Talk to Your Photographer About Concerns

To get the very best out of your shoot, talk in depth with the photographer.

Sit down with them either prior to the shoot or the day of, before shooting begins, and bring up any concerns. Tell them about any areas of your body you feel insecure about. Also inform them of any areas you have pain, stiffness, injuries, or difficulties. This will help them decide what poses will not only help you look great but help you feel physically comfortable. It will also help them coach you in which items of clothing you brought will look flattering and achieve the look you want.

Let the photographer know immediately if you have difficulty with any poses suggested.

We don’t want you in pain or injuring yourself anymore than you do. Some poses are difficult to get into and out of even in optimal fitness. Others are very tiring because a pose is held for a few seconds to get the best shot, whereas in real life, we are often moving around a lot more than that. What looks good in print and seems simple and clean in lines is often achieved with angles we don’t normally utilize in daily life. Let the photographer know if you need a break or to move a body part and rest for a moment.

Tell the photographer which you think are your best features.

Interestingly enough, we all have different views of beauty, and we all see the beauty in others in different ways. (Have you ever really not liked a part of your body, only to find out a partner finds it the most sexy, attractive feature you have?) We may see you in a very different way than you do.

If you help us highlight your favorite features, two things happen. First, your confidence and self-esteem soar throughout the shoot, because you know you will look your best. Second, a clever photographer can find ways to maximize the features you love about yourself, and use them to draw attention away from any areas you are less secure about. Combined, they can make some stellar images you fall in love with.

TELL THE PHOTOGRAPHER IMMEDIATELY ABOUT ANY DISCOMFORT YOU FEEL REGARDING ANY OF THE STAFF.

Do not hesitate to tell the photographer that someone is making you feel uncomfortable or harassed. There is no reason to feel that way under any circumstances. The last time you want to feel like that is when you are trying to look and feel your best for a photo shoot.

Personally, I have a zero tolerance policy for anyone I work with when it comes to racism, sexism, ageism, classism, ethnic slurs, sexual harassment, homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia, religious intolerance, disrespect to veterans or disabled individuals, or any other form of hatred or threats. Come to me immediately should any issue arise and I’ll handle it personally.

Tell the photographer what you do NOT want to do in a shoot.

This is very important. If you do not feel comfortable, you will not get the results you want. Nothing in the world can draw a great photo out of someone who’s uncomfortable. Discomfort (whether physical or emotional), stress, exhaustion, fear, or distrust all show in a person’s face. You can smile for all you are worth, but there will be a slight tightness around the eyes and the corners of your mouth that makes it look tense and fake. There also is often a tension that’s subliminally visible in a person’s cheeks, jawline, neck, and shoulders.

Telling the photographer if a pose is uncomfortable or a person is bothering you is only part of the key. Don’t ever let a photographer talk you into something you do not want to do. Don’t let someone insist you need to do nudes, semi-nudes, or implied nudes if you do not want to do them. Don’t let someone insist that you need to do lingerie or swimsuit pieces if you don’t feel comfortable.

If they suggest you act out of character and it feels unnatural to you, this will show in your body language and expression. If they suggest, for example, that you act “sexier” and you are by nature a very modest or conservative person, this not only shows in the images, it also is violating your rights and boundaries as a person. Don’t let anyone push you in a photo shoot to do anything at all you don’t want to do. It will not make you famous or popular, get you more work or get you more likes on your social media.

Someone pushing you around on a set is a bully, has abusive tendencies, and is showing signs of narcissism and toxicity. Leave. Find another photographer who respects you.

The key to good art is to be as authentically yourself as possible. You cannot create good images on either side of the lens without authenticity, integrity, and respect. There needs to be a mutual rapport and relationship of trust built.

Don’t ever let anyone violate that.

Baring It All

Nudes, nudes, nudes!

I’ve done a lot of fine art nudes as a model, and they are a category all in themselves. I will write more about them separately. They are among the most physically demanding work I’ve ever done, because you want clean lines, shapes, and forms in each image. You want them to look interesting and elegant, not like some creep snuck off with a camera and hid in your closet or like a cheap porn site.

Right now, I’m focusing only on preparing to for a shoot that calls for some level of nudity. No matter if it is partial, implied, or completely nude, there’s one thing you need to keep in mind.

