Today I thought I might share with you my checklist for photo shoot preparations, including what to bring. Every model should have a model bag that holds the various odds and ends needed on any given photo shoot or runway show. The contents of your bag may change depending on the job, your experience, and so on. I’ll go over the basics, and you can add on from there. I’ll also share with you how I prepare for photo shoots with my pre-shoot schedule.
First, lets touch on the importance of being prepared. I have heard some pretty interesting stories from photographers about models who have shown up late (really late), with unshaven legs and/or underarms, unkempt finger and toenails, soiled or wrinkled wardrobe, and so on. No matter how much or how little actual experience a model may have, showing up prompt and prepared is the mark of a true professional. The opposite is, well, exactly that. In a sea of beautiful faces, a professional attitude and a winning personality will set you apart and keep the jobs rolling in.
The Model Bag
The model bag is a model’s personal bag of tricks. It holds everything one could possibly need during a shoot or show. Even if hair, makeup, and wardrobe are being provided, there are things specific to you that you alone are responsible for bringing. Here’s my checklist, and while your bag will be specific to you, this is a good start.
My model bag is a vintage train case that has doubled as a prop.
*Water bottles (Lights get hot, stay hydrated)
*Straws (Stay hydrated AND keep your makeup in place)
*Energy snacks (Bite size things are best to keep from ruining your makeup)
*Safety panties (Thong or g-string panties as close to your skin tone as possible. These are for wearing under a photographer’s or designer’s wardrobe, especially swimwear and lingerie.)
*Full coverage panties in black, white, nude, and a fashion color like pink or red (These are for show, so make sure they are in nice condition)
*Heels in black, white, nude, and any fashionable style or color that suits your wardrobe (Beware of too ostentatious a shoe if you’re working for a designer, their clothes are the focus, not your shoes. Make sure you can walk in the shoes you pack if you’re walking the runway)
*Bras in black and nude, with AND without straps
*Stockings: black, nude, fishnets, nude pantyhose (Bring backups in the event of snags)
*Scarf (For wardrobe changes to prevent makeup transfer)
*Makeup, yes, even if its being provided (Foundation, lashes and adhesive, oil blotter, translucent powder with brush, lipstick, liner, chapstick, hair pins, hairspray, comb and brush, tissues, cotton swabs, cotton balls, anything you need for your specific look)
*Nail polish remover
*Clear nail polish
*Colored nail polish to match your freshly manicured nails
*Nail clippers and file
*Small first-aid kit with clear bandages, NSAIDs, allergy medications, cough drops, feminine hygiene products
*Toothbrush, toothpaste, floss
*Baby wipes or makeup remover wipes
*Small sewing kit with safety pins
*Portfolio, resume, and comp cards if you have them
*Your handbag with your usual things (Be sure to have cash, cell phone, and your ID)
*Music (I have several playlists depending on the mood of the shoot, and a compact bluetooth speaker)
*Something to do (There can be quite a bit of downtime, so have something to keep busy)
*Wardrobe and accessories (Even if the photographer is providing, it’s always a good idea to have options. The only time it’s not appropriate to bring your own wardrobe is if you’re shooting for a designer, then you’ll obviously be wearing their pieces)
*Travel clothes and robe (Loose fitting clothes that won’t leave impressions or red marks on your skin whilst you travel to your gig or sit for hair and makeup. Don’t wear socks!)
Pre-Shoot (or show) Preparation Schedule
Preparations for a photo shoot or runway show start long before you ever show up to your gig. Everything from eating right and getting a good nights sleep effect your performance in front of a camera. Here is how I prepare for shows and shoots.
Calendar art by Alberto Vargas for Esquire Magazine
Always (as in, I’m always doing these things because they’re important in the long term):
*Exercise and eat right. This doesn’t mean you have to be a size two, but you should strive to look and feel your healthiest best.
*Practice. I’ve covered this before, but it’s so very important to know how to pose and feel comfortable in those poses. Have a wide variety of poses, facial expressions, and moods to show (at least 10).
*Take a dance class. This may sound silly, but nothing trains your body to move with poise and grace better than dance. It doesn’t matter what style of dance class you choose, just pick something and get moving!
*Don’t pick at your face! If you have a pimple that decides to make an uninvited appearance, use a spot treatment. Picking will only cause irritation and scarring which will take a lot longer than the original blemish to disappear.
