The Importance of Test Shoots

by | Jan 16, 2019

Today’s Post by Joe Farace

“Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point.”— C. S. Lewis

When meeting with models I haven’t photographed before, my first step is to schedule a test shoot to see how we like working together. The shoot typically takes two hours during which time I’ll usually make approximately two hundred photographs.

Before the shoot, I have an informal interview to look at her portfolio (if she has one) and if she isn’t familiar with my work, show her the kind of images that I make. This exchange establishes rapport and the model has a chance to provide feedback that can affect the kind of images that get made during the test shoot.

During the test, I shoot  both color and black & white images. I’ve previously mentioned my philosophy of shooting B&W and color at the same time and you can read it here.

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.

How I made this shot: The standard lighting equipment in my 11×15-foot home studio are Paul C Buff’s Alien Bees B800 and DigiBee DB 800 monolights. For this portrait, a 42-inch hexagonal Plume Wafer soft box is attached to a DigiBee placed at camera left, with Alien Bee with 18-inch OMNI reflector is at camera right. Monolights are synced with a Pocket Wizard Plus X on the main light and another Plus X on the camera. Background is Savage orange seamless paper. 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 also my goal of a test shoot, to create great photographs that makes the model happy and helps us toward a longstanding partnership.


The original title of my book Posing for Portrait and Glamour Photography was The ABC’s of Portrait Posing. On this blog there are lots of posts about posing. Use the Search box on the upper right-hand corner and type “posing” to find appropriate posts. If you want something more lasting, take a look at my book that’s available from Amazon for $18.78, Kindle version is $17.84 for those who prefer a digital format.