NO CLOTHING LINES.

Nothing ruins a nude photo like clothing lines. The seams and folds of whatever you might be wearing that day leave red marks on your skin, even if they don’t hurt. You can most easily see this any day right after you take off socks or jeans. Lines mark where the elasticity of the socks kept them in place and other red lines show up where every seam of your pants laid against your body. Sometimes they show up from shirts too.

The worst perpetrators are bras, underwear, and corsets. If you are doing a lingerie or corset shoot the same day, DO THIS SHOOT LAST.

Red marks from clothing can take an hour to leave your skin. It can take longer for underwire bras or steel-boned corsets.

When going to a nude or semi-nude shoot (or really any part of your body that will be exposed skin), you want to wear loose, baggy clothing.

Typically, models that shoot this type of work professionally are an odd sight on the street on their way in. They have oversized baggy sweatshirts on and either oversized baggy sweat pants or lounge pants that are loose around the waistband. You don’t wear a bra or underwear under this, and if possible, no socks and slip-on shoes if you have a pair. Meanwhile, they might have flawless hair and makeup. It’s a jarring image.

This will minimize those clothing lines and make it possible to shoot almost as soon as you arrive. If you have a long drive or transit, you want to keep any seams that might fall on your arms, legs, or waist constantly moving to eliminate lines from forming. (It’s not a bad idea to have someone else drive. Often, if you’ve never met the photographer before, you’re bringing a friend or partner as a safety precaution anyway. It’s easier to let them drive.)

Bring a loose, soft robe.

A robe is a staple if you plan on doing this kind of modeling a lot. Not every photographer is comfortable with a naked person hanging out in their studio space. Some are, usually if they shoot nudes, boudoir, and glamour regularly.

Keep in mind, however, that almost every photographer has run into an uncomfortable situation where they’ve received unwanted sexual advances or had a model or client misconstrue the nature of a shoot or their relationship in some way. They are just as nervous about getting a bad/false reputation as a predator or threat as a new model or client is wary that they might be one if they weren’t researched thoroughly.

Also keep in mind there may be other models present, other clients in the studio, or other staff and hair and makeup artists that are NOT used to nudes and are not comfortable with the idea of naked people sitting around them for hours. Be respectful. They just want to do their job and go home for the day without trauma or the discomfort of potentially awkward situations.

When in doubt, bring a robe to sit in for that 30 minutes to an hour of waiting around for lines to disappear.

Body Hair Awareness

Another commonly overlooked item: body hair.

I am not here to preach or judge whether a person should or shouldn’t have any. In fact, I’m pretty body hair positive myself. However, depending on who you are shooting with, for, where, and maybe why, that may be different for you. It’s best to find out what is expected.

Usually for any shoot, when it comes to eyebrows of any gender, you want to remember they frame your eyes and mark your expression. They create an important dimension to your face and its readability. If you don’t want to be read at all, remove them entirely. Paint or draw them on if you want as necessary. (My great aunt did her whole life.) Use a pencil to thicken them if you desire. Pluck them if you want.

One of the tricks to looking good in a portrait is to neaten them by plucking the ones that appear to be stray and trimming any hairs that are particularly long. This helps you look neatly groomed, and if there’s a makeup artist present, makes their job a little easier.

I prefer waxing mine if I can because it catches all the baby fine hairs that are easy to miss or very hard to pluck, and the discomfort is over fast and all at once. Typically for me, it makes a neater appearance than if I attempt to do it with tweezers, and the effects last longer.

For individuals with facial hair: trim or shave. If you normally shave any portion of your face, make sure you do so before a shoot. Five o’clock shadows are difficult to deal with in editing if a person wants to appear clean shaven. If you normally have any length of facial hair (from a daily stubble appearance you prefer or a full beard) take the time to trim it the night before or morning of. It makes you look well-groomed, polished, well-kempt, and sharper.

Also, little stray bits that might’ve been sticking up at a funny angle before the trim as they grew won’t reflect lights back at the camera in a funny angle. (Sometimes stray hairs in a beard or mustache have a similar effect as glitter makeup, reflecting light in a bright glary way.)

