The single most common question and frequently the first thing modeling clients ask me is “What should I wear?” Understandably, the right look can make the shoot. When photographing for new model head shots and model composite cards (“comp cards”), it’s important to keep the end goal in mind – to portray the model in diverse, appealing looks. Modeling, after all, is the art of selling. Commercial clients hire beautiful people to position their goods and services in a way that make the rest of us want to buy them.

For my clients, I offer personal wardrobing services. I actually accompany them (or go solo) to try on garments or shop online to create three to four complete looks. I then tell them to pack a large suitcase with anything and everything they own that might fit within the look and feel of the photo shoot. As I always say, “If we have it, we can shoot it.”

For Maria, we chose five looks. We aimed for four but we had the time (she is an efficient model) and good light all day! Our first look was a “campy, into-the-woods” look with flannel plaid coat, knit cap, turtle neck, leggings, and our featured Thursday Boots. We made sure to show her interacting and selling the idea of the boots. We ventured out into the woods during magic hour. We brought a camping water bottle and an old oil lamp. It was the end of the shoot so we tousled her hair a bit.

Backing up a bit, the first look of the day was a sweet, simple sundress. We photographed at a historical park, on covered porches, along “country” dirt roads, in front of historical buildings. The look fit. I imagined selling the dress, sandals, and rim hat as part of a J Crew catalog shoot. I aimed for light and airy colors. My goal was to create a sense of casual ease and summer breeze in the look. I loved playing with the wind while we worked. I enjoyed the backdrop of historical buildings to set a sense of place.

Following the park, we ventured downtown for our remaining three looks. There, we choose a few looks that represented a more “urban” feel, including the more vibrant dress, the black A-line dress with the large buckle belt, and the oversized trench coat.

I urge new models to explore looks that might be new to them. It’s easy to fall into the “comfort zone” of wearing what always feels natural to us (we all have our unspoken “uniforms” . . . I’ve worn the same button down collar blouse with Ralph Lauren cable knit polo sweater — I own several in various colors — for 20 years).

One word about “coverage.” I know I’m “old,” but I swear I believed this even when I was young : do NOT wear anything overly-sexy. Portraits age all young people by two, three, or even five years. I photographed a 14-year-old paired with a 22-year old male once. They were both gorgeous and top-notch models, but it was shocking (and then not so much) how old the young girl looked all dressed up.

Dressing overly sexy for photo shoots is a big mistake. If you can’t move comfortably, if you leave too little mystery to the viewer, or if dad is going to come knocking at my door, best to tone it down.

In sum, the idea of a modeling photo shoot is not only to present your image to prospective agents and clients, but ultimately to the commercial clients who hire them (and you). Be sure to convey range in mood and style through three to four diverse but thoughtful looks.

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