After taking a step out of my comfort zone to email and introduce myself to nail artist Ashley Gregory in Chicago, I was introduced to a whole new world within the nail industry. Ashley is a session manicurist and just happened to be in the market for an assistant. A manicurist assistant is the right hand of the lead manicurist, helping with set up and organization of station, clean up, and prepping the hands/feet of the model.

Given a hectic schedule, Ashley was unable to make it to one of her test shoots so she called me and asked if I was interested in the opportunity. A test shoot is an artistic collaboration where a photographer, hairstylist, clothing/prop stylist, makeup artist, model, and manicurist come together to create beautiful images that each can add to their portfolio. I didn’t know what to expect and had butterflies in my stomach. The shoot was confirmed and scheduled for two days out.

On the day of the shoot I arrived 20 minutes early. I have the mindset that if I’m on time, I’m late. The shoot was held in the photographer’s studio apartment. I met the model going in and she seemed to have a great personality, as did the photographer, so it was easy to relax a bit knowing our personalities were clicking. A couple of tables were set up for the artists as well as a table in front of a blank wall where I envisioned our beautiful work to be photographed. As we waited for the makeup artist to arrive, the photographer began to give some direction by presenting some props she would like to use. Once the makeup artist arrived, we chatted a bit about our vision and were ready to work.

The first look featured googly eyes that would be incorporated into the face. The model wore a black sweater, her hair was worn slicked back in a ponytail, and she had on clean makeup with a pop of shimmer on the eyelid. For the nails, we decided on a dark look. I performed a manicure, applied cuticle oil, and moisturized the hands and arms while the hair and makeup artist created their look. The model had short nails so I used Kiss Full Cover Nails and polished with CND Vinylux in Blackpool. As I worked, I thought it would be a great idea to add the Googley Eyes down the arm and hand and then create some nail art googly eyes trickling down onto the nails. Everyone agreed, so I went ahead and added the googly eyes using CND Vinylux in Creampuff and Blackpool with a dotting tool. I am very happy I spoke up. I learned that this is what a test shoot is about — for all to come with creative ideas that work toward the same look/goal.

The second look centered around a very colorful headpiece created by the photographer. The model wore a blush pink blouse with an accent of lace tucked into the collar. Her hair was parted in the middle with tight curls that laid on each side and her makeup was very natural with emphasis on the eyes. I immediately had a vision for the nails when I saw the headpiece. Once I knew that the hair, makeup, and clothing would be downplayed, I realized that the pop of color to go with the headpiece should be on the nails. I removed the old set, lightly moisturized the hands, and cleansed the nails. I applied Kiss Full Cover Nails and polished using OPI Color Paints. I brushed on silver for a backdrop and dry-brushed purple, magenta, green, orange, and hints of yellow to highlight. We were so happy with the look! The model was so great with showcasing her hands on camera. I had an amazing experience and couldn’t have felt more in tune with a team than I did that day.

So here’s what I learned at my first test shoot:

> It’s okay to be nervous, butterflies are a good thing, but not to let my self-confidence be clouded by nervousness.

> It’s easy for self-doubt to creep in when you are amongst talented people, let alone doing something new. I can take that feeling of unfamiliarity and turn it into a positive. Test shoots mean never getting bored of working at the same place, traveling, and meeting talented new people.

> I will admit I am not the best with being vocal. I never want to offend anyone and being the lead means speaking up for myself in the creative process.

From the moment I arrived and met the first person, all of my worries and anxieties left the room. I was so very thankful for this opportunity and I had to live up to the expectations Ashley had for me by trusting in my ability to create an artful manicure. I received the images later that night and stared at them with excitement, just like I stared at my phone when I received Ashley’s call that brought this experience to life.

You can follow Diane Diaz @canvasnailstudio.


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