If you are a person that normally shaves or waxes their legs, you also want to do that before the shoot. Leg stubble is an unexpected sight in print. It draws the eye away from everything else, often because the viewer is trying to figure out what it is. Because legs are not small body parts (like say a chin or upper lip), they take forever to edit. Also, if the retoucher is not very precise or experienced, legs can end up looking like a smeary mess.  Waxing legs will give a smooth, stubble-less effect for much longer.

If you prefer shaving, make sure you do some research on doing it properly to avoid razor bumps or cuts. Razor bumps can be just as difficult to deal with in editing as shaving stubble. I thought (like I’m sure most of us do) for years: apply cream, scrape off. No.

Here are some tips that changed my shoots (and sensitive skin’s irritation) forever:

  • exfoliate the entire area pre-shaving
  • change razors often because of rusting and bacteria
  • use high quality sensitive skin gel
  • shave WITH THE GRAIN, as in, the direction the hairs go, as many times as needed
  • ONLY shave against the grain the hairs grow in ONCE per shave, and only if really necessary for a close shave
  • exfoliate AGAIN, after the shave to keep the pores clean of debris
  • PAT dry, do not rub
  • apply Bikini Zone after shave gel if it’s the genital area
  • apply a lotion or moisturizer
  • DO NOT SHAVE AT ALL if it’s not necessary: let your skin repair itself and don’t unnecessarily irritate it.

When it comes to armpit or pubic hair… as far as I’m concerned, personally, that’s your call. Trim it if you have it, it looks nicer in a photo. Shave it if that’s your thing.

However, do be prepared, depending on your gender expression and identity, that at this time of writing, it’s still a very biased thing that individuals the reader views as “female” are expected to have shaved legs and armpits, and those viewed as “male” to have body hair unless they are Olympic swimmers or divers. This is still a pretty hard line to try to cross if you’re looking to get into major publications as a professional model. I don’t personally agree with it, but feel it would be negligent to not mention it.

When it comes to pubic hair in nudes, semi-nudes, implied nudes, and glamour, I personally think it ought to be the model or subject’s choice, as well, that’s pretty personal and private. They are also the one that has to live with any discomfort as it grows back. However, if you’re trying to get published, again, pay attention to what that particular publication wants. If it is a shoot for personal use or fine art, that, I feel, should remain the individual’s choice. But again, trim and make it look nice. It’s the little details that go a long way.

Also, ASK THE PHOTOGRAPHER in advance if you are interested in a nude, semi-nude, or implied nude shoot of any kind. Don’t just show up and take off your clothes. Not all photographers are comfortable shooting such material.

Ready for Your Close-Up?

No glitter or shimmer powder. This is the first sin!

Either will create an unattractive reflection at odd angles. It makes lighting difficult to place and editing a pain in the butt. Just don’t do it. It may look gorgeous in the mirror when you put it on, but you are looking at it from a very specific angle, straight on, and often with weak daylight through a window behind you (where your face is actually in shadow) or with a light directly overhead or in front of you above the mirror. None of these options shows you how the light is bouncing wildly off the curves and angles of your face.

Whether outdoors in sunlight or under professional studio lights, more likely than not, you will be posing in positions to try to flatter your facial features and body as much as possible. These are never straight on. They are almost always at variations of ¾ angles to full profile shots. Your head is often angled up or down in ways you do not normally hold it to put on makeup. All these factors mean that the light is bouncing off your face in a VERY different manner than you saw in the bathroom. Usually straight at the camera.

You might think, “Oh, but we can work with that, it looks so pretty!”

Not really. It makes it look like a person is covered in uneven, splotchy, irregularly sized moles except they’re white or purple or bright pink. Sometimes it looks like the worst case of dandruff and dry skin you’ve ever seen. And usually, the full extent of this is not seen until the images are up on a big screen ready for editing. Because of the nature of the thousands of tiny reflections in every which way, it may be more apparent in certain head angles than others, or the glittery flecks may be so tiny that  we can’t see it on the preview on the back of the camera if we don’t have a capture station with a full size monitor attached.

It distracts from the eyes and the lips, which are where a viewer’s eyes naturally go. Anything that draws a viewer’s eye away from the eyes and lips makes them only able to think, “what the -EFF-  is THAT on their face?” and nothing else. And it’s very time consuming to edit all the little flecks out.

Don’t do it.

No extreme makeup unless requested. This is the second sin!

