3 Things You Can Do To Improve Your Beauty Shoot In-Camera Results

Long gone the days when I could afford the “fix it later in Photoshop” attitude in my shoots. I welcomed retouching challenges when I was just starting out and learning the magic of Photoshop. But once photography and retouching became my job, I realized that it wasn’t a mindset for a sustainable business, so today I am ready to go an extra mile to get everything captured right in camera, because most things may take seconds to correct in pre-capture or extra hours later in post-production.

Needless to say, I really appreciate it when my colleagues, creative professionals in my team, realize that too, respect my time and do their best to help me achieve the best and the cleanest capture possible. A bunch of alarms go off in my head when I hear: “It’ll do. You can fix it in post anyway…” from someone on set.

Click to Enlarge. Model: Lauren of NOUS Models, Skin work: Lupe Moreno, Makeup: Vlada Haggerty, Photo & Post: Julia Kuzmenko McKim

Click to Enlarge. Model: Lauren of NOUS Models, Skin work: Lupe Moreno, Makeup: Vlada Haggerty, Photo & Post: Julia Kuzmenko McKim

There are a few reasons why capturing it right in camera is absolutely crucial when photography is your job:

  • Your time is money, period. If you want to run a successful business and stay in it for a long time, you can’t afford wasting your time and energy on problems, which could have been prevented during the shoot.
  • Regardless of your retouching skill level, some things just won’t look as natural after you “fix” them in Photoshop.
  • If your role in a commercial project is limited to photography and someone else is hired to do retouching, you will save your client money and time if you photograph everything well. If you can’t do that because you’re used to leaving things in to fix them later, your client may not want to call you again in the future and will hire someone who can photograph better than that.

Other than that, I am convinced that you can only consider yourself a good photographer if you can light and shoot well. If you can also enhance your images in Photoshop, kudos to you, hopefully your market price is higher proportionally to your retouching abilities. But shooting things right in camera should always come first.

So, how can you prepare for a shoot to increase your chances of covering the majority of potential retouching problems before the capture?


Click to Enlarge. Model: Morgan of NOUS Models, Makeup, Hair & Nails by Vlada Haggerty, Photo & Post by Julia Kuzmenko McKim

First of all, rest assured that even if you and your team are 200% prepared and are in the right mindset, there will still be something that you will miss or things just won’t go the way you want them for an ideal capture. But the better you are prepared, the fewer things can throw you off and affect the results of the shoot.

So, you are ready for the shoot, you have done all the necessary research and prepared your shot-list and reference boards, your team is well-briefed and everyone is ready to rock, then the model shows up… She is your creative team’s canvas, and how well she is prepared for the beauty shoot can make or break the efforts of the entire team.

Not all models have the same professional experience or training, so just to be on the safe side and not leave anything to chance, there are a few things that you can do and/or communicate to your model prior to the shoot and potentially save yourself a lot of time in post-production:

  1. Test.First and foremost, your model should be able to emote and take your direction well. There is no such retouching magic that will help you add emotions to her face and dynamic to her pose. When working on an important project, you will increase your chances of creating great images if you test with your model-candidates ahead of time. Or simply select/suggest a model with whom you have tested before and you know that she will be a great fit for the project.
  2. Call Sheet Notes.When sending out the Call Sheet, include a few notes on what you expect your models to do before the shoot and how you need them to show up on the day. For example: wear clear nail polish (unless otherwise required for the shoot); come with clean hair with no product in it; look after her lips in the days leading to the shoot, apply lip softener to prevent them from chapping, especially before a close-up Beauty photo shoot; drink plenty of water in the days leading to the shoot for the skin to appear well-hydrated on the day; get her beauty sleep the night before the shoot – no partying and alcohol, as it will dehydrate the skin and make the eye whites appear reddish.Sometimes it makes sense to ask your model to wax her upper lip to remove hair. Most of us humans have it and it’s totally normal, but it can cause a lot of extra work in post-production, especially if you’re shooting close-up beauty. Waxing is a simple procedure that can be done at home or at any beauty spa, and while she is there, she can also groom her eyebrows.

    All of this should be done a couple of days prior to the shoot to avoid any resulting skin irritation. An experienced model will never dye her hair, use a tanning bed, or spray tan the day before a photo shoot. Things can go terribly wrong!

    And lastly, if there’s no Wardrobe Stylist at your shoot, mention what kind of clothes the model needs to bring (for example, a strapless top for clean beauty shots).


    Click to Enlarge. Model: Laura of Osbrink Models, Makeup: Vlada Haggerty, Photo: Julia Kuzmenko

  3. Tether.I cannot stress enough how helpful tethering can be for you and your team. It’s one of the main tools I use to ensure we prevent a lot of potential retouching troubles, as well as confirm with the client we’re getting what they want.I use CamRanger and my iPad Mini to tether, which is a super handy and easy to use set of devices.I wrote about CamRanger in the digital book of my Go Pro: Studio Beauty video course and I think I might write another article on how I use it and why it’s so awesome on my blog as well.

    Once the model is ready and jumps on set, I take a few test shots to finalize my lighting, and then an extra test shot for the Makeup Artist, Hairstylist and myself to zoom in and inspect her entire face and hair. Are there any smudges or pieces of makeup on the skin?

    If false eye lashes are being used we make sure there’s no visible adhesive on the eye lid and the lashes are sitting on the natural lash line properly. It is a draining, time-consuming and absolutely unnecessary activity to fix false eyelashes that have popped off the eye lid in post-production while you can just make sure they look fine before you shoot. This is one of those things that is easy to miss when you’re looking at the model face-to-face or through the viewfinder of your camera, so tethering is truly great for this.


Click to Enlarge. Selene Gnavolini from our shoot in Umbria, Italy. Makeup by Francesco Riva (CHANEL), hair by Geordie Nonlaimpiccheranno.

If you have not yet incorporated any retouching-trouble-preventive steps into your shooting routine, start with these and you will be well on your way to the ideal capture!

I hope you find these tips helpful, and if there’s something else you do before your shoots, please share with us in the comments below.

And as always, I appreciate your topic suggestions, so feel free to drop me a line via our Contact page and let me know what you would like me to write about in my future articles.

Till next time!

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