I’ve had the pleasure of working with the very talented photographer, Inez Lewis, on many occasions, both on editorials for PLUS Model Magazine, as well as for model portfolio shoots. Inez and I often share stories about our different experiences working on set and interacting with models. We often find ourselves having conversations about appropriate model behavior, and what I realized is that some models, especially those who are new to the industry, may not know what to do, or what not to do when working on set.
I want to take this opportunity to give models a look inside a photographer’s head, in order to see things from their point of view and get a glimpse into what they see through the lens and beyond. I sat down with Inez to get her expertise on the “in’s and out’s of shooting for your test” and general model behavior.
Reah: Let’s talk about a typical test shoot… What looks do you recommend for a model just starting out who would like to start submitting to agencies?
Inez: For a new model I would recommend shooting at least four solid looks, which are enough to make a proper comp card. Most working plus models shoot primarily commercial catalogs looks for clients, so I always suggest doing a combination of indoor and outdoor commercial catalog looks and including one trend for the upcoming season, active wear or business wear, a clean beauty look and one underwear/lingerie look.
Reah: For those readers who may not know, can you define a “commercial catalog look”?
Inez: A commercial catalog look is the average photo you see in a catalog for Lane Bryant or on websites selling clothing. The look is non-threatening and cheerful as opposed to the usually more serious and sultriness you see in fashion magazines.
Reah: What about more seasoned models? What should they be focusing on when doing their test shoots?
Inez: For more seasoned models, I would recommend shooting for the upcoming seasons, start developing your editorial looks, and always update photos when your hair or weight change.
Reah: What should a model expect from a typical test shoot- before, during, after?
Inez: When setting up a shoot a model should expect the following:
Before – A phone or in person consultation going over looks, referral to clothing stylists, selecting your makeup and hair artist, inspirational tears, retouching and print/disk options, and the expected time line. You may be asked to signed a model release, so be sure to read everything before you sign any paperwork, and don’t be afraid to ask questions. This is your chance be clear on what is expected from everyone involved in the process.
During – While shooting, a model should always expect the unexpected. My average model portfolio shoots take about half a day, however, everyone should be prepared for unforeseen situations. Traffic issues, equipment malfunctions and weather conditions cannot always be controlled, so be prepared to run late by at least 2 hours. Bring water and light snacks- a hungry model is not a happy model. If you have an ipod, bring it along. Your favorite music will set a comfortable mood and inspire you to go the extra mile on set. Be prepared to take 30 to 50 or even more photos per outfit. If you photographer is shooting digital you can ask to see the photos as they are shooting.
After – Most photographers now offer online galleries of your images, as opposed to a printed proof sheet. Be prepared to consult by email, phone or in person on what photos should be retouched. Typically, it will be two photos per look (one up-close and one full or three quarter length). If you are signed with an agency or are in talks with one about signing, you will be consulting with them as well to select the images that will be retouched. You may not love their choices, but they are looking for what they know will get you work. If you booked a shoot where you get all your photos, you should be able to upload your photos online or receive a disk of your shoot. If you booked a shoot that provides prints as a part of the package, in most cases you will receive a disk of the selected retouched images only. Make sure you are clear on exactly what you will be receiving from your photographer so you are not disappointed at the end of your shoot.
Reah: What should a model be prepared to spend an a test shoot, from head to toe, start to finish?
Inez: The cost of your shoot can vary greatly. Some determining factors can be you or your photographers location (what region of the country), experience of the photographer and makeup/hair artist, shoot location (studio/outdoors) and clothing, printing and retouching options. Most models often want to cut shooting expenses and one of the first options to go is the clothing stylist. What most models do not realize is that dressing yourself for a photo shoot is very different from dressing for work or a night club. Many otherwise great shoots end up looking less that amazing because of out-dated clothing, not dressing for your body type and complexion, and worn out garments. Your wardrobe is just as essential as the photography, makeup and hair. I would recommend saving a little longer, rather than skimp on this in the long run. Another big thing to be aware of is knowing if you will get the full disk from your shoot. Many photographers charge a smaller fee to shoot and then provide an predetermined number of edited or retouched prints. In most cases you not get a disk of the full shoot. You save money upfront but then have to pay for each photo received over the agreement. Other photographers charge more up front but include the full shoot on disk in addition to the retouches. A shoot rate can vary from a few $100 to over a $1000. Do your research!
Reah: You and I have talked a lot about models preparedness, or lack there of. Tell me about a time when a model was under prepared for a shoot. What was the outcome?
Inez: I once had a modeling shooting four very different looks and she only brought one pair of brown pumps to the shoot. Also, she scheduled the shoot to end one hour before she had to go to work. She was not able to do anything about shoes and we shot all four looks. Only one look matched her brown shoes. so the other three looks where not shot at full length. She made it to work on time but then ended up paying for another shoot to get more full body shots.
Reah: Can you give some insight into what you expect when a model comes to a shoot? What do you recommend that she focus on?
Inez: Anytime a model is prepared the shoot will most likely go smoothly. Models that come with a well equipped models bad, good wardrobe, great tears appropriate to their target market and has practiced their posing always end up with great shoots.
Reah: What are the best ways for a model to prepare BEFORE she shoots? Should there be special preparation?
