What are the main details to take into account when planning a photoshoot? Here I’m going to take you through the most important details for a successful photoshoot.
Starting with the most important, you need to have an actual written plan for the shoot.
1. Make a project plan
You should start out by writing a project plan that is in one coherent file. Some creatives use platforms like Pinterest, but I like to make a clearly written PDF with visuals that speak what I want to communicate. You can create one with your production team, or just with your model who you’ve planned to photograph. Even if you’re only going to work with one person, showing what you’re looking for will help you both reach the final outcome.
Things to include in your plan:
- The brief
- Inspiration (moodboard)
- Time and location
- Client contact information
And if you’re working with a team you can also include:
- Gear checklist
- Shot list (to know how many close-ups is planned and if you need a specific image like a group shot etc)
Make an inspiring and clear definition of your goals. Photography briefs typically include background information, deliverables, references, and information about the target audience.
What should the images communicate to your audience ? Do you have a specific vision in mind? Try to elaborate as well as you can to translate your vision and goals. This way you can plan the equipment you need and think about the necessary props and other details.
I know many photographers even draw the actual shots in advance; your drawing can be horrible, but just outlining if the shots are going to be closeups, and what elements / colors you’re going to include in the shots is crucial and will make the actual shoot more relaxed since you already have a plan.
Always think about the goals of the images; are they going for print material, do you need to compose them somehow specifically. Also add this information in the brief, so others will also know the direction of the shoot.
Audience is another important detail to really think through. I know, many will answer with ‘everyone is my audience’, but knowing who you are targeting your images to, will let you frame it better. You can add anything that resembles your target audience and what they like, so you can better direct the work for them. This is of course more helpful if you’re working with a team. In smaller photoshoots, your audience is your client.
Present your brief
Once you need to present your brief with the rest of the team, or a smaller team, your client – you can combine your visual inspiration with the written part of it and make a PDF to send out. I like to use Indesign for this; it’s easy to use and you can create aesthetic visuals with it to better present your plans. You might want to use a photoshoot planner for this, but I use it more for my own organizing.
Moodboard is for organizing the visual part of the whole plan. This is essential for all kinds of clients, especially for the people who are not creatives or models; these clients will as well want to know what it is you’re looking for and it will also ensure them to be able to know in advance what they’ll wear and if the visuals look anything like their own imagination.
Moodboards can be more about exploring the mood of a photoshoot through imagery.
You can use images you’ve already taken previously, or you can try to find them online. These images are not going to be published, so not to worry about any copyrights of the images – these are simply put into a collage-kind of section and will work as guidelines. These references can define things like tone, cropping, lighting and color.
Arrange all the visual inspiration to a cohesive moodboard with a software like Indesign. It’s important that the key images are emphasized in the moodboard and your client can easily read the colors and emotions of the upcoming photoshoot.
4. Shot list
You can be as detailed as you need; by drawing all the images you want to have at the end of the photoshoot. I do this often, to clarify it for myself and to better decide on the rest of the props etc. location and all.
You could also use an inspiration image from one of a well-known photographer but be careful it wont result in duplicating what they’ve done and call it your own.
It usually contains a list of specific shots, some visual references and extra details like camera angles or lighting set-up so you don’t forget a thing.
Plan writing it all down from the possible products you are going to shoot to amount of models and different backgrounds you’ve thought about. Add visual references or sketches too.
5. Call sheet
I’ve heard multiple times how an unorganized photoshoots have taken place and how it affected the whole photoshoot day and the momentum the team had overall. This can easily be changed with one essential thing.
A call sheet.
It is a simple, but incredibly useful tool for organizing your shoot. In your call sheet you can outline everything your talent and crew need to know before the day of the shoot. This means the location, contact details of people attending, the schedule and most importantly the arrival time, since it might be different for particular people.
Also add any details that will help people arrive safely and on time. Explain where the parking options are, nearby public transport and any details about to get into the building.
For a smaller photoshoot, try this planner.
In order to have everything happen on time, everyone needs to know the specific times for the preparation, arrival and of course – lunch! You do not want to forget that; especially with longer photoshoots it will feel unprofessional.
6. Contact sheet
Once the shoot is over, you want to deliver the images in reasonable time after the shoot, but also you don’t want to be dumping 100 images via email.
The best way for this is to organize the final images in Bridge, and from there to create a contact sheet with the images for your client to choose. Once your client makes their final decision, you can send the ready files via Wetransfer.
The free version lets you send files up to 2GB, which is usually enough for an average photographer. If you work with analog or video files, you might want to upgrade the subscription.
Contact sheet is a huge timesaver, and you do not need to go back and forth with emails trying to decide which are the images your clients chooses. This will make the process so much simpler.
Depending if you work with a smaller audience or bigger clients, planning your photoshoots is essential and will leave the rest of the team with professional feel.
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