DLPHOTO Studio

How to Plan a Photo Shoot

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In a field overrun with photographers, a surefire way to stand up above the crowd is through – wait for it – the quality of your work and the professionalism of your service. For self-employed creative-types in a town already renowned for its bohemian attitude, the latter is a rare quality. Do your homework, and you’ll look like a pro at every stage of your photo shoot. Here are some crib notes for planning ahead.

From concept to reality

The client tells the photographer what they want, but it’s the photographer that tells the client what’s possible. They may be paying for everything, they may even have a vision in their head, but it is your duty as the photographer to assess the realities of the shoot, let them know what’s possible, and instil in them the confidence necessary to let you do what is required to achieve it. The result is what counts, and you’re responsible for that result. If you’re not planning ahead, or not communicating the realities to the client, your shoot is likely to fail in both your eyes and the clients.

If you’re not planning ahead, or not communicating the realities to the client, your shoot is likely to fail in both your eyes and the clients

That same groundwork is needed when shooting products, models, clothes, whatever the subject. Don’t just have the model come to the studio on the day of the shoot. Meet: get a sense of the features and strengths of the model and the clothes; look at mood boards and discuss a few options, looks, poses, expressions. This allows the model and the client to go off and wrap their heads around that, and you as the photographer to plan your lighting for the location or studio – so on the day of the shoot, everything is ready and everyone knows what they need to do. This also gives you the opportunity to get comfortable with each other – an important connection, whether she’s a seasoned pro or novice model – and take natural photos.

Planning the shoot

Your homework is vital. No matter where you shoot, always make sure to research the area you are intending to use as a backdrop for your photos. Many of the locations around you might require a permit to use their premises.

READ MORE: Film Permits & Location Shooting in Cape Town

Whether in a ‘proper’ photo studio or makeshift, indoor or outdoor on location, it’s all about light. In a studio environment where ambient light is virtually non-existent thanks to blackout curtains, you can control and manipulate the process with a range of studio lighting equipment. But if you decide to photograph outside, you may need to know a thing or two about photographing in a natural setting.

Outdoors under the light of the sun, your timing and positioning are the two biggest factors in a shoot. Early in the morning and late in the afternoon, with the soft ambient light of the so-called ‘golden hour‘, or under the diffused light of an overcast day, is the preferred time for location shoots, but even midday can have effective results with the right equipment and setup. Either way, this all takes time and planning – and with limited time, you can’t skimp on your planning.

 Do your homework, and you’ll look like a pro at every stage of your shoot

The idea of a planned shoot is to be able to control everything. Account for all the variables: Which direction are you shooting? What are the backgrounds? Are there any buildings or mountains that could affect the lighting at different times of day? It’s one thing to know the location, but you need to know the specifics of the location. It’s all relative to the light, the location and where you plan to do the shoot at the location. Do your homework, and you’ll look like a pro at every stage of your shoot.

Have a back-up plan

You can control the shoot, but you can’t control the weather. Delays in a production plan could arise due to weather, as in if it is raining when we plan to shoot outdoor scenes. This will be solved with a contingency plan with backup dates in case an issue – it might rain and you need sunshine on the beach – arises. In other words: book a date, and pencil in a second. But remember, it’s up to the photographer to contact the client or production company in advance to notify them of the final date.

The client tells the photographer what they want, but it’s the photographer that tells the client what’s possible. They may be paying for everything, they may even have a vision in their head, but it is your duty as the photographer to let them know what is possible, and instil in them the confidence necessary to let you do what is required to achieve it. The result is what counts, and you’re responsible for that result. If you’re not planning ahead, or not communicating the realities to the client, your shoot is likely to fail in both your eyes and the clients. Victory is in the preperation.