How to successfully run a photoshoot and direct your model for stills

We share advice about running an effective shoot while directing your model well

Equipment used: StyleShoots Live. Discover more here.


A successful fashion e-commerce photoshoot is comprised of different elements. In this tutorial, we'll be sharing some tips and tricks that focus on directing your model for stills.

We'll cover tips on styling and preparation, as well as some guidance on posing and directing your model.   

We cover the following stages

1. Styling & preparation
2. Posing
3. Directing


1. Styling & preparation

Stylists are incredibly valuable to your shoot. They can be seen as the 'do it all' types that will be able to pitch in at all stages of the shoot - from creating the outfits to advising on hair and makeup.

Prepare before you start

Before you even start shooting, it’s a really good idea to point out what type of atmosphere and mood you're going for as well as what poses you'd like to see.

Don't forget to pay attention to technical details in advance too. Those include checking how large the shot is and how big is the space that the model has to play with. 

Coordinate outfit with set design

The clothes of the model should be in sync with the set design in some way. That doesn’t necessarily mean matching colors but it could entail props and themes.

Choose framing

A wide frame lets you see more of the model’s outfit and the surroundings. It’s really up to you what should be visible in these shots but making a choice in the beginning is important.  

Get the fundamentals right

Make a list of the clothes  you'll be shooting and a call sheet. Assemble the outfits with your stylist. Prepare your clothes for shooting. Organize your rail. Decide on hair, makeup and styling guidelines. 

All of this preparation will set you up for a successful photoshoot. 

Styling and paying attention to detail before you even start shooting means less post-production efforts.

Styling and paying attention to detail before you even start shooting means less post-production efforts.


2. Posing 

Directing your model's poses is one of the most important things to get right on set. A trained model will already have many poses they can immediately turn to, but having a set of visual guidelines and directions will help you run a more dynamic photoshoot. 

Experiment with the model’s poses

Ask your model to switch their legs from left to right, do twirls, show off the back of the clothes, etc. Try different things. The goal is to showcase various aspects and best features of each product.

Create an atmosphere with music

The music you play in your studio helps your models get energized and can greatly affect how they move and pose. 

Set the tempo accordingly. Do you want to capture energy and intensity? Or do you want your models to give off a more relaxed look? 

Look for the facial expressions

When photographing recognizable shots, the facial expression is the best indicator of whether the shot works or not.

A good photographer knows how to capture everyone's best side. Combine these elements and you have a pro quality shot.

Arm placement is important

A good pose is about a good shape, and the arms can be used to create a broad variety of shape variations. 

Work through a series of different arm placements with your model and guide him or her on which ones they should keep repeating throughout if you find one that works particularly well for a certain outfit.

Don't forget about the hands

Oddly positioned hands can ruin your image. Hands can be shaped in a myriad of ways, and can be placed in many different positions and orientations for subtle differences in look. 

If the hands are ever looking awkward during a pose, tell the model to relax, open their hands wide and then touch their index fingers with their thumbs. When reviewing images, pay extra attention to the positioning of the model's hands. 

Posing with props

There are lots of different props you can use to supplement your model's pose if you choose to. 

Try to keep the props consistent with the visual story you're telling. Leave room for exploration - you might surprise yourself.  


3. Directing

Before shooting, make your instructions clear and realistic to achieve. It's a good idea to discuss the posing for each look as the model is preparing to go on set so there are clear goals and expectations. 

Giving the model an idea of how much freedom of movement they have will make sure your session goes according to plan. 

Get the shots you need

Make sure to cover all the shots you need before the model gets changed. Those might include the front shot, the back shot and a nice close-up detail shot.  

Maintain a good flow

Show what you're after if necessary. Keep regular communication going with your model during the session. 

Give instructions when you feel like you're not getting quite the photo you need, but don't be too impatient. Sometimes you have to wait for the pose to look right. 

Work together with the model

Instruct and give direction but also give the model freedom to do what they think is best. Even better, tell the model if you're giving them more creative freedom - or if you're going to be directing them pose by pose. 

Inform the model about outfits

Inform the model how many outfits and variations you're looking to photograph during a particular photoshoot.

Make sure you discuss visuals

After defining your marketing brief and style guide, discuss the posing for the look before you go on set. Use a mood-board and other visual cues if necessary. 

Add marks to the floor for consistency

To help guide your model to stand in the right position, it can help to make some light markings on the floor or have a reference in the ceiling. 

This ensures that framing, focus and lighting will stay consistent throughout. 

Don't forget to work together with your model. 

Don't forget to work together with your model. 


A final note...

Thank you for reading our tutorial - hope you found it useful. This article is part of our ongoing series of tutorials on product photography, styling and lighting. If you found it helpful, why don’t you head on over to our YouTube channel and subscribe?

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