Working with Models for Photography – Planning Your Shoot – Getting Started


Lee Iggulden



How To...

How to plan your photo-shoot with a Model.

Working with Models for photography – planning your shoot and getting started. The aim of this blog is to provide you with tools, ideas & tips to help take your photography to the next level when working with models.

Booking a model for a photo-shoot can seem like a daunting and sometimes scary thing to do, but with the right approach, it can be a seamless and rewarding experience that will pay dividends for you, your portfolio and your model.

Whether you’re an amateur photographer looking to build your portfolio or a professional seeking the perfect face for your photo-shoot concept, understanding the key steps in the booking process is essential.

Plan. Prepare. Create!

From defining your vision and budget to finding your perfect model, and then negotiating terms and conditions, each stage plays a crucial role in ensuring a successful shoot for both you and your model.

In this blog, we’ll walk you through the process to get you started, providing valuable tips and insights to help you find, book, and shoot the ideal model for your next photographic project.

Hazel by Gill McGowan

Gather your thoughts & ideas for your photo-shoot.

Create your photo-shoot mood board.

Creating a mood board will be beneficial to both you and your model.  It will provide inspiration, create a clear focus and give your model a reference point to work from when he/she is packing clothing and accessories for your shoot.

Don’t just rely on models to turn up with a never-ending suitcase full of outfits hoping to pull something together on the day.  It will be time consuming, and your day will feel unstructured which means you won’t be able to fully concentrate on your photography. 

Mood board – what is it and why is it useful?

A mood board (sometimes called a vision board) is a selection of inspiration images; it should be where you start your shoot planning – the graphic below shows a mood board for a winter shoot concept.

  • Styling, fashion and planning outfits can seem daunting at first; but researching online and using magazines will help you to pull together images, (and ideas) into what you would like to create is a simple, yet effective way to plan your theme.
  • Share this with your model when talking and/or booking them for your shoot. Maybe your model will be able to offer ideas and suggestions too! Use their experience.
  • When making your mood board you should include images that contain the type of fashion outfits, make up styles, shoot location you want to use, and the general theme of what you are wanting to achieve.
  • Consider using images from the model’s own portfolio if there is a make-up/hair style you would like them to recreate.
  • Putting together a simple mood board and sharing this with your model eliminates a lot of back-and-forth messaging/mis communications and the potential worry of your model misinterpreting your theme/styling requests.
  • A mood board is beneficial for new models & full-time professionals alike.
  • Send your mood board – Screen shot – save the images, put them on a word document and email them. Use a ‘in phone app’ – such as InShot to create a collage on your phone or save pictures to Dropbox / We Transfer and share.

TFP – What is it and is it right for you?

Time for Free / Prints / Digital Files & Collaborations and Paid.

Time for print / TFP / Collaborations: These are all industry terms that mean the same thing. Nobody is exchanging money; you and the model are both exchanging trades. The model does not get paid with a monetary fee, instead they receive the images for their portfolio.

The benefits of TFP:

  • Gain experience.
  • Continued Professional Development and build your confidence.
  • Working with a new person and trying something new.
  • Gaining images for your portfolio.
  • Cost effective etc.

Possible disadvantages of TFP:

  • Pressure to produce images. Only accept a TFP project if you are confident in your ability to produce images that you and your model can use in your portfolios.

The benefits of paying your model:

  • Paid assignments give you the freedom to explore and plan the themes that you as a photographer would like to showcase in your portfolio.
  • It removes the pressure of delivering any images to your model.
  • On paid assignments it is not mandatory to provide your model with any images. You can of course if you would like to, but you are not required to do so.

Paying a full-time, professional model with experience brings you a lot of knowledge and understanding on how the industry works. They will be reliable, and you will not need to provide direction for them when posing.

How to communicate when booking your model.

You have your mood board, you’ve decided on the type of shoot (collaboration TFP or paid) now you need to find the perfect model for your shoot concept.

There are several ways you can find the right model for you:

  • Use a website such as PurplePort (useful as you can read references)
  • Social media – Instagram is a great resource tools and most models have an account – if their profile says to DM (Direct Message) then you can almost guarantee they’d like to hear from you.
  • Word of mouth. Ask a model/photographer you have worked with previously who’d they recommend and what their personal experience was like

The correct approach when requesting to shoot with a model?

Your message(s) should be informative, straight to the point and professional. You want to come across as friendly and approachable, but remember you are making a work enquiry and not a friendship request. This is important so that no lines or boundaries are crossed, for the protection of your reputation as well as your models.

Do include:

  • Your shoot concept or idea.
  • Location. Is it inside or outside? Studio or on-location? What facilities will be available?
  • Is this a paid or TFP (Time for Free/Prints/Digital copies) opportunity. If paid – include total fee. If TFP – how many images do you propose to send to your model and in what is the time frame?
  • The duration of the shoot.
  • Potential dates
  • Your mood board. If you can’t send it over online platforms – request email address or use social media messaging facilities where you can attach an image.

Do not include:

  • Do not ask for personal information such as phone number / home address details. For the purpose of the shoot/emergencies you may exchange telephone numbers after you have confirmed the shoot is taking place.
  • Do not ask for their full name. Many models use a “model name” and choose to keep their real name private.
  • Do not ask for their personal social media profiles.
  • For the purpose of the shoot/emergencies you may exchange telephone numbers after you have confirmed the shoot is taking place.

Creating the right atmosphere on your photo-shoot.

