Five Things Every Model Should Do Before a Shoot

Five Things Every Model Should Do Before a Shoot

When working with models, photographers often expect someone with perfect skin and a great physique. In reality, this is not always the case. Some models have no idea how to get ready for a shoot, and that can be really annoying -- especially in post production, as it might add a lot of retouching time! 

I am quite sure every portrait, fashion or beauty photographer has already come across a model with eyebrows not waxed, dry skin, body hair or tan lines. While these "problems" can be fixed in post, they are somewhat bothersome to correct and could be solved beforehand by the model. But sometimes they don’t even know that these things can be a problem for us when retouching. Especially new faces. I have had models asking me to remove hair in Photoshop because they didn’t have the time prior to the shoot… They thought it would take me a couple of minutes.

Because I got tired of retouching these kinds of things, I created a checklist to send to my models before a shoot. That way they know what to do or not do. While it won’t solve every problem – some people just don’t care – it will help save time in post. So whether you shoot beauty, fashion or portraits, here are five things to inform your models/clients on to diminish your post-production time and for cleaner pictures.

#1 Healthy and Even Skin

Skin can take a while to clean in post production. Clean, even and healthy skin can really make a difference on the time spent in Photoshop. There are a lot of things models can do to have a better skin.

It starts with sleeping at least eight hours a night. Not sleeping enough can lead to unealthy and bad looking skin (fine lines, wrinkles, lackluster skin, etc.). And I'm not even talking if a model goes out  and drinks alcohol the night prior to a shoot. If that's the case, you can be sure she will have some kind of red spots on her face when she comes to your studio.

Talking of red spots, acne can also be a problem. Ask your model if they have acne problems. Many young models use creams that will dry out the skin which in turn will cause exfoliation if the makeup artist uses (hard) brushes… While it will probably be complicated to ask the model to stop using these products, you could tell them to use a good moisturizer twice a day the week leading to the shoot. Also ask the model to use a peeling cream/shower gel to exfoliate and clean the skin one to two days before the shoot.

Skin with exfoliation problems after makeup

If you live in a sunny location or if it’s summer time, don’t forget to ask your model to be careful when tanning. Those awful tanning lines can be cumbersome to correct in post, especially when shooting lingerie or swimwear.

One last thing that can take time in post-production is uneven skin with wrinkles. To minimize these issues, ask your makeup artist to use a skin smoother such as MAC Prep + Prime Skin Base. It won’t make the model’s skin completely smooth, but it will diminish the unevenness.

#2 Smooth Lips

Dry lips are probably the most annoying problem to fix in post! Sometimes you simply cannot do anything to make it look better. If you live in a cold location, I am sure you have had a model with chapped lips.

To avoid dry and chapped lips ask your model to put balm on it on a regular basis – and smoke as little as possible.

#3 Never-Ending Body Hair War

I know, people are saying having body hair is now trendy… However, I have yet to see a beauty or fashion editorial with a young gorgeous female model with facial hair!

Remind your model that removing hair would be great because it will save you a lot of time in post production. Also specify it should not be done the day or the night prior to the shoot as the skin might still be red. It has to be done at least 2 days beforehand.

Eyebrows should also be waxed (or "reshaped") one to two days before the shoot. It is not as troublesome as body hair to remove in post. However, the time you spend doing that in Photoshop could be better spent working on another project.

Eye brows waxing should be done 1-2 days prior to the shoot

#4 Rested Eyes

Especially in beauty, healthy looking eyes are crucial. If a model’s eyes look bad, your shoot is pretty much screwed. I have had models coming in tipsy, and in that case you cannot do anything but cancel the shoot. With alcohol, the eyes become shiny and the blood vessels more prominent. Pretty much the same thing happens when a model is lacking sleep.

I already mentioned it when talking about skin, but sleep is really important. A model has to be healthy to be in great condition. It will also help diminishing the under-eye bags.

If you are going to shoot closeups for makeup, don't forget to ask models to remove their contact lenses before the makeup artist starts his work. They are quite easy to remove in post-production, but again, it would be time lost doing something that could have been fixed easily during the shoot.

