1. Style & Shot List.
Make sure you have a detailed style and shot list and share this with your photographer and models prior to the shoot. Make a note of the considerations below each shot, and tick each shot off as you work through them.
TOP TIP: Keep a checklist, tick it off as you go.
2. Your Photographer.
Whether you are taking the photos yourself or working with a photographer, make sure that they're the right person for the job. For example, if you need a small amount of detailed, atmospheric shots in a perfectly lit setting, a photographer used to taking hundreds of quick action shots at live sports events may not yield the best results. Many photographers will specialise in specific styles and subject matters. Make sure the photographer is confident and comfortable with the task, and consider the finer details such as editing skills, costs and timings.
TOP TIP: Get a photographer with expertise in the type of photograph you want.
If you don’t get your schedule right, you can risk coming away with an incomplete set of photos. Ensure all of the team know all of the shoot’s details well in advance. For the day of the shoot, create a detailed schedule, taking into consideration how long each shot will take, the setting up of equipment, lunch breaks and travel between locations.
TOP TIP: Communicate timings with your whole team before the shoot.
A recent shoot for our client, The Isle of Man Steam Packet company.
Depending on budget, are you booking through a modelling agency, or are you going to round up some friends and colleagues? Either way, have this organised as early as possible. Ideally, you want a natural, confident set of models that can take instructions well and relax in front of the camera. Think about the end result. If you’re aiming for an advert featuring a family, do they look like a family together? Can they bounce off each other, do Mum and Dad look like a natural couple? Remember to keep them well fed, hydrated, warm, relaxed and happy. Make sure they know the schedule and have transport arranged.
TOP TIP: Make sure your models feel comfortable on set and they know what the day holds for them.
Create a list of props for each shot. What would naturally be in that type of setting and what would each model need? If you’re shooting products, consider how accessible they are, do they need cleaning before the shoot, have you got the right staff available on-shoot to manage them? And think of the finer details… If you’re shooting a family meal, there’s more than just the food - Cutlery, kids drinks, adult drinks, condiments. These seem obvious, but the finer details can be the finishing touches that make the image believable.
TOP TIP: Make potential retouching easier by remembering to remove any unnecessary props and models. Shoot just the background from the same viewpoint/lighting set up. That way, if items need to be moved to fit different mediums, there will be something ‘behind’ what you move.
Make sure what your models are wearing is realistic and correct - If you’re shooting a game of tennis, is a Man City top the right sportswear? When shooting for a company, you should also check with them prior to the shoot for any company policies that need to be adhered to. This could be anything from staff wearing the correct uniform on certain tasks to the manner in which they operate equipment. You don’t want to see your beautiful photos ready to go to print in a magazine, for it to be blocked because the client's health & safety manager has spotted your model is wearing the wrong footwear!
TOP TIP: Consider changes of clothing for models if shooting them in multiple scenes, and always plan for bad weather and wardrobe mishaps. Clothing should also play a part in your scheduling - If you’re doing one shot in the mud and one shot at the dinner table, do the muddy one last!
Be super prepared for your shoot locations. Plan them into your scheduling, be realistic with travel time and equipment logistics. Always do a recce prior to the shoot and walk through every situation - think where you're going to shoot from, what will be in the background, where can you store equipment, where you team can shelter from the rain. Do you need any permissions for access, would it help to get an area closed off for you, are the public going to be an obstacle when shooting? Don’t let silly things like finding parking eat away at your schedule.
TOP TIP: Carry out a recce prior to the shoot to ensure you know your location well enough ahead of shoot day.
Obviously, we can’t manage the weather, but we can try and prepare for our unpredictable friend. There are the obvious things like checking the weather forecast, packing suitable clothing etc. But try and have a Plan B - If it does pour down, can you swap some shots in your schedule around? Perhaps get indoors and do another shot while it dries off? And again, think about the wider picture. Have somewhere to keep your equipment and team dry and warm, maybe allow some free time in the day to allow for a bit of rain. The weather can’t be helped, but you can help to work around it if you're prepared.
TOP TIP: Think about what to do if the weather turns against you.
Lighting is key. Firstly, make sure you have the right lighting ready for each shot. The better prepared you are, the less editing and Photoshop magic you’ll need to do later. It may be worth taking an assistant along to help with any large equipment and lighting. Take into consideration the time of day, any natural light when indoors, the wind trying to blow your lights away and when and where the sun is rising and falling.
TOP TIP: Think about where the light is falling in your shot and if it will affect the end result.
10. The end result.
Always plan and carry out the photo shoot with the end result in mind. In what format, size and environment are the images going to be used? If it’s being used in an advert, think about where the headline is going to be placed, and how it will be cropped. Also, think about the long-term. You may need this image for an urgent A4 portrait advert, but will you also need a landscape version for a banner further down the line? Always better to get extra shots while you’re there and crucially at the same time. And most importantly, think about the brief. Make sure your images are matching your brief!
TOP TIP: Think about all the different ways your shots will be used in your campaign; have you got everything you need?
So, in a nutshell:
- Think about everything and every shot in great detail
- Write it all down, organise it.
- Get everyone involved on the same page as early as possible
- Have a solid plan.