfortable with and what I shoot most often.
The importance of the team
As with almost anything, a team effort is always going to get more work done than any individual effort. This is why it’s important to not only choose qualified team members, but talented team members as well. It’s not worth shooting yourself in the foot and wasting everyone’s time if you’ve picked a team, but have to micro-manage every last aspect or detail. You should be able to choose someone based on a similar vision or end-goal and then step back and allow them to do their work.
The Makeup Artist / Hair Stylist:
Perhaps one of the most unrated aspected of a shoot is the makeup artist. Early on in my career, I had mistakenly assumed that using a makeup artist was unnecessary because I assumed that every model simply knew how to use makeup properly. Which this is mostly true, but when it comes to to shoot something that requires a different and/or more editorial look (beyond basics), it immediately became apparent that a working with a properly trained and/or certified makeup artist is one of the foundations toward pulling off a great shoot. A good makeup artist is worth their weight in gold. In addition, it’s worth your time to spend a few hours reading up on makeup techniques and current trends so that you have at least a basic understanding of makeup and hair.
How to Find Them:
There are a couple of different ways to go about finding a makeup artist and/or hair stylist, such as contacting local beauty schools and/or salons, etc, but what I found works best for me is, like just about anything else, finding team members using the various forms of Social Media. Whether it’s through Facebook, Instagram, etc, even the most cursory search can and will bring up dozens of friends and/or contacts in your area who list makeup artist and/or hair stylist in their job title. It’s worth you time to look through their work, contact them, ask them if they are interested in collaborating on a shoot and/or working together. If they agree, explain the concept and see if they’re still interested. I can’t stress enough how important it is to have someone who shares and understands your vision. If you’re both approaching the shoot from two different angles, it’s going to show.
Unlike digital camera gear, which doesn’t really require a refill or replacement (all that often), makeup is used up and in almost constant need of being refilled, so don’t be put off if you get asked to pay a kit fee. If the shoot is worth your time (and it is), smile, offer what you can, and gladly pay it. It’s a small price to pay to retain talented, professional individuals.
Once you’ve gotten the makeup artist and the hair stylist on board, go through the concept with them again, but with a little more depth. As professionals, you should be able to tell them in a few words or show them what exactly you’re looking for without having to over-explain. Showing them the mood board you’ve created specifically for hair and makeup is a great way to make sure that everyone understands the concept and what the end goal is. In addition, regardless of the type of shoot you’re working on, I suggest taking a few up close beauty shots of the makeup and hair during the actual shoot for each team member’s respective book.
As both a photographer and a human, I am constantly learning. As obvious as it may seem, one of my most recent discoveries is my need for using a wardrobe stylist in almost every shoot. Somewhat overlooked in the past, there is a certain professional aspect that wardrobe brings to a shoot that clothes from the someone’s closet simply cannot. That’s not to say you shouldn’t pull clothes from anyone’s closet, just that if you’re looking to bring your shoot to the next level, bringing on a wardrobe stylist and using current fashion trends is one of the things that is going to help attract attention to your work outside of your circle (that’s a good thing).
How to find them:
As with searching for a makeup artist and hair stylist, I’ve found again and again that social media is perhaps the one of the best ways to look for and find wardrobe stylists. In addition to that, searching around your area for small independently owned and/or second-hand clothing shops and boutiques and ask if they allow wardrobe pulls and/or have a stylist on hand to assist in pulling clothes for a photo shoot. Not every shop will have one available or will agree, but there are some who will gladly allow you some time with their stock in return for a few photos. Check around and don’t get discouraged. Do the best you can with what you have readily available to you.
In this second part, we looked at the importance of putting together a team of individuals who are all working toward a common goal. While everyone’s mileage may vary and there are for sure many different ways go putting together a photo shoot, this is my method. Over the last few years I’ve gone from working with full teams to shooting just basics and back again. What I’ve learned is that although each shoot is different and can be approached as such, there are a few basic guidelines that should be followed if you want to remain consistent in your output. I will add here that this wasn’t always the case for me - I began shooting and immediately feel in love with it and wanted to do it as often as I could. And I did. Shooting weekend after weekend was great because it taught me so much about myself, my work, and my gear - all practical experience that I could’t learn from a book or website. But in doing all that I saw that I reached a critical point where the shoots were the same, only the faces had changed. I realized that in order to take my work to the next level, I need to step up my game and bring in the help of talented professionals.
*Disclaimer: Each shoot is different and should be approached as such. Also, it should be noted that there are far more detailed “how-to put together a shoot” tutorials out there, but again, this is my method.
In the next installment, we'll look at contacting modeling agencies and how to choose the right model to fit your concept.