How to Prep for a Shoot as the Photographer

Shoots take a lot of time and preparation, just like studying for an exam. You (hopefully) don’t just walk into the classroom without studying for a test! You prepare, study, make sure you get plenty of sleep & all that good stuff. Since pursuing my side hustle of photography, I’ve learned that preparation is KEY to having a successful shoot– with that to say, I wanted to share some of my tips + life hacks of how to prepare for a shoot!

After a client books a session with me, I let the creative juices flow. One of the ways I do this is by creating a shared Pinterest board with my clients. I put together tones, “mood”, places, poses, hair ideas, make up ideas, locations & anything else that inspires me. We go back and forth sharing our ideas. Once we narrow it down, I write down the overall vision for the shoot in a journal. What vibe is your client going for? What will your client be wearing? What time of day will you be shooting? Where will you be shooting? What are some creative shoots you want to incorporate in the shoot? What are some things that the client wants to be incorporated in the shoot? [i.e if you’re shooting a Fashion Blogger, making sure to capture the details of her outfit].

Next, I send out a confirmation email to my clients about 3-5 days before the shoot (followed by a text) that includes: day of shoot instructions, what to bring on that day of their shoot, what to expect after the shoot, expected time when their photos will be delivered, and any reminders relating to my contract! I’ve found that this a crucial step for two reasons- the first being that people’s schedules are crazy and life happens- therefore reminders are AWESOME and two- to make sure my clients feel prepared & informed for the day of the shoot (especially if this is their first time doing a shoot) and it’s important to reiterate expectations so everything is out in the open!

I generally tend to shoot at the same locations & just change it up. However, if I am going to a new location, I make sure to scope it out at the time that I’m planning to shoot! This is HUGE! There have been times that I’ve shot a coffee shop and it’s been way to crowded so we drove around trying to find others…#lessonlearned. So be sure to scope out the location & also do a little research and see if there are any rules/regulations shooting in that specific location. Some places have fees for shooting and others will just not let you shoot there. *insert all the sad emojis here* If the place doesn’t work, be sure to have at least two back ups!

The weather is unpredictable…can I get an Amen? I check the hourly weather app to make sure it won’t rain during my session. I also have learned to keep an umbrella in my car because…well…Texas is just weird like that- one day its 107 and hot and humid and the next day it’s pouring and then the following week it’s mid 70s/low 80s haha! There have been times where I’ve shot outside in the rain (it was POURING!) and my client was totally down to dance in the rain. Then there’s been other times where we are running for cover haha. If the weather is bad, I will usually cancel the shoot if we are scheduled to shoot outside or suggest an indoor location for my client!

Maybe this is just me being motherly…but I gotta do the mom check haha. I make sure my clients’ outfits 1. match/look good on their body type 2. don’t clash with the scenery and 3. are appropriate. I’ve had other photographers tell me about the horror stories of wild outfits or have heard from other people how they look back on pictures and hate their outfits and wished someone would have told them! So, I have my clients send me their outfit pics at least week in advanced and if they’re planning on buying clothes for their shoot (which most of my clients do), I have them just send them to me whenever they’re trying stuff on or I ask them to send me ideas/screen shots of what they’re thinking! It’s important that your clients feel comfortable and confident and having a bomb outfit can help with that

I wouldn’t really define myself as an organized person until I started photography. I have spread sheets for days, planners, file folders, binders with contracts, and SO many checklists! Here’s an example of some of the stuff I put on my list:

- Coordinate schedule with client + Make up artist
- Make sure memory card is cleared
- Battery is charged
- Client paid for shoot (if there is still a remaining balance I send them an invoice on PayPal)
- And anything else you need to do before the shoot!

This might seem like a no-brainer haha but be sure to triple check and make sure you have everything packed! Do you have extra memory cards? Is your battery charged? Do you have your lenses packed? Is your camera on the right setting for your session? Did you pack water (and snacks…hey ya might get hungry!)? I’m a nerd and will pack my bag a couple hours before the shoot and leave it by the front door and triple check to make sure I don’t forget anything!

Julia Mann