model portfolio



Whew! Your actual photo shoot is over but your work is not complete just yet. You have your images but they’re not delivered to your client directly out of the camera. Post-production is in order so there’s a few more steps to completing your TFP model portfolio shoot.

My studio.

Image courtesy of Subrahmanyam Chilakamarthi


In my first article, How to Plan a Model Portfolio Shoot, I shared my general checklist for preparing for a model portfolio shoot. In the my second and third articles Shooting the Model Portfolio: Part One and Part Two, I went over the things that I do the day of a shoot and gave you my checklist for the actual shoot itself. In this last installment, I’m going to share what I do after a shoot.




Pack Up Your Studio and Set to Be Ready for Your Next Shoot. I always make it a point to clean up my studio directly after a photo shoot as it serves several purposes. First, it allows me to put everything back exactly how I want it so that I can easily access it for my next photo shoot; b) I’m more likely to let it sit until just before my next shoot if I don’t do it right after a shoot; c) it leaves my space clean in between shoots; and d), I have my assistant(s) there, so I have them help me break everything down and put everything away, otherwise, I’m on my own!

Gear packed up for shoot outdoors the next day.


Backup Original Images. If you haven’t done so already, it’s a good idea to backup your images right away. Many photographers do this during a session. I typically back up to an external hard drive and to Dropbox.  You can choose to do it during or after and using whatever system works for you, but definitely do it so you don’t lose your work.

Backing up my images to my hard drive as I shoot.


Import Images Into Adobe Lightroom. Import your images into Adobe Lightroom or any other software that allows you to rate, keyword and work on your images, if not already there. Your photos should already be imported into Lightroom or other software if you use it to tether during a photo shoot. Be sure to keyword your images so you can find their exact pinpoint location later, say for instance, if you are looking for all photos with a model that has blue eyes.

Importation of Images into Adobe Lightroom.


Use Adobe Lightroom or Other Software to Rate and Select Images for Retouching. I obviously use Adobe Lightroom for my capture and some of my post-production work. You may use other software. I like Adobe Lightroom because you can import, keyword, rate, edit and showcase your images all in one program. It even automatically detects what your camera settings were for each photo (if shot in RAW) as well as the camera, lens and focal length too. I use the star system for rating my photos. Instead of assigning a star of quality to each photo, I first assign one star to every photo I like and that has potential to be a final image. I then take a break and go back a little later and do a second round of rating, going through all one-star photos and getting more selective. For those that seem to score in technical quality, I assign two stars. I take a break and do this again a few more times until I am left with 5-star rated images, which should weed the images down quite a bit.

You can use colors, flags or stars to rate your images in Adobe Lightroom.




Retouch Images. Once you have your images selected, you can dive into editing these images. We have always taught our students to do as much as you can in Lightroom first before pushing your images into Adobe Photoshop. You’ll only save a lot of time. Adobe Lightroom has a wonderful feature that allows you to roundtrip your images into Adobe Photoshop and back into Lightroom (should you choose to watermark your images…)




Review Images and Prepare Instructions for Retoucher on Revisions. Many photographers like to edit their own photos as they have a vision in mind and they don’t trust anyone else to get the results that they would get themselves. Other photographers, like myself, are really pressed for time and are very lucky to find a very good retoucher that understands the photographer’s vision. If this is your case, you’ll want to create a checklist for your retoucher to follow, which will aid them in creating the result you want. I have a general list that applies to every image and then I have a shorter list of fine revisions that are specific to each image.

One of my retouching checklists.


Set Up Dropbox Folders for Retouching. I then set up a few folders in my Dropbox under the client’s folder for the retoucher called Retouching and then two subfolders called: Originals and Retouched Images for Review. Then, I copy original images to be retouched into an Originals folder. I don’t just move these into that folder because if the retoucher accidently deletes an image – I need to have my originals safe. I then upload my instruction checklist into that same Retouching folder.

My Dropbox folder under a particular client.


Working With Your Retoucher. I then contact my retoucher, give them a deadline and wait. If they have questions, I answer right away. It’s important to have good communication with your retoucher if you you want your images to turn out the way you envisioned. Before or around the deadline, my retoucher either contacts me to review the images or I follow up to see how they are coming along.