When planning your photographic shoot with a model – it’s important to think “How would I feel in that situation”? Put yourself in the model’s position and if you’d be uncomfortable or need to think twice about doing something, then the chances are it is not right for your model either.  Communication is vital – before and during the shoot.

Taking into consideration:

  • Temperature:  If shooting outside, the temperature is out of your control whether it’s hot or cold. It’s important to factor in breaks so your model can keep cool/warm. If cold let them stay wrapped up whilst you are testing the lighting.
  • Use of reflectors/looking into sunlight – combatting harsh light on location: Ask your model to close their eyes until you have focused. Countdown and ask your model to open their eyes on 3..2..1.  This method is so much kinder to your models’ eyes, less risk of ruined make up from watery eyes and lot’s lost shots because of blinking.
  • Music:  This helps with creating the right atmosphere for your model.  Modelling is often compared to dancing/acting because your model is creating a mood with their expression and pose. It is much easier for your model to work when they have some music making them feel good and happy. Music will also help relax models (and photographers alike) who are possibly nervous and eliminate any potential awkward silences. Most studios are equipped with a music sound system, but we recommend investing in a portable Bluetooth speaker so you can use it on location too.
  • Personal space – We cannot stress this enough – DO NOT touch your model! Hair out of place, twisted strap, hem not straight? Communicate the issue to your model. Do not fix it yourself unless clearly asked to do so and even then we would suggest you don’t. If assistance is needed the model will ask. There are no excuses to invade your model’s personal space. It is the quickest way to ensure a bad reference and a “not recommended” reputation. Dressing rooms should never be entered by photographers. This is a model’s personal dressing space where they are most vulnerable. Models need to feel safe in their dressing room.


It is best to avoid complimenting your model in any way that can be deemed unprofessional.

Phrases to energise your model:

  • “That pose is great”
  • “The images look amazing”
  • “You’re doing a great job”
  • “I’m really happy with the styling”

Avoid using phrases that personally compliment the model such as:

  • “You’re pretty / attractive”
  • “You have a great body / figure”

As a rule, you should avoid complimenting your model or making comments that could come across unprofessional. During a booking, paid or TFP you are both working professionals. Respect each other and create a safe, comfortable and fun working environment.

Talk to your Model!

  • Have a laugh.
  • Ask them about their weekend, pets, whether they like chocolate or fruit?
  • Engage in fun light-hearted conversation.
  • Find out their favourite music.
  • Whack on a playlist– this will break any awkward silences and make both parties feel more at ease.

Once you have established a comfortable environment and built trust with your model; the nerves will start to disappear, and it will be easier to communicate / give them the confidence to try new poses. Avoid telling your model (new or pro) that they are posing wrong – this will knock their confidence and make your model overthink their poses cause awkward unnatural looking photos.  Show them, either by demonstrating yourself or showing a visual example (your mood board/online) if you can.

  • Praise your model when they do a cool pose!
  • Don’t be afraid to be enthusiastic.
  • Love the images you’re getting? Tell them!
  • Jump up and down if you must.

Energy is contagious. If you are upbeat, happy, and enthusiastic your model will be too.

Back of camera (BOC) photos – The importance of checking that your model likes the images.

You and your model are a team whether it is a paid assignment or TFP collaboration.

You as a photographer need to be happy with your images but so does the model have to be happy with your work.  Again, put yourself in the position of the model – imagine somebody taking unflattering images of you, posting them online and there is nothing you can do about it?

Don’t forget to:

  • Ask your model, “Do you have a preferred posing side?” (We guarantee most models will say yes!)
  • Show your model the back of the camera.

Models are always looking at different things compared to the photographer, we are looking at our make-up, hair, if our garments are sitting correctly etc – these potential errors we may spot can save you time on editing/having to delete an image you like once you have seen something during the selection process afterwards that can’t be fixed.

It is important to know models are not judging your images when you show them your BOC images. They are looking at our appearance and ensuring that we are doing our job correctly for you as the photographer.

Showing us the BOC also keeps models motivated and enables us to see what is/isn’t working – maybe they tried a new pose and on camera it’s not flattering. When they see it, they will know not to do that pose again, or alter their position.

Always remember, your model is there to help you succeed – they want the best images possible for you. You and your model are a team during the shoot. Utilise your models feedback and work together. It will be much more beneficial to the shoot.

Giving your Model constructive critique.

Sometimes, on a photo-shoot, you might need to make a comment that feels a little awkward – for example:

  • Scenario: You’ve welcomed your model, about to get started, taken a test shot and their make-up is extremely oily on the BOC. Solution: Show your model the problem on the BOC.

Consider phrasing your issue with a question rather than a comment that sounds like you are critiquing / criticising.

  • “I’d value your opinion, do you think the make-up is looking shiny on this image?
  • “Do you think if you put some more foundation powder on it would help with this issue?” 

Avoid making negative comments that could be construed as insulting to your model.  Don’t be afraid to communicate if there is a problem or something isn’t working.  Your model wants the photos to look good too! Just be kind and thoughtful in the way you do it.

It’s a wrap!

You’ve finished the photo-shoot, and because you followed all the important steps outlined above, it’s been a great experience for you and your model. You’ve worked as a team and fantastic images have been made and now it’s time to say goodbye.

Offering to share / tag your photos on social media channels is always a nice thing to do (remember, if it is a TFP – this will be part of your obligation) so make sure you get the correct details and swap further information if you both feel comfortable in doing so.

Credits: While this blog was written by Lee Iggulden – Welshot’s Business Development Director and the images used from various photographers – the material was written for our “How to Work with Models in Your Photography” workshop led by Katey Spink

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