Photographers are a special breed. We’re not just people who take pictures but artists, storytellers, and problem-solvers.
For photographers, capturing that perfect shot requires more than just a click of a button. Before every photoshoot, they must carefully consider a plethora of factors, from the lighting and composition to the subject’s wardrobe and mood. It’s a delicate dance between artistry and technical know-how, and only those who truly understand the intricacies of photography can master it.
Whether you’re photographing a wedding, a family reunion, a birthday party, a model, or doing a product shoot, all of these things come with unique challenges and expectations—so here are some tips on how to prepare for a photoshoot as a photographer!
Let’s get into it!
Create a Mood Board
Have you ever found yourself lost in a Pinterest rabbit hole, endlessly scrolling through stunning photos and wondering how you could recreate something? Well, welcome to the world of mood boards! A mood board is like a visual roadmap for your creative project, whether a photoshoot or any other artistic endeavor.
You gather your ideas, inspiration, and goals and mash them together into a visual representation of what you want your shoot to look like.
Think of it as the blueprint for your photography masterpiece. You would need a blueprint to start building a house, right? So, why would you begin a photoshoot without a plan?
Steps to create a mood board
- Define the objective: Decide on the purpose of your mood board. Define your project’s specific style, theme, or color scheme.
- Gather inspiration: Look for inspiration from various sources such as Pinterest, Instagram, magazines, or any other platform that provides visual inspiration. Collect images that match the objective you defined in Step 1.
- Curate your images: Choose the most relevant and inspiring photos that match your objective. Ensure that the chosen images create a cohesive visual representation of the style or theme you want to achieve.
- Arrange the images: Arrange the pictures on a digital or physical board, placing them in a way that creates a coherent narrative and evokes the desired mood.
- Refine and review: Review your mood board and refine it as needed. Ensure that it aligns with your objectives and evokes the desired mood for your photography project.
- Apply to your photography: Use your mood board as a reference and guide as you shoot your photos, edit them and create your final visual project.
Here are a few examples of the Pinterest boards that I personally created to help me generate ideas and inspiration for the photoshoots I’ve done in the past:
- Pinterest mood board: Portrait photography location ideas
- Pinterest mood board: Candle product photography ideas
- Pinterest mood board: Flower shop portrait photography ideas
Think About What You Want to Convey
Depending on what you’re going for, these three elements are something to consider before setting on your photography quest:
Think about the concept
Consider an overarching idea or theme you want to explore in your photo shoot. For example, if you’re doing a fashion shoot, your concept might be “vintage glamour” or “edgy street style”. This will influence your choice of clothing, makeup, and accessories.
Think about the story
It could be a literal story, such as a series of photos depicting a day in a character’s life, or a more abstract story, such as a mood or emotion you want to evoke in your viewer.
Think about the message
Think about the takeaway or lesson you want your viewer to learn from your images. This could be a social or political message, such as promoting body positivity, environmental awareness, or a personal message.
For example, if you’re doing a photo shoot for a skincare brand, your concept might be “natural beauty,” your story might be a day in the life of a woman who uses the product, and your message might be promoting self-care and confidence.
Considering these 3 elements before your shoot ensures that your images are cohesive and impactful.
Location scouting is the process of finding the perfect location for your shoot, and it’s an essential step to ensure your photos come out looking fantastic – whether it’s a location for a portrait, an event, or something else.
Related article: Rainy Day Portrait Photography: 8 Offbeat Indoor Location Ideas
How to prepare for your first photoshoot as a photographer by location scouting
Think about the mood and theme of your photos. Are you going for a romantic vibe or something more edgy and urban? Knowing the mood and theme will help you narrow down potential locations.
For example: If you’re aiming for an edgy and urban theme, consider locations like a graffiti-covered alleyway, a gritty urban park with towering skyscrapers in the background, or a bustling city street with bright neon signs and fast-moving traffic.
Think about accessibility. Can you get to the location easily? Is there parking available? These are essential factors to consider, especially if you’re hauling a lot of equipment. Depending on where you plan to shoot, you may also need permits or permission from the property owner.
