The process and management involved in a photo shoot.
The more practice you get, the bigger and more complex assignments you will be able take on; with peace of mind that your team is happy and safe, your clients are satisfied and you are able to create what you set out to do…within the time frame and budget planned for.
It’s a lot of things to keep in mind, especially when you do your own projects and don’t have assistants or a project manager to help you out. It’s all about multitasking. Don’t worry if you are a guy and terrible at doing two things at the same time; with the right questions asked, some planning, preparation and practice, you will be able to do it with bravura.
We will go through each one of the below questions in detail
Why? Is it for a client or yourself, what do you want to create
When? Weather, light, access, crowded or empty
Where? Photo studio, at home, nature, hotel, factory, castle
What? Photo equipment, lights, props, clothes, food, water
Who? Models, assistant, hair and make up artist, stylist
How? Transport, access, payment for location, contact person
What’s the reason for this photo shoot? Is is personal? Maybe for a learning experience, to express a vision, to build your portfolio, maybe for an exhibition or for a pitch; to attract a job.
Its always good to keep the “why” in mind and not to derail in to other ideas along the way. For instance; if you need to compliment your portfolio with a series of fashion photos to make it complete, but on the day of the photo shoot the model suggests some artistic black and white topless photos for boyfriend. Try to see the bigger picture and remember the reason you have put all this work, planning, maybe also money, involved people etc. to make it work. Ask yourself if it’s really worth it, just to see some boobs.
Maybe its for a client. A client can be a company a private person and adverticing agency, a magazine, a model agency etc. Try get as good picture of the end-user as possible…the client of your client….the one who will buy the product, read the magazine etc. Get clear of what the desired end result is.
*I will talk about communication in another post; how to get your vision across and how to interpret the ideas of your clients.. Keep an eye ot for that….it’s very important!
Summer or winter, hot or cold? In the summer you might need to bring a hat and sun block if you are going to be out a whole day…in winter a thermos with hot tea and some extra blankets for the models to not freeze to death.
Night or day, dawn or dusk, rain or sunshine? The light changes a lot in different weathers and time of day or night. It you are going to do a photo series at dawn…you might want to split it in two days …as the dawn doesn’t last for very long.
Is the place empty or crowded? Maybe the day of the photo shot is a public holiday and the location is crowded with people…whereas when you first saw it was 10am on a work day and totally deserted.
By the sea; high tide or low tide can make a huge difference.
Empty or closed?…some areas have booms or fences that close the area off for the weekend or at night.
Damp or dry?….make sure your gear and the clothes and accessories are kept clean and safe.
The more you know about the location and how it changes in different lights, weather, days etc. the lower the risk of having to cancel the photos shoot, or having to work uphill trying to work around the problems….problems that could have been easily been avoided with some planning.
Studio, hotel, factory, ruins, beach, city, museum, under water, vehicle, church, barn, home, bar etc.
There are endless possibilities:
First you need your imagination, a good contact net can be very useful and for some places you need to have cash as well.
If it is just a personal project it can involve you and any and all of the following:
Photo assistant, model, stylist, stylist assistant, make up artist, hair stylist.
If you work for a client the list can be a lot longer: art director, photo agency, advertising agency, producer, client etc.
Depending on the nature of the photo shoot it can also include more specific people like: a set designer, chef, lather expert, handyman, security, pet owner etc.
In other words the team can become very big…and the team have needs….everyone needs to eat and drink, be able to go to the toilet, the models need to be able to change in privacy and not freeze to death etc.
A checklist is always good to have. It’s very frustrating to be out in the countryside ready to shoot and you realize that you have forgotten the memory cards at home. This list works well for me, but these days it’s an internal check list that happens automatically…. you can add or remove things to make it fit your needs. It’s just to get you to start thinking.
•Photo equipment: Camera, lights, reflectors, tripods, extension cord, batteries charged, battery charger, extra battery, memory cards, extra hard drive, laptop
•Bits and pieces: Clamps, safety pins, needles, tape roller, nail polish remover, translucent powder, wet wipes
•Energy: Food and drinks or check before where to refuel
•Protection: Blankets, hat, sun block, umbrellas, right shoes, knee pads, protection for your equipment and the people
•Logistics: Transport to and from location for everyone involved, filled up car, trolleys if the location is far from your transport, keys, passes, phone numbers, phone with battery
•Legal bits: Model release form, property release form
•Shoot enhancers: Props, music, clothes, accessories
You might wonder about some of the points, but I can tell you that I have been in many situations where all of these things have proven to be important….very important actually.
Imagine that the model shows up with black flaky nail polish when you have set out to do a clean natural health shot.
Hot summer day, far from the nearest kiosk…and you have forgotten to bring water.
Clothes are too big and everyone forgot to bring pins.
You show up at the building, doors are locked and you forgot the number to the owner/security guard.
You got to be one step ahead all the time and have back up plans. You don’t want to stuff up your first big job because you forgot to think. With practice this becomes second nature and actually quite fun.
This is just as important as the first question of why. It doesn’t matter if you have worked out that you want the photo shoot to take place in Madagascar a misty morning in an open field with lemurs and 5 naked women on motorbikes. You might also know what lights to use and even the name of the nearest hotel where you would like to stay…if you don’t have the budget for it (or the right contacts or a lot of luck).
A feasibility rapport is good to establish;
Is it doable? Is it worth it?
If the answer is yes, then you can start to plan how to go about doing it.
Transportation – Of the team and all equipment
Budget – What does it all cost? Can you afford it?
Who do you know? – That can be useful
Practically – Identify obstacles beforehand
Planning – Is it doable? How to go about it?
Access -Keys, codes, gates, private property, crowded?
Contact persons -Get names and numbers of everyone
Production is all about multi tasking. You got to think and keep thinking of the following
•Planning: the why, when, where, what, who and how
•Direction and Communication: with models, hair and make up and artist, stylist, assistant…(art director, client etc.)
•Keep checking: the light, exposure, pose, expression, clothes, hair, make up, alignment and angles
•Basic needs: Safety (for people and equipment), food and drinks, temperature, time, toilet
It’s recommended to start with smaller projects and then work your way up to more elaborate ones.
Hopefully this proves to be useful for you
What are you waiting for?….start planning that next shoot!