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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Previous comments
Alice Avenne's picture

Thanks for this!

Although I never really understood the gown thing. Whenever I assisted on a nude or partially nude shoot in the past the model would go into another room to undress, then put a gown on and come back then take the gown off when the photographer started shooting. What's the point if it's the middle of summer and it's terribly warm and you are going to be nude anyway? It always struck me as odd.

When I had my photography course at university I posed nude for a friend of mine and I just got undressed and we started shooting...

Anonymous's picture

haha yes, you are very right, although sometimes I think its a respect thing, like when a model changes, even though she will be nude afterwards, that she has privacy to change, something like that. In the cold however, a warm robe and slippers are a life saver :). I have 3 robes though, a very light short cotton one for summer and a big fluffy warm one for winter. Plus a long silk kimono for when I need warmth but to travel light.

Anna C's picture

Whilst I'm sure you mean no harm and bad experience has led you to write this, a lot of your points are belittling and narrow minded.
I can't agree more with Chrissie, do you really think we sit around and shoot one day a week?
I imagine that you take better photographs with 8 hours sleep just as I'm sure a make-up artist will apply more precise make-up but I'm sure you wouldn't expect the client to tell you or the make-up artist to get 8 hours sleep the night before a job. I know plenty of skilled and successful models with young children, are they supposed to give the children to somebody else the night before a shoot to ensure they're not disturbed?
Your article also reads as if all models are female and all photographers male, which I find strange.
I'm sure you mean no harm and intended to be helpful but I hope that the comments from other models and my own will help you to take a fresh view on us 'stupid' models and realise that we are juggling busy lifestyles in the same way that everybody else is on a shoot. Trust up to do our jobs as we trust you to do yours.

Quentin Decaillet's picture

The problem with my article I think is that people read the title "5 things every model MUST do before a shoot" and not "5 things every model SHOULD do before a shoot".
I never said any photographer should require these things from a model. I only said it is a great thing to talk about it because some model just don't know about some of the stuff I mentioned. Trust me I would not have taken the time to write this piece if these things were not happening on a somewhat regular basis to me – and photographers I know.

I don't think a photographer should tell a model how to do his/her job. However, I believe that when a model comes in a studio not fresh, with bad skin and hair all over his/her legs, a photographer has the right to say something, especially on a paid photo shoot.
I'd rather tell a model "I'm sure you might already know it, but please don't forget to wax your legs 1-2 days before the shoot. Also get as much rest as possible so that your skin look its absolute best!" and save myself hours of retouching, rather than saying nothing and losing money and/or time removing hair in post-production.

Anonymous's picture

Sorry, but not all models don't wax their legs :P Not that how a model chooses to remove her body hair (or not) has anything to do with the photographer who booked her for one day. I have at least 4 shoots per week, when would you imagine I have time to let the hairs grow in long enough to wax?? Im sure that the photographer who I shot with before you wouldn't be very happy with you telling me to wax my legs for our shoot (therefor meaning that I have hair on my legs for his shoot!) I shave my legs on the morning of every shoot that I go to. Its perfectly fine to tell models to be well prepared, but the individual beauty tips that you are giving out are yes poorly informed in regards to this industry (have you read my post above), and belittling as Anna points out! and I'm sorry, if you are having models turning up with hairy legs then you are just not booking good professional models! It is really not your place to have to say these things to a model. You should book a model and know that she has done her best to turn up in the best condition that she is able to. You are booking a professional model, not a child!

Dan Ostergren's picture

So, when I book a model, I should just "know" that they will show up looking as I envision them for the shoot, and I shouldn't stay in contact with them about what sort of look is expected for the photo shoot? I must be confused about the point you're making.

Anonymous's picture

my point is, it is not your place to tell a model how and when to remove her body hair, just ask her to arrive with smooth legs is more that sufficient. It is also not your place to be giving out beauty tips, unless you are an expert on this. Just ask her to arrive rested with clean moisturised skin should also be sufficient. But yes, if you are booking professionals, you should expect they already do this anyway.