First, the best, classic, endure-the-test-of-time portraits have minimal classic makeup that often only enhances a person’s features. (In all the years I’ve modeled, I’ve done my makeup exactly two different ways. The change was slightly darker eye shadow and and slightly redder lipstick to fit a different style. That’s it.)

Second, certain colors do not look well with all skin or eye tones in photographs. Certain shades make teeth look yellow. (I found that out pretty early myself, to my own horror, when I got some images back when I was about 18 and broke this rule.) The lighting at the shoot location may not behave the way the lighting did in the room you got ready in with the mirror. It may be warmer or cooler, which can change and distort how the extreme makeup shows up in the final image. The backdrop or plants or buildings in the location may clash. The wardrobe may clash.

Basic rule: don’t do extreme makeup without permission.

THAT SAID.

I’m a HUGE FAN of incredible makeup artistry. It’s a gift I don’t have and I adore what real artists can do. But there are certain things that need to be prepped with the entire shoot. This kind of imagery works best with headshots that are intended to focus on the makeup itself, not the person wearing it, and nothing else in the frame. Everything in the shot is composed and chosen to enhance the artistry itself, not detract from it.

For me, personally, I love to work on these kinds of projects. But when the project is properly designed to show off the work and the talent–not as a surprise in the middle of say, a boudoir or classic portrait shoot.

In short, don’t surprise me. Send me your sample images  instead, and I’ll be ecstatic to work with you!

IF THERE IS A MAKEUP ARTIST PRESENT: DO WHAT THEY TELL YOU.

If they tell you to come ready with foundation and cover up finished yourself, do that. If you are trusted to do your own makeup to save time and have been asked to do it, don’t show up without any on and expect them to squeeze you in. If they tell you to come bare faced, THEY MEAN BARE. FACE. NO MAKEUP. NAKED ON YOUR FACE. Trust me, they’ll know, and make you wash it off anyway. Also, sometimes they do and sometimes they don’t want moisturizer on your face that morning. Ask for instructions if none were given.

Please keep in mind that they have to be licensed in most states (including where I work) and are required to keep their equipment clean and everything up to proper hygiene standards. They would go out of business and lose their licensing if not face legal ramifications if they unknowingly gave an entire cast pink eye, or spread cold sores to everyone by not following protocol. Also, you might end up with these conditions or passing this conditions if you don’t know what you are doing.

Help the makeup artists out. Do what they tell you, and they’ll make you look fierce or glamourous or sexy as called for.

Nails! Trim your nails. Don’t bite them. Keep your hands hydrated with hand lotion for at least a week before a shoot. They are one of the most overlooked details that can get missed even on the set that day, and can really break what should’ve been a great image. Some models I’ve known have gotten manicures (and pedicures if barefoot or in open-toed shoes) just before a shoot. Not everybody needs to do that. But at least trim, file, and clean your nails to make them look clean and healthy.

FOR MALE-IDENTIFYING INDIVIDUALS: Guess what? Male models and actors wear makeup. Surprise, if you didn’t already know this!

It’s not often visible, as skin and lip shades are intentionally matched as close as possible. Men (and male-identifying individuals) tend to have foundation applied to their faces to even out skin tones, reduce any shine, and they may have barely tinted or clear lip gloss or balm applied to their lips. Depending on the makeup artist and the look they are going for, there may be other items to enhance how you look, but it will not look like how a person identifying as a woman applies makeup. It’s so subtle you can’t see it standing in front of someone. So don’t be surprised that you are asked to take a turn in the makeup artist’s chair yourself. They may also trim or neaten up your facial hair if you haven’t done so yourself–including eyebrows.

You’re Not Really Going to Wear That, Are You?

The best advice I have for choosing clothes for a shoot in which you can wear whatever you want is this: dress for an interview or dress for a date.

You want to look and feel your best. Picking clothing that makes you feel empowered, strong, or sexy will enhance your confidence that day, and that will shine through in every image.

Check your clothes for pilling (those little fuzz balls that form on fabric as items age). They are easy to overlook, and are a pain in the butt to eliminate, especially in a large number of images where a person is wearing the same thing. Check your clothes for holes. If they didn’t come from the manufacturer that way, and it wasn’t a DIY fashion statement… why do you want to be immortalized in this? Pick a different outfit.

