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Anastasiia Zinkevych
Apr 12, 2024

Your handbook to fashion model photography

in this article

Did you know that the effectiveness of product photography with models predominantly hinges on a thorough and detail-oriented preparation process? The repetitive cycle of planning and preparation takes center stage in achieving success. Basically, around 90% of the whole deal is all about diving deep into careful preparation in case of on-model photography.

The other 10% is up to the charisma of the model, mastery of the photographer, weather, vibe on the photoset, product itself, concept, and post-editing.

The question arises: is the extensive behind-the-scenes effort justified? According to our experience, it undoubtedly is.

The importance of product model photography in e-commerce proves its worth during every step of the customer journey from the first brand touch to the “brand advocate” grand finale. 

The underlying psychology of success of this marketing instrument is multi-layered: starting with a powerful social proof factor to bridging the gap between offline and online.

In this article, we have compiled insights from our entire team and several industry experts to present 16 crucial aspects for a successful on-model photo shoot.

The role of product photography with a model in ecommerce

Social proof is deeply embedded in our nature as a survival mechanism. Now that we don't need to survive as much, the social proof phenomenon manifests itself in our social behaviors - like purchasing, for example.

However prehistoric, this is the psychological reasoning behind why on-model photography reigns supreme in e-commerce. 

Want to make your clothing more relatable to your potential customers? Show an image of that garment on a model.

Boost your online store conversion rates

Certainly, the probability of converting a site visitor significantly increases when exposed to an image of your product in a real-life context on a real-life model. While Conversion Rate Optimization [CRO] is no rocket science, it’s indeed a science in its own right — and nearly as complex.

One of the most advanced techniques for how multi-million-dollar ecommerce businesses convert viewers into buyers is by allowing them to choose a model for a garment of choice! In this example featured in Nielsen Norman’s blog, Good American offers its customers to select a model of choice. Often this technical possibility also helps prompt inclusion and diversity, offering models with different ethnicities, body shapes, and so on.

Benefits of ecommerce model photography when used across digital channels

By ensuring your target audience has a chance to check out your product worn by people - either in the studio or as part of the lifestyle photo session - online businesses improve multiple KPIs along the customer journey.

Bridge the gap between online and offline shopping experience

Nothing beats trying on something in a regular store. However, the next best thing is a professionally done ecommerce image with close-ups, 360-degree rotation images, and videos. The yet another next best thing is apparel model photography. Potential buyers get to see how an item fits a human just like them. This is not quite looking at yourself in the mirror of the fitting room, but pretty similar.

Use a shortcut to appeal to a defined target audience

When shaping your brand voice and image in the public domain, using models with the demographics of your ideal customer persona is such an easy shortcut.

Nowadays, it is more and more popular to have a marketing image of your brand that resonates with your target audience. User-generated content becomes more important than professional campaigns because consumers want to see how the brand’s items will look on a daily basis, and people like themselves. Since my brand has been on the market for 5+ years, I know who my audience is, what size they mostly buy, etc. SO WHEN I CHOOSE A MODEL, I USUALLY SEARCH FOR ONE THAT MAY LOOK LIKE MY CUSTOMER.

Ksyusha, Founder of LA MUSA
Photo: LA MUSA

Sell the emotion, not the product

The famous marketing adage has it, that a true marketer sells a hole in the wall, not the hammer. 

Similarly, when shooting model for your ecommerce visual materials, it’s easy to set a mood and render the emotions resulting from wearing your products. 

Massive abstract earrings on a makeup-free model would ring the bells of confidence, rebellion, and self-worth, that so many people out there want to ooze and be associated with. It’s not about the earrings anymore, it’s about the guts that let you confidently wear the massive jewelry made of non-precious metals — alongside your natural face — in the era of make-up-heavy filters.

Photo: Bottega Veneta

See how a model makes all the difference? If the accessory was just hanging on a jewelry stand, the sentimental impact would have been different.

Multitude of ways model photography affects brand perception

Brand identity and customer perception of your brand seem ephemeral, yet they translate into the measurable brand value in dollar bills when any business goes through an M&A process. The metric includes brand equity, customer loyalty, quality of services, brand awareness, customer sentiment, LTV, scale of brand ambassadorship, and so on.

Here, I can say that the brand picture is the first encounter with the product.
Content is not only about the product itself but also about the concept of the entire brand. It is important to make sure that your content sends out exactly the message you want to convey through the product and its visuals. This is something that directly affects the purchase, because if the product is of incredible quality and not presented correctly, then no one will buy it. Conversely, well-crafted, high-quality content has the power to sell even products that may not be top-tier in quality.

