Ep 21: The ultimate portrait checklist


Want a foolproof framework so that your portraits look amazing? There are so many moving parts when it come to shooting portraits – lighting, gear, people, you name it. In this episode, Gina and Valerie walk through everything you need to know to ensure that you are shooting awesome portraits just like a pro. And go to the show notes for a full checklist. This week’s theme for #ginachallenge is “the essential portrait”.

Click play to listen to the podcast or find it on iTunes here. If you don’t use iTunes you can get the feed here, or listen to us on Stitcher radio.

Show notes

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Portrait Essentials: The Ultimate Checklist

The difference between a good portrait and a great portrait is in the details.

“Be willing to give that extra effort that separates the winner from the one in second place.”

– H. Jackson Brown Jr.

What can go wrong?

Before the shoot
The Gear (this is a peek into Gina’s gear!)

  • Canon 1DS MK111 + 2 x batteries
  • Canon 5D MK11 + 2 x batteries
  • 70-200mm lens
  • 24-70mm lens
  • 24-105mm lens
  • 85mm lens
  • Macro lens
  • 2 x Speedlight
  • Tripod
  • Tripod Mount
  • Memory cards (enough to cover entire shoot)
  • 2 x card reader + card reader cable
  • Laptop + laptop power cable
  • External hard drive
  • USB Cable
  • Torch
  • Flash gear
  • Flash accessories
  • Reflector
  • Cables
  • Extension cables
  • Soft boxes
  • Light stands
  • Light meter
  • Remote flash triggers
  • Sync cable (backup only)
  • Pen and notebook
  • Sand bags
  • Ensure camera sensor and lenses are clean
  • Charge camera Batteries
  • Charge flash batteries or make sure you have spare set
  • Check ISO on camera is correct
  • Check shutter speed
  • Check aperture
  • Camera is set to RAW or JpegL +Raw

Meet with your model and team before the shoot to discuss things like how the photos will be used, location, styling and creative themes. Use this time to build a rapport with your model.

Put together a shot list with details of the location, outfits and poses. Make sure you allow enough time so you won’t rush your shoot.

Organise enough tasty food and beverages to keep everyone sustained.

Valerie uses the Triplist app for any packing lists

  • Double-check you have a safe location, without tripping hazards.
  • Test your equipment, lighting, and settings before your model arrives.
  • Greet your model with a smile and spend a few moments chatting about the shoot. These first few minutes can determine
  • how well the rest of the shoot goes so be nice!
  • Check your background. Are there any awkwardly positioned objects?
  • Tripod legs are tightened
  • Camera is secured
  • Cables
  • Lens is clean
  • No flare

Grooming for women

  • Hair is in place with no fly aways or hair covering their eyes etc
  • Make up base is even and blends into their neck and rest of their body
  • Lipstick is applied correctly and hasn’t bled, smudged or been partially removed
  • Teeth are clean
  • Fake lashes have been applied correctly and look natural
  • Fake tan is evenly applied
  • Skin tone on their hands and chest is similar to their face (especially is fake tan is involved)
  • Legs, bikini line and armpits are hair-free
  • Nails are clean nails and with clear or light coloured polish.

Grooming for men

  • Make up should not be obvious, limited to covering blemishes or correcting skin tone
  • Stubble is fine but should look neat
  • Nails are clean and cut short
  • Thick hair on a man’s head looks great, growing out of nose and ears is not so great. Trim eyebrow, ear and nose hair.


  • Avoid stripes, logos and patterns
  • Ensure clothes fit well and are not too tight or too loose
  • Make sure women are wearing the correct undergarments for the outfit
  • Check for visible bra straps in shots
  • Look for glare in glasses
  • Clothes photograph best when they are free of wrinkles and stains
  • For men, keep jewelry to a minimum (I prefer watches off)
  • Ties should reach the belt buckle
  • If your model is barefoot, ensure their feet are clean and toenails trimmed
  • Empty pockets
  • Make sure pants are the correct length
  • No gaping shirts or jackets

The Body

  • Watch for double chins and other unsightly bulges
  • Hands are relaxed
  • Eyes are connected and smiling
  • Body looks relaxed and natural
  • Are you making the most of their best features?

Remember, your gear alone won’t make your shot. Your model won’t either. It’s up to you to bring everything together.

#ginachallenge “The essential portrait”

2 Responses
  1. Rany

    Is there any reason to zoom to look for any issues, as oppose to get close and say,”hey, let me take a look at your makeup to make sure everything is ok”?

  2. Hi Rany, that’s a great question! The reason I like to zoom in is because it’s very difficult to check for uneven mascara or eyeshadow or missing fake lashes unless you are right up in someones face. This may feel awkward for most models. You will also get a much better view and see more detail if you zoom in.


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About Gina

Gina Milicia is one of the most widely known and respected photographers in Australia. She is the master of capturing that ‘magical moment’... READ MORE

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