A great photoshoot requires a camera and someone to photograph, right?
Not so fast.
Knowing how to prepare for a photoshoot requires extensive planning and organising from start to finish. From creating a photoshoot brief to sourcing talent, the entire process can be exhausting and stressful, particularly when you don’t prepare ahead.
At the same time, knowing exactly what you want, and putting it all together during the photo session can make a huge difference in any given photo shoot.
To make your next shoot a success, we've developed a detailed guide complete with all the tips and tricks you need to achieve a successful 'shoot every time.
Why photoshoot preparation is key
A well-prepared photoshoot means that every step has been taken to ensure that all your bases are covered and you've thought of everything before arriving at the shoot.
This could mean making sure there is:
- Enough space
- Proper lighting
- Equipment (if needed)
- A suitable location (and knowing where talent can park)
- A backup plan if shooting outdoors
All these little details will ensure the success of your shoot day.
Plenty of photographers make the mistake of not giving models enough direction. To be prepared, consider writing up a couple of poses or ideas for the photoshoot beforehand. The more direction you can give a model to work with, the better they'll be able to give you what you're looking for.
Break down your pre-shoot prep into steps. For example, plan the shoot. Decide where it will take place. Set up a wardrobe. Pick extra locations if needed. Making sure that everyone knows their role before arriving on site is very important because nobody likes to arrive somewhere only to be told "Oh, we're still figuring out how to set up the shoot."
How to prepare for photo shoots
A successful photo shoot requires you to think ahead and be organised before, during, and after to ensure everything runs smoothly and efficiently. Here, we've prepared a detailed guide on the planning process involved leading to the day of your shoot.
#1 — Outline the purpose of the photo shoot clearly
Deciding on a purpose will not only help clarify the operational details and organisation of the project, but it will inform your team of the end goal. Ask yourself some questions like:
- Who is the target audience your content should appeal to?
- What is the 'why' behind the shoot?
- What is the narrative you want to present?
- Will these photographs be sent to publications or are they simply to build up your client's image through their own channels?
- How will the shoot benefit you and your goals?
This is the time to be direct and upfront with what you want to achieve from the shoot, which will ensure coherence among your team.
#2 — Develop a concise brief for the photoshoot
Putting in the work and planning before the photoshoot takes place is worth the effort to ensure everything will go as planned.
Develop a well-thought concept of what you want and where you see the shoot going. This will not only benefit you, but your whole team so everyone is clear on what is expected. You’ll want to be on the same page with your talent throughout the entire photoshoot.
Topics that are typically discussed in the photography brief include:
- style/mood of the shoot
- theme and time period if already decided
- styling, hair, and makeup
Note that you should keep the photoshoot brief short, sharp, and to the point. You want a simple way to remind yourself of the best pictures to take and the right camera settings to have during the shoot. Besides, you don’t want to spend extra time on Photoshop edits when you’re already in the process of selecting the final images.
#3 — Design a mood board for your photoshoot ideas and create a shot list if you must
After developing your brief, you will now be able to make visual image references that relate to your chosen concept. The visual mood board you will create should coincide with the words in your brief and should give you a better idea of what you really want to achieve.
A mood board aims to provide a visual representation of the mood or atmosphere you’re going for. It can be used as a reference to plan a photoshoot on location or in the studio.
Here are some examples of what might be on a mood board:
- clothing or clothing styles for the model or talent to wear
- poses and shots needed (portraits, etc.) so that the talent can practice posing
- various looks, i.e., does the model need a bare face or get some spray tan on his or her skin
- nail polish, body paint, headpieces, or other accessories that will bring more energy and life to the subject
- lighting such as natural light, night scenes
- props such as flowers and plants
Mood boards are an essential ingredient in any photoshoot or collaboration with a photographer as it helps direct the team towards the common goal. Look back at your description of the brief and find some keywords that relate to the shoot.
With the use of example keywords you can browse from sites such as Tumblr, Pinterest, and Google, you can create a fun visual summary that would be helpful throughout the project.
In addition, you may want to create a shot list. A shot list gives any photographer full control of what they are shooting and will of course help with structuring and planning the shots and sequences needed on the day of the shoot.