Ksyusha, Founder and CEO LA MUSA
Photo: LA MUSA

This is how using product photography models in your marketing strategy can help grow your ecommerce business:

Enhanced product visualization

On-model photos provide customers with a realistic representation of how the clothing or product looks when worn or used. This helps users visualize the fit, style, and overall appearance of the person wearing the piece more accurately. 

Reduced returns 

When customers have a clear understanding of what a product looks like on a person, they are less likely to be surprised or disappointed upon receiving it. This can contribute to a decrease in return rates. 

Marketing appeal 

On-model photos are often more visually appealing and engaging in marketing materials. They can be used in various channels, including social media, on catalog pages, and printed materials, to create a cohesive and attractive brand image. 

Consistent brand representation 

Using models consistently across product lines contributes to a cohesive brand image. This consistency builds brand identity and recognition, fostering trust among customers.

Ecommerce model photography contributes to a consistent brand image

Let’s explore key strategies to maintain visual consistency across different product lines and campaigns.

Establish style guidelines 

Develop style guidelines for on-model photography. Specify aspects such as lighting, background, poses, and expressions to maintain a cohesive visual language across all images. 

Kith stands out as a notable example in photography for infusing distinct characters into diverse brands. Their recognizable style, characterized by carefully curated lighting and backgrounds, imparts a cohesive visual identity across varied products and collaborations. This consistency not only fosters brand recognition but also contributes to a compelling narrative, showcasing the importance of a well-defined photography style in creating a strong and memorable brand presence.

Kith marketing skillfully leverages on-model shots to establish visual consistency of the brand

Consider consistent posing and congruent facial expressions 

Standardize poses and expressions of models to create a uniform look. This ensures that the overall tone and mood of the imagery align with the brand's identity. 

Create a mood board 

Develop a mood board that encapsulates the desired visual style for all types of product photography, including that featuring humans. Share it with photographers, stylists, and models to ensure everyone involved is aligned with the brand's aesthetic. 

Keep an eye on consistent wardrobe styling 

Standardize wardrobe styling to create a unified look. Whether it's the clothing style, colors, or accessories, ensure that there is coherence in the way models are styled across different shoots. 

Use the same pool of models 

Whenever possible, use the same pool of models for different campaigns. This ensures a consistent look and feel, as the models become associated with the brand over time. 

This is one of the reasons you see top-models signing exclusive contracts with premium fashion brands, becoming their ambassadors and faces. The two big names achieve a synergistic effect this way, reinforcing each other’s strengths.

Adapt to evolving trends 

While maintaining consistency, be adaptable to evolving trends within the industry. Striking a balance between consistency and staying relevant can help the brand remain visually appealing to the target audience throughout this dynamic era.

Product photography with models – non-negotiable marketing asset for fashion ecommerce

In the world of fashion product photography, models are essential for leveling the playing field with competitors.


Apparel ecommerce stores benefit greatly from photography shots with models as they allow customers to see how the items fit and look when worn.

Photo: Jil Sander


Footwear items can be effectively showcased to people to highlight style, fit, and overall aesthetic. On-model photography provides a clearer perspective on how the footwear complements different outfits. 


Various accessories, such as hats, scarves, and belts, can be effectively presented in shots featuring models to demonstrate how they complete an ensemble or a certain look.


Models can showcase what the bag looks like when carried on the shoulder, in a hand, across the body, or as a backpack, highlighting the versatility of the design. 

A human body in the frame is also used as a measuring stick to signal the size of the item, which is not always clear from a standalone isolated product shot. This is especially helpful when we talk about smaller cross-body bags, that have more of a decorative purpose rather than practical. Having a bag in the same shot as a human allows future buyers to realize they can only fit a few smaller items in - decreasing the return rates for the business this way.

Photo: Jacquemus


Jewelry model photography is also popular and effective in demonstrating how pieces can be worn together. 

If you think about it, everyone wants to look chic and stylish, but not many people have the motivation or time to learn how to do it. Bracelets, necklaces, pendants, and earrings have just that power to transform and elevate an entire look from ordinary — to a few risen brows.

Squareshot's model lookbook


Makeup and skincare products can be successfully demonstrated on models, allowing customers to see the application and results in a real-life context.

Squareshot's model lookbook


Professional on-model shots help potential customers visualize how watches look on the wrist, emphasizing design details and size. 