Once Images Are Complete, Re-import Retouched Images Into Editing Software, If Sent Out to Retoucher. You might find that you could go back and forth all day with a retoucher over something that might be very subjective. I occasionally tell my retoucher to not crop my photos, that I prefer to do it as I know exactly how I want them cropped. That is just something that is hard to get exact in a description because you may also change your mind a few times after seeing a result!


Complete Any Additional Personal Retouching. Again, push your images through your photo editing software and complete any additional retouching that results from a subjective decision.




Watermark Images, If Desired. This is pretty self-explanatory, however, this also depends on the type of client. For TFP shoots, I watermark my images with my logo at the bottom right or left depending on where it is best placed. This helps my branding when the model shares the images. For paid clients or if I’m working with agency models, I do not do this.

I watermark the bottom of my TFP model shoot images.

Model/Actress: Celeste Smith


Export Images Into Folders in Dropbox for Client and/or Team. Once editing and any necessary watermarking is complete, I then create another folder in Dropbox for the final images to distribute to the client, his or her agency and my team. I like to share end results with my team for two reasons: 1) so they can see the fruit of their labor and 2) so they are excited for the next photo shoot!


Notify Recipients. While you can notify your client, the agency and your team through Dropbox that the images are ready, I tend to also like calling and/or sending an email as it’s a little more personal. I can add my logo at the top of an email and actually have formatting choices!

Notify your clients, their agency and your team.



You may also be tasked with ordering composite cards for your model if shooting a paid model portfolio shoot. Here are two more steps for this process.


Gather Model’s Complete Specs and Contact Details. You will need to gather the model’s complete specs, such as height, measurements and clothing and shoes sizes as these will things listed on their comp card.


Contact Printing Company to Order. Last, you will want to call a reputable printing company that specializes in comp card printing and provide them with all of the information you gathered on the model as well as the chosen photos to include on the comp card. You will also want to advise them on specific placement and size, based on a conversation you’ve had with your client prior to calling the printing company.




Model portfolio shoots can be a lot of work. It’s amazing that we occasionally do these for free! However, TFP model portfolio shoots are not only a great way to build your portfolio, but the portfolio of the model and your hair and makeup artist(s). They are also great practice for newer photographers to that area of specialty. Just remember to, at some point, start charging for your work too as there are many photographers out there trying to make a living off of shooting model portfolios as well as other areas of specialty, including, what someday, could be you.

Posted by Dawn Wayand in Workshop, 0 comments
Shooting The Model Portfolio Part II: The Shoot

Shooting The Model Portfolio Part II: The Shoot

Alright! Everyone has arrived. They have been briefed on the photo shoot ideas, goals and the wardrobe. The model is now in the chair getting his/her initial hair and makeup ready for the first set. In the first article, How to Plan a Model Portfolio Shoot, I went over all the preparations on my checklist that I perform whether it’s over the course of a few weeks or a few days. In the last article, Shooting the Model Portfolio: Part I, I covered everything I do the morning of a photo shoot. In this article, I’m going to tell you my checklist of what I look for during my shoot – as I am shooting.

Initial makeup being completed by my makeup artist, Gil Aldrin.

Model: Shoko Fujita


While hair and makeup are in process, my photo assistant(s) and I are putting together the sets and as we do so, I go over any lighting setups that I want to use for a particular set, and why, as I try to also educate my assistants throughout the course of a TFP model portfolio photo shoot as well.

On one of the fun sets I’ve shot, my assistant Yann,

steps in to help me determine lighting placement.


About an hour to an hour and a half later, depending on the detail of the hair and makeup I want, we are ready to shoot. Let’s go!



As a studio photographer, you are in control of everything during a shoot. From hair and makeup direction to having the last say on wardrobe placement and from set design and its lighting to actually shooting the images, there is plenty that I look for so as to not spend a lot of time in post-production fixing things that could have easily been avoided. Then there are those preventable mistakes that are so big the image is unsalvageable. Below is a checklist of many of the things I look for within my frame before pressing the shutter button.


The Model’s Hair/Makeup

Your model’s appearance is the point of the portfolio shoot. Analyzing every part of him/her prior to pressing the shutter is a must. I have a checklist of things that I’ve learned to look for before taking a shot. Some of these things are hard to prevent, but I do my best to avoid additional work in post.


