Test Shoot Tips for New Models

Helping both new and experienced models build their portfolio is something I really enjoy. Here are some tips for how best to prepare for your shoot as well as what to pack. 

model test shoot Johannesburg photographer


I've never done a shoot before, how do I pose? 

Posing is an art and takes time and intention to master. My job is to help you feel as comfortable as possible and to guide and direct you during the shoot. Think of it as a team effort between photographer and model to create awesome images. There are fantastic resources available on YouTube and Pinterest and it is well worth researching them to learn more.

What do I need to wear for my shoot?

A portfolio is designed to sell you – not the clothing or jewellery you're wearing. Model portfolios should be a reflection of you and showcase your versatility as a model. The purpose of the  shoot is to showcase your potential and natural look without any gimmicks, excessive makeup, overstyled hair, or accessories that might distract from the natural you. Please see the packing lists at the bottom of the article for further tips

Do I need makeup? 

Women: Since you are taking the time and trouble to invest in a shoot, it is imperative to use a professional, seasoned makeup artist. Here is advice from leading professional hair and makeup artist Tiffany Wilson. For more information please visit www.makeupskill.co.za

"If I as a person am going under camera, I do my makeup very differently to how I would do it in my daily life. With the amount of detail the professional camera captures, what looks fine in person can often look really blotchy and clumsy on camera, and therefore requires way more precision. Good makeup artists are trained in matching and correcting tones in the face while keeping it looking like natural skin; transitioning contouring so it blends naturally in photos; building up eyeshadow so there are no uneven patches or flakes that shouldn’t be there; and grooming brows so they look effortless and perfectly defined, regardless of how heavy or light a finish you want to go for.

Natural looking makeup is often harder to do than a heavier look, so thinking you don’t need an artist that understands nuance for a natural shoot or because you don’t like to wear makeup is a trap - that high definition camera picks up every vein, pore and undertone that exists in your skin, and extra shine that looks fine in person may read as sweaty or oily on camera. A good professional can regulate a dewy glow if you want it, and will apply natural finish products that blur and diffuse light and even out skin texture, while melting subtle colour back into your face, to give you the most perfect, well rested looking version of you for the photograph you are investing in.

You can edit a lot in Photoshop, but not everything, and what will take an artist an hour, will take an editor many hours on each photograph -this type of editing is usually not included in the rate and will end up costing you more"

Men: Although makeup is not a must, even guys will benefit from professional grooming and skin prep for lighting and camera. 

Advice from industry professional Tiffany Wilson "If you’re prone to oiliness or sweating, have acne, redness or pigmentation in your skin, or are planning on wearing a suit for your shoot, I would recommend getting someone for grooming. For redness or acne, a makeup artist is able to correct skin tone super naturally in a couple of moments, where editing will take hours, and will generally be an extra fee. A makeup artist will also regulate “hot spots”, or areas on the face with an undesirable amount of shine, which often develop if you’re wearing long sleeves under warm lights.

A lot of men are adverse to the idea of makeup, because they don’t want to appear as if they are wearing makeup - as a makeup artist, I can assure you that my primary goal is to make you look as if you have nothing on your face, and we can take it off before you leave, just in case it’s a concern for you outside the studio. But I can also tell you that most men you see on television and billboards are wearing more makeup than we most likely intend to use on you."

Kids and Teens: Makeup is a no for kids and pre-teens for a test shoot. I recommend very light, professional makeup from around the age of 16.  

Advice from pro artist Tiffany Wilson "For kids under 12, the need for makeup really depends on the shoot - the more styled the shoot, the better it will look if someone is on hand to get their hair perfect, and to maybe make sure that their little faces look the best they can, maybe with minimal product, and if needed, possibly cover a bug bite or scratch with a little concealer. They’re pretty perfect at this age, but can sometimes do with a little professional preening.

Grooming on older kids also depends on the needs of the shoot, except through teen years there is also the challenge of acne, redness and overstimulated oil glands from puberty hormones and stress, which a makeup artist can naturally balance the appearance of. This age group can carry a bit more makeup on their faces without it looking overdone, which an experienced pro knows how to balance apparent makeup styling while keeping faces looking fresh and youthful, depending on the age"

What should I do in preparation for the shoot?

  • Plan your wardrobe and pack well in advance 
  • Get a good night's sleep 
  • Take care of your skin
  • Ensure that you've done basic grooming (shaving, waxing etc) 
  • If your hair is dyed, ensure that roots are touched up 
  • Prep your hair  - arrive at the shoot with your hair clean and neatly styled 
  • Clean and prep your nails (natural or French manicure)
  • Avoid self tan or any other products/ procedures that you don't do on a regular basis that may cause irritation or an allergic reaction 
  • Iron your clothes and make sure that your shoes are clean  

Johannesburg photographer model test shoot  

Kids Packing List:

  • Avoid clothes with overt branding and logos as well as characters. 
  • Several pairs of plain pants
  • Several plain t-shirts
  • Dresses/Skirts
  • 3 Pairs of shoes 
  • Neutral Undergarments 

Male Models Packing List: 

  • Avoid clothes with overt branding and logos
  • Mostly Solid Colors, Some Patterns Can Be Good for Layering
  • Solid Color T-Shirts
  • Simple and Casual Neutral Tops (Sometimes A White T-Shirt Is Our Best Look!)
  • Several Pairs of Pants
  • Everything You Own That Is Denim
  • At Least 3 Pairs of Shoes - Dress Shoes, Boots, A Pair of Casual Shoes (In Good Shape)
  • Jackets
  • Possibly a Business Look 
  • Any Favorite Clothes You Look and Feel Great In
  • Neutral Undergarments

Female Model's Packing List: 

  • Avoid clothes with overt branding and logos
  • Mostly Solid Colors, Some Patterns Can Be Good for Layering
  • Everything You Own That Is Denim
  • Simple and Casual Neutral Tops (Sometimes A White T-Shirt Is Our Best Look!) 
  • At Least 3 Pairs of Shoes (Heels, Sandals, Boots, Pumps, Sneakers)
  • Form Fitting Clothing 
  • Any Items with Interesting Texture (Especially Neutral Colored)
  • Unexpected Vintage Items
  • Any Favorite Clothes You Look and Feel Great In
  • A Little Black Dress
  • Neutral Undergarments
  • Layering Pieces Like Jackets, Cardigans, Vests 
  • Possibly a Business Look 

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