Use Test Shoots to Build Your Portfolio

“I have a personal philosophy in life: If somebody else can do something that I’m doing, they should do it. And what I want to do is find things that would represent a unique contribution to the world – the contribution that only I, and my portfolio of talents, can make happen. Those are my priorities in life.”—Neil deGrasse Tyson

When working with models I haven’t photographed before, my first step is scheduling a test shoot that typically takes two hours during which I’ll usually make approximately two hundred photographs. I start the process with an interview where I’ll look at her portfolio (if she has one) and go on to show her the kind of images I produce. This exchange helps establishes rapport and the model has a chance to give feedback on my photography that can affect the kind of images made during the test shoot.

During the test, I shoot in both color and black & white images. (I’ve mentioned my philosophy of shooting B&W and color at the same time; you can read it here.) These days, more often than not, I’ll be shooting mirrorless with a Lumix GH4 or Olympus EM-5 Mark I, sometimes both during a session.

As far as lighting is concerned: There are photographers who prefer using available light meaning “every light that’s available” but I prefer to work with as few lighting tools as possible and concentrate on the model, not the equipment.

For the photograph shown, I work with Paul C Buff’s Alien Bees B800 and DigiBee DB 800 monolights. I’ll usually mount a 42-inch hexagonal Plume Wafer lightbank,  using a Balcar speed ring to the DigiBee. Monolights are synced with a Pocket Wizard Plus X on the main light and another Plus X on the camera. Camera was a Lumix GH4 with Lumix G Vario 14-45mm f/3.5-5.6 lens with an exposure of 1/125 sec at f/8 and ISO 200.

I don’t have a formula for posing. I try to accent a model’s good points and minimize the ones she’s self-conscious about, even if I think she’s wrong. I tell each model—and wholeheartedly believe it—that I want to make each of them too look as beautiful as possible. And that’s my goal of a test shoot, to make great pictures that makes the model happy and one that helps us toward a longstanding partnership in creating glamour photographs.

You can learn more about my posing techniques in “Posing for Portrait & Glamour Photographyand, as I write this, brand new books are available from for just $17.90 with Kindle versions at $11.99 because I know some of you might prefer to have the book in digital form.

Author: Joe Farace

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