Hair. Stray hair is difficult to avoid but not only do I look for unruly hairs, I usually have my hair/makeup artist constantly check during the shoot to make sure the hair is as it was originally styled. The big thing for me is making sure the hair is as I originally envisioned it to look.

Here we were outdoors and I loved how the wind naturally whisped through her hair.

Model/Actress: Valery Lessard


Makeup. I usually try to include a swatch of colors for my makeup artist that I’m interested in seeing for a set so I check to make sure the end result was also as I envisioned. I look for eyelashes out of place and when using face jewels, that they are placed as I wanted. Does the makeup work with the design of the hair?

On this nautical set, we were aiming for everything some tone of purple.

Model: Deeksha Chawla


The Model’s Wardrobe


Wrinkles. Wrinkles are an easy fix during a photoshoot, but kind of pain to work with in post-production. Be sure to press any wardrobe prior to the photo shoot and keep it guarded! There are products out there to take some wrinkles out in a pinch without an iron, but major wrinkles need to be ironed.

Missed ironing the dress before the shoot!

Model: Katie Buell


Tags. Scarves have these (as seen below) as do any wardrobe piece. They can be easy to miss but it’s good to do a quick once-over with each wardrobe change to make sure no tags are showing.

A missed tag on the scarf around her head blended in, yet it didn’t. Rookie mistake.

Model: Maria Iodice


Loose Strings. I once shot an entire set on one of my first few fashion portrait shoots and did not notice there was a stray clothing string on her sleeve until I was working on the images in post-production. It’s also good to do an initial once-over for loose strings stuck to the clothing.

Always check for random clothing strings attached to clothing, hair or shoes.

Model: Sietzka Wiersma


Clothing Fit. Does the wardrobe fit and hang right? On occasion wardrobe pieces might be a bit too big on a model and that’s where those nifty spring clamps, also called “A-Clamps”, come in handy. If the clothing is too big, just clamp the wardrobe piece wherever needed but out of the camera’s view.

Everything fit in this case and the scarf was draped as we wanted around her arms.

Model: Karen Ramos


Unintentional Bracelets.  This is a biggie. Models are known for coming onto a set with their hair tied up ready to be styled. They take the hair band off and put it on their wrist, and because it blended so well with her skin, you miss it, shoot a series of stunning images with the rubber band looking like a bracelet. In the case of the image below, the model was wearing a Hindu bracelet, which photographs as a rubber band on her wrist. Another rookie mistake. Be sure to check wrists to make sure only the intended wrist wear is present.

A missed bracelet looks like a rubberband in this image.

Model: Deeksha Chawla


Posing the Model


Dynamic Feet. I always try to make sure the model’s feet are not both posed facing the same direction. When you pose a model to have each foot in a different direction, up on the toe, one lifted slightly higher than the other, etc., the image seems to have a little more energy – it’s more dynamic.

Here I posed the model with one shoe on the rung of the stool and one on a toe on the floor.

Model: Sietzka Wiersma


Angles. The goal of many fashion photographers with beautiful, tall models is to angle their bodies to create geometric triangles. This is also something that creates a more powerful, dynamic looking image. I typically try to make a triangle with one, if not both arms, but if with both arms, not at the same level because it looks too sumo-wrestler-like. I will have her place one hand near her stomach and the other on her hip so that they an uneven. Triangles can be made with legs as well.

I made sure to include at least one triangle using the arm closest to the camera.

Model: Shoko Fujita


Neck. It’s also necessary when shooting anyone, to expose the neck by elongating it as shown in the image above. Failure to do so can sometimes lead to a short or “no-neck” model in the image. With the wrong lighting, the chin may blend in with the neck. In addition, elongating the neck also helps anyone with a slight double-chin.


Head Angle. It’s usually a good idea to angle the head of a model or actor for headshots, even if it is very slightly.

Here I had her tilt her head a little bit combined with a slight lean back.

Model: Daria Komarkova


Chin. Another big one is what I generally joke in the studio calling it the “chicken head”, number one, because it slightly resembles such and number two, it relaxes the model and we all end up having a good laugh. I have my model elongate their neck, pull their chin out and then pull it down. This helps to define the jawline.

Elongate the neck, chin out and down.

