Making Any Photo shoot A Screaming Success! – Tales Of An Amateur, One-Time Model, and How She Made The Most Of The Best Day Ever!

When I was young, I dreamed of becoming a professional model. Ok, me and half the other girls in the fourth grade but my mother agreed to let me take the modeling course offered at the local community center during summer break. It was a week-long course and at the end we got to take home a book on modeling that I thought was “the bomb.” It was a pink, hardcover book that had a sophisticated model on the front. “Everything you need to know to be a professional model.” And, if my memory serves me right,  the book was a smidge out-of-date, but our very elegant “modeling” instructor gave it to us, so to me, it was the Bible.  Flash-forward. My modeling interests were shelved for other pursuits and “Pink modeling book” is likely in the bowels of some used bookstore. However, I’m a little embarrassed to admit, that I still had an unrequited longing to be part of a professional model shoot.

That is…until now.

When WELLFITandFED developed from an abstract concept to concrete product, I realized that I lacked photos for the website. Great photos. “Modelly” photos. Photos that would convey the intent and vision behind WELLFITandFED.

 BINGO. Starry-eyed twelve-year-old finally gets her wish.

Now that I am on the other side of participating in a fancy photo shoot I realized I learned a few things. Tips that anyone could apply to any photo shoot.

Lucky you. I am going to share. 

Outlined below is the “how-to” on organizing a professional photo shoot. Whether you are arranging a family portrait, your wedding photos, boudoir photos for a spouse, business headshots, or a full-fledged “modelly” shoot for professional or personal reasons, this information will make your end result exceptional!

PHOTOSHOOT - Photographers

PHOTOGRAPHER: The most important decision you will make, regarding your shoot, is the selection of a photographer. This decision should not be taken lightly. For my photo shoot, I wanted action shots that were both athletic and energetic. My local family photographer was not going to cut it. I needed someone with experience in shooting the type of photos I envisioned. After much research, I found a Utah-based fitness and athlete photographer, named Brandon Flint.

Here are the best tips for finding your perfect photographer:

  • Choose a photographer that DOES what you want DONE. Seems simple, but you need to match your photographer’s area of expertise with what you want as a final product.
  • Experience has its benefits. An experienced photographer will coach, and guide you through the process. During the interview, the photographer should help narrow down a location, wardrobe, and hair and makeup decisions.
  • Don’t be afraid to look outside your immediate area to get what you want. I happened to be in Utah skiing while searching for Arizona fitness photographers. That is when I came across Brandon’s website (it came up because Google assessed that I was in Utah at the time). I didn’t realize till half way through the call that Brandon was actually in Utah, and not in Arizona. I thought the deal would be off, but we worked it out. His final bid, with travel, was in the ballpark of some of the Arizona bids!
  • Scour their portfolio. Look at every photo. Assess his or her use of light, location and emotion because they will foretell what you will see in your final shots. If you don’t see the essence of what you are looking for in any of their pictures, move on.
  • Select specific photos from their portfolio to discuss. Pick three to four photos that you love and tell the photographer why those particular photos stood out to you. This discussion will give the photographer a better understanding of what you are looking for. I also sent Brandon a collage of “inspiration” that I had created from a bunch of Google images. One for each of the three types of looks we would be shooting for “WELL”, “FIT” and “FED”. Taking the time to do that helped us communicate our goals more clearly.


LOCATION: To me this is one of the most important factors. Location encourages people to feel a certain way. Like props on a theater stage are constructed with intention, I wanted people to get a specific feeling when they looked at the website photos. Choosing Arizona over Seattle, where I live, was because it was important to me to convey a “warmth, sun, and health” vibe.

  • First ask yourself what you are looking to convey. Where you choose to have your shoot will speak volumes in the feeling that a person gets when they look at your photos. Take some time to write down a few words about what “feel” you want. Warmth? Moody? Sophisticated? Smart? Professional? Beautiful? Think of a few options and allow your photographer to also contribute ideas. I suggest shooting outdoors as much as possible. There is energy from nature, once captured on film, that cannot be outdone by any studio shoot.
  • Send your photographer still photos or video of the locations that interest you. If the photographer also has ideas ask him or her to send them to you, so you don’t arrive and realize you are on totally different pages.
  • Think about “time of day” and light, in regards to your chosen location. What looks stunning at sunset may be quite drab by day. Here are some other great TIPS on location selection.


HAIR and MAKEUP: This one was a surprise to me. My photographer asked me who was going to perform these duties. It was at this point I  realized I was in a little over my head. Now, don’t get me wrong, the 12-year-old in me was secretly jumping up and down saying “WHATTTTT? Hair and make-up???” I was, however, a little intimidated. But, my photographer sold me when he made this statement “I insist women have their hair and makeup done professionally because it helps them relax. They don’t have to worry about whether they look their best. For me, a frizzy-hair-day or badly applied makeup can ruin a photo. I know, with the help of professionals, I am going to get great shots.”