Check the weather and time of day. Nothing is worse than getting all set up for a shoot only to have it ruined by rain or high winds. Ensure you have a backup plan if the weather doesn’t cooperate.
Lighting is everything! And the time of day you shoot will significantly impact the lighting, so make sure you scout locations at the same time you plan to shoot. If you’re shooting indoors, take that into consideration.
Consider the background. The background can make or break a photo, so ensure it complements the subject and doesn’t distract from it.
Imagine taking a portrait of someone in front of a messy, cluttered background with many distracting elements. The viewer’s attention will be divided between the subject and the environment, which can detract from the impact of the image.
PRO TIP: There is one thing that I like to do before photographing an event: I like to go there a day before and take any detail, landscape, or close-up shots of the location. I’ll still take detailed shots on the event day, but this declutters my mind and helps me focus on the actual event. It also helps me see what the lighting conditions are at the venue beforehand.
Gather up Some Props
Props require careful consideration. You don’t want to show up on the shooting day with random props that don’t add anything to the overall concept.
Take some time to brainstorm and create a prop list that fits the theme of your shoot. Whether you’re going for a vintage feel or a modern edge, your props should reflect your style and vision.
And remember the golden rule of props – less is often more. You don’t want to overwhelm your photos with too many distracting elements.
- Examples of props in portrait photography: a unique wardrobe, hats, scarves, glasses, flowers, jewelry, and musical instruments.
- Examples of props in product photography: are mirrors, books and magazines, stones, fabric, trays, dried flowers, acrylic ice cubes, and fairy lights.
Practical Photoshoot Checklist
When thinking about how to prepare for a photoshoot, I like to compare it to preparing for a marathon. You wouldn’t show up on race day without training or gear, right? The same applies here.
Let’s step back and discuss something often overlooked: the practical side.
Ensure Everything is Functioning Properly
It’s the day of the photoshoot, and you’re ready to capture some stunning shots. But before clicking away, ensure all your equipment is in tip-top shape.
Do a photoshoot preparation checklist – check your camera, lenses, lighting, and any other gear you plan to use to ensure everything functions properly. Also, make a photoshoot planning checklist – establish a date, and schedule, and discuss payments and contracts.
The last thing you want is for your equipment to malfunction mid-shoot, leaving you with subpar photos and a frustrated client.
Photoshoot Gear Checklist
- Camera: Check that your camera battery is fully charged and that your memory card has enough space for the photos you plan on taking. Ensure your camera settings are appropriate for the shoot.
- Lenses: Inspect your lenses to ensure they are clean and free of dust or smudges. Check the focus and zoom rings to ensure they move smoothly without any resistance.
- Lighting: Test your lighting equipment, such as strobes or reflectors, to ensure they work correctly. Check the brightness, color temperature, and position of the lights to ensure they will produce the desired effect.
- Tripod: If you plan to use a tripod, ensure it is stable and supports your camera and lens. Check the tripod head to ensure it moves smoothly and can hold your camera in the desired position.
- Props and accessories: If you plan on using any props or accessories, such as backdrops, reflectors, or filters, make sure you have them on hand and that they are clean and in good condition.
- Backup equipment: It’s always a good idea to have backup equipment, such as an extra camera body, lens, or memory card, in case of any malfunctions or accidents.
Schedule – And Confirm
First and foremost, scheduling is critical. Make sure you have an explicit schedule for the photo shoot or event, and confirm it with all parties involved. Establish a day and an hour. Be sure also to check the date and confirm it a day before the shoot.
Even if you might’ve scheduled a shoot or event months in advance, maintain communication and keep in touch throughout!!
Check Expectations With the Client
You also need to confirm your client’s expectations for the shoot. You might have a clear vision for the shoot, but checking in with your client and ensuring their expectations align with yours is important.