Inez: If you want to change your hair before shooting, I recommend doing that a week or two before your scheduled shoot. If anything goes wrong you don’t want to have time to correct the problem. If you wax, especially on your face, do it about two days ahead of time so any redness can fade. Do not wait until the last minute to pack your model bag, as you will most likely you will forget something. The most common things models forget to pack are shoes, under garments and accessories to match all outfits. Start packing a few days before your shoot and double check everything at least a day before, giving yourself enough time to get anything you might have missed earlier.
Although the photographer often does this, Its not a bad idea to call the photographer and confirm the location address and time. I’ve been guilty of giving out the wrong information. The bottom line is do not assume that others will handle everything for your shoot. Take responsibility and be as prepared as humanly possible. If we all act in this manner there is a better chance of everything going right. Making a shoot check list is a great way to accomplish this.
Reah: What is some common feedback/direction you give to models when you are shooting, specifically regarding facial expressions and posing? Are there certain common mistakes that are made?
Inez: A very common mistake new models make is to get stuck in common poses. The most common pose that rarely looks great is one hand on the hip and one hand on the head. There are a few exceptions, but this mostly looks like a very bad cliché. Another common pose is both hands on the hips. There are times that this pose is okay, but it should be used very sparingly. Many models also want to lift there chin high, giving the nostril view. More common mistakes include the lip pucker or Elvis snarl. Again, these actually can work, but rarely do. Practice, practice, practice! Don’t come to a shoot expecting the crew to do all of YOUR work. One of my favorite models told me she practices daily in the mirror and tries to do three TFP shoots a week to keep her sharp. I know most can’t commit that kind of time, but the model that said this is one of my top two favorite models to work with ever.
Reah: Is preparations for a test shoot different than when a model is shooting for an editorial or for a client? If so, how?
Inez: The only difference I really see is posing. Know your client, see what they like and which models they are currently using, and learn to nail it. Furthermore, take it a step beyond and discover what you can add to it. For an editorial shoot, look at fashion magazines and see what other poses compliment they way you move and the clothing you will wear.
Reah: Throughout your career, I know you have had the opportunity to work with several talented stylists, and hair/makeup artists. When it comes to putting together a stellar team, what do you look for and how do you go about recommending a great team to help models create their perfect looks?
Inez: When selecting a team, I first look for the people I think will work well with the temperament of the client. When selecting makeup and hair, I’m looking for an artist that has experience with the clients skin tone and hair type. I’m looking for a clothing stylist with experience in the specific industry. The clothing stylists that styles celebrities on the red carpet may not know the first thing about what modeling agencies and clients want to see in a model’s portfolio.
Reah: From your point of view, are there do’s and don’ts for makeup, hair, and styling, specifically for a test shoot?
Inez: Yes! First of all, have neat and clean nails and toes with natural, nude or french polish. Come to the shoot with clean skin and hair and never come to set with wet hair! If you are not working with a clothing stylist, come prepared to iron or steam your clothes. Do not assume the location or photographer will provide this for you. When it comes to makeup, less is more. Many new models and new makeup artist want to put a rainbow of makeup on, which will scare away clients and good modeling agencies.
Clients are selling clothing, not makeup, so it should only compliment you, not take over the photos. Your hair should be healthy and trimmed with natural hair color. If you wear hair extensions they should look fresh and virtually undetectable. If you cannot afford the up keep that extensions require, go natural but bring hair pieces to vary your look.
Reah: Are there certain things that a model can concentrate on or avoid to make re-touching easier?
Inez: Take good care of your skin. If you are having an acne breakout, then it is not the best time to do beauty shots. If you cannot reschedule the shoot, then expect to pay more for retouching your close up shots. Again, be prepared to remove wrinkles in your clothing. Some wrinkles are easy to remove but depending on pattern and fabric it can be a disaster when trying to retouch them out.
Reah: You have told me some interesting stories about your experiences working with different types of model personalities. Lets talk about model etiquette. Lay it out there for us- what should or should not happen at a shoot and what are some of your major pet peeves?
Inez: Number one is bringing a guest without permission. In most cases having a guest will only end up hurting, not helping your shoot. I have had situations happen where the models friend can’t stay late or gets bored and wants to leave, but they drove together. What you think will help you can end up being a huge distraction to you. I’ve seen more than a few friends of the models leave shoots with an attitude. There can only be one star of the shoot and that’s YOU!
Do not try to talk on your cell while you are in hair and makeup- no one has time for that! If you have unexpected time constraints they should be discussed as soon as possible so that everyone involved is on the same page. Be sure to allow extra time to shoot, especially if you are a newer model who does not have a lot of experience shooting. Most models on time constraints end up being late or canceling the next appointment. I cannot continue a shoot on another day without calling it a separate booking, requiring a separate fee. Another big one that is VERY important- NEVER ever post or print a photo that has not been retouched. You may think you look cute, but posting an unedited photo makes you and all involved look extremely unprofessional.
Reah: What is considered good model behavior, and what is bad?
Inez: Good model behavior is coming to set rested, prepared and energetic. A good model is able to take constructive criticism, follow directions and be creative. Bad model behavior is to expect that everyone else will tell you what to do, and to get an attitude when you are getting constructive criticism. Most models do come eager to shoot with a good attitude but these are the most common things that happen.
Reah: Thanks so much for letting us see things from your perspective. I think this will be very helpful to models who are anxious to take there careers to the next level! Knowledge is power, and these are all great tips for them to know and practice!