Collaboration shoots are give and take. The photographer will direct the model as best they can, but problems can arise if communication is not timely and effective. I have had some amazing collaboration shoots but also my fair share of poor experiences on set.

As a makeup artist, I’ve worked with new models that expect the photographer to perform miracles, and then complain when the images aren’t as they had hoped. Basic prep I expect from ANY model is to show some genuine interest in modelling by doing your homework. Look through magazines to get an idea of the styles you want to try. Plan an outfit or two that match that style. Then study the poses and angles in the magazines for that style, and practice at home in front of mirror.

Some models have turned up after grabbing a few random articles of clothing that they like. This doesn’t always translate into an outfit or look that works well on camera. It is much more effective if they plan an outfit that plays to the style they’d like to shoot. I’ve had models turn up that haven’t even flicked through a magazine to get an idea of poses they can try, let alone having actually practiced poses. Others have turned up after telling team that they want to shoot a specific style but not actually understanding what that means. They then turn up unprepared to shoot what has been agreed and we waste time re-working the shoot to find a viable solution.

If a new model doesn’t know where to start, then they should have a meeting/ catch up with photographer or makeup artist before the shoot to get some coaching on how to plan a shoot. It’s a waste of studio time to be spending an hour or two doing the planning at the studio, bumbling through styling a shoot with mismatched wardrobe.

I put 100% into shoot planning and execution, and I feel that it is only fair to expect the same from my collaborators. If they struggle with any of the above, help them out before the shoot. Effective pre-shoot communications will make or break your shoot.

 Group shoots

In my experience group shoots can be a bit hit and miss. They do tend to be with more hobbyist or amateur groups. That is not necessarily a bad thing, you can still end up with fantastic portfolio images.

If your assigned models, makeup artists and hairstylists are on the same wavelength regarding the looks and images you want to achieve then you’re off to a good start. You also need to make sure that you build the same relationship pre-shoot with the photographers. Many of them, if not all, will be attending the group shoot with specific techniques or styles of images and/ or editing they’d like to employ. These may not fit in with your vision. Make your vision clear using mood boards and research the photographers editing styles and what quality of editing they can achieve. There is no point in being disappointed that the photographer couldn’t match the quality of the Mario Testino images in your mood board if you know that they’ve never worked that style before.

In order to make absolutely sure that you get at least a few usable portfolio images from every look, you need to be ensuring that they have captured the shots you want after they have got the shots that they want/ need. Otherwise, you just cross your fingers and hope that the final edits you receive are suitable for your portfolio. I’ve made this mistake a couple of times! I’ve since learned to get more involved but in a respectful way.

I attend a couple of group shoots every year, mainly for networking and portfolio building. I have learnt the hard way that you can’t rely on the photographers having the same vision as you, you need to talk to them and get them on board with your vision, so that they ca shoot to meet their own gals as well as yours. In the past, I have not always got the quality of images I wanted, or indeed the quality of images that the team deserved. I have had enough images each time to make the shoot worth my while, but have occasionally lost out on getting some killer looks captured properly on camera, other than my behind the scenes images.

Are collaborations and group shots worth it?

Yes, yes, 100 times yes. How else can you build your portfolio and test out new techniques, looks and styles. But you need to make sure that all team members are on the same wavelength. That doesn’t mean that you compromise on what you’re creating and shooting, it just means you need to design looks that meet everyone’s expectations and goals. The key is early and detailed communication with all team members. Do that and it’ll work out just fine.