Let’s use a portrait session as an example:
Ask your client if they want candid shots or more posed portraits. Do they want to use props or incorporate a specific theme? Are there any particular shots or angles they’re hoping to capture? The more you know what your client wants, the better you’ll be equipped to deliver the perfect photos.
Ultimately, it shouldn’t be only about the shots you want but rather a collaborative experience. Make your model feel like they’re really part of the shooting.
Discuss Payment Details Beforehand
One of the most important things to consider before a photoshoot is payment. Yes, I know it’s not the most glamorous topic, but having this conversation with your client before any pictures are taken is crucial. You don’t want to be caught in a sticky situation where you’ve spent hours capturing the perfect shot only to find out your client expected to pay a different price.
So, be clear and upfront about your pricing. Discuss any additional costs that may come up (travel expenses, props, etc.) and make sure everyone is on the same page. It might be awkward, but trust me, having this conversation beforehand is better than having it cause tension after the shoot.
Ensure You Have All the Necessary Paperwork Before You Start Shooting
Lastly, make sure you have a solid contract in place. This protects you and your clients and ensures everyone is on the same page. The agreement should cover all aspects of the shoot, including payment, usage rights, and any other essential details.
Have a Backup Plan
In addition, having a backup plan is crucial.
Murphy’s Law states that anything that can go wrong will go wrong; that’s especially true when it comes to photoshoots. What if your camera malfunctions or your lighting equipment fails? What if the weather takes a turn for the worse? A contingency plan will help you avoid a stressful situation and ensure the shoot goes ahead.
Backup plans walkthrough:
- If you plan to shoot at a specific location, have a backup location in mind in case something unexpected happens (such as a permit issued or sudden construction).
- Have backup wardrobe options if a clothing piece malfunctions or the original outfit doesn’t look as good on camera as you had hoped.
- If you’re shooting in a location with unpredictable lighting conditions, bring your lighting equipment and be prepared to adjust your lighting setup on the fly.
But preparing for a shoot isn’t just about technicalities. It’s also essential to get creative when things go south. And creativity can also come from unexpected sources:
Maybe the weather takes a turn for the worse, but you end up capturing an incredible shot with moody lighting and dramatic clouds. Or perhaps a wardrobe malfunction leads to a last-minute improvisation that is the perfect addition to the shoot.
What’s the number one rule in photography?
The number one rule in photography is to break the rules. Some of history’s most striking and memorable photographs were created by photographers who broke traditional rules and conventions.
What are the 4 essentials to photography?
The four essentials of photography are composition, lighting, focus, and storytelling:
- Composition involves arranging the elements within a frame to create a visually appealing and balanced image
- Lighting is the use and manipulation of light to create the desired mood and effect
- Focus ensures that the subject is sharp and clear in the image
- Storytelling involves capturing an image that conveys a message, emotion, or story to the viewer.
Recommended article: 8 Composition Tips for Portrait Photography: The Beginner’s Guide
What is the 3-1 rule in photography?
The 3-1 rule in photography is a guideline for placing elements in your composition. It suggests dividing your frame into thirds horizontally and vertically and placing your subject at the intersection of these lines.
What should you avoid during a photoshoot?
During a photo shoot, you should avoid distracting backgrounds, unflattering lighting, and awkward posing of your subject. Ensure that your equipment is properly set up and has enough memory and battery power.
Preparing for a photoshoot involves more than having a camera and a subject. Photographers must think creatively and technically to capture the perfect shot. Creating a mood board, thinking about the concept, story, message, and location scouting are all essential to planning a successful photoshoot.
By being well-prepared for their shoot, photographers can ensure the resulting images are cohesive, impactful, and stunning. Remember, a little planning goes a long way in creating a masterpiece.
- Embrace the Shadow: How to Take Portraits in Harsh Sunlight
- 8 Composition Tips for Portrait Photography: The Beginner’s Guide
- From Sunrise to Sunset: Natural Light Portrait Photography Guide
- Childhood Moments: Outdoor Child Photography with Natural Light
- Avoid These 7 Portrait Photography Composition Mistakes
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