Model/Actress: Celeste Smith


Hands. Hands can be tricky. Nine times out of ten, your model or subject will have very stiff hands in an image. What to do with the hands! For men, it’s a bit easier because we typically portray them as the strong type and their hands should show the same, but a very “light beard grab” works well (as shown below). For ladies, I have them run their fingers through and down their hair lightly or down their body lightly.

The “light beard grab” help define the jawline of this model.

Model: James Karl Campbell


Facial Expression. Facial expression is really key and can really make or break a photo. This can also be a tricky thing to get right, especially getting what you want from the eyes. Sometimes you may get a model with a “deer in headlights” look, but an amazing thing I try to go for is to get a powerful stare, a look with meaning and lips slightly parted, such as in the image below.

The powerful stare with meaning gets the vote here.

Model: Daria Komarkova


The Frame Around the Model

What’s around your model can also be important and can sometimes cause a problem if it’s not caught right away.


Background/Foreground. A good part of the time when we’re photographing a subject or model, we want the focus to be only on the subject or model and not really on the background or foreground. In those cases, we would decide on depth of field to keep the focus on the subject of the image. In the image below, I needed to show the context of where my model was at, dressed up in his sharp suit, so I created a semi-shallower depth field so that you could still tell the context, but only the model was in focus.

I wanted to do a city shot with the background slightly out of focus for this model’s portfolio image.

Model: Andy Mizerek


Avoid Mergers. A “merger” is when something is directly in front of or behind your subject – one overlapping the other or when that element touches the side of a frame. One common example that comes to mind is when you photograph someone with a dead tree in the background and you have tree branches coming out of your subject’s head! Try to avoid those as much as possible.


Add Props. Props are those ingredients in the image that I’m always cooking up. Since I work in a home studio environment, I use a lot of my own things as props such as my guitars, flowers from my coffee table, my coffee table itself and the list is endless. Since I love giving my models characters to become, in the image below, I made my model a singer using my existing microphone from my own use, but adding more credibility to the image by putting it on a stand and buying a pop filter and headphones to make her look as though I am capturing her in high key at a recording studio. Blue seamless lends to the picture popping with color.

I like to create various creative sets using props I either own or buy.

Model: Maria Iodice



That’s about it! At this point it’s time to shoot: whether you’re a slower, methodical shooter, like me, or you are a speed shooter popping off multiple images as your strobe recycling time allows – these steps have proven to help me create some pretty amazing photos for my models, as in the examples of my work and end result shown below.

Gelled backlighting, a little fog and a creative photographer takes the cake here.

Model: Deeksha Chawla


And one of the resulting images from this shoot set…

Final image after post-production.

Model: Deeksha Chawla



I typically like to shoot several different sets in one shoot so I’ll rinse and repeat the steps below for every set.


Change Up Sets or Locations. Sometimes you will be moving from studio to location or from location to studio or from location to location. You may be working completely in the studio and need to change up your set design.


Change Up Lighting Setups and Modifiers, as Needed. As the sets change, your lighting setups and modifiers may change too. I like to have variety in my lighting styles for a model portfolio shoot so that every image has a different mood/feel.


Change Up Hair / Makeup. I keep my hair/makeup guy on set for the entire shoot for not only touch-ups, but changeups too.


Change Up Wardrobe. I keep a rack ready for wardrobe and it’s typically fully stocked with my Model Closet wardrobe as well as essentials that I personally invest in for shooting – then reselling. For model portfolio work only, I’ve found it’s just a lot of easier for me to create ideas and concepts when I have a little bit of control over wardrobe. Plus, newer models get excited about what they will be wearing and I notice they get more confident when using clothes other than their own because it tends to make them feel like it’s more of a fashion shoot than just a portfolio shoot.



So these are my steps when shooting a model portfolio. You may find these great steps, you may have more steps or you may find some of these steps do not apply to your situation or style of shooting. In the next and last installment of this series, I will go over all the steps I go through after a model portfolio shoot, so stay tuned!

Posted by Dawn Wayand in Workshop, 0 comments
Shooting The Model Portfolio Part I: Day-of-The-Shoot Preparations

Shooting The Model Portfolio Part I: Day-of-The-Shoot Preparations

The day is finally here. For some of you, you’ve been planning this shoot for some time now. Everyone will arrive in a couple of hours and there are a few more things to be done before the photo shoot begins – then it’s showtime.

