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The Whole Picture—A Professional Beauty Photo Shoot

By: Jesse Hill and Aniko Hill
Posted: August 3, 2010, from the August 2010 issue of GCI Magazine.
The Kitchen Collaborative

Photographer: Jesse Hill; Art Director: Aniko Hill; Model: Amanda Riley/Ford Models; Makeup and Hair: Hilla Peer; Photo Assistant: Stephanie Cottle

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When putting together a casting session, it is also critical to consider where the models are represented. Professional models that come from reputable agencies are worth their day rates because they are professional, have invaluable experience and can deliver strong, targeted, on-brand looks consistently. By working with leading agents, a casting session can be quickly produced, yielding dozens of new faces in a single day. It is also possible to hire up-and-coming future stars if casting from reputable agencies in Los Angeles and New York (many of the models The Kitchen Collaborative has worked with on smaller jobs have gone on to become the faces of national ad campaigns).

Working with discount agencies or casting from sources such as is inherently risky; in general, if models are truly qualified for a professional campaign, they will be represented by a reputable agency. The “you get what you pay for” cliché can’t be stressed more here: The model is the most public and recognizable representative for your brand, and good talent is worth their weight in gold. In some instances, companies may actually seek out raw talent if that particular look and feel is needed for their ad campaign. For example, American Apparel is known for utilizing amateur models and photographs in its marketing collateral to achieve its offbeat and edgy brand message. Other famous campaigns, such as those from Abercrombie & Fitch, have utilized talent that was cast “off the street,” but weeks of scouting are required to achieve this objective, which requires a lot of time and billable hours. For this reason, the most economical, professional, efficient, and reliable route for casting is through reputable agencies.


Photo shoots can be one of the more costly elements in a brand campaign as there are a lot of people, specialized equipment and miscellaneous elements involved in making them successful—and the bulk of the responsibility for the end result is on the photographer’s shoulders. It is critical to hire a photographer who specializes in beauty and is supported by an experienced team—including lighting and digital assistants, stylists, makeup artists and retouchers. Even within beauty, most photographers have a specific visual and lighting style, but some are more versatile and can achieve a variety of looks. The former may be a good choice if you are seeking a specific look for a single campaign, and the latter is harder to find but can be incredibly valuable for a long-term relationship. Beauty and fashion photographers generally have a larger team of professional beauty associates, and can deliver on deadline, on brand and in tune with current beauty trends. A proven track record and established supporting team is insurance that the shoot will be executed to the best possible standard.

Assembling a fashion team is an art unto itself. A fashion team is generally comprised of makeup artists, hair stylists, manicurists, colorists and wardrobe stylists. Ideally, your photographer has worked with all the players before or has vetted their capabilities and knows what to expect with both their creative styles and on-set sensibilities. Whether or not you have worked with the fashion team before, make sure you have a pre-production meeting to ensure everyone is on board with the precise direction. Hair and makeup can last two or three hours in a shoot day, so adequate planning and clear direction is essential.


Arranging all the specifics of a shoot that is to be completed in a single 10- or 12-hour day requires meticulous planning and coordination. Producing a photo shoot is similar to planning an elaborate special event—several days or even weeks of pre-production can go into the production depending on the scale. On a larger photo shoot, a producer handles and coordinates models, casting, photo assistants, digital-techs, retouchers, location scouts, locations, permits, insurance, studio rentals, lighting and camera equipment, hair and makeup artists, stylists, props, prop stylists, wardrobe, wardrobe stylists, rental vehicles, transportation, travel, lodging, catering, equipment rental and set construction. Creation of a call sheet with identification and critical contact information for talent, crew and client—along with additional relevant information such as parking or special instructions—is essential. Keeping everyone on set is crucial; if you don’t schedule lunch and breaks, cast and crew are forced to leave the set to eat, which can disrupt the flow and productivity of the day.

On Set