Three years ago I read this article by Julia Kuzmenko-McKim. I’ve been sharing it for the longest time because it hits a lot of major obstacles that a majority of photographers/models/clients go through. Recently I found myself asking myself a few questions, ‘What am I missing?’, and ‘How can I get everyone I work with on board without repeating myself over and over”? So I decided to write my own blog about how to actually get my message across for people to improve the workflow process for photographers. Please just take this as a guide more than anything. There’s so many things I could elaborate on, however this will definitely help people understand that just “winging it” doesn’t cut it all the time for doing a photo shoot.
I recently asked a few photographers (local and international) to tell me some information they like to tell their clients/models prior to doing a photo shoot to improve their turnaround time on editing for that particular person. This really came out even more because we as photographers get asked, “When can I expect the edits”, or “Dude, where’s my pictures?!?”. This by no means is a way to go to photographers and demand your edits. Each photographer has their own way of doing things and no artist likes to feel rushed. Inside of this blog I also share some of my own personal experiences, so you don’t have to go through these things and know how to better prepare. So, on that note, here’s what we all came up with…ENJOY!
1. Go to bed! Doing a photo shoot can make a lot of people nervous and anxious all in one. Some think very lightly of how important getting enough sleep can be, however if you have enough rest in the weeks and days prior to the shoot, you’ll see there will be a huge increase in your energy, less bags under your eyes and less “red eye” to clean up. Last, but not least…nobody wants to shoot with someone who acts like they don’t want to be there (model, or photographer). It’s always best not to walk into a photo shoot acting like a grumpy pants.
2. Bathe. Yes, this should go without saying, however some have shown up to shoots with the smell of last nights events upon them. Another thing I learned is use a good sugar scrub for your skin. Using a sugar scrub for about a week or so will give your skin a great natural glow. Please…wash your feet…yes, it may sound ridiculous, however dirty feet will really kill the vibe of a photo shoot and the images.
3. Go get a professional facial from an esthetician. If you’ve already booked your photo shoot weeks, or months ahead, make the time to get unnecessary acne, or other facial issues cleared up. Stop touching your face with dirty hands!! Moisturize the dry areas of your skin and bring oil free lotion with you just in case. Clear skin is a beautiful thing!
4. Shave your face. Shaving your face do it the day or night before so it gives your skin and pores time to relax.
5. Wax. It photographs so much better!! If the model normally shaves his or her under arms or pubic area, then make some time and go get waxed, however do it at least 3 to 4 days prior to the shoot to ensure there’s no residual redness.
6. Start teeth whitening products 1-3 months prior to photos, if desired.
7. Stay out of the sun in the days preceding the session. Not many of you think this is a huge deal, however showing up with a “farmers tan” can reeeeeeeaally slow down the editing process of your photos.
8. If you’re not doing a fitness/glamour shoot, you should on the day of the session: drink plenty of water for luminous skin.
9. Don’t eat a full meal or drink too many fluids up to 4 hours before a shoot. If you wear skin tight clothing, a bloated belly will show in your photos. Pack small snacks for your shoot and eat them sparingly to keep your energy up and going. Nobody wants you out on their set fainting, or having any medical issues that stem from a lack of nutrition. Ensure you drink plenty of water days and hours prior to your shoot. Bring water to your shoot as well.
10. Exercise. Nothing is wrong with tightening up your body, or working on your physique. It’ll help give you a strong posture as well.
+THE OUTSIDE SHELL
1. Nails. A few years back I did a beauty head shots workshop with Julia Kuzmenko-McKim and her words still resonate in my head from when we were looking for models for the workshop. Let me paraphrase here…she said, ‘Please ensure the models know to wear clear, or nude nail polish’. As much as I tell this to people, some still show up with some funky colors, or designs. Whenever people show up with chipped, or peeled up nail polish, it really isn’t fun to try and fill later on. Consider a salon manicure and pedicure, you’ll look fabulous and it’ll show that you care about yourself in your photos. To the ones who actually listened…THANK YOU! Another photographer (Amanda Diaz) , recently was on Periscope discussing the importance of up-keeping your nails.