A photo shoot that took place on the outdoor High Line in  NYC.

Model: Valery Lessard


Continuing on from my previous article, How to Plan a Model Portfolio Shoot, for the second segment of this 4-part series, I’ll go over my checklist for day-of-the-shoot preparation before the photo shoot begins. Let’s go!




Receive and Set Up Catering for Photo Shoot. Since I typically like to start my shoots in the studio and then move outward, I get my food delivered around 6am for a 10am arrival time of my crew and the model. I usually put out nuts, granola bars, fresh berries as well as an assortment of coffee, tea and bottled water. This is definitely not mandatory, but I prefer to keep my model and team hydrated and semi-nourished with high-protein and natural foods to avoid energy drain during the shoot.

I’m trying not to prop a  company here, but Freshdirect always hits the spot for what I need.


Last Minute Floor Cleanup. Next, I usually save cleaning my floors (vacuum and mopping) until the day of the shoot so that they are pristine because I tend to get on the floor a lot to shoot my models.


Set Up a Private Dressing Area. Whether it’s a separate room, a bathroom, a room divider or in my case, a cloth draped over an open window above a door, it’s necessary to set up a private space for your model to change.


Set Up Tethering for the Shoot. I have a basic tethering setup. When I’m working out of my home studio, I move my iMac from my office to my work station in my studio area and connect my Tether Tools USB Tethering Cord from my Nikon D750 Camera into my 27” iMac Desktop Computer. When I’m traveling or out in the field, I connect it to my Dell PC laptop. Want to learn more on tethering? I’ve written a very informative article on tethering where you can learn about what is needed to tether, how to tether and much more: Preview While You Shoot: The What, Why, When, Who and How on Tethered Shooting.

Plugging in the tether cord into my camera.

Image courtesy of William Matthew Chamberlain


Set Up the First Set. Next, I typically start setting up my first set to get ahead of the game. I usually set up one of my harder sets first because it will take hair and makeup about 60-90 minutes to finish with the model for initial hair/makeup so this is when I will have the most time to build up a set.


  • Background. Whether you are using seamless paper, a fur, a faux floor or an outdoor background, I usually set this up first and build upon it.

In this case, I set up a faux wooden floor and a fur as the background for the model to lay on.

Model: Daria Komarkova


  • Props. Next, I will build props into my set. Some props, like the pillows and candles above, or the chairs and stools below, serve as props but become part of the set. Other times, props will be what your subject is holding, like the guitar above, the purse below, or, even what they are wearing (things such as sunglasses or hats might serve as props…)

I used every stool I had and dressed my model very elegantly for this “barfight fashion” set.

Model: Karen Ramos


Here, I placed a light behind my model as a rim light around her hair and shoulders, a beauty dish in front to capture her face.

Model: Deeksha Chawla


Team/Model Briefing. Once the model, my hair/makeup artist(s) and photo assistant(s) arrive for the photo shoot, I generally go through each of my visions: the set idea(s), the wardrobe, the feelings I want to evoke in the image and my goal for the outcome for each image. I communicate much of this through mood boards on my iMac along with presentation of the wardrobe and accessories, props, etc.



These are the general items on my checklist the morning of a TFP model portfolio photo shoot. I’ve found these steps to be very effective for my photo shoots. Some of these steps may not apply to you or maybe you have other steps that are useful to you. We’d love to hear any additional day-of shoot prep steps! Feel free to share your suggestions and comments.

Posted by Dawn Wayand in Workshop, 0 comments
Planning the Model Portfolio Shoot

Planning the Model Portfolio Shoot

As a photographer, we are in charge of and responsible for everything that happens on a photo shoot. We plan the shoot. We prepare for the shoot. We shoot. We clean up after the shoot. Then we begin the process of retouching and distribution. There’s a lot to do and a lot to remember each time you have a photo shoot. When your jobs get bigger, there’s always even more to do.

Winter project in the summer using Plexiglass.

Model: Karen Ramos.


Photographers, new photographers especially, are always looking to build and update their portfolio images. You can oftentimes work with models for little to no cost through TF shoots (“TF” meaning “time for” something, usually prints or digital images) as new models are always looking for images for their portfolios and willing to exchange time for images.

