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Planning a photo shoot for hair stylists and hair salons

In this post I am going to break down the process for planning and executing your own photoshoot. Some of this you may already know, of have been doing without thinking about it. However, the aim is to make you think about the finer aspects. Planning is the key with great shoots. So let’s get into the details.

Why are you doing a photoshoot?

The two main reasons I encounter are:

Competitions – Hair competitions are a big deal within the industry and often considered a key part of building a reputation and long term success. They are also incredibly competitive by nature, so your images are the key. Hair competitions have their own rules which are really important when planning your hair shoot. If hair competitions are they reason for your shoot, get a copy of the entry documents and find out the rules. This information is a vital place to start.

Marketing – Promotion of your salon or personal skills as with any business is critical to success. Setting yourself apart from the competition in a visual way is a great start to doing this. As they say a picture is worth a thousand words. Thinking about where you plan to market, is it social media? Are you going to print them and fill the Windows of your salon? Will you be submitting to hair magazines? Possibly all of these is the answer, but it is useful to make it clear to your photographer how you plan to use them. This allows for them to shoot in the correct orientation and at a high enough resolution.

Writing a brief

A written brief is your way to state what you require from this shoot. The more detail the better,

State how many images you would like.
How many looks you are planning.
State the purpose of the images
Any timescales
Competition information
An idea of you budget.
Are you looking to follow a specific trend?
I am not saying you need to write war and peace, but a bullet point list of the important details is a great place to start when contacting a photographer. It will also allow the photographer to tell you how possible something is and offer solutions.


We are talking about a very visual subject, most photographers will respond better to seeing an idea you are thinking about. Whilst many hair photographers will have a great knowledge of hair imagery, remember they are not hair stylists. My first question to a customer is always, do you have some examples of what you are thinking.

There are lots of ways to create a moodboard, you can go down the a traditional route using magazine cuttings . Literally rip ideas out magazines, stick/pin them to a board or wall. This is a great visual aid but limited in its flexibility.

Digital moodboards:

Lots of apps are available, you can use a note application such as one note or Evernote. You could use Word or the option that I see the most is to use Pinterest. Pinterest to those who don’t use it allows you to pin images from websites onto subject boards. Allowing you to create idea boards for more than one idea at once. They can be set up so a team can collaborate and all drop ideas into one board, and then sent to somebody to look at.

The look and feel of your images

Now you have a moodboard, hopefully you are starting to see a pattern emerging in what you want to do. It may be that you already have an idea of this in your mind, but seeing them on the moodboard will allow you to answer some questions the photographer will most likely ask.

What sort of background – Are they are a particular colour? Is it smooth or textured? Are they at a location or in studio?

Lighting style – Are the images high key meaning brightly lit, lighter backgrounds with less shadows. Are they low key, darker in appearance? Are you looking for soft light or more contrasting light with harsher shadows?

Colour or Black and White – Most images are shot in colour and converted to black and white, but its good to know the intention prior to the shoot.


I feel this is one of the most important aspects of any photoshoot. Modelling is a skill and not anybody can do it. Lots believe they can, however when the lights and pressure is on, you want somebody who can deliver. Think about what you want from the model, are you looking for a certain hair length, colour, thickness. What are you planning to do to their hair? The more adventurous the cut/style, potentially the more expensive the model will be. Especially if you are going into a competition, where you may need that model to recreate the style. It can essentially contractually stop them working with others stylists for that and other competitions.

There are a few options where it comes to models. You can hire a professional agency model, opt for a freelance model or use somebody you know. These all have their own pros and cons.

Professional agency models – This option gives you a higher chance of getting exactly what you want and images that you will be proud of. The negative is they can be expensive, but as they say you get what you pay for. If you are serious about success in competitions or being noticed for your work in magazines, this is your best bet.

Freelance Models & Model Networks – this can give the best of both worlds, freelancers may be cheaper and more willing to negotiate. You are not paying for an agent so the model has the decision. You may be able to negotiate hair treatments as part payment. The standard of model can vary but with look for a good portfolio and you will get a good model. Model networks are a good place to look for these kinds of models but be prepared to be firm on who and what you want.

Using somebody you know or client – I have had mixed results with this method. Pretty models are great however there is a lot more to modelling that being pretty. If you know somebody who has experience and you trust them, then great. However I have seen a fair amount of salons clients freeze when they are put in the spotlight. So think carefully before going down this option. The obvious pro to this is the cost, they may do it for free or a hair cut/colour.

Model Release Forms

Model release forms are important as it confirms the models are happy for the images to be used. It specifies payment terms, if their name can be used and for what the images can be used for. For example social media and competition use. These forms can be found quite easily online. *Note* if the model is under 18 then you will need a parent/guardian to sign them too.

Where to look for models:

Agencies – There are a few hair specific model agencies:

Unite Model Management

“Unite Model Management are a dedicated team of professionals who are experienced in the field of hair, fashion, catwalk and promotion. Founded by leading model Georgie Riot and her team of creatives with a wealth of experience in this area, we understand there is a need for an agency that nurtures, develops and supports models in building their careers in preparation for the ever-changing industry. Many of our models are well known in the hair industry and have been published in the likes of Hairdressers Journal, Estetica, The Hair Mag and many others, whilst representing the industries top hair salons and educators. We have over 100 models registered so are nearly always able to cater to your needs in regards to hair cut and colours!” – Georgie Riot, Unite Model Management

Model Networks

Model Mayhem


Model management

What else do I need to consider:

Makeup Artists – a great makeup artist will add value to your images. Somebody who has experience of working with photo shoot makeup and how lights will react to their makeup. Once again I would recommend using a professional. – Check out Lee O’Driscoll’s guest blog post – 14 Tips for using a makeup artist on your hair/salon shoot

Fashion Stylists – Depending on the look of you images having a wardrobe stylist can add an extra dimension to your shoot. Many stylist can do this on a consultancy basis where they will advise on a look for a fee. Often this optional depending on your shoot, however it can definitely add some value.

Locations – If you decide on a location rather than a studio shoot, you can drastically alter the look of your images. Finding the location can be challenging and often there will be a cost for this, however some places will be happy to make a deal with you. If you don’t ask, you don’t get! There are websites and organisations that can help with filming locations.

I have tried to cover the important factors and questions in planning a hair shoot, although most of this applies to any photoshoot. If you have any questions or there is something you’d more you would like advice on, please get in touch. I will be creating some more posts to advise on executing the shoot, so keep an eye out for that.

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