Shot list essentials:
- Shot number
- Type of shots (shot sizes or angles)
- Camera lens and other equipment
#4 — Find the right creative partner
It is important that you find the right like-minded people to work with who can capture the essence of what you want to convey in your photos, ensuring you are sticking to the brief from start to finish.
With the rise of social media and the internet, it's never been easier for brands to collaborate with talent. Online platforms like theright.fit can help you find the right person for the right job. Here are some examples of what people usually look for on our platform:
From the platform, you can see dozens of photo sessions from each photographer's portfolio. You'll surely encounter options with styles similar to what you have in mind.
Click here to browse photographers
You can book models based on body type, height, hair colour and length, face shape, and many others. Again, the key feature to finding the right talent on theright.fit is to filter them based on your preferences.
Hair & makeup artists
theright.fit has a large database of MUAs with a lot of experience in the beauty industry. These people will have done a lot of different kinds of makeup looks and know how to apply makeup on almost any model.
Click here to browse hair and make-up artists
Focus on finding stylists who you can really work with through the platform. They will know about the latest trends, what clothes will suit models, and will be able to picture the clients' vision in great detail.
Feel free to browse over 7,000 creators, stylists, models, hair and makeup artists, photographers, and more on our platform. It's the perfect place to start your search for the right creative partners for your photoshoot.
#5 — Schedule the date for the photo session and establish your shooting location
Choose a location that is suitable and relevant to your brief and contributes to the story. If things do not go to plan such as in the case of bad weather, it is always great to have a backup location to get the team photo-ready anytime.
Establishing a date and giving at least a week or two’s notice to your team will ensure that you get the desired and most suitable talent and location for your shoot. Being organised and well prepared is key to a successful one.
As they say, fail to prepare or prepare to fail!
BONUS: Photoshoot checklist template
As promised, here's a photoshoot checklist you can refer to when mapping out what to organise the day before, on the day, and the day after your shoot.
- Camera bag and/or rolling cases cleaned out
- Batteries charged
- Chargers packed
- Speedlights ready
- Camera lenses cleaned and packed
- Camera filters cleaned and packed
- Main camera ready
- Standby camera/s ready
- Memory cards reformatted and loaded to the camera
- Adjust camera settings
- Miscellaneous accessories ready (please itemise)
- Confirm batteries ready and packed
- Confirm memory cards loaded
- Prepare tripod/s or monopod/s
- Prepare flash stands, umbrella, reflectors
- Mobile phone and laptop fully charged
- Attire ready especially comfortable footwear
- Paperwork ready
- Water bottles, energy bars ready
- Mask ready (COVID-19)
- First aid kit ready
- Import photos to laptop
- Create back up of files
- Properly tag photos on Lightroom
- Camera gear inventory
- Charge batteries
- Clean equipment
- Ensure proper backup
- Format memory cards
- Reset camera settings
Congrats! You're ready for a successful shoot day
Remember you only have limited time to make the photoshoot as perfect as possible. Make sure there's no ugly set of trash cans in the background that you need to edit out from your photos. When you arrive at your location, take a look around and try to find spots where your subjects can be photographed nicely and will fit in with the theme.
With the tips we've outlined, you've got everything you need to nail a perfect photo shoot. Most importantly, everyone who is part of the shoot needs to feel comfortable and excited about the project before you even begin.
By now, you'll be well prepared and organised by following the previous steps, and now it's time to get out there and start snapping.
Finally, don't forget to have fun! Enjoy your 'shoot, and remember to breathe. This is the time to collaborate with talent, share ideas and create a quality experience overall.
Don't forget to back up your photos
Don’t forget to backup and save your images on a computer and hard drive to keep them safe. Review the shots straight from the camera during post-production to make the decision for the final images for print or online easier. Share your creativity with the rest of the group and be grateful for the people that contributed to this experience.
Remember these tips when you want to take the best photos
Effective and adequate time and effort put into your planning and preparation will ensure you reap your most deserved and satisfying results from your shoot. Photography is like visual storytelling. You want to encapsulate a world of ideas in your own creative style.
Ensuring you put together an effective and efficient crew that you can communicate smoothly with will help eliminate unwanted stress, mistakes, and anxiety. The more you get used to the tasks involved in preparing for a photoshoot, the better you will develop your skills and abilities for the next session.