When working with models, photographers often expect someone with perfect skin and a great physique. In reality, this is not always the case. Some models have no idea how to get ready for a shoot, and that can be really annoying especially in post production as it might add a lot of retouching time!
I am quite sure every portrait, fashion or beauty photographer has already come across a model with eyebrows not waxed, dry skin, body hair or tan lines. While these "problems" can be fixed in post, they are somewhat bothersome to correct and could be solved beforehand by the model. But sometimes they don’t even know that these things can be a problem for us when retouching. Especially new faces. I have had models asking me to remove hair in Photoshop because they didn’t have the time prior to the shoot… They thought it would take me a couple of minutes.
Because I got tired of retouching these kinds of things, I created a checklist to send to my models before a shoot. That way they know what to do or not do. While it won’t solve every problem – some people just don’t care – it will help save time in post. So whether you shoot beauty, fashion or portraits, here are five things to inform your models/clients on to diminish your post-production time and for cleaner pictures.
#1 Healthy and Even Skin
Skin can take a while to clean in post production. Clean, even and healthy skin can really make a difference on the time spent in Photoshop. There are a lot of things models can do to have a better skin.
It starts with sleeping at least eight hours a night. Not sleeping enough can lead to unealthy and bad looking skin (fine lines, wrinkles, lackluster skin, etc.). And I'm not even talking if a model goes out and drinks alcohol the night prior to a shoot. If that's the case, you can be sure she will have some kind of red spots on her face when she comes to your studio.
Talking of red spots, acne can also be a problem. Ask your model if they have acne problems. Many young models use creams that will dry out the skin which in turn will cause exfoliation if the makeup artist uses (hard) brushes… While it will probably be complicated to ask the model to stop using these products, you could tell them to use a good moisturizer twice a day the week leading to the shoot. Also ask the model to use a peeling cream/shower gel to exfoliate and clean the skin one to two days before the shoot.
If you live in a sunny location or if it’s summer time, don’t forget to ask your model to be careful when tanning. Those awful tanning lines can be cumbersome to correct in post, especially when shooting lingerie or swimwear.
One last thing that can take time in post-production is uneven skin with wrinkles. To minimize these issues, ask your makeup artist to use a skin smoother such as MAC Prep + Prime Skin Base. It won’t make the model’s skin completely smooth, but it will diminish the unevenness.
#2 Smooth Lips
Dry lips are probably the most annoying problem to fix in post! Sometimes you simply cannot do anything to make it look better. If you live in a cold location, I am sure you have had a model with chapped lips.
To avoid dry and chapped lips ask your model to put balm on it on a regular basis – and smoke as little as possible.
#3 Never-Ending Body Hair War
I know, people are saying having body hair is now trendy… However, I have yet to see a beauty or fashion editorial with a young gorgeous female model with facial hair!
Remind your model that removing hair would be great because it will save you a lot of time in post production. Also specify it should not be done the day or the night prior to the shoot as the skin might still be red. It has to be done at least 2 days beforehand.
Eyebrows should also be waxed (or "reshaped") one to two days before the shoot. It is not as troublesome as body hair to remove in post. However, the time you spend doing that in Photoshop could be better spent working on another project.
#4 Rested Eyes
Especially in beauty, healthy looking eyes are crucial. If a model’s eyes look bad, your shoot is pretty much screwed. I have had models coming in tipsy, and in that case you cannot do anything but cancel the shoot. With alcohol, the eyes become shiny and the blood vessels more prominent. Pretty much the same thing happens when a model is lacking sleep.
I already mentioned it when talking about skin, but sleep is really important. A model has to be healthy to be in great condition. It will also help diminishing the under-eye bags.
If you are going to shoot closeups for makeup, don't forget to ask models to remove their contact lenses before the makeup artist starts his work. They are quite easy to remove in post-production, but again, it would be time lost doing something that could have been fixed easily during the shoot.
#5 No Need for Fancy Clothing
Now, you might be wondering what clothing has to do with a model getting ready for a photo shoot. Have you ever had to shoot lingerie or boudoir with a model who came in with tight socks and very skinny pants? If you have, you know what I am talking about… Otherwise, let’s just say tight clothes tend to leave wonderful marks on the model’s skin. So don't forget to ask you model to the shoot with loose clothes in order to avoid those marks. Wearing large clothes will also make it easier for the model to change after having the makeup done.
Find the Right Way to Inform your Models
This sounds like a lot to ask from your models, doesn’t it? To be honest, I don’t tell every single thing to every model, unless it is for a commercial/editorial project. I will generally give some tips and directions for the things I encounter the most (unshaped eyebrows, dry lips and skin). Then if models comes in my studio with some other of the aforementioned "problems," I will explain to her what to do to be better prepared for their next photo shoot. Some will not care, while others will be thankeful for the advice. As photographers, having a healthy and well prepared model can change the outcome of our work, especially when there is a lot of skin showing.
When telling models about some of these problems, be gentle, though. I have had models offended when I told them they could have waxed their legs to come in for a lingerie/swimwear session... I have seen photographers including it in their model release, others writing about it on their blog and sending the link to models before a shoot, etc. You could also simply call models one to two weeks before the session and speak with them. The most important thing is probably to explain to the models the reason behind your tips/directions. They might not know that body hair will be so visible in-camera or that dry skin might cause problems with makeup.
Communication on a shoot is key to success. However, communication has to start before the day of shooting. Speaking with models about these five points will show that you are a true professional who knows his craft and wants the best out of them.
Have you ever experienced some of these issues with your models? Do you also give tips to help them prepare for a shoot? Do you ask your models anything else before a session? I would love to hear about your experience and thoughts in the comments below.
© James Chase