Preparing Yourself And Your Model For A Beauty Shoot

Preparing Yourself And Your Model For A Beauty Shoot

A few years ago when I was still new to the world of beauty photography and digital photo retouching, I prided myself on the ability to "fix it later in Photoshop." I would welcome retouching challenges as I was still learning, but things changed forever after I started working with professional teams and shooting for commercial clients.

There are a few unarguable reasons for getting it right in camera.

  • When photography is your business - your time is money, period. If you want to run a successful business and stay in it for a long time, you cannot afford to waste your time and energy on problems, which could be prevented before or during the shoot.
  • Whether you are a beginner or  experienced retoucher, some things might not look as good and natural as your client wants them after you "fix" them in Photoshop.
  • If you are only hired for the job as a photographer and there will be a retoucher to finalize the images you shot, you will save your client time and money if you photograph things right and well. If you don't, your client may not want to hire you again in the future.


Other than that, I personally believe that you can consider yourself a great photographer when you can light and shoot well. If you can also enhance your images in Photoshop - kudos to you, hopefully your market price is higher proportionally to your retouching abilities. But shooting things right will always come first in commercial photography.

In this article I'd like to share with you a few things I've learned from the past couple of years while working with outstanding Beauty industry creative professionals, such as the celebrity beauty expert, whose tips and advice can be found in the leading Beauty magazines all over the world, 2013 North American Editorial Stylist of the Year (NAHA) Sherri Jessee; an internationally published, multi-talented and highly skilled  makeup artist, hair stylist and educator Mikala Jean Vandenbroucke and many others.

First of all, things don't always go right or the way you expect them to. I have learned from my fellow creative professionals to always be thoroughly prepared for my shoots so that nothing can throw me off and ruin it. I write down my plans before the shoot, everything from the main ideas, pre-visualized frames and looks to the order of the makeup and outfit changes. And I also always send out mood boards to my team in advance. This way we take the decision-making time out of the shoot and can focus on the execution.

My advice: even if it's a creative collaboration photo shoot, treat it just as you would a well-paid commercial assignment with a dream client.

Often you are the one to select your models and the team for an upcoming shoot, but, unfortunately, sometimes you won't have a say in that and will have to produce outstanding work with a team chosen by your client. Of course, every situation is unique, but there are still things you can do to prepare for the shoot with the team you did not choose.

Either way, every time I create a beautiful image I thank my team for making it possible. And one of the main people on set with whom I need to have the strongest connection and mutual understanding is the model. Everything your model does or doesn’t do before and during the shoot can directly affect your post-production time and results, so it makes a lot of sense to be very selective with your models.

These are the things that are Ok to expect of your model, unless you're shooting with your neighbor or a non-model friend. Not all models have the same professional experience or training, so it's your job to let them know how they can prepare for a photo shoot with you.

  • First and foremost, your ideal model should take your direction well and be able to emote - there are no such Photoshop skills to help you add emotions to her face or a dynamic aspect to her pose. If you have an important shoot coming up, meet with your model-candidate for a test so you can see how she is in front of the camera. It certainly can be a nightmare when a big team of creative professionals gather for a shoot and the model has no experience in front of the camera and can't take your direction.
  • Always be on time. Nobody likes to work with unreliable models and divas, and if there is a team of professionals on the set and all of you are waiting for the model who's running late, the happy excitement atmosphere may be gone for the rest of the day and affect the results. She should inform the photographer, art director or her agent if she is running late. Let your model know that this is what you expect her to do if she happens to run late on the day.
  • Wear clear nail polish unless otherwise required for the shoot. Even if she has nice manicure, the color and style will not necessarily match the style of your shoot, and if the makeup artist doesn't have nail polish remover in her/his kit there will be some extra post-processing time and costs involved.Preparing Yourself And Your Model For a Beauty Shoot
  • Make sure to have clean hair with no product in it when she shows up for a photo shoot.
  • Look after her lips and apply lip softener to prevent them from chapping, especially before a close-up beauty photo shoot.
  • Remove body hair. When you're shooting close-up Beauty images, or even Fashion and Editorial for that matter, any hair on arms and legs will be visible in studio or outdoors in most situations, no matter where the light sources are placed. It’s not the easiest task to remove body hair in Photoshop and it may be pretty time-consuming. I love and praise my models and private clients who take care of it before they come to my photo shoot. It simply shows that they respect and value my time. It’s a delicate topic, and not every photographer will be able to talk about it directly with his or her models/clients, but I believe it should be communicated before the shoot if you have a chance to. Most models take it the right way and understand why it is needed to be done.


  • Same applies to her upper lip hair, which should be taken care of a couple of days in advance to avoid skin irritation. In the images below you can see the difference a retoucher is faced with when the same model is prepared and not so prepared for a beauty shoot:

Preparing Yourself And Your Model For a Beauty Shoot

  • Groom her eyebrows. This also should be done within a few days before the shoot, especially if it's close-up beauty. If the last time the model groomed her eyebrows was over a week before the shoot, you will have to retouch a lot of dark hair stumps from around her eyebrows. Not such a big of a deal, but you wouldn't have to spend any extra time on it, if she took care of it in advance, right?
  • Bring nude underwear and a strapless bra with her for any fashion or beauty photo shoot. This makes it so much easier for stylists to put models in any outfits during the shoot. Some fashion designers I have worked with had nude strapless bras and underwear in their "emergency kits", but it is definitely preferable if models always bring their own personal things to the shoots where a stylist or fashion designer will be dressing them up... unless you're shooting for Victoria's Secret, of course.
  • Never dye her hair, use a tanning bed, or spray tan the day before a photo shoot. Things can go awfully wrong!
  • During the shoot, make sure that the hairstylist and makeup artist are on the set, right by the model outside of the frame - calming frizzy hair, fixing messed up eyebrows and smeared lipstick, and freshening up the skin. At this point, everything they miss you will have to fix in post. Shooting tethered really helps to fix and prevent all possible problems as you shoot.


