You know the work of the iconic photographer Richard Avedon, but you might not know that before his shoots, he often asked his models what food and music they preferred on set. When he first photographed Twiggy, he famously played music from the popular English rock band The Kinks. In the end, his thoughtful approach helped create a natural, relaxed atmosphere in his studio, leading to more expressive and dynamic images.
What you do before a photoshoot is often just as important as what you do when you’re on the clock. Pre-production and planning set the stage for a successful project, help a session run seamlessly, and cut down on time spent in post-production. While the process looks different for everyone, many photographers rely on a few basic steps to ensure every shoot goes off without a hitch. Here are our tips for planning your next session.
Make a mood board
Building a mood board, even if it’s just a Pinterest board, serves two purposes: first, it helps you refine your ideas, and second, it helps you communicate those ideas with others, including your models and clients. A mood board is a simple collection of pictures that represent the aesthetic, color palette, atmosphere, or overall direction of your photoshoot.
You can pull images from 500px, magazines, or anywhere else you want. Of course, you won’t copy these images, but you can use them as inspiration before adding your own twist and interpretation. A mood board can be a good starting point before you cast models, rent props, source wardrobe options, or scout possible locations. Share it with your models and makeup artists to get them started with ideas for posing and styling.
Scope your spot
Location scouting can make or break a photoshoot, so if you can, spend some time exploring and taking test shots before the day of the shoot. During this part of the process, you might notice obstacles or challenges in lighting or styling, and you’ll have time to rent the gear or props you need to make it work. Also, pay attention to the weather forecast and time of day, as conditions in your location might vary based on your schedule.
Have a meeting
If you’re working with a team (or a client!), get together before the shoot to set expectations and get acquainted. A casual lunch or cup of coffee will work, as will a Zoom chat. The important thing is getting comfortable with one another before the cameras start rolling. After the meeting, touch base with everyone in the days leading up to the shoot; stay accessible, and be quick to answer any questions they might have.
Set a schedule
Speaking of schedules, always set clear expectations with your team, crew, and models. Photoshoots can be unpredictable, so give yourself more time than you think you need, and arrive as early as possible to set up. Depending on the session, you might also break the day up into smaller time blocks, with a fixed amount of time allocated to each location or wardrobe change, to help you stay on track. If you’re working with a team, consider sending a call sheet to everyone with exact timing, location, and contact information.