4 Top Beauty Photographers Share Photo Shoot Tips

Photo by Wavebreakmedia/iStock/Getty Images Plus

Putting together a photo shoot—be it for a competition or for marketing purposes—is an artistic goal for many beauty professionals. But the process of constructing a shoot can seem daunting, even for seasoned pros. To fully understand all the complex pieces that go into producing a shoot, we talked to four top beauty photographers and got their insider tips. 

Robert Lynden, (@robertlynden) celebrated photographer and art director who has shot countless American Salon covers and features.

  • Tip >1 Start with “why” you’re doing a photo shoot. What do you want to accomplish with it? What season of the year are you shooting for? Do you want to promote your salon business or yourself? Are you submitting images for a competition or for an editorial publication? Have a specific reason for your photo shoot because it’s a huge investment of time and money.
  • Tip >2 Once you have your direction, start gathering images that you like and are representative of the vision you’re leaning toward. If your concept is only in your head, it usually leads to disappointment. 
  • Tip >3 Collaborate with a wardrobe stylist who has knowledge of current fashion trends and who also has established relationships with clothing outlets, so “pulling” clothes and accessories won’t break your budget.
  • Tip >4 Choose a makeup artist who is as experienced at doing makeup as you are at doing hair. 
  • Tip >5 Make sure you choose a photographer who’s experienced in shooting beauty and hair. All legitimate photographers have a portfolio and website. If they only showcase their work on Instagram or Facebook, keep looking. And, let them know that you want to collaborate, but your vision takes priority. 
  • Tip >6 Go easy on the hairspray. The last thing you want is a huge buildup of product requiring you to rewash the hair. And, there’s no need to spend a lot of time on unseen sides of the head, unless you’re shooting from all sides.

Fine-tuning on Lynden’s set


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Jake Thompson, (@jakethompsonhair) photographer, NAHA winner, Owner/Master Stylist Lunatic Fringe, Salt Lake City, UT.

  • Tip >1 Avoid shooting a look that you haven’t practiced before. Once you’ve decided on the hair look, practice that technique over and over before you get on set.
  • Tip >2 Choose a photographer who fully understands how to photograph and light hair. You want someone that can take your idea and recreate it or make it better. See if you can set up a test shoot, then check out their energy, creativity and vibe. They should also have great relationships with modeling agencies. And, their work shouldn’t be over Photoshopped. 
  • Tip >3 I like working with makeup artists who fully understand clean lines, blending and skin tones. It’s also good if they have their own ideas, but they need to know their role on set. 
  • Tip >4 Your wardrobe stylist needs to understand eras. They should have lots of fashion contacts to pull clothing from, and they should be able to “create” something from nothing if necessary. Again, make sure they understand their role on set.
  • Tip >5 As for models, remember they will make or break your collection. Choose wisely, and always choose professionals. Keep in mind, a good model will shoot, but a great model will sell. 
  • Tip >6 When you’re on set, stand directly behind the photographer and lower your body to see exactly what the camera is seeing.

Thompson adjusting his model’s hair

Jessie English, (jessiesaraenglish.com) beauty and fashion photographer who has shot  American Salon covers and features.

  • Tip >1 The single most important element for a successful photo shoot is a great crew. You can have amazing hair, but if the lighting isn’t good, the model looks stiff, the styling isn’t cool or the makeup is too heavy, the image will be bad.
  • Tip >2 Have a vision. While there is some joy in just showing up and “seeing what happens,” at best you’ll get one great shot and a handful of nothing photos. A smart, creative vision garners more results. 
  • Tip >3 Make sure everyone—models, makeup, hair and stylists—gets a copy of the full mood board with detailed references in advance. This keeps everyone on the same page, tells them what’s expected of them on set and helps them bring the right tools and attitude. 
  • Tip >4 Hair that looks amazing in person doesn’t necessarily work on camera. Baby hairs, scalp gaps and flyaways are magnified 20 times in photography. Master techniques that take care of these problems before your model steps on set.  
  • Tip >5 Photo shoots require a certain amount of speed, because no one wants to pay overtime for a studio or crew. That means getting the hair foundation right in the beginning, so only minor adjustments are made on set. 

English examining her set

Matty Conrad, (@mattyconrad) photographer, Master Barber, Proprietor Victory Barber & Brand.

  • Tip >1 Lighting is more important than anything else. Ambient light is not always the most flattering and it can often give a photo a lack of depth. 
  • Tip >2  Keep it simple. Too many people let their concept overshadow their haircut. The best photos usually have a simple concept and a clean background. 
  • Tip >3 Make sure the angle of the model showcases the features of the haircut that you like the most. Some haircuts look more flattering from one side than from another. Shoot multiple angles so that you can decide which ones look best. 
  • Tip >4 Develop your eye rather than your Photoshop skills. Don’t retouch the hair so much that it doesn’t look like real hair, and don’t oversaturate colors that aren’t already saturated. 
  • Tip >5 Fill the frame. Remember this is a hair shoot. If the photos are for competition, keep it from the chest up. 
  • Tip >6 The model does half the work, so choose wisely. If you aren’t sure if someone will be photogenic, take a few snaps with your phone standing slightly back from the subject. Also learn how to work with models. Keep it fun and don’t stress them out on set, because it’ll show all over their face. Boost their confidence and they’ll commit more to the shoot.

Photography: Courtesy of Robert Lynden; Jake Thompson; Jessie English