Dan Ostergren's picture

Yes it should be expected, but I'll make sure anyways. I don't care if he or she doesn't like it or gets annoyed or offended. I've seen "professional" models come to shoots not being ready, unclean, hairy pits, puffy eyes, etc, and fixing that costs time and money.

Brian Dudiak's picture

A lot of the models I see responding are missing a big point - the photographer is the one paying you. If you want to pay the photographer, then you can come looking however you want.
If the photographer is the one paying you, then you do just as he says, or he will find a different model that will. It is always everyone's personal choice to not agree on the terms of the shoot.

If you booked a shoot the night before, and that impacts your ability to look the way a photographer needs you to look in your shoot the next day, then that is your problem that you need to explain or risk having the shoot cancelled.

The one with the money calls the shots. Both parties can always walk away prior to confirmation. And if there is no money, then each only can suggest what the other does.

Jon Winkleman's picture

if it is TFP, both parties have equal negotiation with the shoot. However if a photographer, client or agency is hiring a potential model they have every right to establish grooming requirements. If you have a particular assignment that requires a model with a shaved head and you book a model who agrees to do a shaved head shoot at a negotiated rate, the photographer has every right in the world to expect the model to show up with a cleanly shaved head. If a model does not want to shave their head, which is reasonable, they should turn down the job. If a model breaks an agreement at booking on the day of the shoot, they are not entitled to pay.

Rebecca Britt's picture

I'm female and I've had the same exact requests to models as Quentin. Especially the eyebrow clean-up and contact removal. It has nothing to do with him being male. I'll also ask male models to get a good night's rest before the shoot and to shave a few hours before... I don't think these are unreasonable requests.

I can't even count the number of times a model has come in with either colored contacts on (and no way to store them), tons of facial hair and I even had one model show up high as a kite with his eyes obviously bloodshot (that one was male). I don't think it's a sexist thing.

Jason Ranalli's picture

Wow. If anything this article was polarizing enough to incense some models to join FStoppers just so they could reply.

I think there's a lot of models who know their game, do it well and perhaps may not like the tone of this article which is understandable.

However, take a photographer earnestly wanting to build a portfolio of solid work, have them work with several models on ModelMayhem and then ask them now relevant this article is!! I think you'll get a vastly different opinion.

Anonymous's picture

the advice he gave out was wrong however in terms of the beauty and health information. He is neither a dermatologist, a beautician to make up artist, he should not give out advice to newbies without relevant expertise, that is dangerous and it is not his job. Its very good for new models to seek advice, but from a qualified person, not just a photographer who is sick of Photoshop.

Jason Ranalli's picture

Funny, this profile was an actual person last week.

David Hidding's picture

I have on occasion mentioned one or more of these items to models, along with an explanation of why I'm making the request/suggestion.

Having a model show up to a shoot with puffy eyes because she woke up 30 minutes before call might not seem like a big deal until you consider that a shoot that's costing $3,000 per hour is delayed by 90 minutes,. At that point, i wouldn't care if I insult the model by telling her things she should know.

I recently had a professional model show up for a shoot with half inch long armpit hair and quarter inch long leg hair. I went ahead and shot anyways. During post, I decided that if it ever happens again, I'll send the model home rather then deal with the clean up. And the model should be concerned.... How many other photographers do you think I've told about "Nature Girl?"

Jon Winkleman's picture

If a models is being paid at whatever rate, most of these things should be required not requested.
In a TFP shoot I diplomatically communicate to the models that you will be spending time and money in advance of the shoot to make sure their images look professional and give them a model's checklist of things to do a week before the shoot, two days before the shoot and the day of the shoot. I acknowledge that they are professional and were probably planning on doing most of these thing things anyways. When I speak to a model before booking, I mention that I will send everyone a checklist as a just-in-case.

c c's picture

Models should eat a little something before arriving/starting. (followed by teeth brushing)

Leo Klein's picture

Working with models should be a collaboration. You can't tell every model they should do these things. Many models have a different aesthetic - they love their body hair, tan lines, tattoos, coloured contact lenses etc. You did use the words "Every" and "Tell" several times.