Check for fading. Not much can be done about faded clothing, and it doesn’t reflect the person wearing it well in an image.

Also, when it comes to colors, don’t wear things that clash or are extremely trendy (Do you really want a photo that proves you followed the clear visor and neon color fashion statements of the 1980s? Or some of the least flattering haircuts of the 1970s or 1990s?) Clashing colors and patterns often don’t photograph well. However, if you are really attached to certain items or styles and think they really represent you, talk to the photographer, and they will do their best to work with you to make a specific outfit or style work.

Typically, if you want a timeless, classic portrait, go with a white, blue, or black shirt that is simple, and either dark slacks or jeans. Sequins and glitter require special lighting and techniques and (depending on the photographer’s skills) may not turn out at all. Certain vibrant color choices can compete with attention to your face. Others can be unflattering for certain skin types. Pastels can give a washed out look to certain skin tones.

Know what looks good on you.

Check for stains. This includes armpits on very light materials and SHOES. Tattered, beat up, dirty sneakers paired with an otherwise attractive outfit can easily make any great photo a disaster. Toss them in the washer if they’re your favorites before you bring them with.

No logos. First, you shouldn’t take professional photos with a logo on anything unless you are getting paid to represent that brand. Second, logos age badly. (How many times have certain cola products updated their designs over the years?) Unless you are getting photographed in a uniform with a brand symbol on it, avoid it.

We all love our fur babies! And we often forget that when they jump on us for love and attention, they leave their mark. It’s the most overlooked thing before a shoot. Check your clothes for pet fur and dander before a shoot–especially if it is going to really stand out on what you’re wearing. (Like black fur on white clothes or white fur on anything).

I usually freshly clean clothes for shoots and bag them or otherwise store them immediately, and carry them zipped up to a shoot if I’m modeling. It makes it easier to quickly run one of those pet rollers over my clothes on location and get the best images.

Sometimes photographers will request specific clothing for a shoot or you may be modeling clothing for a brand or designer. In that case, your choices will be limited by color, type, and possibly fabric. If in doubt at all, contact the photographer on what to bring. (Even if you are modeling clothes, you will often be expected to supply shoes, accessories, and for example, pants if it’s only a shirt you’re modeling. It depends on each assignment.)

It’s not unusual for freelance models to bring entire suitcases to a shoot. They won’t wear all the pieces. It’s to give the photographer and wardrobe and hair and makeup team as many options as possible. I always sent photos of the clothing I owned that might work for a concept if the shoot was very specific to save time and headaches.

(You’d be surprised how many times what one person means by “short white  skirt” or “black pants” is NOT at all what you thought they meant. It’s a great idea to always have a spare packed–that way when you find out what you interpreted as black dress slacks was really black leggings you can still go forward with the shoot.)

If you are able to wear anything you want, bring several options. A good photographer will coach you in what will and won’t be photogenic and why. (Some outfits I loved personally that got me tons of compliments in person would never photograph well for various reasons. Don’t take it personally. They want you to be happy with the images you get.) Discuss the pieces with the photographer when you arrive and between the two of you (and any other assembled crew) you will be able to make a great decision together.

Two things have  always horrified me in with other models.

First,  IF YOU ARE ASKED TO BRING AN ITEM, BRING THAT ITEM.

You show up without the black pumps they asked you to bring? You might not be shooting. You may be asked to go home or you may watch your spot go to someone else who came prepared. (This is not unusual, especially with non-agency represented models. So many freelancers or new models don’t show up or show up unprepared that it’s standard to book 3 to 4 models more than you needed for a project.)

Second, DO NOT BRING THINGS YOU WERE NOT ASKED TO BRING.

Photographers are busy and have deadlines and often travel for their work. If you have ideas for another shoot, it’s fine to share them and bring them up, but don’t show up with a second wardrobe and expect to demand a second entire shoot right after the first. Most likely, the photographer either already has another client waiting at another location or needs to get to the studio to edit to make a deadline. Also, it’s often enough to lug around the shoes, clothes, and makeup and hair items (if you’re taking care of your own). It’s not worth the stress, hassle, physical labor, possible loss or theft of items, or other headaches just to hope you can sneak in more. You’ll be more respected if you discuss the ideas in advance.

