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Test Shoot Advice from a Model

By: Marijka Munoz


What is a Test Shoot?


A test shoot is when a model, photographer, and creative team work together to produce images for either their portfolios or purely for creative expression. And for models, these images are vital because if we add them to our portfolio or book, they impact how we are represented to prospective brands and clients.

Test shoots help display our range and capabilities as models.


Finding a photographer for test shoots


If you’re a signed model, talk to your agent. They likely have access to a list of photographers they can refer you to and can even help you put together a mood board that best fits your look and brand. I’ll cover more on mood boards later.

If you wish to schedule a test shoot on your own, do your own prior research. Look up a photographer in your area whose work you admire. Review their website or Instagram and see if your style and brand align with theirs.

Talk to other models who have worked with that photographer in the past. Instagram makes this extremely easy to do since most models have their accounts set to public. Go ahead and send these models a DM and ask them about their experience shooting with that photographer.

Once you’ve found your photographer of choice, reach out and let them know your intention to arrange a test shoot with them. Keep safety in the forefront of your mind. If bringing a friend makes you feel more comfortable, ask the photographer if you may bring them on set with you.


Designing a Mood Board for model test shoots


A mood board is a reference point and vision board for the creative team to look to for the shoot. This might come from the creative team, you can put one together yourself, or a mix of both – sometimes a perfect blend of ideas from everyone comes together.

When showcasing your mood board to your photographer and creative team, think about how you want to present yourself as a model. What piques your interest – streetwear, beauty, commercial, editorial, etc? Maybe you can find a way to marry different styles to find your own unique aesthetic fitting for your personality and look.

You can collect inspiration anywhere from simply being out in the real world, looking through magazines, watching movies and tv shows, or even taking note of ad campaigns by brands. Social media accounts or websites of other models, photographers, fashion creatives, and modeling agencies can also be good inspiration. Pinterest is a great resource for mood boarding as well.

Compile 10 images at most with the fashion, hair, makeup, pose, emotion, and facial expression you wish to convey for your shoot.


Pricing


The photographer you choose may respond with their price quote for the shoot,

which can also factor in their studio rental if applicable. The price package could range upwards of $300 and generally higher price points include a hair and makeup (HMU) artist and/or stylist. Clarify how many images you can expect back and how many of them will be edited or retouched.

TFP or time-for-print is a possibility in test shooting as well. This means that the fashion creatives, meaning photographer, model, HMU artist, etc, agree to trade their skills for images that will be used for their portfolios at very little to no cost. If this is more along the lines of your budget, you might want to ask personal connections you have who own a quality camera, beginner photographers just starting out, or join photography meetups or photo Photographer: Christian Gills

walks in your area as these are often TFP.


Location


Your test shoot might take place in-studio (suited for polished, commercial images where lighting is controlled) or outdoors (could be suited for high fashion, editorial, edgy or streetwear).


Styling your shoot


As mentioned earlier, some test shoot packages include a hair and makeup artist and/or stylist.

But if that’s not the case, you will be expected to do your own hair and makeup. For styling, you have the option to either use your own clothes, thrift or buy second hand, or purchase new and then return in good condition if used only once for the shoot. If you opt for the latter, please do so with some restraint and respect and understand different stores’ return policies.


When showcasing your mood board to your photographer and creative team, think about how you want to present yourself as a model. What piques your interest – streetwear, beauty, commercial, editorial, etc? Maybe you can find a way to marry different styles to find your own unique aesthetic fitting for your personality and look.

Before the shoot


Get ample sleep the night prior, be sure you are well nourished and hydrated the days leading up to your shoot and the day of. Pack necessities to bring with you on set and extra outfits just in case. Account for traffic in your commute so you can ensure that you arrive early, and the shoot runs on schedule.


On-set etiquette


While on set and on-camera, be attentive and listen to the photographer’s and creative team’s notes. Give variety in your posing and be prepared to switch up body positions, moods, expressions, and angles on demand. Communicate with your photographer and creative team when you need a quick break to use the restroom, drink some water, stretch, do some breathing exercises, or review the photos. Doing this too often could divert from schedule, so do this in moderation. At the end of the shoot, it is good practice to thank everyone for their time and effort and connect with them on socials if it feels right.


Reviewing and receiving your final images


If it hasn’t been made clear yet, inquire about the timeframe for when you can expect your photos sent to you. As I mentioned earlier, the photographer should let you know how many of the images will be edited or retouched. If you are a signed model, send these final images to your agent so they can update your portfolio on their agency website. If you are a freelance model, add your new images to your portfolio (virtual or physical).

And don’t forget to credit the hardworking creative team behind your test shoot whenever posting your images on social media!


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