2. Don’t wear anything with tight or elastic straps to avoid lines on the skin. Depending on the photo session, No Bra or tight underwear/clothing, that will leave lines/impressions. For a Model or Client doing a more revealing session, this still applies. Sweat pants and loose clothing is essential. Editing elastic imprints on skin is a headache easily avoided.
3. No antiperspirant that leaves a white film under the Models/Clients under arms. This stuff will also get onto your clothes and can make your images a disaster if they leave streaks that show.
4. Tan naked. Please do not tan prior to your session, please do it 3 to 4 days prior, and please DO NOT SPRAY TAN! To us spray tan is the devil to edit and on that note: (Mike: Willy Wonka says!) It’s a well known fact that photographers dislike spray tan. Some very light spray tans are great, however for those of you that do not do spray tans, please just go “commando” when tanning. Tan lines really aren’t fun to try and blend in while editing. Hey…it’s a huge difference maker in getting your photos back in time looking perfect, or looking like you are a mutated hybrid animal.
5. Iron your clothes and invest in a lint roller!! (Self explanatory…)
6. Shoes: I’ve spoken to a few photographers out there and they seem like very level headed, down to earth people. They told me about times when they’ve done shoots at 3/4 length shots, and sent photos to the models, and they got into heated arguments with the models because they wanted photos of the shoes. If you’d like your shoes shot in your photos make sure you communicate this with the photographer. Believe me, it’s not that hard to get those shots. Also, if you’re going to want shots of those shoes, please ensure they’re 100% clean of any mud, lint, dust, or dirt.
7. Tags and hair ties. As a photographer, I take it as my responsibility to ensure these things are not visible, however it is a team effort and yes, we know all know the game…”I’m going to wear these for the shoot, and take them back to the store, so can you please Photoshop the tags off”? It’s a common practice, so please find a way to hide those tags. I personally despise hair ties as much as my peers do and probably even more. I used to have to spend time in Photoshop figuring out how to remove them from the wrists of my models. I’m great at it now, however I don’t have to do it because I pay closer attention to my model prior to me pressing the trigger button.
8. Don’t under estimate the value of a Make Up Artist (MUA). This mostly applies to people that wear makeup that isn’t flash friendly (think ghost face or white streaks). I’ve learned from Savannah Appel of Savvy Beauty Co to tell my clients/models to bring their own foundation to the MUA to help. IF you choose to do your own makeup, then remember to match your base makeup to your skin perfectly, it shows under the lights. Don’t cake makeup over a zit and surrounding areas. Last but not least…please, tip your MUA’s. Tipping goes a long way, and shows that you value their work and time. Believe me…a $20 tip shows that you care!
9. If you’re a model then bring what I consider a model kit: Under garments (bra, panties) in the following color: black, nude, grey. I don’t bother with white because grey doesn’t show up under white clothing as much as white does. Hair pins, hair ties, blotting paper, moisturizer, solid color shirt (black and/or white).
10. If you are planning on a haircut or color, give yourself a few days to make sure you are happy with it. A long time ago I actually went on a shoot and it rained. During the shoot the hair dye began to drip all over the model. It really just ruined the entire shoot because the model decided to dye her hair that night. Give the hair coloring time to settle into the hair so it doesn’t just ruin your shoot.
11. Lower your salt intake if you are worried about retaining water.
+The Inner Peace
1. Doing a photo shoot (especially if you’re a newbie) can be hard. When I say “newbie” I mean newbie photographer too, not just model. You’ve got to have peace and clarity of what you want the shoot to look like so you and your client will be satisfied with the outcome. Make some time and meet-up prior to the shoot, however if you can not meet prior in person, GET ON THE PHONE!! Texting and emailing just isn’t going to cut it! If a photog/model/client won’t answer their phone and is insistent that you text, or message you, then I will say 9 out of 10 times, the shoot will not be worth your time; especially if you have never worked with them. You both need to speak so everything is laid out concisely. Not properly communicating is a setup for failure. I have personally declined shoots because of this. Be sure to communicate your goals to your photographer because this alone will bring all of the bigger answers to your questions to the surface. Talk with your photographer about which physical qualities you like best about yourself so they know where to give some extra attention to in the session to provide you with photos we both know you’ll love. On top of what said about best physical qualities, you should discuss what physical qualities you don’t like because the photographer might like those and focus on those without knowing about it.