A few of the most awkward memories I have are of people showing up with lingerie or suddenly insisting on shooting nudes with no advance warning. First, not all photographers are comfortable shooting either, and it doesn’t matter what gender they identify as or what their sexuality is. It feels weird if it’s sprung on you without warning or prior discussion. In fact, it feels like an unwanted sexual advance, even if it wasn’t intended to be one. Second, it really puts everyone else around on edge who isn’t prepared for that or might not want to be present for something like that. Definitely discuss such ideas in advance.

While we are discussing not bringing things you were not asked to bring: THIS INCLUDES PEOPLE.

One that shouldn’t have to be mentioned in that last category, but does come up, is that while it IS OKAY and often EXPECTED in certain circumstances for a female model to bring a friend or her partner for safety (this is a very common practice in nude and lingerie modeling to ensure against predators)… don’t promise people shoots and bring them with as models without discussing it first.

A friend or partner coming with for safety needs to be able to stay out of the shoot and not interrupt, and no one should be expecting to model who was not cast by and contacted by the photographer. There is often a time limit involved for every shoot, and that person may not have experience or fit what the photographer needs that day. Kindly pass on their information to the photographer instead to be considered for future shoots.

Also, shoot spaces, whether on location or in a studio space, tend to be very tight once you consider all the equipment and people already involved, and the fact that the photographer needs to be able to get into and around the entire space. There often isn’t room for one more person.

Depending on the level of photographer and the caliber of their equipment, they also may not take kindly to the possibility that you have endangered their livelihood to property damage or theft.

Be wise and ask before inviting your friend who’s really interested and wants to see how it all works. There will be opportunities for them, but make sure it’s when they can be accomodated.

Hair Check

Dandruff. It happens to us all. Sometimes we don’t notice it. Sometimes the photographer doesn’t notice it. Until we get the prints. Or begin editing. Then we suddenly discover little white snowflakes flecking everywhere!

I use a clarifying shampoo once a week. If I see signs of dandruff, I usually treat it twice a week as instructed on the treatment shampoo bottle for a week or two prior to minimize it. It seems to work like a charm. Also, for about a month before a shoot (if I’m not modeling regularly myself), I do a coconut oil treatment once a week to maximize hair health.

I work about a dime to nickel sized amount into my hair, let it sit for 20 to 30 minutes, then rinse, shampoo, and condition. Because I have curly hair, I try to do it on a Friday night when I’m not going anywhere, and let it recover for a day or two so it doesn’t look greasy or weighted down. (But everyone is different. Some people don’t have this happen. Test your hair type on a weekend you don’t have plans.)

Deep conditioning and argan oil are also your friends. Use hairspray and anti-frizz control (if your hair type needs it), especially if you are shooting outside. They help minimize flyaways.

One thing that gets overlooked more often than you’d think: split ends. Get your hair trimmed about a week or two before a shoot. It helps make your hair look healthy and full. Also, haircuts tend to make us all feel more attractive and confident, and the compliments you get boost your self esteem further. You will end up going into your shoot feeling great about doing it.

IF THERE IS A HAIR STYLIST: FOLLOW THEIR INSTRUCTIONS. If they do not want you to put product in your hair, do not put product in you hair. NOTHING. If they do not want you to wash your hair the morning of, DO NOT WASH YOUR HAIR THAT MORNING. Don’t be surprised if you show up thinking you were helping, and they get angry or force you to wash your hair and dry it and start over. And don’t be surprised that everyone else present will be very upset with you for making the entire production day run late. If you are a model, you may not be asked to work with that studio again, especially if it is a repeat offense. Let the stylists do their job. They are going to make you look amazing. Don’t get in their way.

FOR MODELS: Don’t make a hairstyle or color change after you are hired. Especially a drastic one. If you are about to make a major hair color or cut change, inform the photographer right away. For example, if you’re really into vivid wild hair colors, that’s awesome. But if you get hired and they are expecting you to have fire engine red hair, and have coordinated the location, wardrobe, makeup, and any props to all work with this, and you show up with lime green hair with pink stripes, most likely absolutely nothing on the set (or for the concept for that matter) will end up working. You’ll go home without a shoot, and probably never be asked back. Whether they decide to work with you again in the future or not, either way, the entire concept team has to start over from scratch.

