Info for New Models & First-timers

Getting in front of a camera for the first time (or first few times) can be intimidating. In fact, even pros still get cases of nervousness. So don’t worry, it’s natural.

A good photographer will have worked with a number of first time models before and have good understanding of what to expect and how to get the most out of shooting with someone new. The best advice I can give is don’t worry about it. Relax. An experienced photographer will do whatever they can to create the type of environment where you can do just that — RELAX.


Many first-time models worry about posing. A good experienced photographer will be able to provide you with as much direction as you need to get just the right shots without pressuring you to “perform”.

One possibility at your shoot is using reference material. This includes magazines, posing books, photos, and anything else that might help you get ideas about looks or poses that you’d like to try.

A good photographer will have these types of resources available, but it’s best to ask. And if it isn’t available, you can always bring your own to draw ideas from during your shoot.

How to prepare for your photo shoot

This article covers aesthetic & cosmetic preparation. For model poses and expressions, see: How to learn model poses & facial expressions.

Aesthetic & Cosmetic Preparation

Be sure to take care of all hair removal prior to a shoot, but leave at least 2-3 days between when you wax/shave any sensitive areas (such as your bikini line) and your shoot date. This time is necessary to allow for any irritation to disappear before your shoot.

Take care of your nails. Be sure that your nails are neat and well maintained. Short nails are preferred. A natural, non-colored, or French manicure look is preferable. If you plan on posing barefoot, be sure your feet and toes are in good condition.

If you plan on showing your smile, be sure that your teeth are ready for prime-time. If your teeth are discolored, you may want to consider having them cleaned/whitened.

72 Hours Before Your Photo Shoot

Be sure you have worked out all the necessary details about your shoot. You should know where you’re supposed to go, the easiest & fastest way to get there, and what you need to do to prepare for your shoot.

Be sure that you know how to get to the studio or location where you are shooting. If you are working with a make-up artist, please be sure that they are aware of these directions as well.

You should also have a good idea of what items you are going to bring to your shoot.

If bringing a make-up artist, you will want to talk with your photographer about having your make-up ready prior to your appointment start time.

24 Hours Before Your Photo Shoot

Eat healthy. Drink plenty of water. Avoid fatty, greasy, and salty foods prior to shooting. Please avoid alcohol or anything that will make you puffy or bloated. Also avoid anything that may stain your teeth.

Pack up what you’ll need at least the night prior to your appointment so you are not rushing around in the time before leaving for your shoot.

Check your nails. You may not be the type who likes to keep their nails long and well manicured, which is fine, so long as they are ready for their close-up. However, damaged nails, beat up nail polish, and nails that have been bitten down to the tips of your fingers will not add to the look of your photos.

If your nails are not ready for pictures, you are encouraged to purchase temporary press-on nails. They may not feel “real” to you, but they can help save a photo or two.

It is also important that you get a good night’s sleep. You will not only feel better, but you will look better if you are well rested and energetic on the day of your shoot. Dark circles and bags under one’s eyes is not attractive.

The Day of Your Photo Shoot

It is generally considered a courtesy to call your photographer and confirm your departure — and plan to arrive prior to your appointment (but not too earlier — discuss the best arrival time with your photographer).

Please note that appointments are made to fit within allotted time slots. In order to maximize your time to shoot, arriving and being ready on time is important. Unless otherwise arranged, clients are encouraged to arrive up to, but no more than, 20 minutes early.

Please note that showing up late does does not mean your appointment will get pushed beyond its allotted time slot.

In some cases shooting beyond your allotted time slot may be possible, if the time beyond your appointment is not booked.

In the event that something unexpected happens and you are going to be late, call your photographer.

Consider eating a light meal before you leave. Food is fuel and if you skip your meals before shooting, chances are you’ll run out of energy, lose focus, or become irritable. None of which will improve your photos.

Consider bringing bottled water, snacks, and anything else necessary to keep you going, but avoid bringing anything that will stain your teeth. Additional items you may want to consider bringing to the shoot are listed on the next page.

To avoid squinting due to bright studio lights or sunlight, wearing sunglasses prior to your shoot is not recommended.

How to learn model poses and facial expressions

How to learn model poses and facial expressions

A good experienced photographer will be able to provide as much instruction & direction as needed to get great shots. However, it is a significant help if the person being photographed has an understanding of what their body looks like in different positions and to also understand how their face feels when they’re making different expressions.

I recommend that all first-time models, and anyone relatively new to modeling, practice posing and making different facial expressions in front of a mirror. It may feel silly to practice such things in front of a mirror, but it is a great way to prepare for what it will be like in front of a camera and should actually make doing your shoot easier and more comfortable.

Although interpretations of different expressions & looks may vary, please practice a variety of different looks so that you are at least somewhat prepared should you be asked for a specific expression, such as: “sexy”, “intense”, “serious”, and “pouty”. Again, a good photographer will provide as much direction as necessary to get the look & expression desired, but the more prepared you are, the easier it will be for both of you.