Impact of mixing product and model images on reducing returns

When planning your ecommerce product shoot, consider leveraging every tool in the arsenal for the highest ROI. Fast fashion e-commerce giants skilfully use on-model & product photos across all digital channels.

ZARA combines on-model and product photos as part of its marketing and product presentation strategy. Product photos are often used to highlight specific details of the clothing, such as textures, patterns, or intricate designs. On-model shots complement this by providing a context in which customers can see how these details contribute to the overall look. Featuring both on-model and product photos allows ZARA to showcase a diverse range of products, highlighting the inclusivity and versatility of its clothing across different styles.

Photo: Zara

Now that you know exactly all of the theoretical insights of the concept, let’s get down to the practical part. Do you remember how we talked about the success of the on-model photo session depending on tonnes of planning and preparation? The below chapters cover the fundamentals of getting it right during the organizational stage.

Сhoosing the right model for your product model photography

Depending on the maturity of your business, product and experience of your marketing manager, some of the below tips may be helpful. These are considerations for selecting models that align with the brand and target audience — straight from the Squareshot team's empirical wisdom.

Understand your brand image 

Clearly define the brand's identity, values, and aesthetics. Understanding the brand image is essential for selecting models who can embody and enhance that identity. Choose people whose personalities align with the brand. If your brand is fun and energetic, look for modeling professionals with vibrant and outgoing behavior. 

Go for diversity and inclusion 

Consider diversity in ethnicity, age, body size, and gender to ensure a broad representation. This reflects positively on your brand and makes it more relatable to a wider audience. 

Review portfolios and experience - inclusive of emotional range capacity

Look for models who have successfully worked with similar brands or have a range of looks suitable for your products. 

Ask for actual digitals 

Snaps show the model's real-time appearance, allowing you to assess its current look and the visual impact it creates.

Hold video casting calls 

Conduct casting calls to see how models present themselves in person. This helps gauge their professionalism, confidence, and how well they will align with the brand. You may fail to see if the person is 100% your perfect match, but this activity helps to sieve out the candidates who are 100% NOT a perfect match.

Plan for timely fittings 

Fittings before a photo shoot are crucial to ensure that the clothing fits the model perfectly, enhancing the overall aesthetic and preventing any last-minute wardrobe issues during the shoot. 

Unpredictable situations happen often on set. I’m trying to be prepared for everything. If we didn’t have fittings before, I’ll bring more sizes and more options just to be sure we could pick something. Sometimes, you need to re-shoot the outfit, because the producer isn’t satisfied or the client has some suggestions. That’s ok. The key is to think BEFORE the shooting what could happen. Of course, there is some obvious equipment you need to have such as iron, thread, sizers, binder-clips to fit the clothes to the model’s body.

Valeriia, Fashion Stylist

Legal considerations 

Don’t forget about 3 important documents: contract, invoice, and w9 form. Make sure you have a signed contract with a model or model agency that clearly outlines project details, payment terms, and copyright agreements to avoid misunderstandings. Ensure contractors provide invoices detailing services rendered, payment terms, and contact information. W9 forms are crucial for tax purposes, as they collect the contractor's taxpayer identification number. 

But before you even get to this stage, you need to find a few candidates. The below chapter lists 4 sources to look for your perfect brand’s match.

Methods for finding models for product shoots

As a product & model photography studio in the USA with hundreds of fashion photoshoots on our portfolio, Squareshot has a huge list of model contacts. This is how we have accumulated them and you can do too:

Ask for recommendations 

Seek recommendations from industry professionals, photographers, or other brands. Word-of-mouth can be a valuable resource in finding models who are reliable and professional. 

Collaborate with model agencies in your area

Work with reputable model agencies that can provide a pool of talent tailored to your brand's needs. Agencies often have experienced models with diverse looks. Check out some of these agencies to get a feel of what you might be looking for as a reference:

Use talent booking platforms for hiring models & MU artists for a shoot

These platforms often serve as booking hubs, making it easier to find and book models for photoshoots.

Monitor major social media

Platforms like Instagram, Facebook, and TikTok are excellent for discovering models. Search relevant hashtags or reach out to models directly through direct messages. 

Nota bene: When collecting your company’s database of potential candidates for any job, please mind that data privacy is getting more and more focus worldwide. Be mindful that you don’t violate any GDPR rules if you happen to have business in the EU or that you comply with all of the state and federal privacy policies and regulations at all times.