#5 No Need for Fancy Clothing

Now, you might be wondering what clothing has to do with a model getting ready for a photo shoot. Have you ever had to shoot lingerie or boudoir with a model who came in with tight socks and very skinny pants? If you have, you know what I am talking about… Otherwise, let’s just say tight clothes tend to leave wonderful marks on the model’s skin. So don't forget to ask you model to the shoot with loose clothes in order to avoid those marks. Wearing large clothes will also make it easier for the model to change after having the makeup done.

Find the Right Way to Inform your Models

This sounds like a lot to ask from your models, doesn’t it? To be honest, I don’t tell every single thing to every model, unless it is for a commercial/editorial project. I will generally give some tips and directions for the things I encounter the most (unshaped eyebrows, dry lips and skin). Then if models comes in my studio with some other of the aforementioned "problems," I will explain to her what to do to be better prepared for their next photo shoot. Some will not care, while others will be thankeful for the advice. As photographers, having a healthy and well prepared model can change the outcome of our work, especially when there is a lot of skin showing.

A healthy model with great skin can make a difference on the outcome of a shoot

When telling models about some of these problems, be gentle, though. I have had models offended when I told them they could have waxed their legs to come in for a lingerie/swimwear session... I have seen photographers including it in their model release, others writing about it on their blog and sending the link to models before a shoot, etc. You could also simply call models one to two weeks before the session and speak with them. The most important thing is probably to explain to the models the reason behind your tips/directions. They might not know that body hair will be so visible in-camera or that dry skin might cause problems with makeup.

Communication on a shoot is key to success. However, communication has to start before the day of shooting. Speaking with models about these five points will show that you are a true professional who knows his craft and wants the best out of them.

Have you ever experienced some of these issues with your models? Do you also give tips to help them prepare for a shoot? Do you ask your models anything else before a session? I would love to hear about your experience and thoughts in the comments below.

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53 Comments

Kendra Paige's picture

This article is great for those working with freelance models. When working with agency models, there is often very little communication between the photographer and the model, so the hope is that their agent handles a lot of the prep work. I have gotten into the habit of sending out some must-have items in my confirmation e-mails with the agent or the model if they're a freelance one.

I can't say I've gotten as specific as some of the items you have listed, but I do cover what I believe are the absolute essentials in order for the shoot to be a success. For me, these are things such as strapless bras, nude-colored undergarments, nude and black heels, clean hair with no styling, manicured nails, and moisturized skin and lips. I also make it a point to ask the model if they are allergic to anything, particularly animals or any sort of cosmetics, so that I can communicate that with my team. I believe allergies is a huge point that people miss, because if a model has an allergic reaction to the product, or to a cat that may be in the studio space - the shoot will have just about drawn to a close.

Adam Ottke's picture

Thankfully, agency models usually have fairly strict contracts that mandate personal "beauty" care -- and many will at least stick to that because, being agency models, they are professional. Also, it's about the only industry in which makeup, hair, and nail products/sessions are tax deductible :-)

Vladimir Byazrov's picture

Most Russian models smoke like truck drivers, party all nights like on drugs and many of them are, grow hair everywhere - legs, hands, face, armpits, but religiously shave their pussy to look pre-teen for pervs, they are covered with acne... Life is hard in Russia and models represent all aspect of that.

Julia Kuzmenko McKim's picture

It seems like you have been dealing with the wrong type of models, Vladimir.

Rebecca Britt's picture

No kidding right Julia, I wish I could shoot a Russian model in my area. They're like magical unicorns, they don't exist here. :/

Hahahahaha ohhh man Vlad you sure made me laugh!!

Vladimir Byazrov's picture

thanks, Paulo. photographers are known to lack sense of humour. so many self-important ones rated my comment down like they did the biggest favour to the world. jeez. internet generation doesn't know how to lighten up. potentially smiling yet sad face goes here.

Yeah man, people shoul laugh more. Those armpits though...HAHAHA xD

As someone in the medical field, particularly pharmacology, I'd like to recommend that the best thing they can actually do for their skin is wear sunscreen every day regardless of how much exposure they believe they get each day. The fine lines and wrinkles really do start there rather than lack of sleep. It's the lack of sleep that will emphasize this.

Wasn't all of this stuff already mentioned in one of Julia Kuzmenko's articles a couple of months ago?

https://fstoppers.com/studio/preparing-yourself-and-your-model-beauty-sh...