If you have a tendency to show a lot of your gumline while smiling, you should also practice smiling without showing as much of your gums. Don’t worry, you’ll likely get plenty of photos with your beautiful & natural smile, but the tendency in professional photography is to limit exposure of the gumline.

Learning model poses:

Some of the best reference guides for posing are fashion catalogs and magazines. Study them. Pay close attention to the position of hands, the different angles the body makes (including the tilt of the head, arms, torso, thighs, and legs), and facial expressions.

Depending on your primary interest, I’d suggest requesting catalogs from popular clothing companies.

Here is a list of 37+ clothing catalogs and links to where you can sign up to receive them.

If you can’t wait for a catalog to arrive, then go to your local bookstore and browse the magazine stand for magazines that feature poses you would like to achieve.

If possible, practice these poses in front of a mirror.

Ideas for photos & photo shoots

Depending on the photographer, photo shoots can be a very collaborative and creative process where clients are encouraged to share any ideas they may have for photographs they’d like to try and take.

Although this can be done at any time, it is best done at least a few days prior to your shoot date so that any necessary preparations can be made ahead of time.

Oftentimes, a pre-existing photograph may provide the inspiration for a new one.

You may want to consider collecting photographs you come across online or in magazines (and making digital copies) and storing them in a folder on a USB drive or in a dropbox or google drive folder.

You can also bring magazines to your shoot for inspiration.

Many ideas can be found by simply paying attention to what a model may be wearing, any props that are used in the photo, the location where the photo was shot, and any effects used in the shot (if any).

Bringing an escort to your photo shoot

If you wish to bring an escort to your photo shoot (generally a good idea if you are working with a new or unknown photographer), this is something you should discuss beforehand.

Please be aware that most beginning and many advanced models have issues being comfortable posing for photographers in front of their boyfriends and relatives. Even if you do bring an escort, such as a friend or family member, you may not want them to be watching you during your shoot. This is something you should discuss with them beforehand — such as options.

If you’re under 18, you must bring one of your parents, or an older female model with you, to act as a guardian. Your parent or guardian must sign a model release form for you.

If you are just starting out, I suggest that after an introductory period and you and your escort are both confident that the photographer is reputable and isn’t creepy, that the escort leave (or at least monitor the shoot from a distance) for a period of time to allow the model to feel less self-conscious while getting used to shooting.

When working with any photographer for the first time, I’d suggest making a point of always having your cell phone handy, and to check in with someone you know at least once during a shoot to let them know you’re ok. Also make sure that someone you know knows where you will be and that they should expect to hear from you at a certain time. They should also have the number (and address, if possible) of the photographer you are working with. Again, this is just for general safety.

Make-up artists at your photo shoot.

Make-up artists are something that should be discussed with a photographer before your shoot.

Models who are adequately skilled at doing their own make-up are typically welcome to do so. Understand, however, that using make-up artists can be a huge advantage when attempting to capture compelling and attractive imagery. Using a make-up artist does not mean you have to wear a lot of make-up. Oftentimes, a little can go a long way, depending on the type of look you are trying to achieve.

Make-up provides ways to substantially accentuate your features, even out your skin tones, and hide any potential problem areas. If you are not extremely confident in doing your own make-up, but are serious about capturing professional level photographs, it is always a good idea to consider hiring a professional make-up artist.

Hiring or arranging to have make-up artists at your shoot is often the client’s responsibility — but this is something you should discuss with your photographer.

Photo shoot locations

You should discuss photo shoot locations with your photographer beforehand.

Some questions to consider:

Where will you be shooting?

  • In a studio?
  • In a building (non-studio environment)?
  • Outside?
  • Both?
  • If outside, how much walking will be involved? (know what kind of shoes to bring and how you are going to transport your clothes or props between shooting areas)
  • What is the back-up plan if the weather does not cooperate?
  • Will there be easy-access to a bathroom?
  • Is there easy-access to a private changing room?

Model Releases

A model release is a written agreement between the model and the photographer where the model has granted the photographer permission to use the photographs commercially and/or for self-promotion. Model releases generally permit the use of the image(s) for all purposes, with exceptions for controversial, sensitive or defamatory uses.

You should discuss the photographer’s model release prior to your shoot — and if possible, view a copy so you will know exactly what you will be signing. If you don’t agree with any parts of the contract, discuss modifying the contract.

What can you expect after your photo shoot?

Discuss with your photographer what you can expect after your photo shoot.

  • How will you be receiving your photos? (On a CD/DVD, as a download, etc)
  • Will you be receiving all proofs from your shoot or just a selection the photographer provides you?
  • How long can you expect to wait before you receive your proofs?
  • Will the photographer be able to provide you with any samples from your shoot quickly?