While many might think that models just wake up photoshoot ready, there is actually a lot of prep work that goes into it that starts long before the photoshoot day arrives.
Because you are constantly on-call and never exactly sure when a booking is going to come through, it’s important to establish a general go-to “photoshoot routine” to pair with the things you’re already always doing. That way when you get that confirmed booking, you know exactly what you need to do to get ready.
Below are some tips every model should know so you can show up on set ready to work. How much time you have to prepare will vary, so adjust accordingly!
Week of the shoot (if you’re lucky enough to have this much advance notice!)
Study the Call Sheet: The ‘call sheet’ is the industry term for the email that provides you with all the essential details you need to know about the shoot, such as location, timeframe, team members (client, photographer, art director, wardrobe stylist, hair and makeup artists, etc.), and what (if anything) you need to bring to the shoot.
It’s also good to do a little research before the shoot. If you have not worked with this client or photographer before, take the time to look at their previous work and check out what vibe the client likes to have in their photos. This will help you put faces to names and get an idea of what is expected of you.
Mani/Pedi: Getting your nails done the week of a shoot is always a good idea. Unless otherwise specified in the Call Sheet, always use neutral or clear polish on both fingers and toes so you will match with whatever wardrobe they may dress you in.
Hair removal: make sure to fully wax/shave your legs & underarms. If you are wearing swimwear or lingerie, don’t forget to address the bikini line (sometimes a good idea to do it anyway, you won't always know ahead of time what you’ll be wearing). If you prefer waxing over shaving, do it at least two days before in case of skin irritation.
If Requested, Get a Spray Tan: Do not get a spray tan (especially a dark one) if the client has not requested it. If they do ask you to get one, make sure to get it a few days before the shoot, so there is no risk of the tan transferring onto the clothing.
Eat Clean: While a well-balanced diet is standard practice year-round, it’s best to be particularly good the week of the shoot. This DOES NOT mean starving yourself or crash dieting, but instead avoiding foods you know will make you feel bloated or sluggish. For me, it’s diary, so the week of a big shoot, I’ll avoid things with dairy in it, so I know I won’t look puffy or have any stomach troubles the day of the shoot.
Stay Hydrated: Part of a healthy diet includes staying hydrated. Increasing your fluid intake will make your skin look better, and drinking water will also help keep your energy levels up. Being hydrated before getting on set is critical in preventing dizziness and even fainting caused by dehydration.
Cut Alcohol: A definite way to ensure you’re not looking puffy or tired on the day of the shoot is to cut alcohol. Your body will thank you for it!
Maintain Workouts: Make sure to keep up your usual workouts the week of the shoot. It’ll help keep your energy & confidence levels up when it’s time to get in front of the camera.
Check-in: It’s always a good idea to check in with your agent or point of contact for the shoot to ensure everything is still as planned. There’s nothing worse than showing up on set only to find out the time or location has changed or there is something added to what you needed to bring the day of the shoot. Communication is key!
Night Before Shoot
Review the Call Sheet: Make sure you know exactly where you’re going and when you need to be there. Plan your route and allow enough time in case you hit traffic or unexpected road closures.
Pack Your Model Bag: Maintaining an organized and ever-ready modeling bag is a must for every model. Even if the job says you only need to bring nude underwear, it’s always best to be the model that comes prepared rather than hoping everyone else has it covered. Always make sure you have everything that is listed on the call sheet.
Also, make sure to pack plenty of water and something to eat. Even if the shoot is only supposed to be a few hours, it’s not unusual to go over the allotted time, so it’s always good to have some easy-to-eat snacks in your bag. If it’s an all-day shoot, the client should provide lunch, but this is never a guarantee. And while free food on set may sound fantastic, it may not be food that agrees with your body. If you know your stomach can be fussy or you have specific dietary requirements, it’s safer to pack your own food.
Wash Your Hair: It’s usually best to do this the day before the shoot, so your hair isn’t too clean but also doesn’t have product build-up in it. After washing, don’t add product or style it. Let it be natural unless instructed otherwise.
Check Nails: If you didn’t get a mani/pedi earlier in the week, remove any nail polish from your fingers and toes and put on a fresh nude or clear coat. If the client wants you to have your nails painted anything other than nude, they will usually provide the color on the day of the shoot or let you know in advance to paint your nails.
Pamper Your Skin: Thoroughly cleanse, exfoliate, tone, and moisturize your entire body. Soft, healthy, and moisturized skin will make you glow on camera. I also suggest doing an under-eye mask for extra hydration in that area to help you appear more awake.