Dan Ostergren's picture

Better this than all of the time lapse articles.

Glen Grant's picture

While it may have been mentioned Quentin has gone into more details and for that many will appreciate his article while taking nothing away from the previous.

Great article. I have a pre-shoot prep sheet that goes out to all clients / models covering most of this so that they understand before that illustrious session. One thing I also note to them is being properly hydrated (I'm a Physique guy) as this can impact skin condition and looks.

Chrissie Red's picture

what a barrel of laughs he sounds like, I just love it when photographers dictate such precise details to me prior to a shoot ;-)

Quentin Decaillet's picture

To each their own ;) And as I said in the article, I usually don't go over every single point with every model. However models as well as photorgaphers should be aware of those things if they want to get the most out of a photo shoot.

Chrissie Red's picture

I do agree that most points are important - things which models already know because they are basic "upkeep". I wouldn't thank any photographer for dictating when I wax my brows or legs though.

You advise models wax 2 days days before a shoot - does this mean she is restricted to shooting only every 3 days? After all if she shoots the day after waxing then she wouldn't be perfectly photo ready by your standards. Hair grows at different rates - each human is different. They will or at least should know when they need to shave/wax without having to be reminded by a photographer to do these things. If you are hiring experienced models who have turned up with hairy legs then speak to their agent about it.

Models should never change their skin care routine unexpectedly - switching to a different routine can be one of the worst things they can do before a shoot. (I know because I once treated myself to a special hydrating mask a couple of days before a big shoot and it was the biggest mistake I ever made). Advice on skincare is best left to the makeup artists and not handed out from photographers - even if your advice is given in the best possible way.

Models are humans, I know this is hard to believe sometimes and some people would prefer they were dolls but occasionally we can't get 8 hours of sleep especially if we are shooting all day - travelling to and from shoots, responding to booking enquiries and sorting out all we need for the next days shoot.

I know you mean well but there is no way to say all the above gently without annoying a few models along the way - ones which probably do all of the above anyway. It comes across similar to what a model diva does and nobody wants to work with a diva.

Julia Kuzmenko McKim's picture

Chrissie, you may be an experienced model who has learned all of this ages ago, but this article was most likely written for photographers, who are just getting into it and have no idea as to what to expect from a shoot and from their models.

I'd think a huge part of our audience here are photographers from smaller towns where models are just young girls who have no idea about all of this. So, if a beginner photographer doesn't educate them, he or she will end up spending countless hours fixing a lot of things in post-production.

Trust me, removing body and facial hair in photoshop might be very unpleasant, time- and labor-consuming, and lead to ruined photos, which the entire team would be unhappy about.

And to be fair, if it's a commercial assignment, if the model makes the post-production harder, longer and more expensive because she shows up for a beauty shoot with hair all over where it shouldn't be, red eyes because she partied all night and dry skin, because she drank and didn't take a good care of her skin, the client should take the post-production cost out of her pay, so she knows to be professional next time.

You like it or not, but photographers need to be educated about all of this, so they can educate their models too. Yes, they shouldn't even need to ask models of these things, because models should already know the "basic upkeep", only there are always beginners - both photographers and models - and they really appreciate articles like this.

Chrissie Red's picture

I do get your point - however I think if photographers are just starting out then their focus should be on how to use their camera, how to light a subject, how to source models, how to effectively communicate with models ... etc

You want a confident and comfortable model - sending a checklist or pointing out her flaws during a shoot really isn't the best way to set the tone. Like I said - if it's friendly advice coming from a makeup artist with regards to products they recommend then I'm all ears after all they have studied it and know what they are talking about.

By all means though, if photographers think checklists and pointing out flaws is a good way to encourage a model to up her game then do it. I do think that advice should be left to other models or makeup artists though.

LightShapers Magazine's picture

I'll have to agree with you on this Chrissie, the only thing i mention to models is that they should try to get decent sleep the night before and come in with a nude face / unstyled hair.

Pointing out all these things to a model that are different from her normal routine or lifestyle can get her worried that she isn't doing the right things.

I find keeping it simple is best. No one has perfect skin. It's just something that you need to work around and that's why we have retouching.