2. Practice your posing! This goes for everyone… I’ve personally had to go out onto shoots and demonstrate how I want the pose to be. Practicing posing should take about 10-30 minutes daily. Just because you’re good at taking selfies, it doesn’t mean that you’re going to kick some butt on your shoot. Don’t just go out there with one move…have a few nailed down so the photographer can make minor adjustments. Make the time to utilize magazines that you see, or online videos, or go out and buy a posing book…yes…they have them out there for sale. Practice! Practice!! PRACTICE!!!
3. Selfies. This is a touchy subject with some people; because most of them just can’t be honest with themselves. There’s software out there that can alter people’s appearances. I use this software, and have used it for that purpose. If your photographer is asking for selfies that pertain to the shoot, send them. I know of photographers that even ask for selfies of their model’s nails, and even up-close skin complexions. Another great thing to do is let the photographer see the clothing you’re going to be bringing to the shoot. It’s a great idea to let them see it because a lot of photographers are visual creatures. You can either wear it, or lay it out on the bed and send them photos of it. A great read about this is with the blog I read a long time ago from Paul Buceta concerning model safety.
Use good judgment, because yes, there’s some weirdos out there unfortunately. I recommend that you have some selfies that are ready to go just for photographers. It eliminates the awkwardness that may come out, and unfortunately, there’s some people that call themselves professionals, and try calling others “creepy” or other unprofessional negative names to make themselves look and feel better on social media. It’s a job, and if you treat it as such, you’ll be fine. To each their own, and if you’re not comfortable with doing it, then just don’t and move on. No harm, no foul…C’est la vie!!
4. Arrive early 15-30 minutes early to the shoot so you’re not rushing through the door and feeling rushed to do the shoot. Check and make sure your phone is fully charged and the weather so you will know what time to leave in order to be on time. Every time I use Google Maps on my phone it gives me not only the weather report, but a pretty detailed traffic report too. If you set up your Google Calendar, it’ll also allow you to set up notifications and tell you when you need to leave to reach your destination on time. If you’re a slow driver, try leaving a little earlier.
5. Communication. Yes…I know, I’m at this topic again, however this needs to be said. A lot of photographers don’t have their own private studios, so they rent them. I literally dealt with someone earlier this year in February, who messaged me three hours prior to the shoot telling me that they were still going to shoot with me, then 43 minutes prior to us meeting at 9 a.m., this person asked me if I got their message about them not feeling prepared, and just excuse, after excuse of why they can’t do the shoot that day. By the time I got their message, I had texted them back stated I was at the studio 26 minutes prior. I then received a text back 3 minutes later asking, “Can you find anyone else to shoot?”. (I save all my text messages, emails and more just in case you’re wondering.)
This all to me is a clear example of someone who didn’t value my time. The studio costs money, however that’s not the point. My time is even more valuable and they didn’t seem to care. Respect is a two way street, and if there’s no respect for someone, then there’s absolutely no trust. If I can’t trust you…I don’t work with you…PERIOD!! Just as you’d feel the same about me. There’s a level of trust, confidence and privilege that every photographer that shoots portraits has to have with every person they deal with. Now, with all that said, and my example…be sure to communicate about 24-48 hours prior to the shoot to cancel, or reschedule your shoot. When you rent a studio, most of the owners are pretty unforgiving and still want to get paid for their time that you’ve wasted. It’s also professionally embarrassing to sit in an empty studio waiting for someone who said they’d be there a few hours before.
6. Take direction. The photographer you hired obviously has what you need because you essentially did hire them. Don’t be afraid to take some direction to get the best out of the shoot. If at any time during the shoot you’re not comfortable doing something with the photographer, tell them. No one can read your mind! If the photographer starts to get pushy, then comfortably say, “No.”, or just end the session if they become rude. Being pressured to do something that you’re not comfortable with can lead to VERY bad things. Besides, anything that is put on the internet…is FOREVER!