**The night before a shoot is not the time to try out a new skincare product! The 'miracle' mask you picked up at Sephora the day before may sound amazing, but unless you've used it before, you have no idea how your skin may react. Please don’t risk it, and stick to your usual routine!
Get Some Rest: The night before a shoot is not the time to stay out late with friends. Even if your call-time is later in the day, it will show on your face if you’re tired or spent the night partying. Let it be a reason to head to bed early so you can show up energized and ready to work!
Morning/Day of Shoot
Be On Time (or even better…early!): There is nothing more unprofessional than showing up to set late. When the shoot is running at the cost of hundreds to thousands of dollars per hour, it is critical that you arrive on time and ready to get to work. Always know exactly where you’re going and leave your house earlier than you need to avoid any unforeseen incidents on the way.
Show Up Natural: Unless you have been instructed to do your own makeup or to arrive with your base foundation on, always arrive with nothing but moisturizer on your face. Bonus if you have time in the morning to do a quick face mask to help give your skin some extra glow.
The same goes for your hair. Unless you've received instruction on how to style your hair before arrival, leaving your hair natural with no products in it is best.
Get Dressed: One way to look incredibly unprofessional is to show up on set looking like you just rolled out of bed. The call time may be early, but you still want to show up looking like a professional model.
Be sure to wear loose clothing that isn’t going to leave lines on your skin and is easy to remove without messing up your hair and makeup. Avoid wearing a bra if you can to prevent strap marks on your skin, as well as socks and hair bands on writs.
Also, unless the client specifies otherwise, it’s always the safest bet to wear nude undergarments (make sure they are seamless, so they don't create lines under your clothing). Don’t be surprised if you are asked to remove your bra or panties to avoid lines.
Be Present: Don't have your phone out the entire time you’re on set. Be present and available for whatever direction is given to you. Also, take advantage of this one-on-one time with the crew to network. Photoshoots are always good for exposure and getting to know people in the industry. Make it a point to network with everyone from the hair stylists and makeup artists to the stylists and production crew. You never know who somebody may be able to connect you to or what friendships you will make.
Be sure to listen to the people in charge. They are there to ensure everything runs smoothly and have already logged many hours before your arrival. Pay attention to direction, stay focused, and remember you’re there to work.
Enjoy Yourself: Photoshoots are a lot of fun, especially if you’re working with a great creative team! Enjoy yourself and the people around you while still getting the job done. If you’re a pleasure to have on set, the likelihood of being booked again is much higher.
Things you should be consistently doing as a model:
Get Lots of Sleep: This is obviously easier said than done, and some weeks will be better than others. We all know that a lack of sleep is tough on the body, and if you’re consistently skimping on your rest, it eventually takes a toll on your health and appearance. You can usually tell by looking at someone if they’re sleep-deprived, so you must always try to log as much sleep as possible, so you look & feel your best.
Maintain a Healthy Diet: A well-rounded diet as a lifestyle is a must for working models. Always making sure you’re fueling your body with foods that make you feel good makes a huge difference in how you look on camera. It also helps you avoid feeling the need to do any crazy “crash” diets before a shoot (which you shouldn’t be doing anyway!).
Workout: This isn’t a quick pop in to the gym to jog on the treadmill for an hour once a week or so routine; this is a lifestyle of consistent workout sessions to be in a constant state of fitness. Whether you’re a size 2 or a size 16, being fit and healthy for your body type is key to looking and feeling great on camera. If you’re consistent on your workouts, you’ll never have to worry about not being camera ready when you book a last-minute shoot.
Take Care of Your Skin & Nails: This goes along with the above self-care tips. The healthier your skin is, the easier it is for makeup artists to do their job, the better you’ll look on camera, and the less a photographer will have to do in post-shoot editing. Everyone’s skin is different, so find a routine that works for you and that you can be consistent with so your skin is always ready.
You also want to make sure your nails are always on-point and healthy. Avoid using bright colors or intricate designs and opt for natural colors instead. While bright nails are a fun way to express yourself, you will have to remove them before a shoot, and if it’s something booked last minute, your nails may be damaged from a quick removal.
Practice Your Poses: The last thing you want to do is show up on set and be stiff in front of the camera. Take the time to sit in front of a mirror and practice facial expressions and body poses so that when you book a job, you can easily give the client a variety of looks. The last thing a photographer will want to do is direct the model on every pose. Not only does this take a lot of extra time (which often means more money), it can cause the client not to want to book you again.