One Month Prior (as you book more jobs, this will became a standing thing):
*Gather wardrobe pieces and items for your model bag if you don’t already have them. If you need to order things, give yourself enough time for delivery and exchanges if needed)
*Make any sewing alterations to wardrobe as needed
*If your shoot has a theme, collect some props. This is an especially good idea if you’re doing a package shoot where the photographer has a set theme and is offering it up to multiple models. Bringing a few small props will give your photos something a little different. Though, respect the photographer’s wishes if they’d rather not use them.
*Double check your schedule. Make sure you have time off work, babysitters, transportation, a chaperone, and the correct day and time of the shoot.
Two Weeks Prior:
*Double check measurements and wardrobe fit, especially if you’ve changed your diet or started working out. You’d be surprised how the loss or gain of a couple of inches can drastically change wardrobe fit. Make any alterations (or contact whomever booked you if you’ll be modeling for a designer) as needed
*Double check that schedule!
*Start whitening your teeth if you’ve never done it before.
One week Prior:
*Do any kind of facials or skin treatments now so your skin has time to adjust. I do not recommend trying any kind of new treatments this close to a shoot, should your skin positively freak out on you!
*Start sleeping 6 to 10 hours a night. Sleep experts say it can take a whole week to catch up on one bad night, so be sure you’re getting plenty of beauty rest.
*Drink water. Proper hydration not only keeps you healthy, but it also fills in fine lines, wrinkles, cellulite, and clears the skin. (*pro tip: “water” is in bold because I mean water, not juice, not soda, not energy drinks, but actual WATER).
*Have your hair done. If you color it, get that done. Have a trim done as well. When you book your appointment, ask for a deep conditioning treatment as well to add some luster to your locks. Again, now is not the time for anything new, just maintenance.
*Wax whatever needs waxing, if you are so inclined. Remember, your skin will need some recovery time.
*Whiten your teeth if it’s part of your maintenance beauty routine.
Two or Three Days Prior:
*Groom your eyebrows. It’s best to have this done by a professional if you’re not experienced in this area.
*Exfoliate your face and body.
*Keep drinking water and getting good sleep!
*Cut out high sodium foods and alcohol. Too much salt will make you look bloated, not hydrated. Cut out as much salt as you can. Take it easy on sugary foods too. They can lead to weight gain and skin issues. Alcohol will make you look tired and puffy, so skip the cocktails until your shoot is over
*Steam and press any wardrobe, then hang it in a garment bag being careful it won’t get crushed or creased. DO NOT FLAT FOLD YOUR WARDROBE!
*Contact the photographer. Confirm wardrobe, hair and makeup plans, etc.
*Arrange a safety contact if you don’t have a chaperone.
*Double check that schedule.
The Day Prior:
*Keep drinking water!
*Have a manicure and pedicure done. Buy a bottle of matching color nail polish if you don’t have one at home.
*Pack your model bag.
*Wash your hair in the morning or the night before, and don’t use any heavy styling products. Your hairstylist will want “day old hair” to work with. (*Pro Tip: Day old hair, not dirty, nasty, stinky hair).
*Shave your legs, under arms, and bikini line if you don’t wax. Be sure to moisturize after.
*Get good sleep!
*Charge your phone
The Day Of:
*Wake up early enough that you’re not in a mad rush.
*Shower and shave again. Don’t forget to moisturize after.
*Wash and moisturize your face. Don’t put on any cosmetics if you’re working with a makeup artist.
*Throw anything in your model bag you used that morning you may need later. Don’t forget your phone charger.
*Eat a good breakfast. Stay away for greasy heavy foods, and opt for quality proteins and carbohydrates that will give you energy without weighing you down.
*If you’re supposed to arrive photo ready, be photo ready.
*Let your safety contact know when you’ve arrived and where you are. Keep in contact throughout the day during breaks if it’s an all day shoot.
*Show up 15 minutes early. Use the restroom if needed. Put your phone on vibrate.
*Relax and have fun!
After You Shoot:
*Thank the photographer and HMUA (and anyone else who worked on your shoot) for their work.
*Give them copies of your comp cards or business cards and exchange contact and social media information. Never miss an opportunity to network.
*Clean up your mess. Photo shoots are fast and hectic, no doubt your stuff is everywhere. Pack up your things and throw away your trash.
*Go over any details with the photographer regarding publication, photo sharing, etc.
*Call your safety contact when you’re in your car and ready to leave.
*Stop and reward yourself with a greasy, sugary treat. You’ve earned it!
Every photo shoot and runway show will be different in some way. As you gain more experience, your bag and routine will change accordingly. What’s important is that you get in the habit of being prepared. As always, if you have any questions or comments, feel free to drop me a line via electronic post or in the comments section below.
Every time I pack for a shoot, I have to remind him that he can’t come with me.