Julia Kuzmenko McKim's picture

As much as I love retouching, we have retouching, as you say, to make images better, not to fix what could have been fixed before the image was captured.

Dan Ostergren's picture

Not to be confrontational or disrespectful of your opinion and I hope you read this in a friendly tone, but If a model isn't compliant to my requests or at least tries to be compliant and respectful of my requests which are meant to make my job easier, more cost and time effective and ultimately lead to a better set of photographs in the end, he or she simply doesn't get hired, nor do I see them ever getting signed to an agency (if that happens to be a goal of theirs) or hired by a client if they feel they are above such requests that an agency, clothing designer, jewelry designer, art director, photographer, etc, would likely request of them as well. I was on set last year for a two day Tiffany's campaign shoot photographed by Michael Thompson with Daria Werbowy modeling, and I can guarantee you that whoever was directing the Tiffany's campaign had quite a big list for everybody to follow in order to be ready, not just the model. If the model (or anyone involved in the production of the shoot for that matter) is too insecure to take criticism on what can be done to help contribute to a better photograph, I honestly don't see him or her doing too well in the industry. It's harsh, and it takes a lot of work. This upkeep is part of that work. All of the agencies I pull models from require this upkeep; it's really not that much to ask a freelance model to take some of the same steps for a photo shoot at the photographer's request, and I really couldn't give any care to whether it annoys them or not if I do make these requests. I ask my assistants to not wear bright colors to my shoots as not to reflect color onto my models (which I've been told by potential assistants that the request is ridiculous, but I stick to my guns because I feel that the end result of the photo is what's most important, not someone's feelings being hurt or someone being annoyed with me); I see this as a request that is just as necessary as asking the model to be photo-ready for a shoot, which to me is ridiculous that ANY freelance model would have an issue with the request to be photo-ready. But like I said, anyone who doesn't want to comply with my requests or the client's requests simply won't be hired. If these are steps that a model already follows, or she already does something similar, then why on earth should they get upset over getting a checklist from a photographer? You bring up the "diva" point saying that a photographer with a checklist is a diva, but I think you may have that backwards, because I don't see any models getting called back after taking issue with a simple checklist from a photographer or that photographer's client.

Chrissie Red's picture

If a photographer sends me a polite e-mail or calls me saying "I know you probably do all this anyway but I've had a few bad experiences so I thought best to check but could you make sure that your skin is moisturised, your eyebrows are tidy and that you have as much rest prior to the shoot as possible please. I intend to take head shots and want you to look your best"

Then it wouldn't be anywhere near as "off putting" as being sent lists on things he requires or being told when to wax - or how to combat dry skin - which occasionally does just happen. I get dry skin after swimming, I purposefully don't go swimming a day before a shoot because I know this about myself. Point is models do know their bodies better than a photographer ever would so the "checklist" - if there has to be one should be very vague.

From my point of view - a freelance model and I've never wanted to be an agency model or aspired to do it. I model because I want to be part of creating a beautiful image but a huge part of why I have continued to model for over 7 years is that I enjoy working with those I do work with. If somebody comes across as not much fun prior to a shoot then I don't take the shoot on - doesn't matter if its a paid assignment. I model because I love modelling and anything which might take even a tiny bit of love away for what I do will never be something I run into with open arms.

Dan Ostergren's picture

That's perfectly fine. From my point of view I guess there are two different worlds when it comes to this industry. In one hand you have the artists who do it for the love, but in the other you have those who's photo shoots are dictated by a lot of different factors and people involved with the shoot. If a model can't handle some expectations for being photo shoot ready, I guess he or she stays in the freelance "for the love of the art" sector, and will likely only work with amateurs who aren't exactly detail oriented. It's not meant as an insult and there are always exceptions, but it does point out a clear divide when someone can't work with a photographer's list or a list given by the client, even if it's given without sugar coating. When I work with a client I am given lists of expectations and needs as well, and my feelings getting hurt or me being annoyed is the last thing any of my clients care about; they care about the photos. It's not uncommon. I think it's understandable to be lenient on the subject of sleep though; sometimes it can't be helped to pull all-nighters or get very little sleep, even as a photographer, but at least making an effort to sleep instead of partying all night or just staying up all night should be expected. I also agree that skin-care advice should be left to MUA's and dermatologists, but asking that a model show up with clean, moisturized skin and hair at the very least isn't a lot to ask, and I know some models who seem to have issues with hygiene, making that a necessary request. The same goes for avoiding tan-lines when possible.