A majority of my work at the moment is shooting a model’s portfolio images. Much of this work now comes from agencies needing portfolio images for their new faces. These can sometimes be paid or TF shoots . Since I need to pick an avenue of reference and because I will not be going into marketing and how to get a model portfolio client, I’m going to gear this to the professional photographer who is providing his or her services in exchange for portfolio images only. However, many of the tasks are the same regardless of how a model client ends up in your studio – they may just be in a different order.

For this series, I’m going to focus on the things I do before, during and after a shoot in three segments, respectively. These steps can apply to anyone working in a home studio or a commercial studio. For this first segment, I will discuss what I do before a TF model portfolio shoot. Please keep in mind, this is my general checklist when preparing for this type of shoot and that not all of these tasks will apply to every situation.

Outdoor fashion look shot late Winter of last year.

Model: James Karl Campbell.



I generally only shoot a model’s portfolio “TF” approximately once per month. New photographers may do this more often to build their own portfolio. So when I say pre-shoot, for me, this is everything I do up until a week before a photo shoot. These tasks may take more or less time for your situation. I’m very detail-oriented, so for these I try to plan as far in advance as possible since I am more in control of the details of a TF shoot. However, when working with paying clients, sometimes we do not have the luxury of all the time in the world because your client needs images… yesterday!


Develop Ideas/Concepts/Themes. One of the first things I do before this type of a photo shoot is to develop an idea, concept or theme for the potential shoot. This can revolve around a makeup idea, a hair idea or a set idea that you want to build. It can revolve around wardrobe. Maybe you have a lighting style in mind? It can even revolve around a location where you would like to shoot. Some influences I’ve also learned to use to conjure up ideas are music, art or film.


Create Mood Boards. Throughout the year, I subscribe to various magazines for mood board inspirational purposes. I do not copy what I see in the images. I like to clip out things that I like and scan and store them on my Google Drive to be able to put together a mood board later down the road which helps the client and my creative team visualize what I have in mind for the photo shoot. Things that I like which get the scissors include: lighting styles, makeup ideas (which get sub-categorized into to eyes, lips and overall), hair ideas, wardrobe inspirations, pose ideas, mood of the image and general concepts and set ideas.

A sample mood board for a set idea on Google Drive.


Don’t forget, it’s also good to include a color palette on your mood board as color palettes can help your makeup artist. Pinterest is also a great tool for getting inspiration to create a mood board. It also has sharing options that you can use to share with your creative team.

Folders for my mood boards on Pinterest.


Select Wardrobe. For some, selecting wardrobe can come before a model. I actually keep a commercial double rack full of clothing, shoes and some accessories in various sizes that I can use when shooting a model. This leaves only the need to bring shoes if I do not have their size. I do this because many models do not have stylish designer clothes of their own. More often than not, shoes became an issue so I started to collect shoes in general colors, styles and sizes as well. When I am shooting a TF project, I may have an idea in mind revolving around a piece of clothing I already have and I find the model based on size.

Clothes are obviously key to a fashion business.

Photo courtesy of Yann Bizeul


If you have a particular idea or concept in mind and do not have the time to shop for wardrobe and accessories and if the budget allows, hire or “test” a stylist. Upon conveying your idea and giving him or her the specs, a stylist will be able to find the wardrobe you need for the shoot. For many, you may not be able to provide wardrobe, so selecting wardrobe will come after you book a model as you will need to coordinate wardrobe with the model from his or her own closet.


Select Your Creative Team. For the TF type of shoot, I tend to select my creative team prior to setting a portfolio photo shoot date and time as I have my favorites and I try to coordinate a shoot based on their schedules. At the very least, for a TF model portfolio shoot, if your model isn’t skilled at her own makeup, you will want to have a makeup artist (MUA) at the photo shoot. I have been blessed to work with a makeup artist who also does an amazing job with hair, but for a paid job I might have these two jobs separate, depending on the client.

I always work with at least a hair/makeup stylist and a photo assistant to help make photo shoots a little easier on me.

Model: Daria Komarkova; Hairstylist/MUA: Gil Aldrin

Photo courtesy of Yann Bizeul


Having a photo assistant is a plus as it is sometimes a lifesaver (and a timesaver) to have an extra set of hands on the set. If you have patience and are able to teach while shooting, you are sometimes able to find a photo assistant to help at no charge in exchange for learning and experience.


