When it comes to a successful photoshoot, proper planning is just as essential as knowing your way around a camera.
Putting together your photoshoot concept, photography shot list, and shoot schedule template ahead of time doesn’t just take the guesswork out of getting your shoot from start to finish—it also helps you develop your vision and put that vision into action. And whether you’re a novice or a pro, nailing all of the necessary steps will eliminate a lot of the stress (and indecision) that can go into the photoshoot process.
So where do you start? Here’s how to plan a stellar photoshoot from start to finish.
How to Plan a Photoshoot in 5 Steps
How do you start a photoshoot? You only need to do it once to realize that your first step happens well before you or your subject arrives on site.
While your individual process may vary, here are the five basic steps you’ll want to follow for how to plan a business photoshoot—or any other type of photo shoot that you have in mind.
Step 1: Work Out Your Photoshoot Concept
There’s a reason that photography is an art form and not just a learned skill, and it’s that impactful photos are based on concepts and stories, rather than just what looks nice in the frame. And to come up with that concept, you have to get creative.
What is a Photoshoot Concept?
A photoshoot concept is the message you want to convey through your images. To figure out what it is, start with the focal point of your shoot. Is it an engagement? A product launch? A social media campaign for a clothing company? This is the jumping off point that your concept will revolve around, though it’s not the concept itself. For that, you’ll want to hone in on the feeling you want to achieve as much as your literal purpose.
Some things to consider:
- What mood and feelings are you trying to invoke?
- What styles are you drawn to?
- What brands or photographers might you want to emulate?
- Are you planning to shoot in color or black and white?
- Did the client make any specific concept requests?
All of these questions will help you narrow down your concept and form an actionable vision. Just as you would with any visual project, gather images that convey the concept you’re going for and then identify elements you can bring into your own work.
Step 2: Figure Out Equipment and Location
Aside from photographer and subject, there are two other main factors that go into a photoshoot: its location and the equipment that you use.
What do you need for a photoshoot? It’ll vary depending on what your intention is. For example, wedding photography includes many different types of shots, so you’ll want to have multiple lenses on hand. Product photography, on the other hand, is usually done in one stationary spot but requires a solid background and a lightbox.
If you’re an experienced photographer, you should have a good idea of what you need for the type of shoot you’re doing. If you’re new to shoots, however, do some research on your specific project variety so that you can be fully prepared. And while it may be a lot to lug around, keep in mind that it’s better to have too much equipment than to not have what you need.
Aside from photography equipment, figure out if you’ll need additional items, such as makeup, props, or costumes. Write out a complete list of everything you have to bring, again erring on the side of over-planning.
There’s a chance that your general location is already decided for you, but even if that’s the case you’ll still have decisions to make about specific settings and backdrops.
Think about location features that work with—and amplify—your concept. Then ask yourself some key questions:
- Is your idea nature-based or something that you want to build yourself on a set?
- Does your location provide adequate natural lighting or will you need to bring in additional lighting sources?
Consider your budget, too. Location, like equipment, is a budget line item that you’ll need to account for, and how much you can spend may have an impact on what sites will work.
Step 3: Choose Your Models and Crew Members
Are you going to hire models for your photoshoot? What about a crew? If yes, who you choose can make all of the difference in your final work. You could scout talent around you, or you could put out a call on social media or through local modeling agencies and job sites. You could also ask friends to model for or assist you if they’re up to the task.
With any models or crew members you choose, it’s important to work out the details ahead of time around terms, expectations, and payment. Put all of the information into a contract (for models, include a release form allowing you to use their image and likeness) so that there are no surprises later on—even if they’re somebody who you already know and trust.
Step 4: Put Together a Shoot Schedule
Go into the process with a shoot schedule template that clearly outlines what shots you need to get and in what order. Include details on the specifics too, such as what models or crewmembers need to be involved and what props or additional equipment will be required.
Your shoot schedule will be an incredibly helpful resource for you, as well as for your team. It will also help ensure that you don’t accidentally leave out any key shots.
Step 5: Light, Camera, Action
You’ve gone through the work of how to write a photoshoot plan and formulate your concept, so now it’s time for the fun part: the shoot itself!
How this day goes will be largely dependent on your planning and the people you’re working with, but it’s up to you to keep it moving along and make sure that everyone feels comfortable and has what they need.
Use your shoot schedule as guidance, but feel free to go off script too if inspiration strikes. Don’t be afraid to play around with atmosphere, composition, and color while staying true to your larger goals—you never know what’s going to provide you with that “wow” shot at the end of the day.
FAQs About Planning a Professional Photo Shoot
Still have questions about how to plan for a business photoshoot or how to write a photoshoot plan? Here are some quick answers to common questions that photographers have about executing a successful photoshoot.
What is a Photography Shot List?
A photography shot list is a checklist of the different images that you want to capture during the shoot. In addition to outlining exactly what you want to achieve, your shot list helps you determine how much time you’ll need to devote and set expectations for your client.
How Much Does it Cost to Do a Photoshoot?
There’s no single answer to this question since there’s a huge variance in the total cost of a photoshoot and a lot of budgetary factors at play.
If you’re fronting the bill, figure out what you can afford, what you already have on hand (especially in terms of equipment), and what costs you can’t forgo, such as models. And if you’re doing a professional shoot, work out a clear budget with your client ahead of time that includes your fee and what they can expect for what they have to spend.
How Much Should I Charge for a Photoshoot?
This will depend on your experience level and what your client wants. Consider what your time is worth as well as what your own costs will be, keeping in mind that if you’re new to the field you’ll have to put in the work and build a portfolio before you can start commanding the fees of more experienced photographers.
Do You Need a Permit to Do a Photoshoot?
As a general rule of thumb, a photography permit is generally only needed if you’re shooting for commercial purposes and in a private location. The same goes for commercial shots in public or state parks, though you shouldn’t need a permit for street photography. When in doubt, do your research instead of assuming that you don’t need a permit, just to be safe.
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