Why not be both an artist and a director in your next photo shoot?
Sometimes we approach our photo shoots as photographers, through and through, without a foundation to guide our ventures.
Although it is vital to go about creative projects with the mindset of an artist, we might find ourselves struggling with execution or falling apart due to lack of organization.
More personally, in high school I was forced into a situation where I had to shoot the entirety of a short film in one session. I promised my actors we would be done in four hours, which, as you might imagine, was a lie at best.
For starters, I never identified the exact place we would shoot; I only chose the general location. Upon driving my gear to the set-to-be, I immediately faced an obstacle; a full-fledged horse show was about to begin. Furthermore, my SD card fried itself inside of my camera.
Need I continue? Luckily, I got the footage I needed, save numerous struggles and many extra hours; however, my shoot would have been far less traumatic if I planned ahead.
Keep reading to learn my favorite equation for photo shoot success! (In other words, do yourself a favor and learn from my mistakes…)
1. Build a concept
First and foremost, you want to center your shoot around an underlying concept. Ultimately, the goal of your shoot is to tell a story and convey a message.
If the shoot is for yourself, consider everyday themes you might want to center your work around.
Think about your favorite pieces of art and contemplate why you gravitate toward them. Is there a design, emotion, building, or place that inspires you? Do you have a memory or story you want to share with the world?
Perhaps the shoot is for somebody else. In this case, have a close conversation with them and find out what they care about. You’ll definitely want to showcase those thoughts in the shoot. What kind of story do they want to tell?
2. Find a location
First, decide whether you want to create your own studio set or shoot in another environment. Either way, the location should reflect your concept and support the underlying message of your work.
If you want to shoot in an existing location, there are several points to consider. Will you need a permit? Is the location too busy? Will the weather interfere with your work? Do you need your own lighting equipment, or will the natural light suffice?
Before you confirm the location, check in with your client. You don’t want to send them the address of an abandoned asylum without a heads-up.
3. Gather your ideas and inspirations
Many photographers like to skip this step and simply recreate the ideas they have in their minds.
If you’ve ever used Pinterest, you are well aware that collecting different ideas in one place can give you inspiration you would never have found otherwise.
Exploring Pinterest can be a fantastic way to build a draft of your concept. Even pasting images, descriptions, or quotes into a document can be very helpful.
If you are working with a client, showing them your inspiration board can help them gauge whether you understand what they are looking for. They may even improve their ideas or add to your collection, which will most likely lead to better and more satisfactory results.
4. Do you need models?
If your shoot requires human subjects, whether for product photography or aesthetic shots, you might need models to make your concept come to life. Depending on
your needs, there are some different ways to find models.
If you need an experienced model, find and inquire your local modeling or talent agency. Many of these individuals can be found on social media, through your friends, or through your client list.
For more personal projects, ask your friends to model for your shoot. Ensure they are thoroughly aware of the terms of your shoot and where the photos will end up.
If all else fails, get a signed model release! Learn more about the process here.
Clearly, styling your model will be a vital aspect of your shoot. After you have a general idea of the look your are seeking, and you are confident that the look coincides with your concept, find some stylists in your area who can help you execute your vision.
If you have experience with styling, you may decide that you only need help with certain aspects of the model’s appearance, such as hair or makeup. If you have talented friends who could help out, throw them a few bucks and invite them to the shoot!
5. Plan the set, lighting, and execution
Now that you’ve organized the details, it’s time to sort out the actual shoot. Get to know the environment in which you’ve decided to use. Establish the lighting equipment and general gear you will need for the big day. Remember to bring extra supplies even if you can get away with using natural light, such as reflectors and scrims.
I always like to bring a willing friend to the shoot with me, whether I need last-minute styling advice or an extra set of hands to hold a light modifier. If your friend had has experience with creative direction, all the better.
Lastly, note logistical information such as vantage points, camera angles, and the equipment you’ll need in order to achieve them.
Always bring extra camera equipment, from specialty lenses to polarizing and neutral density filters. From personal experience, extra SD cards and batteries may save your shoot.
There you have it! I hope this guide will better prepare you for your next shoot, just as these ideas have improved mine.