How Do I Prepare For a Shoot?

One of my blog readers emailed me with an interesting question today, and I thought the Q and A may be helpful to those of you who are starting your photography business, so I’m posting my answer here.

Melanie asked:  “How do you prepare for a photoshoot? like mentally? do you just wake up and go or is there something that you run through in your head?”

I do quite a number of things actually.

When I first started out, I made a Check List that I would go through before each shoot.  Now, I don’t have a physical list, but I still do all of these things!

Most of my equipment preparation is the day before the shoot, so that my mental preparation can occur the day of the shoot.

[Image Below:  This was a self-portrait before a client shoot.  Yup, I had some extra time on my hands.  heh heh.]

The Day Before the Shoot

1.  Figure out what equipment I want to bring to the shoot.

For an event, I would probably bring 2 camera bodies, my 24-70mm, a wide angle and a prime lens for low light detail shots. 

For lifestyle shoots, I would probably bring 1 camera body, my 24-70mm, my 70-200mm, and a prime lens.  (The actual lenses depend on how many subjects I’ll be shooting and the location of the shoot.)

2.  Charge batteries.

3.  Check settings on my cameras.

I would clear my memory cards, so I have the maximum amount of space for my shoot. 

I’d “neutralize” my camera settings, so that the day of the shoot, I don’t forget I had the ISO set at 1600, for example, or have the exposure compensation set at +2!

2.  Clean my equipment.

This includes both ends of each lens and the inside of the lens cap.

3.  Check directions.

So much can happen right before the shoot, so I try to minimize surprises.  If it’s a new location (or maybe even one I’ve been to before, but haven’t in awhile), I’ll check the directions online to make sure I know how to get there and see how long it’ll take. 

4.  Put the client’s contract in my bag.

All my clients have paid in full before their shoot, but I like having all the client’s information in my car in case I need to reference something.

[Image Below:  This was taken by one of my clients during his photoshoot!]

The Day Of the Shoot

1.  Plan to arrive early.

I usually plan to arrive 15 minutes early, so I can get my gear set up based on the light at the location.

I will arrive even earlier if the shoot is in an urban location where I need to find parking.  Or if it’s an unfamiliar location, I’ll plan to arrive before my clients arrive, so I can do a quick walk-through.

2.  Review the details.

Every client is special to me, and the last thing I’d want is for them to feel like “just another subject” I am photographing.  So during my drive, I’ll read over my notes and try my best to remember names. 

3.  Visualize.

If there is something novel about the shoot (ie, the location, the types of people, the type of shoot), I will visualize a few things I’d want to do during the shoot.  How will I shoot it?  At what angle?  How would I compose the shot?  Which lens would I use?  Where would I be versus my subjects?

Of course what ends up happening at the shoot may not be what I visualized at all, but I’ll have a few ideas “up my sleeve”, if I need them. 

That may be too hokey for some people though.  For me, I find a lot of creative power in visualization.  However, I do get most of my creative juices from my subjects.  Their energy feeds into mine and vice versa.

4.  Load up on coffee.

I drink a BIG cup of coffee before my shoots.  It is mostly because my 3 little monkeys — though adorable — zap my energy, so I am in a perpetual state of exhaustion.  So for my shoots, I load up on caffeine, and then no one will know why I have bags under my eyes, except me.   ;)

5.  Listen to music.

Only in hindsight do I realize I do this:  I like listening to the kind of music that will put me in the mindset I want to be in for my shoot. 

For a family shoot, I’d listen to something upbeat that makes me want to dance in the car!  Then I’m ready to run around with the kids.

For a wedding, I’d listen to mellow tunes and avoid rock and hip hop songs that may make me too bouncy for a quiet ceremony.

Photography Tip for Beginning Pros:

My advice is to prepare your gear early, so you don’t have to worry about your equipment.  The last thing you’d want is find out you forgot to pack a much needed piece of equipment or your battery level is low right before you have to leave for your shoot.

Then, for mental preparation, do what YOU need to do to be open to creative thinking.  Whatever that is.  Maybe that’s sketching, baking, reading a few pages of your favorite novel or going for a run before your shoot.  Do it your way.

And lastly, be confident and have fun!

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3 Comments

  1. Fred Kerr

    Great guidelines – and a very interesting picture of you standing atop a 55-gallon drum to get a picture. Perhaps one additional issue to consider is innovation. Creating picture opportunities on the fly. From a learning perspective, I think this requires an extensive awareness of what other photographers have done. Your website is an excellent example – hardly a day goes by that I don’t learn something.

  2. Annie

    I knew you’d see that, Fred! hee hee. Thanks for sending me photos during my photoshoot of YOU! I don’t have many photos of myself (during shoots), so I really value these. And thank you for being a regular blog reader! :)

  3. Yes–and DO EAT SOMETHING, TOO! No fainting allowed. :) xox. I love that last pic of you. Mirror image of baby A!