K chow's picture

Test shooting questions - what can i shoot?

I've recently been accepted by a few agencies to performing test shoots with their new faces. I've never tested before and I'm new into the world of fashion photography.

Could some people give me some tips and tricks about test shoots? One of the major questions I have about test shooting is what can I and cannot shoot. What kind of content can i shoot on a test shoot? is it always going to be basic clothing and jeans? Or can I do swimwear? Or is that a big no?


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Sennia Kyle's picture

Congrats. Usually to get an agency to be willing to send models your way you have to have a ton of work in your portfolio that looks exactly like what they want in their models' books, so it's possible you're already doing something right? Unless it's a new agency and they don't have any good photos of their models...

Generally speaking you'll want to look at the boards of the agencies whose models you're going to be testing with to see what kind of photos they like. About 99% of the time, less is more with hair/makeup/wardrobe - the agency boards are about selling the models, not the stuff ON the models. Keep it simple, start light and build your way up to slightly more dramatic looks but don't go overboard. With retouching, less is more. Get rid of the temporary stuff (zits etc) but leave the permanent stuff (moles, freckles, crooked noses, etc.)

Good luck!

K chow's picture

ahhhh ok. Yea I've been trying to keep things clean, but maybe i have room to keep the wardrobe simpler. I hope my skin retouching isn't too heavy....

K chow's picture

i see alot of tests also that are just jeans and a bra, is that normal?

David T's picture

That sounds more like polas. Or maybe portrait work?

If it's about fashion photography you'll usually have a stylist with connections to designers to get clothes.

Sennia Kyle's picture

True for "fashion photography" as a genre, not so true for model test shoots for their agency board. It's not a bad idea to have a wardrobe stylist if you can get one, but it's not necessary for a simple test.

K chow's picture

even before the stylist I would still need ideas of what i'll shoot since i need to pitch a board. But yea, stylists aren't easy to come by haha

Sennia Kyle's picture

Yes, bra/jeans are common for model tests but if you're working with teenagers and you're a guy, sorry to say I wouldn't suggest it (just in case). Have the model bring a variety of things such as jeans and sweaters, t-shirts, heels, sneakers, a casual dress, etc. I wouldn't start with trying to shoot them in lingerie or swimwear.

K chow's picture

i wouldn't really be comfortable doing that kind of shoot with a teenager so i'm totally on board with the Tshirt and jeans thing. I think thats more my speed haha.

Just contact the model you are shooting with and/or her/his booker and ask what type of images they want. Or if you are shooting test in the sense of shots to show what potential models look like, ask the people who will be evaluating the images what they want to see.

K chow's picture

good call. I've tried asking on a few occasions but they haven't really replied. They usually say "i'll leave it up to you, just nothing over the top" Or they'll say "lots of full length shots" but doesn't really direct me into what kinda wardrobe they'd like to see

Then the way to cover yourself is to pick an existing set of polaroids, preferably from a source that has some prestige attached, and send them a link with a "This is what I'm going to do unless I hear otherwise from you guys. Mail me if this isn't what you want" message. So maybe hunt around agencies that have polaroids up or articles on how to take them and if they're doing what you want to do, send the link. Like eg if you want to shoot skinny jeans and a fitted top (which is probably the safest choice) -


..There are sites and pinterest boards devoted to polaroids, so searching should be easy.

I imagine they've given no guidance on lighting. I've never shot polaroids for an agency but I have for models, including shots that got them into agency meetings, and the usual rule is to use simple light and not too soft - the agency needs to see bone structure and skin detail. It's also common to take shots with a pony tail to keep hair away from the face for the same reason. Look at polaroid images and you'll get the idea.

The other big thing is don't take a close head shot by walking close enough so that the face fills the frame with an 85mm! A lot of people do this - and it distorts the nose and sometimes even lips. Stay further away and crop or use a 135mm. Obviously,don't retouch or use a MUA to hide skin problems or add contouring.

That's assuming that the agency does want polaroids rather than port shots - you should probably clear that up!

K chow's picture

ohhh. So are polaroids different from test shoots then??

>> ohhh. So are polaroids different from test shoots then??

Honestly, given the communication level you are experiencing, who knows what the agency means? "Test" is a much vaguer concept than polaroid. Normally with polaroids you'd expect to see very informal posing - until a few years ago, they were usually shot like police line-up photos. And "test" can mean "let's see how well two people work together" or "how well someone suits this concept" or "how well a model can pose".

Maybe someone with more experience can offer more clarity. But as someone who is wobbling around the stage of shooting with agencies (people have asked me to talk to their agency after shooting, but it isn't the right time for me for personal reasons) in your shoes I'd be confused and adopt that middle way - clear lighting, simple poses, fitted jeans and skinny tops. And preferably dark colours for the tops, because show-through is ***so*** embarrassing. And I'd cover my ass with that email!

K chow's picture

ahhh gotchya. Thanks alot!

Sennia Kyle's picture

For the agencies I've worked with, "polaroids" are simple, straightforward shots (like mugshots as David mentioned). The model's book is NOT made up of these - often on an agency page, when going through a model's book, they will also have a link to "polaroids". In my experience these shots in particular are almost always taken at the agency by one of the bookers, often with just a cell phone (or a polaroid camera hence the name). A model test shoot is more involved, but still very natural, involving different clothing/hair/lighting/background looks. Does that help?

I think that's a very good explanation. But I'd add that in the past few years there seems to have been a trend for polaroids to be much better shot - some are still shot like police line-ups, but others look more like a Jurgen Teller shoot. The photographer is expected to keep lighting simple and revealing but help get a good "performance" from the model. Eg





Fetching image ...

(...I actually love this style of photography, hence my taking the opportunity to post these links!)