7. Bring positive energy! Life happens…yes, you’re not the only one with problems in this world. When you’re at your shoot, and even afterwards, you’ll get the best results from just being positive. Show some enthusiasm and energy into your photos. As stated before, “It’s always best not to walk into a photo shoot acting like a grumpy pants.” My best work has come out of people that are fun and energetic during their shoots. I had one client tell me that they had to take a long look in the mirror and tell themselves that they are going to get the best out of themselves and me by being positive. “Garbage in, garbage out”, or “Positive in positive out”. It’s a wonderful feeling when you have someone you’re shooting with come in with great energy and can give it their all. Yes, I’ve been on shoots and had the opposite…needless to say, I will not work with them again.
8. Escorts. Bring em! I love when people ask me, “Mike, Can I bring an escort to the shoot?” Hell yes! Bring an escort with you. I don’t mind at all because sometimes on a windy day, or on a shoot that is going to be difficult, I gainfully employ them to hold my light, or carry equipment. Nobody rides for free! If during the shoot your escort decides to become the “Director”, or starts acting disruptive, immature, or negative, then please expect them to be kicked off the set. Nobody wants a “Negative Nelly” on their set. Also, nobody wants to feel uncomfortable while working. This is my job, and there’s nothing more disturbing than someone standing over your shoulder critiquing you, or acting like they’re in charge. Make sense?!?
9. Friends. There’s people out there who actually have the audacity to ask, or just show up with their friends to a photo shoot, and expect the photographer to shoot them too. That’s not okay! It’s unprofessional…period! If you want your friends to be involved, or be shot by that photographer, then they, or you should pay that photographer for that shoot.
10. Selfies, or other photography during the shoot. Well, that all depends on the photographer. For me, before the shoot is fine. You can do all of that before, or during your makeup time, however during my shoot….NO. I personally like to keep the element of surprise for my shoots.
11. Originality. There’s a huge argument about people being original in their work. To me it’s like this… There’s nothing really original, however there is a time when a photographer is doing something and makes it their own. A few months ago there was a huge following for photographers to go out and shoot in a sunflower field here in Colorado. When I say, “everybody was going.” I mean…EVERYBODY! I sat back and watched as all these people were going to the same “drinking hole” and damn near produced the same work. I was even asked a few times to go there and shoot.
My biggest advice to any creative person is this…dare to be different. Copying someone is “flattering”, however you have to dig deep in your own mind and create things on your own, and find your soul while doing it. I’ve literally done a shoot, posted the photo, and weeks later seen another model/photographer go out and do almost the exact same thing on numerous occasions. It makes me laugh instead of getting angry because to me, they’ve ZERO creativity. Have I copied someone intentionally….no. It wasn’t until I actually looked at someone else’s fan page and saw that I did. I even wrote the photographer and let him know that I did it afterwards because I felt like it was the right thing to do. Last year another local photographer was doing shoots in the mud with models, and I was asked a few times to go and do the same thing. I declined because I really just thought to myself, “Why don’t they just hire that photographer, vice asking me?”.
It made me get more creative and start thinking outside the box for what types of shoots I want to do for myself. Hell, I get hired a lot of times because of my versatility and not considered a “one trick pony”, because my shots aren’t “cookie cutter” shots with everyone doing the same thing as everyone else. Those that hire me know they’re going to get something a little different than everyone else.
Bikini mansion shoot with Chloe. MUA Savannah Appel with Savvy Beauty Co.
In conclusion, you have to do what you have to do to succeed and have a kick ass photo shoot. Only you can bring whatever you have to the table. and look online for deals, or D.I.Y. videos. Use these words as a guideline and hopefully they’ll resonate to all who want to receive great work from the photographers they work with. We as photographers can’t fix everything in Photoshop, so it’s always best to come in well prepared and ready to work.
Contributors: Roy Barnett, Robert A. Rice, Matt Archer, Sam Scott, Lyn-Holly Knight, Paul Martin, Denny Fenbers, Brent Yoder, Ryan Fonkert, Chris Baker, Michelle Radley, B-House Joneleit, Tony Cipriani, Mark Daughn, Breelle Hilsenrath, Ian Thomas, Christopher S. D. Buck, Steven Smith, Alex Dani, Shanika Mac, Peter Dunn, Christiana Auer, Markus Byron
If you have anything you’d like to POSITIVELY contribute to this blog; please do so in the comments, or write me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or contact me via my website: http://www.mikeconphoto.com