Even at his/her first photoshoot, a model can impress her photographer and build a great portfolio by being prepared with the proper poses, wardrobe, and makeup.
Many models, when trying to build a new portfolio, are lost when it comes to how to prepare for their first photoshoot, and therefore get less than stellar results. Hopefully this article will help you prepare so you can get the most out of your time, as well as make a great impression on your photographer.
A portfolio needs to be built like anything else – from the basics on up. There is no need to go buy new high-end clothing to get good photographs. The single most important thing is fit. After that, make sure to consider color. Pure white is not the most flattering on the majority of women, and can be difficult for a photographer to capture if you are shooting outdoors in full sun. An ivory or off-white is always a safer bet, and the color coral is nearly universally flattering. If you aren’t sure which colors work best for you, choose different shades and take turns holding each up by your face in the mirror. You will see which ones bring out the best tone in your skin, eyes, and hair. Accessories are key, but large overdone accessories are not. Pretty dangle earrings that catch the light are wonderful; those giant chandelier earrings, on the other hand, will likely take the focus off of your great smile. Adding a wide belt to your top or jacket can create a great silhouette, adding several belts is just plain distracting. My portfolio contains many different looks, from the basic to the completely fantastical. It has turned out that the most versatile and effective are those in my favorite jeans, tank top, and a couple of accessories – in this case, as simple as a hat and a cuff bracelet.
As with wardrobe, makeup should be kept flattering and simple. If you want to play up a feature, then make sure you keep the rest neutral. For example, if your best feature are your eyes, play them up with dramatic shadow and lining, while keeping your lipstick a light or muted shade. Want to play off pouty, fire-red lips? Keep the blush to a minimum and the eyes light. If you are not confident in your skills, find a make-up artist in your area. As with photographers, you can often find MUA’s that need experience and will collaborate for free; however if you choose to use them instead of hiring one, you should still ask for references or proof of their work. If you are going to be shooting headshots – hire one. When the camera is zoomed in that close to your face you don’t want to play around. A model will find that her carefully applied foundation disappears under the flash to reveal every flaw possible and the bright eye shadow she saw in the mirror loses all of its vibrancy. There are techniques along with products that are necessary to produce a flawless finish in camera. The photographer will greatly appreciate it as well, since it will reduce the post-work necessary to produce a perfect image.
Speaking of the photographer, the biggest mistake made is not enough communication between model and photographer beforehand. Call, don’t simply email, and make sure you are both wanting to get the same thing out of the shoot. Otherwise, one or both of you will be disappointed and unhappy. Also, to avoid any arguments afterward (all too common), make sure you both clearly understand what each of you will be getting out of this shoot. If this is a TFP/CD (time/trade for prints or cd), ask directly what your compensation will be. Will he email you web-sized only of the picture files, will you be asked to pick 4 shots to be retouched and get the full-size files (necessary for printing), will he send you a cd of all images and a print of the best one? If you are hoping or expecting to receive an actual print or two, and you only receive a few web-sized un-retouched photo files, there are going to be some hard feelings. Never be afraid to ask any question; a little discomfort now is better than a battle later. Even if you are paying the photographer, make sure it is stated plainly what you are getting for your money.
This cannot be overdone. Research poses on the internet, in your favorite magazines, etc, and practice and perfect each one. Every model has a few best angles, stand in front of the mirror and find yours. Practice lengthening your neck, tilting your chin down just a tad and angling your head to feature your face at it’s best. You will have to be able to hit it without a mirror on the day of the shoot. Study your body angles and poses as well. Basic rule of thumb – closer to the camera, bigger; farther from the camera, smaller. For example, stand up straight in front of the mirror with your feet shoulder width apart and your hands on your hips. Look at your body. Now, push your tush out behind you, and lean slightly forward with your upper body. If you’re doing it correctly, you will notice that your hips appear slimmer and your waist slightly narrower. By practicing in the mirror, you will discover many different optical illusions to flatter your own body type. A trick every model, regardless of size, can use to make their waist appear tinier is to simply stand to the side and twist at the waist to look forward. Wearing a bathing suit, shorts, or a skirt? Try crossing your legs at the ankles while standing. A huge mistake beginners often make is to keep their arm against their side, creating a very unflattering ‘smoosh’ effect. Instead always hold your upper arms slightly away from you. Put on each of your outfits complete with the planned accessories, and practice in each one to find ways to play up each individual outfit. Play with your necklace, the hem of your skirt, the brim of your hat, etc. This will help avoid the ‘I don’t know what to do’ deer in the headlights panic look many models get during their first photoshoots. Because you will be prepared, and you will know exactly what to do!
If you come properly prepared to your photo shoot, you will not only come away with some great photos, but will impress your photographer as well. Photographers talk to each other, and they will often spread the word if they have worked with a model who is either really impressive or completely awful. Prepare, research, and practice to avoid falling into the second category or, worse, being completely forgettable. And lastly…have fun!
Credit for main photo -- Model: Dixie Frasier, Photographer: Paul Franco