That Glowing Skin

Hand in hand with internal hydration: external hydration. Do NOT skip your skin care routine. Cleanse and moisturize (as needed for your skin type) DAILY for at least a week prior to your shoot.

Any good makeup artist will tell you that they can do anything… IF they have a smooth blank canvas. That what they need more than anything else is healthy happy skin for a base to work from.

I have somewhat dry skin, and depending on the season, I often had to lotion and moisturize any skin that would be visible at least twice a day to really rock a photo session. I’m going to be honest with you as both a model that has dry skin and a photo editor: it is quite time consuming to correct dry skin and then color correct every little off-color pale or reddish patch to get an even skin tone. It’s much easier to just take care of it yourself and be proactive as much as you can.

If the photo retoucher charges by the hour (and a lot of them do), it can result in your final price going up, depending on the studio and how they build their packages. It can also mean that it was so much trouble a studio never hires you again as a model, because this is really basic self-care common sense.

(Also, do it for yourself. Hydrated skin feels silky and comfortable, less tight, and once you have experienced healthy skin, you don’t want to go back to putting up with dryness at all! Another tip, for those conscious of signs of age: DRY skin causes wrinkles. Well-hydrated skin tends to withstand showing signs of age. It is one of my own personal secrets.)

Before anyone gets self conscious about skin breakouts: every model has them. EVERY. MODEL. In fact, anyone who works in the industry will flat out tell you that models tend to have terrible skin. We wear a lot of thick heavy makeup, every day. We may do our best to cleanse as we ought to, but that’s a lot of pore-clogging particles, dirt, oils, grease, and debris (depending on the manufacturer as well as the location you shot in).

We admittedly can have 18 hour days. We maybe had to be up at 2am to be on time for a sunrise shoot somewhere, or got home well after midnight from a long drive back from a location shot in the evening. We all tend to eat like crap if we don’t plan meals and snacks in advance because we pretty much live in our cars or on the road. LIFE HAPPENS. (Don’t believe me? Look up makeup free photos of famous supermodels who have come out about this in recent years with bare face campaigns.)

Here’s the thing: acne and redness correction common with your average breakout is often very easy to correct between the magic of the makeup artist and the photo retoucher. Reds can be minimized. Bluish or greenish under eye tints can be minimized. It can be worked with (and is, all the way up to runway and high fashion print models who are household names).

A decent photographer will automatically touch these areas up for you without being asked to. We know that no one wants that to be in a photo we want to keep forever or give to someone we care about–or share on social media!

However, we may NOT be aware that you want scars removed. That is a pretty personal decision. Some people don’t think they look the same without them. Some people don’t want evidence of them.

Some photographers will not alter how you look because they feel it is unethical or against their integrity. Ask them, and talk to them about it if it’s a serious issue with self-confidence.

Most often, the person who gets the most upset (and in our faces as photographers) about removing scars or wrinkles or other distinguishing marks isn’t the portrait client or model–it’s their spouse, partner, or family and loved ones. Talk to them too when considering such a request. You may be surprised to find that it’s one of the features they find most attractive and defining about you.

Let the photographer (and makeup artist if there is one present) know immediately if you have bruises or scratches to cover up or edit out and where they are. It’s easier to be proactive about such things than suddenly discover them late in the editing process and have to possibly go back and re-edit an entire batch of photos. It’s especially frustrating it if was something simple that could have been covered up with makeup affect or a change of clothing or the angle of the camera.

A lot of the time scratches come from pets or hiking outdoors. Bruises can come from thwacking an elbow or knee against something or falling down on ice. I’ve certainly had all those happen the night before a shoot. Marks from hickeys or rough sex the night before also have a tendency to get overlooked before the images are already in production and can often be minimized before the shoot begins. Curling iron burns are also a pretty common thing that can be worked with if known about in advance.

Top Two Tips I Wish Anyone Had Told Me Immediately to Look Your Best

Drink plenty of water. I cannot stress this enough. A hydrated body contributes to great looking skin and hair. Planning on a boudoir shoot? Your first modeling portfolio experience? Your first event or paid shoot?

START DRINKING ENOUGH WATER AT LEAST ONE MONTH IN ADVANCE. It is the NUMBER ONE TIP I wish anyone had told me before I was 25.

HYDRATE.

The number two tip I wish anyone had told me before I was 25 was: good nutrition and exercise. It matters.

