7 things to make your photoshoot a success

I planned my first ever photoshoot back in 2004 when I was just starting out as a magazine editor. Since then, I’ve been in charge of managing upward of 40 photoshoots for brands and clients. I was also fortunate to be married to a (very reluctant!!) model who did the gig full time for four years while we lived in Europe (JR don't blush too much!).

Even with all of this experience, planning a shoot can still be a daunting, not to mention totally time consuming, task. Given visuals are so imperative to small biz today, I thought I’d share seven tips I’ve learned in the last 14 years:

1. Understand your objectives

As with anything else you do in your biz, the first step should be to understand what you want to get from the photoshoot. Is it a brand refresh? Is it to look more professional? Is it ahead of an upcoming conference or to push a completely new product line? Understand what this means to you and why you're doing it — write the reasons out or make a quick PDF you can then share with members of your team and/or anyone you choose to bring on for this project.

2. Set a budget

I've worked on photoshoots with a budget of $50 (#scrambling), through to those with a budget of $300,000 and even with all that cash to splash, budgets are still the EASIEST thing to blow out. Review step one and consider how much you're comfortable spending, before you even start to look for a photographer or venue. Remember, the photographer is just one part of the day - you'll need to factor in things like hair and makeup artists, catering and even royalty-free music fees if you're using any part of the shoot for a video campaign.

3. Do your research

I've met a fair few photographers in my time and, just like SEO experts or hairdressers, the more information you can give them upfront, the better for everyone. This starts with you conducting a chunk of research. This could be pulling together moodboards or lighting references on Pinterest, taking full length screen shots of websites using a tool like Paparazzi, or pulling together a list of brands or people you like the style of. You may also want to write out a list of words around how you want the pictures to make people feel. It may sound woo-woo, but do you want people to feel impressed, excited, happy, inspired or simply comfortable approaching you? All of this feeds into how you brief your team and sets the expectations for what they need to deliver.

4. Find your dream team

This step feeds into the one prior. One of the best places to find a photographer is to look at the credits on images you use for your moodboard. Sure, some may be way out of your budget, but many may not.

Photographers are always seeking more work and so don't be afraid to reach out to someone who is credited for an image in a blog, magazine or even social media account you like. The same goes for makeup, hair and even venues.

Hashtags are a fantastic way to source people too — just checkout things like #photographeryourcity (i.e. #photographermelbourne) or #muayourcity (make-up artist in your city). Ask friends for recommendations or reach out to someone you follow on IG to ask who took their latest portrait or product shots.  Lastly, if seeking interesting venues, checkout bridal accounts as you'll often find amazing venues that will charge you a LOT less than a wedding party for daytime shoots.

5. Plan it out

This is, by far, the most important step (and often one people miss). While it may be tempting to let your "dream team" have full creative control, you risk tears and heartache (not to mention $$) if you haven't planned things out before the shoot. This means looking at where the images will be used and mocking up what this looks like.

Do you need empty space for text to be overlaid? Do you need an image to be shot at a higher-res to be used on billboards or large pull-up banners? Do you need people to shoot wide for display ads or website sliders, but then also be able to crop in for square social media tiles? If you're thinking of advertising are you shooting for double-page spreads or single pages (and, if the former, are you ensuring no product is near the inner seam line of a publication)?

Once you have this planned out, think about the logistics of making all of this happen.

Will you need more set-up time if shooting wide? Will the photographer need to switch lenses and how does this affect the hired lighting? Will you need to factor in time to review each image and ensure it can be used for all its desired purposes (i.e., wide banner and cropped in square)? How much time will you need for outfit or hair changes? Will you need natural light and, if so, how quickly can the shots be taken?

Things on set ALWAYS take longer than expected, even if you're just shooting product flat lays. Create a rough run sheet and share this, along with your mockups with your photographer, well ahead of time. The last thing anyone wants is a rushed and stressed vibe on set.

6. Good vibes only

It's finally the day of your shoot and naturally, nerves can kick in - especially if you're suddenly in front of the camera. But remember how much work you have put into this and ENJOY it. That means bringing good vibes only to the set. Help this happen by creating a fun playlist on Spotify, ensuring everyone has a coffee / tea / water and making every effort to be as calm and considered as possible when providing feedback. Everyone is there to do a good job and (through your research) you've brought on the people you consider experts in their field. So, chill out, imagine George Clinton is singing just for you and have fun!

7. Review and revise

The shoot may be done and dusted but there is ALWAYS a lesson for the future from our past. Make the time one month on, to meet with everyone involved (or at minimum get them to answer some Qs over email) to see what worked, what didn't and what could be done better next time. This may mean more prep, fewer shots or hey, even a different playlist (#NotEveryoneLovesBeyonce). Arming yourself with this knowledge allows you to enjoy the next photoshoot even more.

Photoshoots can be a daunting thing to plan and execute. By completing the steps above, you’re that bit closer to actually enjoying the experience!

Ps. Don’t have the funds right now to pay a photographer? Consider up-skilling in the photo department. I’ve taken an awesome online course on iPhone photography from The Photo School (by photographers Kate Berry & Peta Mazey) which gave me a lot of ideas. Or, you may consider jumping onto Collabosaurus and swapping your services or products (in place of cash) with a photographer.

Fiona Killackey