In addition, if you do not do your own retouching because you do not yet know how (in this case, check out my group, NYC Digital Photography Workshops for group and private workshops at for photo editing workshops), or you do not have the time, it’s also a good idea to locate a retoucher who can handle your project in the time period for which you need the photo shoot images back.


Choose a Location. Whether you are shooting in your home or commercial studio and/or on location, you will want to decide on location(s) for the photo shoot as this is information you will need to relay to your model, or the modeling agency to pass along to the model.

I often like to shoot in my own urban and industrial backyard.

Model: Daria Komarkova

Photo Courtesy of Yann Bizeul


I like to at least start in my home studio to shoot any images with any white or color seamless backdrops or any sets I want to build and then move outdoors or to another location whether it is in my immediate urban and industrial neighborhood or further out.


Set the Photo Shoot Date/Time. So now I’m almost ready to book a model for my TF shoot. Since I have access to agency models for portfolio building shoots, I want to have a date or two available where my preferred team and I are set to shoot. As mentioned in the step above, I then coordinate available date(s) with my team using my company’s G-Suite calendar.

I generally use my company’s Google calendar to note and remind for my appointments.


Develop a Model Spec List to Give to an Agency. If you are working for an agency, the next thing to do, since I have some potential concepts in mind, is to develop a spec list to give to the agency. Some general things on a spec list will include things like: age range, hair color and length, eye color, height, weight and/or body build and clothing sizes. You may be more specific if needed.

Just a few notes to relay to the modeling agency to described what I prefer for the idea I developed.


Get In Touch With the Agency to Provide Spec List and Select Model(s). I then call, or, if you have worked with the agency before – email the agency and pitch your ideas for the shoot and provide them with the specs you are looking for in a model for the images you envision.


Ask the Agency for Their Needs for the Shoot. In addition to providing what you need, it’s a good idea to ask the agency for their needs for promoting the model such as, do they need headshots, fashion or fitness-type images or maybe they need black and white vs. color images. Then make sure you fulfill their needs too during the shoot.


Coordinate Wardrobe/Shoes with the Model(s). Once you know who you’re client is, if you are providing the wardrobe, you will want to coordinate shoes for the model to bring to match your wardrobe ensembles for them. While I do keep a few pair of heels and booties in various colors and sizes, I cannot cover all colors and styles in all the different sizes.

Some of the shoes I keep in my Model Closet in my home studio.


If the model is providing the wardrobe, they will usually know the type of shoe to bring to the photo shoot to match the pieces they are bringing.


Buy and/or Create/Build Props for Sets. If you will be doing any work in the studio, you might have some ideas for a set that you will need to build. While you can often find some props or furniture for little to no cost through Craigslist, the want ads or maybe even a tag sale, you can also borrow these things from family and friends too. If I do not use those means to help build my sets, I typically go to eBay and I’m usually able to find exactly what I want whether it’s 2-inch thick boat rope for a nautical-like image or a black goth-type umbrella for a faux graveyard scene. I was once able to buy a 10-setting set of fine China from a lady on Craigslist for $15.

I used a faux wood photo carpet, a fur throw, my acoustic/electric guitar and

votive candles as props and bought pillow covers to create this set.

Model: Daria Komarkova


Adorama offers a wide variety of backdrops and faux floors similar to the wooden floor above. I also used one of my guitars and some votive candles as a props. I used eBay to buy a variety pillow covers for a bunch of throw pillows that have become handy for my shoots.


Think on Poses That Lend to the Wardrobe and Set. Before a photo shoot, I like to think on definite poses I would like to incorporate into a shoot and have a wide variety of reference from which to choose. Some folks like to sketch pose ideas and while I’m an artist too, with all the tasks involved in preparing a shoot, I always try to opt for the easiest choice. As I previously mentioned, I like to tear things that I like and want to inventory for future inspirational use such as wardrobe, a set idea, a mood, a lighting style, etc. out of fashion magazines. Additionally, I like to tear out images of poses that I may want to use in future photo shoots. In doing this, I end up with a very large catalog of these inspiration to work with in the future. From time to time, I do go through this catalog and purge things I no longer like to keep my catalog of inspiration always up to date.

Several posing books I also own and refer to before a shoot.