FIT bodies are what we see in magazines, not diet-thin ones, not starved-to-death ones. There’s a difference, and no one talks about it. (Mostly, I think, because it’s harder to capitalize on exercise and easy to sell fad diets and the promise of quick fixes.)

I’m not saying everyone needs to look like an Olympic athlete. I celebrate and worship bodies of all shapes and sizes and find them all beautiful. I happen to think curvy women are very sexy indeed and am often envious of their shape.

What I specifically mean is: when I eat well, my hair shines, my eyes are bright, my skin glows,  and my nails are strong and look great. I’m able to hold poses with ease. I have excellent stance. I look great. I feel great. I broke out less. I felt more confident because of it. And when you feel confident and believe you look great, it’s ridiculously easier to nail a shot every time.

When I exercise, I have more energy and feel more alert. I have more endorphins making me feel good. I often have a better body image, no matter what size I am at if I’m exercising in a way I find fun. These things have an impact on not only your short and long term health. Your posture improves. So does your stamina, strength, and flexibility.

It may not be obvious to someone who does not model regularly, but these are very important factors in getting a stellar shot. The fact that you feel vibrant, full of energy and vigor, strong and fit, and healthy? That too, radiates in a photograph, making you glow with health and attractiveness.

(There’s a joke in the modeling world that if neither the model nor the photographer feels like they spent the day doing serious yoga and didn’t get into at least one position they feared they’d need help getting out of–you probably need to reshoot the entire set, because it’s going to be crap. In this sense, beauty is pain.)

While portraits are typically not nearly as physical as professional modeling, being able to hold a pose for an extended time can be tiring. So can sitting up or standing up straight or tilting your head a way you aren’t used to. Fitness and posture go a long way in making the process easier and physically more comfortable for you, whether it’s a headshot or a set for a portfolio.

Day-Of Tips

Arrive early. Always, always, always arrive early if possible.

If not, arrive on time. Things go wrong, things need to be reworked. Other people run late. Bring coffee and a big bottle of water, and arrive early any time you can. (Also, the more responsible and reliable you are, the more you’ll get called back and the more you’ll get booked, the more you’ll get great recommendations to other photographers, and the bigger the possibility you’ll be called to fill in or asked to stay in the event another model doesn’t show.)

Text, call, or email before you are leaving (especially if you are travelling a great distance) so that the photographer knows you will be on time (or how late to expect you if something came up), and can plan accordingly. This is especially important if there are other models present to accomodate or when a hair and makeup team needs a schedule of who to get ready in what order. If multiple models or portraits are getting shot in one day, this also takes into account what order the shoot goes in, and if there are pair or group shots, who is and isn’t included, and when those can be completed in the day’s schedule.

STRETCH. It doesn’t matter if you do it at the shoot site or at home if you live close by. I can’t stress this one enough. STRETCH. You are going to be twisting, turning, and holding poses for an hour or more that your body isn’t used to doing. No one will think you look silly or weird. Anyone who knows what great portraits take understand it  takes a surprisingly physical toll on the body. I often feel like I did yoga all day long, and on day-long shoots as a model, felt like I could justify skipping all the rest of the week’s exercise (I didn’t, but it felt like I could, considering how achy I was by the next morning).

Bring a snack and something to drink.

Also, make sure you have printed or handwritten directions and the photographer’s contact information. It’s embarrassing how many times unexpected construction will make you late or how often your GPS will not take you to the right location.

The Key to Sparkling Eyes is Sleep

Your personal health is honestly the biggest key in a great photo session. Get plenty of rest the night before–preferably a full night’s sleep. If possible, you should try to get 7 to 8 hours of sleep not only that night, but EVERY NIGHT for at least a week before the session.

Puffy eyes from lack of sleep can be corrected with ice packs before makeup application, and can be further hidden by a great makeup artist and photo editing team–but do you really want to have puffy red eyes in the even your team doesn’t have at least one of each who are extremely gifted?

Also, tired eyes look dull, glassy, and a bit dead in print. There’s no vibrancy and life, and if you are tired, it tends to show in how you hold yourself and right down to a slight limp look in your features.

Do yourself a favor. Get plenty of rest. I can’t count the number of shoots when I first began that would look ten times better if I had not been so stressed and exhausted.