Model styling – your ally in standing out

The importance of styling, wardrobe selection, and overall aesthetics in an on-model photo session varies depending on multiple factors.

The makeup artist and a hairstylist may be one person in some cases. They are one of the most critical auxiliary talents. Their contribution will also reflect on the amount of post-production work, so even if they may seem expensive, they will cut down hours of work for your editor. 

A good assistant can save you lots of time and money by planning everything thoroughly, sending all calendar reminders, ensuring logistics, booking equipment and studio, ironing clothing on the spot, etc.

The high-end fashion product photography with models will always have some art direction to every shoot or collection. In this case, you will end up with a few pages of a brief that includes a mood board, and references to every aspect of the shoot, including model types, makeup, hair, accessory requirements, and even suggested poses.

A stylist will ensure all of the pieces of the look from head to toe come together nicely and align with the brand identity.

I would say that styling plays almost the main role. To achieve a cohesive aesthetic, the team must collaborate, ensuring every element complements the outfit, including makeup, hair, and set design. For larger projects, fittings are essential to try outfits on models and make collective decisions. Viewing styling from the customer's perspective is also vital. Even if the photos don't directly sell clothes, customers still form impressions in a matter of seconds. This moment is critical; if the customer is drawn in, they're more likely to spend time on the website, exploring the products and potentially making a purchase.

, Fashion Stylist

Shooting on an empty stomach is never a good idea

Having snacks on a photo shoot is important because it helps keep the energy levels of the team, —including the models and crew, —sustained throughout the day. Snacks can prevent fatigue, maintain focus, and contribute to a positive and productive atmosphere on set.

Plan in advance 

Confirm the number of people attending and their dietary preferences. 

Explore local catering vendors

Explore local catering options, which may be more affordable than larger, well-known catering services. 

Simple affordable menus are cheap, quick, and do the job

Order simple menus. Consider boxed lunches, sandwich platters, or buffet-style setups that are cost-effective. Even if you have a small crew, grabbing some fruit, sandwiches, chocolate bars, and drinks on the way to the location will boost the performance on the set significantly.

Now let’s review some of the best practices related to budgeting.

Pptimization opportunities for on-model photography services

If you are wondering how to shoot model photography on a budget the simple answer is — you can’t. That said, you can always optimize your marketing costs. These are some tips and strategies for cost-effective on-model photo shoots without compromising quality.

Plan every step before the rush of Day 0 kicks in

The best way to prevent unexpected expenses is to plan them all in detail. You should include all pre-, post-, and during-the-shoot expenses. Consider all possible cost centers too - from logistics to studio rental, crew fees, food, taxes, and insurance. 

Accumulate knowledge from one session to another

If you created a model product session budget spreadsheet once, the best practice is to keep it on the corporate GDrive so you benefit from the accumulated wisdom going forward. Have a folder with all the checklists, contact database of the crew, schedule, invoices, etc to reuse them.

Do your due diligence for every service to get the best value-for-money index

If you are looking for a bus to rent to take you and your equipment to a model photography studio or catering service  - check your options beforehand and ask all vendors to fill out RFPs and send you offers. It’s not always the cheapest option that you should go to, but a mix of a reliable reputable vendor and a reasonable price.

Risk management for a stress-free shooting day

Squareshot has a few product photo studios in the US and we pride ourselves on driving efficiency and service consistency through being pedantic in our standard operating procedures. It helps our business to offer better rates to our clients, as we learn to save through process optimization. Our checklists, CRM, and marketing automation help ensure the smooth flow of the service. These tips will help you manage your risks better to have a seamless hassle-free day on the set.

Plan ahead to avoid rushed, costly decisions.

Explore local talent, negotiate rates, and establish long-term relationships with photographers for potential discounts. Utilize versatile models who can showcase multiple products in one session. Moreover, investing in quality planning reduces reshoots and ensures efficiency, helping to strike the right balance between cost-effectiveness and high-quality results.

Time pressure could be a thing, but it improves with experience. Firstly, we should establish a plan and a schedule outlining what we'll shoot and how much time we have per outfit. The producer or photographer can handle this aspect. My tip is to minimize the number of clothing changes for the model. If an outfit will be reused in styling, we should photograph it once to save time. Similarly, if a piece is uncomfortable or too small for the model, there are two options: replace it or quickly capture it to save time, energy, and avoid any discomfort. It's crucial to stay in communication with the team and actively participate in planning from a styling perspective. Situations may shift on set, requiring quick reactions and adjustments to the plan. Flexibility is key! :)

Valeriia, Fashion Stylist

Shooting multiple models simultaneously can be cost-effective, especially when leveraging shared resources like studios and equipment. Negotiate rates based on the complexity and duration of the shoot. Look for local models to minimize travel expenses.

