V’s Disclaimer: As a reminder, before we begin the article, all of the personal details related to myself and my models have been changed. This anonymity allows me to give personal examples without embarrassing anyone or revealing any confidences.
Now we move on to the actual day of the group shoot!
Note to Other Photographers: The following 8 pieces of advice are written from the perspective of a model, since I get so many of them asking how to prepare for these types of group shoots. However, almost everything (even the ‘Games’ advice) can be done by photographers with just a little modification.
V’s 8 Steps to An Awesome Group Shoot
1. Early. Make sure that you’ve triple checked the directions of the location you’re shooting in and try to leave 30 minutes earlier than you think you’ll need to in order to be 15 minutes early. (Even if you live around the corner of a particular venue and have actually been there multiple times, this will be the day you get delayed if you don’t leave early!) In general, most group shoots are held in places that could have been a “Speak Easy” in Prohibition. (To quote Swingers, “[they’re] hard to find and have no sign”). With a schedule you’re trying to maintain throughout the day, you want to do everything you can to be early to the venue and ready to go.
2. Paperwork. If your photographers have an agreement for you to bring, bring two copies with you, so that they have one and you have one for your records. (Some photographers will use digital PDFs for these agreements. If so, just make sure you’ve sent them out in the timeframe the photographer expects.)
3. Hair & Makeup. Arrive with your hair and makeup ready to go, as well as the supplies to do touchups if things get smudged during the day. (Even if your event has makeup artists and stylists available, there are always way fewer of them than models, and you’ll have lots more time for great pictures if all you have to do is quick wardrobe changes.)
4. Proactive. Always try to be ready five minutes early for each block if at all possible. (Most of the shooting in an hour block occurs from 15 past until 45 past, so most folks are fine with wrapping early so you can do a quick change and text your next photographer five minutes early.)
5. Communicate. Have the text numbers for all your photographers saved in your cell phone with their name so you can find them at your shoot time. (Facebook and email alerts are almost always ignored in this type of environment, so texting is usually the best way to do this.)
6. Personable. Try to ask each photographer 3 things about themselves as a person. (Part of why you’re at these events is not just to get cool pictures, it’s just as important to make new friends and find people you want to continue to work with in the future. Why not combine them? Who wouldn’t rather work with their friends?)
7. Games. As a fun game, kind of like bingo, have a card with 9 squares of different types of shots that you’d like to get throughout the day–anything from “WS of me reclining” to “XCU of my right eye”. Making sure to mention that it’s just a “fun game you like to play at shoots,” see if they’d like get “that one” shot for you so you can fill in a row. (Silly as this sounds, it’s a great icebreaker. Photographers are often just as self-conscious as models and are afraid of looking stupid. But give them a “silly” challenge that pairs their creative style with a “restriction” of a certain shot type and they’ll loosen up. You’ll learn more about the photographer this way and I’ve seen situations where this type of thing creates the best shots of the day.)
8. Contact. Bring cards with your communication information on it for the people you’re working with and for any cool people you meet. Get your photographers contact info and, that night after the shoot, send them a message telling them that you appreciated their time and try to mention something specific about that person’s shoot that you really enjoyed.
As we conclude, I want to bring up one last thing to be aware of:
The Trap of the Monster Mash
Whenever a specialty monster makeup artist will be at an event, photographers start to create brilliant shoots that use these makeup skills for some horrific tableau straight out of a Universal Monster movie. Many models picture themselves front and center of such shoot, blood dripping from their fangs. So they decide to abandon other shoot opportunities so that they can get the makeup done and be in this amazing shot. Unfortunately, these optimistic photographers don’t want just “a” monster, they want MULTIPLE monsters, as well as victims, heroes, & heroines.
In other word, they want a multiple subject shoot AND they want monster makeup done on multiple subjects—in a very short window of time by too few makeup artists. (Most monster makeup in Hollywood is applied by two to three makeup artists over the course of three to six hours!! Now imagine what happens if you have two or three makeup artists trying to do four to eight models!) This means that there are always models who end up all day in makeup which doesn’t get finished before the shoot is over. (Or their makeup is done, but other people’s isn’t, so they are missing out on plenty of other shoot times because their makeup won’t work with anything else.)
Rather than getting trapped by the Monster Mash, I would suggest getting a makeup artists’ card whom you admire and see about setting up a shoot with them doing something elaborate on you in the future. (Makeup artists willing to donate their time to Group Shoots are clearly in this for the passion and the experience of it, so most will be more than happy to work with a willing subject under a non-harried schedule in the future.)
Hopefully this has helped get you prepped for your upcoming group shoots, like Cincinatti’s Haunted Group Shoot III! Group Shoots may have a few more steps than you might think of at first, but they’re are a lot of fun and some of the best ways to make new contacts!