Every now and then, someone doesn’t get that planning a shoot is necessary, there’s an expectation that all you have to do as a photographer is turn up and shoot.

But its just like anything else in life really, if you don’t know what you want from something and you don’t plan it out then you’re unlikely to get results you’d like. Sure you want a set of great quality images to use. That’s fine and totally understood. BUT there’s a lot more to it than that. Just turning up and shooting haphazardly. That will not result in the right images, without a blinding stroke of luck.

I always have a pile of questions to ask before I agree to a shoot. It’s not that I’m being difficult, it is very important to me that I know I can deliver what you want, and that’s why I don’t work with a vague ‘Oh a half day with be fine’, when I don’t know what is involved in that half day. Occasionally someone’s expectation of what is achievable in a half day can be a little shall we say optimistic?  Equally sometimes it can be that the client will think it’s going to take longer than it will.

The shoot has to be set up and whether it involves, people, venues, products or food (or indeed a mixture) there are considerations to take into account. Items that distract may need removing, sometimes something needs an extra clean, its surprising what a camera sees that our eyes don’t!  Lighting needs to be organised and tested and so on. Quite often space can be an issue, lights, tripod, photographer, assistant, client, products …. there needs to be sufficient space to accommodate all that is needed, yet quite often this is overlooked.

Only once there’s a brief, a plan and some contingencies lined up, can actual shooting begin. And without a plan that lays out clearly what is needed and the timeframes then things can be forgotten or missed out which is far from ideal. I always have a shoot list and the brief to hand ready to refer too and so that I can check we’ve covered everything off.

For this shoot the studio was prepped before the client arrived.

For this shoot the studio was prepped before the client arrived.

Are contingencies needed I hear you ask?  Darn right they are, you go to approach doing a Christmas shoot in front of a roaring log fire and suddenly find yourself with no fire and a stark setting, what then?  Abandon the shoot? Not if you’re part of my team, generally now we’ll have experienced something similar and will have the experience and ideas to re-group and re-structure the shoot.

In order to prepare adequately for a shoot I’ll ask lots of questions, some of the questions I might ask before a shoot are:

  • How many images?
  • What are we shooting?
  • Are you wanting pack-shots, lifestyle shots or a mix and if so how many different shots per product?
  • If its lifestyle, what the message you want to convey? How many images of each set up are required?
  • How are these to fit with your branding?  What is your branding?
  • Are there any particular details you need to have picked out?
  • Are we looking for portrait, landscape or square shots? Or a mixture?
  • Will there be enough space to work in?
  • Are you going to customers or staff working around me as a photographer that I need to be aware of?
  • What’s your lighting like?
  • Where are the images going to be used? Do they need to fit in with anything design wise?
  • What are your timescales for this?
  • Is this going to be a regular thing? (Depending on the shoot, I may need extra notes if I’m going to need to replicated exact positioning next time, for say product pack shots, I’ll want all the settings and some measurements and photos of the set up)
  • and the list can go on ….

As I work with lots of people on a repeat basis, the list does get shorter as I know what is needed and expected.

A shoot can take up a lot more space than you might imagine.

A shoot can take up a lot more space than you might imagine.

From this I’ll be able to make a judgement call about the length of time we need for the shoot, and the best way to structure the shoot. This then all feeds into a shoot plan where there’s room for notes about any props I need to collect, buy or have handy for a shoot. If I’m shooting away from the studio it also allows me to pull together a kit list to ensure that I have all the gear I might need with me.

Without all of this, we’ll risk wasting time trying to sort out requirements on the day and the chances are it won’t go very well. It’s a bit like setting of on a journey someplace you’ve never been before without a map or sat nav and just assuming that you’ll get there in the end ….. I’m guessing none of us do that as we don’t have time/money to waste, and the same goes for photography. Planning a shoot is the best way to get as much out of the shoot as possible and that’s how I like to work.