Setting aside a part of the budget (around 5%) for unexpected expenses is a prudent risk management strategy. This contingency fund can cover unforeseen issues such as equipment malfunctions, weather-related challenges, or unexpected model cancellations. Additionally, thorough planning and clear communication with the team help identify potential risks in advance. 

Having backup plans for key elements like locations and models, and maintaining open lines of communication, ensures a stress-free photoshoot even when facing unforeseen circumstances.

Your options for outsourcing model shoots

While outsourcing sounds expensive to a new ecommerce business owner, mature businesses know they cannot afford NOT to delegate tasks. Passing routine tasks to respective professionals saves time and yields outcomes that bring in better ROI from the get-go. As you transition from the money-poor / time-rich to the time-poor / money-rich stage, delegation and outsourcing is the best catalyst of the transition.

Avoid these common mistakes when producing on-model photography 

Our decade-rich experience of working with hundreds of ecommerce brands on model product shots puts us in a position to advise on the subject. These are our cautionary tales:

  1. Poor planning can lead to logistical issues, affecting the entire shoot. 
  2. Scheduling conflicts are an avoidable predicament. Failure to synchronize the schedules of the entire team, including models, photographers, and stylists, can lead to delays and disruptions. Example: Models arriving before or after other essential team members, causing downtime and potentially affecting the mood on set.
  3. Unprepared locations can create a snowball effect for a crumbled day. Inappropriate preparation of shooting locations, including securing necessary permits and ensuring the availability of amenities, can lead to unexpected obstacles. Example: Arriving at a location without proper permissions, resulting in interruptions or the need to find an alternative on short notice.
  4. Be ready for weather-related challenges. Failing to consider weather conditions can lead to unanticipated challenges, especially for outdoor shoots. Example: Planning an outdoor shoot without contingency plans for unexpected rain, wind, or adverse weather conditions, causing disruptions.
  5. Choosing models without considering the brand's target audience may result in a misalignment. 
  6. Uncoordinated outfits can detract from the overall aesthetic.
  7. Poorly lit or distracting backgrounds can divert attention from the products. 
  8. Misalignment of team members who are not sufficiently informed on the goal / final outcome. 
  9. Ignored model comfort can be reflected in the models' expressions, affecting the overall mood and the wrong vibe on the resulting images.
  10. Lack of a clear vision of the outcome and strategy for achieving goals. This again reinforces the significance of thorough planning and vigorous preparation routine by the entire team.
If we talk about e-commerce styling, my biggest mistake was (and sometimes still is) trying to make an outfit more creative and show my own style and interpretation. Sounds crazy, but e-com styling requires a simpler way of thinking. And there is a good reason for that. When selling products, it's crucial to present attractive images with appropriate style, makeup, and models, while ensuring the focus remains on the product. The key is to create a good outfit without overwhelming it. This means avoiding bright, contrasting colors and patterns that distract from the main product. It's essential to adhere to the brand's aesthetic and target audience; for instance, for a sexy, feminine brand, oversized or street-style pieces are inappropriate, while for a minimalist brand, big accessories or bold colors should be avoided. To avoid such mistakes, it's important to understand and stick to the brand's aesthetic.

Valeriia, Fashion Stylist

We hope you learned from the above guide on all things product photography with models. Here comes the final consideration for you. 

Product photography with model rates & pricing example for NY, USA

While pricing for a fashion shoot with models ranges from vendor to vendor, we provide you with the approximate frame for your general understanding of the ranges going on in the US ecommerce market that we represent. 

Needless to say, this is a generalized ballpark estimate, and if you need something specific, like model skin care photography, for example, or jewelry photography with a model, chances are their fees will go up.

In the table below we offer a comparative table of how much a 4-hour on-model photo session will cost if executed by Squareshot tem, DIYed, or outsourced to a freelance vendor.

Final remarks

Ecommerce model photography is a bit like a quarter marathon – it’s an enjoyable adventure, but only if you spent more hours preparing for the run than actually running.

We hope the above insights help you plan a perfect shoot with the right models on the right budget with an outcome that drives your brand forward.

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April 12, 2024

Your handbook to fashion model photography

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