Photo Shoot Checklist

Preparing for a professional photo shoot will only increase the wise investment of hiring a professional photographer. Here are a few things I've learned along the way, and I hope you find these helpful.

Do you know
how to plan
for a professional photoshoot​?

I’ve worked with some amazing and seasoned professional photographers and in my experience, they are worth every penny. I respect their expertise. Their photographs have been an important part of my client’s marketing materials including websites, brochures, magazine ads, and social media.

Table of Contents

A helpful checklist for anyone who hires a professional photo shoot.

I have put in hundreds of hours in many photo-shoots in my career on both sides of the camera and have learned many things which have helped me along the way. Some of what I learned was not so obvious at the time and (as most things are in hindsight) would have made the projects smoother had I known ahead of time. And time is money.

Here is a helpful checklist for anyone who hires a professional photographer for a photo shoot. I hope you find it saves you time and headaches.

The Basics

  • Trust your photographer —  You choose them based on their portfolio, recommendation and reputation. And they want to do a good job as much as you want.
  • Ask for what you want —  I’ve regretted not voicing my needs, and have learned that if I want to light a candle in a room or change a shirt, I’d rather get that in before we close up shop.
  • Plan more time than you expect —  There may be natural lighting problems, technical issues, staging issues, and of course, people issues.
  • Hydrate —  Seriously, you will not get many chances to take breaks if you’re involved in a photo shoot. Have cool water on hand for you and your team. It’s a lot of work moving around and adjusting little nicknacks and clothing and getting back and forth between the subject and the camera. So, be sure to keep yourself hydrated.
  • Expect things to go wonky — It will not be a perfect shoot. I learned to adjust my work with what I have and make the most of it. Sometimes the flowers don’t arrive, or the sun hides behind the clouds, or the staff does not show (seriously, I had a scheduled shoot where 1/3 of the staff did not show, so we could not do planned poses).

Expectations & Deliverables

  • Ask Questions — Will you need all of the images so you can make choices months later? How will you have access to the images for review?
  • Are you getting a set number of images or a certain amount of hours on-site?
  • What are the photos of?
  • What if we need to change the subject matter or concept, and how will that affect time and cost?
  • Are you receiving all photos taken, a certain amount of your selected favorites, or an expected photo per room, object, person, etc?
  • Food —  Are you responsible to provide lunch for the photography staff or will they provide their own?
  • Payment —  Is your photographer expecting a partial payment, payment in full, or nothing until delivery?
  • Alternate Dates —  If the sun doesn’t shine…

People - Individual and Groups

  • Wrinkled Clothing — Have someone look at the subjects’ clothing. Does your jacket or blouse fold or wrinkle is an odd place? Quicker and easier to get these out now, and not in photoshop later.
  • Smile! Don’t Smile! — Try different facial expressions. If you can feel the emotion, it will show. Do you want to look happy? Silly? Stern? Confident?
  • Have a stylist on hand — Fly-away hair, shiny skin, these are not always easily taken care of in post-production.
  • Wardrobe Change — Bring a few (3—4) shirts, jackets, ties, scarves, etc. It’s surprising what a simple color or texture change can do. And your favorite “power shirt” or tie might not be all that and a bag of chips like you thought.
  • Group shots require a lot of room — space and a LOT of shots. Closed eyes, far-away glances, tilted heads; these can all ruin an entire image. So, it’s best to take a lot and combine together. Up to 3—5 shots per person are needed to combine into something usable. Factor that into your time.

Interior Room Shots

  • Get the best angle. You might need to open the door and situate your camera just at the entrance of a closet or patio in order to get the best viewing angle of the room. I’ve squeezed myself into some odd corners just to get the best image.
  • Multiple lighting sources = multiple shots. Combined in just the right way, will make a beautiful shot. You might need to turn off some main lights, use colored gels, spotlights, blooms, umbrellas, and even black cloth to block out outside lighting, all to get a phenomenally lit image.
  • The Devil is in the details. Scan through the room several times, by looking at your test shots. You will find you will have to slightly rotate almost every item in the room to get the ideal shot. Knowledge of spacial systems will help. Are objects too close? Do their edges touch in the shot but not in reality? Are the window treatments balanced, and in good condition? It will take a minimum of 45 minutes to set up a room.
  • Embellish or Edit. Add some flowers, books, and just the right nicknacks that appropriately enhance the overall feeling of the image. Or take out. Less is more when the architecture supports it. If it’s not broke, don’t fix it.
  • Bring an assistant. A second and third pair of eyes will find things you don’t see. Working with someone who has the same quality of aesthetics as you do will create a well balanced and usable image.

Photographers I've Worked With

Interior & Architectural Photography – I can not say enough good things about my experience with Barry Halkin of Halkin Mason Photography. He’s got a great eye for detail, is able to capture any space, has solid integrity, and the patience of a saint. And his work is beautiful. He can make a cardboard box look like a gold-plated treasure chest.

Bio and Personal Photography

Laura Pedrick of Pedrick Photo knows her subjects. She has an excellent eye and is fully aware of how the light hits her subject. From large crowds to my dog by my side… Laura works with her space in either editorial or personal shots. If you are looking for a professional shot with a personal touch… She is worth the investment, and then some.

Daniel Gramkee Photography, Daniel has a terrific personality and is able to draw that out of others and capture people is a warm and professional way.

Kasey Ivan Photography – I love Kasey’s aesthetics in his outdoor shots and use of lighting and personal expression. Kasey brings out the mood and feelings of the subjects. He also has a unique and hip approach to personal photography ranging from formal to promotional shots.

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