Let’s face it: planning a portfolio shoot isn’t always a walk in the park.

Sure, it’s exciting and inspiring to check out all the details, outfits, accessories, photography studio, prep for your shoot. But there is a lot to do, and everyone and their mothers seems to have an opinion about what you should do.

If you don’t watch

out for these common mistakes, you could end up with a portfolio nightmare. On the other hand, being aware of these mistakes means you can avoid them, and having the best shoot day and guaranteed success.

MISTAKE #1 – Leave ample of time between the day you finalize your photographer and your shoot.

  • It take a lot of planning, you should have a creative meeting with your photographer firstly they should give you a plan on how to prepare for your shoot, they should help you build the looks for your book and suggest what type of modeling would work the best for you. Everything takes longer than you think.
  • If you rush or get rushed to shoot soon, then you should back off, because it will take time to prepare and get everything ready.
  • You will be stressed, miserable and not know what to do at your shoot and end up with chaos on your shoot day.
  • Do yourself a favor and allow MORE time than you think; you will need it between the creative meeting and your shoot date.
  • Use your photographer as the expert resource that they are. Ask them how long they recommend for everything as it can vary from person to person based on experience.

MISTAKE #2 – Hiring non-specialist photographers amateurs or friends for your portfolio shoot

  • Non-specialist photographers, makeup artists, hair stylists or stylist who are professionals in their right but not a specialist, for example a wedding photographer is probably really good at weddings not in doing portfolio or headshot for modeling, acting, singing. They do not know what is required by agencies, what kind of look will make you irresistible in front of a top agent or scout. How many images you should have in your book, select the best images for your book and comp card.
  • Don’t get me wrong; I’m a big fan of involving your friends. By all means, have your buddies help you shop and prepare or cousin Julie to do your home or party makeup and your buddy Aaron to do your hair occasionally.  
  • But don’t expect amateurs and hobbyists to deliver a professional performance at your portfolio shoot.
  • They won’t know how to do the right kind of makeup for photography lights. How should your hair look in one look over another and help touch up during shoot? An amateur won’t know what to do when something goes wrong, which usually means that things will get worse and all your hard work will be wasted.

*WARNING: If you decide to hire an amateur or a talented friend to provide a service for your portfolio/ headshot session, make sure you adjust your expectations. If less-than-a-perfect portfolio is what you will float with the agents and scouts then you will not be happy with the results. These agents are very busy professionals and generally get flooded with talents so they don’t really give you another chance to prove yourself. Making a first impression is very important in our industry. Don’t do it. Get it right and make a perfect first impression.

MISTAKE #3 – Waiting until the last minute to plan for your shoot.

Here’s a true story:

  • A very promising model contacted me to shoot their portfolio. Luckily he knew a reputable agent personally from a top NYC agency, and his name got floated for a big campaign where the remuneration was going to be in 6 figures. Since he only had his own home pictures, the agent recommended him to work with me and build his portfolio to submit for the campaign.

We planned it perfectly, and I gave him specific assignments to prepare for his shoot. The looks I had build for him were perfect, considering the big job he could land. He simply procrastinated all my instructions and waited till the last minute to prepare for his shoot.

He showed up at the shoot very casually and not ready. We had a full crew at the studio ready to kill it, and he showed up to the shoot with literally half of the stuff and nothing for the look, which would get him that big job. Timing is crucial. I did not have another shoot date available for him for another month. We had to shoot with what was available, not only he wasted his money, he also wasted the opportunity to audition for a big break. My agent friend was also upset with this behavior. You have to take modeling / acting as a serious business, and if you are planning to come into this profession then prepare and plan just like you are opening a new business.

MISTAKE #4 – Forgetting to plan for Bad Weather

  • If you don’t consider the effect of the weather carefully for your specific location at that specific time of year, then you can miss out on shooting outdoors.
  • On location images are important for the variety in your portfolio regardless what type of modeling you will purse for. Always check the weather if it is going to rain or snow that day.
  • Snow can delay your travel times.

MISTAKE #5 – Not having a timeline for everything

  • Create a daily schedule and to-do list, which should have your daily practice of posing and walk regime in front of a mirror
  • Pick a favorite model and study them, everything from the way they turn, to their head, and to their fierce runway walk.
  • Do not tan yourself for three days before the shoot; your skin will be slightly red.
  • Do not clean or scrub your face AT ALL on the day of the shoot. If you feel like cleaning your skin on the day of the shoot, this should be done extremely gentle and “almost” without water.
  • Do not scratch or irritate any impurities in the days before the shoot.
  • Do not try out a new hairstyle that you are unsure of before the shoot. Go safe – always.
  • Don’t party or drink the night before.
  • Everything takes more time than you think.

MISTAKE #6 – Showing up to your shoot with makeup on.

  • Please do not come with any makeup on set. You can simply clean your face and apply some moisturizer.
  • Do not show up to a photo shoot unless you are clean-shaven, have a clean face, and clean hair.
  • Look closely in the mirror: do you have a mustache or other unwanted facial hair? If so, get rid of it before your shoot — it will show up in the pictures! But please don’t wax anything less than a week before your headshots, especially if you have never been waxed before, because you don’t know how your skin will react to it. It can cause breakouts and/or redness and irritation. My recommendation is to get a pen-sized battery- operated facial hair trimmer, which you can buy at a drug store or beauty supply. It’s quick and totally painless. I don’t recommend doing your eyebrows with it, though. In one fell swoop, you can shave your eyebrows right off, and you probably don’t want to do that.

MISTAKE #7 – Don’t try too hard and don’t be afraid of making mistakes.

  • Just be yourself and show your personality at all times this what makes your unique.
  • Trying to make everyone happy is exhausting. Plus, it’s an effort that’s doomed to fail.
  • Choose your battles. If something is really important to you, stick to your guns. You won’t be able to make everyone happy anyway. Make sure you make yourself happy.
  • If you’ve already made some of these mistakes, never fear. Now that you know, you can fix them. Being prepared is the best way to avoid a disaster.
  • Request to have your favorite music playing when you do a shoot! The beat will kick your poses up 10 notches!

And if you haven’t made any of these mistakes, CONGRATULATIONS! Have fun planning your modeling launch and decide to make it your best day ever, no matter what.

P.S. Did one of these mistakes really “get” you? Send me an email and tell me about it. I’d love to hear from you!

Happy Planning!

Vikrant Tunious