All these things will affect post-production time and cost, and ultimately the results of the shoots you are responsible for. Again, it is not always possible to communicate all of this to the model you are going to be shooting with, but when it is, it's in your best interest to make sure your model knows how to prepare for your shoot.

I hope you find these tips helpful, and if there's something else you do before your shoots, please share it with us in the comments below!

And before I sign off today, I just wanted to say thank you so much for your wonderful comments and support for my previous articles. I am leaving for Moscow, Russia for a couple of weeks to visit my family, shoot with my regular clients and meet up with some super-talented Russian photographers, so hopefully I will have something interesting to share upon my return. In the mean time, feel free to check out my article on Boudoir photography and the tools I use to prepare for my shoots: Boudoir Photography, Lighting, Posing, Client Shoots and What I Think About It All.

Stay cool and enjoy the rest of your summer!

 Preparing Yourself And Your Model For a Beauty Shoot


Julia Kuzmenko McKim's picture

Julia is a Los Angeles based internationally published Beauty & Fashion photographer, digital artist, retoucher and educator. An International College of Professional Photography (Melbourne, Australia) graduate. Retouching Academy founder and Editor-in-Chief.

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Priceless information! thank you julia and the Fstoppers team.

Thanks Adi!

Awesome article, Julia! You are amazing!!

Thank you, dear Sherri! I have learnt so much from you!

thank you for sharing this!

It's my pleasure!

Julia, you are an inspiration to us all, I couldn't tell you how happy I was when I found out that you had joined the Fstoppers team! Thank you for all the help :)

Thank you, that really means a lot! I am happy to share what I know :)

Awesome advice, could have done with reading this last week!

There will always be another shoot :)

Love your articles Julia!

Very informative and a great reminder all the time!

Thank you Joe!

Excellent advice Julia, being prepared really saves times in post. Thank you.

Hope its not inappropriate to ask, but what is "nude underwear" ?

skin colored underwear :) (tans, light browns those sort of colors)

Thank you Claudia!
Yes, Jai, what Claudia said :)

Awesome post - amazing insight, and the best part is the willingness to share it. Many thanks again for your great posts, very happy that you're a regular here.

Love all your articles, Julia! Cheers

Julia, awesome information! Also to take into account never wear tight elastic that could leave marks!

Great point Andrea! Thank you!
Which reminded me, tight bra straps also leave lines and redness and when shooting beauty including uncovered shoulders that could be a problem too.

Thanks for this great post. Lots of good information there.

Really hate it when model turns up for a beauty shoot with lots of upper lip hair, Makes life so hard in post haha (luckily it happened only few times to me)

I know, right! And it's such an easy procedure - I know a lot of non-model women who do it regularly.

Do you ever ask your models to take care of the hair before shoot? Thought about it few times, but didn't want to offend anyone :)

Yes, I sure do when it's appropriate. Removing upper lip hair is a totally normal thing for women who care about their appearance, even non-models (although, maybe in big cities mainly).

If you are shooting a personal project and you select a model to shoot with, it is totally Ok to say: "Hey, since we will be shooting closeups please groom your eyebrows and remove upperlip hair a couple days in advance, please" - that's all. Those who already know to do it won't ask any questions. Those who are new will take it as it's what should be done.

But of course, it all depends on the situation. If it's a commercial shoot you might not even know who your model will be until she shows up. Or If it's a local celebrity-model, and you are worried she'll back out on you after your request, then just shoot and deal with those things in post :)

I know this is five months late, but I just read it, and i understand why you would want upper lip hair to be removed, however I have never had my upper lip hair removed and don't really have the desire to do so, only because i don't want it to be something that i have to start doing on a regular basis when its not very noticeable, and once i do it, it gets worse every time it grows back. But i guess as a model keeping up your beauty is obviously part of your job

Your last statement is correct.

And also hair grows back thicker and darker ONLY if you shave it. That's why women wax or epilate facial hair, which is essentially just pulling the hair follicles out. It exhausts and weakens the hairs and they becomes thinner and not even every single hair grows out again.

Good to know, I've always wanted to get it waxed but always thought it would grow back worse! Thanks! :)

Oh ffs 'remove body hair' - that's absurd. What have we become that we demand our models be hairless, androgynous and eternally pre-pubescent? That's f*cking nonsense.

Nobody is forcing this on you Hugh. Just shoot what you shoot and don't read the nonsense I write. Simple as that.

I like!!

You got my total attention

I'm the kind of people who usually scroll through the articles, and just read what seems important to me. And this is the first article that actually pulled me enough to read it all, from top to bottom.

Thank you so much Julia for such a great article!

Thank you Ihab, that's quite a compliment!

Muito bacana mesmo, estou acompanhando seu trabalho des das cavieras mexicanas maravilhosas que voce fez! belo trabalho!


There are more inspirational pre wedding photos here and keep in touch with us for more updates!

Priceless information. Thank you very much!

Priceless information!!! Thanks Julia!

Julia you are the best! even when I watch other retouching tutorials from professionals they seem to follow your work tips and techniques cause I always hear your name somewhere in the tutorial. lol

Really?! Thank you Eric! I did not know that! But that's really cool to hear! You made my day!!! :)

good article julia I have a shoot with a girl that I know she models here and there nothing heavy and I want this to be perfect shes a natural beauty