How to prepare for a model portfolio shoot?

Models often ask me how to prepare for their model portfolio shoot so I decided to write this blog post as a guideline or helpful advice on what to do or what not to do before your shoot at London Photo Portfolios

Skin care before a shoot

Healthy looking skin is important for modelling. Healthy, even and moisturised skin can make a big difference to the end result of your shoot. Issues like dry skin, tan lines or body hair can take photographers hours to try to fix in Photoshop for which photographers could be charging you extra. There are a lot of things models can do to improve their skin elasticity and condition. 

Do you have any skincare tips before the shoot?

Drinking plenty of water and getting plenty of sleep is crucial. Lack of sleep, exercise, stress, dehydration, unhealthy diet, smoking and alcohol can affect skin condition. Some models I have talked to that had skin issues in the past said their acne got better with an improved diet, such as introducing more vegetables to their diet, eating less refined carbs such as white pasta and dairy products, especially cheese. Junk food can be the biggest culprit so try to avoid any junk food. However the genes and hormones do also play a big part, or sometimes it is just plain bad luck or bad timing of getting the odd spot before a shoot, so don’t worry too much about it as it can be retouched afterwards so don’t stress if you get one! 

Another skincare tip is to exfoliate one to two days before the shoot to get rid of any dead skin cells and to reveal a smoother, more radiant skin. Try to avoid anything too artificial which could cause an adverse reaction and it might be safer to use tried and tested products only just before the shoot, to avoid any unexpected reaction especially if your skin is sensitive. If you prefer and like 100% organic and natural skincare products then this Oatmeal & Almond face scrub is amazing and and gentle on your skin. Use a good moisturiser for your skin every day. A good face mask can also improve your skin and I highly recommend Superfood face mask. If you do decide to do a facial at a professional salon then do one at least few days before the shoot to avoid any redness. Avoid dry and chapped lips by putting a balm on the lips on a regular basis – natural honey is also great for conditioning lips – the bonus is that it is without the chemicals and tastes good! 

Shall I paint my nails before the shoot?

Toes and fingers should be groomed, neatly shaped and clean. For portfolios, nails should be natural in colour (french, nude, etc) or clear. Freshly manicured red nail varnish is also ok but be careful not to get it chipped. Avoid dark nail polish for actor or model portfolios.  Nails shouldn’t detract from your face.

Shall I tan before the model portfolio shoot?

Some of the most interesting models that I have photographed and got published in Vogue have naturally pale skin, so if you do have fair skin and especially if you are a redhead I would advise against tanning – embrace the natural you. A natural look is often the best and in some cultures, such as the Asian culture, they tend to be obsessed with white skin. 

It really is not necessary to tan especially for editorial / fashion modelling but if you do, please be careful when tanning and try to avoid those awful tanning lines that can be very difficult to correct. I am not against tanning itself and it has its place, but if you have a commercial look or feel more confident with a tan do try to avoid that orange tint. It is often safer to go with reputable brands and products such as the St Tropez bronzing mousse Kate Moss modelled and not to go too many shades darker than your natural skin tone. If you do tan make sure you follow the best tanning guidelines such as exfoliating the skin few days before, using a proper tanning mitt and not shaving on the same day. 

Shall I shave before the shoot?

For men:

Facial hair on men should be groomed unless you would like to go for a ‘rough’ look. If you would like some ‘rough’ shots first and then some with a smoother look, make sure to bring your shaving kit with you and inform the photographer before your shoot. I would say if you look great with a few days stumble go for it – it is good to show variety in your model portfolio and different looks. Facial hair can make a huge difference. A bearded look is also in but make sure your beard is groomed. 

For women:

Unless you are going for the unconventional and controversial ‘trendy’ look with body hair popular on social media, we would advise to shave your body hair if you are a girl as not every agency or client might be as open-minded to body hair. I have not come across a female agency model with body hair yet nor have I had a fashion client who asked for body hair, so that tells you something. If you are waxing or epilating instead of shaving, do it at least 3 days before the shoot to avoid any skin redness or irritation.