If you prefer the current mainstream unnaturally hairless look that is fine. Ask the models if that is their style by all means. However you cannot expect that they will do anything mentioned here specifically for your shoot unless you are offering to pay for their preparation time and expenses.

Brian Dudiak's picture

If I'm paying them, I can tell them to do whatever I want. If they are not comfortable, they can decline the job.

J H's picture

Body hair is a huge problem, i've noticed. Not very many of the models pay much attention to it (Arm hair etc).

Zabu Mutua's picture

Great article. Thanks for writing this Quentin!

Lisa Smith's picture

One thing that I have noticed is that some models, whether through genetics, diet/skincare, etc. have luminous skin. Out of the top 5 most experienced and talented models Ive shot, only 1 has had the kind of skin that makes one do a double-take. On that subject, Ive also found that the more experienced and talented the model, the less of a chance of her/him arriving at a shoot not looking up to par (hair, nails, etc.) not making rookie mistakes like applying tanning lotions, etc. These models are of course, the more expensive models to hire.

I shoot primarily swimsuit/beach photography. I have my own requests of a model before a shoot. One is false eyelashes. I like the look they provide even to an SI type shoot. Another is no colored contacts. I find a lot of newer, younger models are wearing colored contacts and I hate the look. Other than that, the rest is common knowledge with the models I work with. They all know to have their nails done, to have shaved, to have applied normal makeup and have their hair blown out looking nice...akin to prepping for a studio shoot. A tip I can share is to use Shea Butter as a moisterizer (if moisterizing prior to shooting is your thing). Like I said, thankfully the models I use are prepared skin-wise as they know and understand beach / swimsuit photography.

Having spoken with many models, some of even the most experienced/talented models do not blow out their hair, apply beautiful makeup (esp lashes!) for a 'short shoot'. I usually pay for a two hour shoot. One of the models just told me that she typically only does the full preparation if being compensated for a full day rate. Makes sense to me. Luckily I must pay well enough that its never been an issue.

For me, luminous, beautiful skin is a rare but wonderful bonus. Im describing overall skin, not just the face.

Lastly, of utmost importance for me is the 'connect' with the model. Her/his comfort-level is a direct reflection as to whether the model feels comfortable enough to really be themselves, have amazing expressions, eye-to-lens contact with me and to 'bring it' so-to-speak. The more beautiful and confident the model feels, the more the chance of an amazing result (in my opinion).

While I agree with the author's 'tips' for people working with new models, I have found that most professional, experienced models already live a lifestyle and/or are blessed with a "look" that is camera-ready for a shoot date.

Best to the author and all in the pursuit of making beautiful art,


*edited for typos!

Soph neilsen's picture

hey i’m a photographer AND model myself so i think i have every right to comment this.
You as a photographer, you made this a job. you made this a part of your living.
don’t make all these requirements for models so YOU can work for them. like perfect everything? are you kidding? all because you’re “too tired” of editing? honey, you have obviously made this your job so don’t put this pressure on people to have them grow insecurities all because you’re “too tired” to do your job. It clearly says under the article that you make a living for photography and retouching.
I have photographed people with blemishes and i think the outcome was wonderful!
It isn’t a requirement between all models and all photographers.
It’s just your humanity is lowkey disgusting for this

Louis Joseph's picture

Wow.. amazing tips!!! The skinny jeans issue is interesting and something I guess I never thought about. But you’re totally right! I had a Model come in with full leg hair... spent A LOT of time in post and honestly I couldn’t get her legs perfect because of all the hair (no where to clone from). Excellent post!

Louis Joseph
NYC fashion and beauty photographer