  • Consider what you want your makeup and hair image to be. Youthful? Smoky? Sporty? It is important to have ideas before meeting with your stylists. I was doing an athletic shoot, so I wasn’t going to show up wearing makeup like I was on my way out to a nightclub! That being said photo-shoot makeup is MUCH heavier than regular makeup. I had to use 33 makeup remover pads the night after the shoot! Here are some other TIPS on hair and makeup for a successful photo shoot.
  • Interview your artists. Even if the photographer offers to bring makeup and hair artists, ask to do “run-throughs” before hand. It is worth the extra money to make sure you are satisfied and not shocked the day of the shoot.
  • Do you have to find hair, and makeup artists on your own? I did too. In fact, as I was searching, I came across a great search engine called THUMBTACK. I posted the job I was looking for, and I had four artists reply within a few hours. I was able to email them, look at reviews and portfolios online, and make a selection, all within a matter of minutes. If that doesn’t work your local makeup counter often has artists who freelance.
  • Finally, and most importantly-Be yourself. For anything other than some kind of “character shoot” maintain your integrity. A dramatic hair change, or super heavy makeup, when you hardly ever wear any, will only create disappointment with the result.


WARDROBE: My SISTER is basically a famous costume designer in the film industry and has done costuming for hundreds of mega-watt talent. I was pretty confident that she could handle my little photo shoot. I asked she agreed, and we got down to putting together outfits. I pulsed her to find out what people, who don’t have such talent within their family, might do to go about addressing the issue of clothing for a photo shoot.

Here are her words of wisdom.

  • Consider your location. Make sure your outfits contrast, not clash with your surroundings.
  • Ask for feedback. Ask honest friends who are great with style to consider your outfits before you finalize them. Peach top and blue shorts? Never would have done it without my sister’s urging, but it worked!
  • Be careful of statement pieces that will take over the whole photo. I recently saw a business portrait of a woman. She was a wearing bright red bauble necklace. The necklace completely dominated the whole photo, and the woman, herself, was lost.
  • Strike a pose. Try on everything several times, and stand in poses you will likely use on the day. Look for ways the clothes might shift, or bunch, and become unflattering.
  • Have one or two alternatives to every outfit you want to wear. Options came in handy when the photographer “nixed” a couple of pieces because of his personal preference. He was right in the end, and the photos turned out great. Had I not had alternatives, I would have been in big “troubs”.
  • Consider what looks good on you, not what you like, or what is trendy. Here are some additional TIPS on what to wear!
  • Don’t be afraid to use bright colors. Black is lovely, but a splash of color can make a photo pop.

PHOTOSHOOT - Photographer 2

ASSISTANT: We started at 6 AM in the morning, on the day of the shoot, and finished at 7 PM. It was a non-stop flurry of shorts, flying peppers, sports bras, curling irons, running shoes, cactus accidents, and sprinting from location to location to get the light. Regardless of the type of shoot, it is beneficial to have an “assistant”, even if it is just a friend to schlep gear. My sister was kind enough to come to Arizona with me for the event and be my assistant, costumer, and many other support roles!

PHOTOSHOOT - Photographer 4

  • Pick an assistant that has endurance and is not going to lose steam through the day.
  • Meet with them before the photo shoot. Review the flow of the day and your desired results.
  • Run through the costume changes. Make sure she has a list of all the alternatives.
  • Your assistant should carry a “survival kit”. It should contain the following items: touch-up make-up, a spray bottle of water, snacks, safety pins, hairspray, Band-aids. Cotton balls, and Q-tips.
  • Your assistant should also be in charge of making sure the photographer has water and snacks as well. Photographers tend to get a little immersed in their process. We don’t want them fading midway through the session!
  • Give your assistant the “bad-cop” badge. If he or she feels that things are not “looking” as you both previously discussed, give them license to intervene on your behalf. Let your assistant be your eyes and your voice. My sister made several changes during the day because she knows me, and she knew what look and feeling I was aiming for.  Minor corrections, touch-ups and feedback from an assistant are invaluable.


After our 16-hour day, and 1600 shots – we were spent.  The day was electric and fun. And, its success was based on preparations, patience and determination that went into all the details of the day.

And the best part? That 12-year-old girl got her wish and “pink modeling book” pulled through.

PHOTOSHOOT - End of day

End of shoot cookie and martini party….This was a non-paleo sponsored event!  

Share with our readers below your best tips for a successful photo shoot!

16 Responses

  1. Well done, Heather. I am proud of you for going for what you want. The photos look fantastic! Glad your sister is able to help you out too. Bet that is cool. Good luck, girl! Excited for you.

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About Dr. Denniston

Dr. Denniston is a wellness strategist for elite leaders and their teams, bridging the connection between personal well-being and professional success. She provides custom solutions for burnout and stress and facilitates cohesive habit-training strategies that maximize vitality, productivity, and resilience.

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THE THREE DAY RESET is a whole food, organic eating plan geared to charge your metabolism, give you tons of energy, and provide all the nutrients and vitamins you need.

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