What to do with my hair before the shoot?

If you dye your hair make sure you touch up your roots. Touching up your regrowth three days before your photoshoot is the most ideal. If it’s been a while since your last haircut, a subtle trim can make a world of difference to the volume of your hair if you are a girl. 

Deep condition your hair. Your salon can do a professional conditioning treatment, or you can use your favourite deep conditioner at home. Natural hair masks can really improve the condition and shine of your hair bringing it back to life. Some models use natural DIY hair masks such as the ones below and even leave it on overnight or at least for a few hours:

  • 1 tablespoon of coconut oil
  • 1 tablespoon of honey

Gently heat up until melted and apply to hair from top to bottom (you can also add cinnamon that stimulates the circulation of your scalp), cover with a shower cap for few hours (min. 20 mins) before rinsing.

Avocado mask

  • 1 avocado
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon of honey
  • 1-2 tablespoons of yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon of coconut oil

Mash the avocado in a mixing bowl, add the other ingredients and mix well. Apply to your hair from the ends to roots and let it sit for at least 20 mins before rinsing well with your usual shampoo to avoid any greasiness. 

How to style your hair before the shoot?

Wash your hair the night before the shoot or in the morning if you prefer and style as usual. Agencies like the hair naturally styled. I would advise against curls if your hair is naturally straight and vice versa. It is best to arrive with your hair naturally styled as you would come to a casting. Over styled hair could get you rejected when applying to agencies especially editorial ones which prefer a natural look. 

If you are a guy the worst you can do is ending up with a bad haircut just before the shoot, so make sure you book your tried and tested hair stylist if you are getting a haircut. I have had a few models who went for a trim the day before the shoot and ended up having their hair cut far too short - almost shaven on the sides ruining their look and confidence. It limits the styling possibilities as a model if you have your hair too short. For example, in 2009 the trend for male models in general was volume on top, with shorter sides but not too short. Make sure you tell your stylist what you want and it might be a good idea to bring some pictures as a reference to make sure you are both on the same page. There can be miscommunication when you describe your desired hairstyle in words only. 

Should I be wearing makeup for the shoot?

Professional models know to attend shoots with a bare face wearing no makeup for a shoot (washed and having applied a moisturiser only). This not only saves time when you having  makeup done but it also helps you to avoid any redness or irritation trying to remove your makeup. We always advise models to arrive with a clean face but bring your exact matching foundation just in case as it is difficult to match all possible skin types exactly - especially if you have Asian or black skin your exact colour foundation that has been professionally tested on your skin is a must to bring in case exact match cannot be found on the day. If you prefer you can wear your usual mascara on the day and feel free to bring any favourite makeup e.g. lipstick if you like.  

Practice your poses and feel confident

Practicing your poses and finding your angles in front of a mirror can really help also with your confidence on the day of the shoot. You don’t want to over pose – it still needs to look natural and that you look comfortable. My shooting style is quite fluid so this type of model posing can work very well. 

Try to figure out your best angles. This YouTube video will teach you about how to find your best angles and what not to do with your eyes - it applies to both female and male models. Posing might feel awkward at first but soon you will get used to it.

A good photographer will give your posing guidance also and by the end of the shoot you should pose like a PRO. You need to remember that you are fabulous and be confident in your shoot. Everyone gets a bit nervous before a photo shoot, but you can channel those nerves into excitement! A bit of nerves can help you perform better on the day of the shoot so don’t worry if you feel a bit nervous, which is quite normal, as you will soon get used to shooting and start to feel more confident and more at ease, especially once you see how amazing you look in the pictures. Let the photographer worry about the end result and just enjoy the model shoot experience working with a fashion photographer.

You might also be interested in reading our blog with outfit tips for modelling portfolios including colour selection, guide to fashion styling for portfolios with examples

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