Tips on Planning Your Photo Shoot

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Model for Photo Shoot

It is always exciting when a stylist, a student or salon team decides to do a hair fashion shoot. The reasons for doing a shoot range from launching a new seasonal collection to entering an important national photo competition such as NAHA … from wanting to display on your salon walls to wanting to build your professional portfolio with current, fresh images. Many salon owners and school owners do photos shoots as an effective tool to mobilize and motivate their ‘creatives’ … from hair to make-up to nails… to wardrobe styling.


I will share that ‘of all the aspects of doing a hair shoot, the ultimate success of the shoot lies in the planning leading up to the shoot itself’. It is the planning that makes the critical difference between an ‘okay’ shoot and a ‘great’ one. How often we have heard stylists casually say ‘hey, let’s just grab some models and shoot a bunch of photos over the weekend and get some good stuff’ … we’ll work into the night and it’ll be great”!  Guess what … everyone was exhausted after …  only a few shots were actually usable … the hair may have worked but the make-up didn’t’… and above all, the models were not good enough because finding them was rushed, they were someone’s sister or client that were pretty in person but not on camera … and bottom line, the models were not professional.


Photo Shoot AdHere are my ‘top ten’ quick insider tips on the proper planning for a photo shoot. Take it from me … the proof is in the planning when you consider the following ‘must do’s’ in the days, weeks and even months leading up to the actual day of the shoot:

  1. Have a purpose for doing a shoot – make a trend statement like “this season, it’s all about radiant redheads!”—OR – “beautiful razor-cut bobs and shags”. Pre-determine the imaging and looks in your trend collection. After the shoot is over, how do you plan to use the photos?
  2. Focus on getting the shots you’re actually going to use … don’t stray from your priority plan.
  3. Time out your shoot so that everyone stays fresh and creative – and not exhausted! Contrary to popular belief, the shoot does not have to be long to walk away with what you really want.
  4. Hire professionals to do your shoot – that means photographer and make-up artist.
  5. Even if you think that you are a good photographer, go pro and interview local photographers to get a feeling for their work and if their visual style also conveys your image. Learn their rates and how they like to work … and where … their studio, another location they suggest, etc. An experienced photographer is often your most important resource in the pre-planning of your shoot.Photo Shoot Model
  6. Hire the right models with the right hair for the results you want. I know this sounds elementary, but so often it is not done and guess what…photos you can’t use! Approach local model agencies, review model portfolios, check out rates (half day/full day), and make your selections. Remember that your photographer may know models to recommend to you … and he/she might even attend you a model call at either your salon or the photog’s studio.
  7. Ask recommendations from the photographer or local model agencies or talent agencies for a free-lance make-up artist who knows how to make-up for camera-ready. Even if you have friends or staff who are make-up artists, not all of they have styled ‘for camera’. A tip: keep the make-up ‘editorial’ as opposed to too harsh or overdone; often, the hair might look beautiful, but make-up distracts from the whole looks and takes away from the hair.
  8. Even if your hair shots might be ‘tight’ or from shot from shoulders up, give thought to what your female or male model will be wearing that will show in the final shots. And don’t forget about those nails: if any hands are showing in the shot, make sure those nails are polished and professional.
  9. BOTTOM LINE, MAKE SURE THAT EVERYONE INVOLVED IN YOUR SHOOT HAS ‘CAMERA READY’ EXPERIENCE. Photo shoots are a whole different ball game than doing models on a runway or at the salon.
  10. PLAN YOUR SHOOT – AND SHOOT YOUR PLAN! Advance planning means developing a ‘day of’ time sheet and/or flow chart and following it! If everyone knows the flow of the day and ‘what they are doing and when’, the chances of having a productive and successful shoot literally double. If you are organized, so is everyone else!


Watch for next week’s Part 2 of this series on Photography: “A ‘Perfect Day Of’ Photo Shoot Factoids” by Hair Fashion Photographer, Gary Lyons.

Gary Lyons

Hair Fashion Photographer

GARY LYONS is one of the leading beauty and hair fashion photographers in the industry. His national photo campaigns have helped to establish the hair fashion imaging and branding of such top companies as Matrix, Joico and John Paul Mitchell Systems. He was the publisher of Passion Magazine … and is sought out by top models, agencies, fashion designers, beauty companies, magazines world-wide, and leading stylists and salons to strategize and define their artistic images -- and set them apart from the crowd. Gary is well-known for how he captures just the right image of hair and face – and the striking lighting that few others achieve when lighting hair fashion for photography. He has also been a judge for many industry events and competitions. … and loves working with students and stylists alike to help them develop professional portfolios of their work.

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