Dan Ostergren's picture

I would like to say though that I am very glad to hear a model's perspective on this topic; it will certainly affect the way that I make my requests to models for future personal projects if I don't take the agency route to cast them.

Julia Kuzmenko McKim's picture

Very well said, Daniel. Thank you for your input!

Jen Brook's picture

5 things a model should know before a shoot? How about "good luck to any person running their own business for that 'recommended 8 hour sleep' whilst dozing in an unknown hostel bunk bed, shaving your legs in a sink shared with seven strangers because your clients budget barely covers a £1 butty break, never mind the 5* hotel it's presumed models live in. Oh and don't forget travelling with said chopped cucumber on ice stored in one of the broken suitcases you just lugged across the country via four train stations for those required ‘rested eyes’ before your next shoot destination that begins in hmm, six hours..."

Anonymous's picture

exacly. Ive been on many (professional)jobs, where the timing makes it possible to get 8 hours sleep. The shoot the night before finishes at sunset then they want to get you up for runs rise the next day (of course I need an hour before the shoot to prepare and dinner and breakfast!), doesn't even leave 4 hour to sleep in the northern hemisphere. The only time I don't get enough time to sleep before a shoot is when the client/photographer makes such a schedule.

Body hair is fashion where?! The US?! Good God...

Don't believe everything you read =) The vast majority still get rid of the body hair.

Well, the hair is there for some reason, beeing the uttermost holding sexual feromones to lure a partner. Nowadays with high levels of higiene, even men can shave without any problem.

Anonymous's picture

You article is full of flaws and bad advice, I hope this is not what you are telling your inexperienced models!

1) Acne is a medical condition and it is up to a doctor to recommend the best treatment. Lack of sleep is not the cause of dark circles under the eyes, these are normally caused by ethnicity, general skin type or health issues (in my case a vitamin D deficiency in winter). Sleeping also does nothing to reduce wrinkles, unless you want a model to go for a botox session before the shoot you can not do much about that. In some cases exfoliating the skin is worse for acne, please dont give out skin and health advice unless you are dermatologist!

2) Most lip balms make the skin more dry, since they are petroleum based (yes they are a by product of the petrol industry) the stop the skin form producing their own natural moisture when used too much. They are effective as a barrier against harsh weather but not as a moisturizer. Brushing the lips with an toothbruish is the best way to remove dead skin, and use something lie a beeswax balm or 8 hour cream an hour before the shoot for instant moisture. A good make up artist will do this though.

3) If I do my eyebrows 2 days before a shoot they are already starting to grow it at the shoot, I have to do them the night before. I do my upper lip about every 4 weeks. I shoot most days however. Every woman is different. However my agency is begging me not to reshape my eyebrows at all, since this is something that a client often has an opinion on, and they like to choose between natural or shaped looking eyebrows.

4) again lack of sleep is not the primary cause of bed eyes. I travel by flight to a lot of my shoots, and that causes bad eyes. As does flashes constantly going off. I use eye whitening drops as a solution. Frequent make up use is also bad for the eyes, it comes with the territory for a full time model so the eye drops are really the only solution (dont use them too much they have side effects though!). Again ill stress it is a myth about lack of sleep causing dark circles.

5) A good studio should have a gown for the model to wear, she should change out of her clothes when she arrives into a soft gown and slippers, then any lines on the skin will be away before the make up is finished (of course never wear a bra though that takes longer). If you don't have a gown ask the model to bring one. You try getting a train or flight to a shoot in winter not wearing proper warm clothes. Also if a model does have lines on her skin, it goes away much faster in a warm studio, since the blood flows more.

Finally, although these are all things that I have taken care of by myself for the past 12 years as a model, If I were to receive a list of demands from a photographer such as you write above I would be mortified and probably cancel the shoot. I would feel that any flaw in the final image were down to my bad grooming! These things are not the job of the photographer who is certainly not an expert in any of the above. Its up to the agency, or perhaps the make up artist, and if you book a professional mode, they should do this anyway!