I also own several posing books (above) and have found them a nice resource to look through before a shoot to contemplate what might work with a certain wardrobe ensemble or a location I will be working with for that shoot.




Make Sure Wardrobe is Ironed and Ready. I cannot stress how important it is to make sure you iron the wardrobe if you have no one to do this for you. It is a huge pain to take wrinkles out of clothes in post-production.

Ironing the garment is extremely important as it can save you time and effort in post-production after the shoot.


Coordinate Jewelry & Accessories to Wardrobe. I like to put together at least a necklace and watch for every wardrobe ensemble, but oftentimes add things like bracelets, earrings, rings, purses, hats and/or scarves too.

Accessorizing prior to the shoot makes the shoot day a lot less stressful.


To make a portfolio appeal to a client selling a product like an accessory, I throw in a purse in at least one of the images or I dress up the model with jewelry and then for one or the other, make sure to pose the model to highlight the product, whether it’s the purse or jewelry.

I keep purses in various colors, styles and sizes.


Order Catering for Photo Shoot, if Desired. While professional models typically know to bring their own snacks and drinks, I generally provide coffee, tea, water bottles and things like fresh fruit and nut/trail mix packets and have these delivered to me the day before or the morning of the shoot.

I use Freshdirect to place orders for my catering delivery the morning of the photo shoot.


Clean Up Your Working Space. It’s a good idea to make sure your studio is clean prior to a photo shoot. Everything in my studio has a home. I tend to “reset” my studio after every photo shoot to have a fresh start for each shoot (kind of like a blank canvas…) Putting everything back where it belongs, even though I may be using it again the next day, prevents me from having to search for where I left something.


Order or Purchase Any Equipment or Supplies Needed. If you are renting equipment, 7-10 days before a shoot is a good time to get that order in to ensure a rental company, like Adorama Rentals, has the gear you need in stock for the date and time desired. Check how much seamless paper you have left, test your lights, check all of your batteries and by the way, how much gaffer tape do you have left? Refill and replace as needed.

Checking the batteries of the receivers on my monolights.




Send an Email Out to All Parties for Confirmation. I tend to send out a general  information a few days before the shoot but usually the day before. It includes an intro to everyone who will be at the photo shoot along with their headshots, when to arrive, what to expect, location and directions and what I will provide as far as snacks and drinks, if anything. I always ask each person to confirm they received the email, which serves as a confirmation that everyone is on the same page about the basics.


Pull Wardrobe, Accessories, etc. for Shoot Tomorrow. You may have many shoots throughout the week. I like to pull out everything I need for the next day’s shoot, the night before to double check that everything is paired, wrinkle-free and ready for the shoot the next day.


Do a Second Equipment Check. I was a girl scout in my early years and I was taught to always be prepared. While I know I checked everything earlier in the week, I like to at least check my lights and flash the night before to put my mind at ease or to know if I or my assistant need to make an early morning runner before the shoot to replace something. At this time, I also like to make sure all of my modifiers are where they are quickly and easily accessible.

I check my flash again to see if I need to recharge my Eneloop Rechargeable Batteries.


Pack Any Bags Necessary if Shooting on Location. If I know I am shooting on location for all or part of my shoot, I pack as much as I can the night before into gear bags, leaving out only what I need to use in the studio before moving away from the studio. When I only need a few lenses and adapters, I use my Kelly Moore Brownlee bag (guys, you’ll probably use a small backpack like the Case Logic SLRC-206). When I’m not sure what I’ll need because circumstances can change, I like to take a variety of lenses and adapters, etc., so I take my Ape Case ACPRO 1900 which holds a lot of gear and accessories, including my laptop for tethering!

My basic luggage for a location shoot.


You may need a lighting bag for a stand or two and a few monolights. For this I own a couple of bags like the Interfit Two-Head All-in-One Soft Carrying Bag which can also hold things like umbrellas and a small light stand or two. If you have any large or specialty modifiers, like a beauty dish, there are bags for these too.


These are all of my steps for working on a TF model’s portfolio photoshoot. You may or may not use some of these steps for various reasons or may have additional steps in your workflow. In the next article, I will run down my checklist for what I do on the day of the photo shoot. Until then…

Posted by Dawn Wayand in Workshop, 0 comments