Planning A Photography Shoot

February 24, 2013  •  Leave a Comment

This is the final post of general background on the way I typically work.

Taking time to plan a shoot pays huge efficiency and effectiveness dividends. Typically my photography shoot planning can be clustered into two main categories: Fashion-Glamour-Nude-Lifestyle and Landscape-Travel-Architecture.



I find that fashion, glamour, nude and lifestyle shoots take the most preparation as so many elements need to be considered.

Any shoot starts with defining a concept. One should consider the end result that is being sought. What emotion and message do you want images to convey? Is the purpose to highlight the wardrobe or the model?

Once the shoot has been defined I commence with developing a storyboard. The initial draft includes examples of the types of images sought.

Once the draft storyboard is in place I begin the search and arrangement for a suitable model, props, wardrobe, and make-up & hair design and artist.

In parallel an appropriate location decision needs to be made. If not in studio, a location that fits the concept needs to be identified and usage arrangements made. I prefer to do a recon visit of the location and take pictures of potential shooting areas at the location.

At this point I update the storyboard with images taken at the location. I match these with the example images and develop a lighting setup design for each.

(See previous block on the lighting equipment I use. In future blocks, I will detail lighting setups when discussing specific images.)



The key elements to consider when planning landscape, travel or architecture shoots are the location, weather conditions, light (timing and angle) and composition.

Here again it starts with a clear definition of the outcome sought and the purpose or use of the final images. For example, understand whether the images would be used for commercial, illustrative or decorative purposes. Then understand the mood that the image should convey and what objects the image should contain.

Armed with this information begin your scout for an appropriate scene or location. Here previous places visited and the internet can be valuable resources to identifying suitable places.

As it is not always convenient to do a scout visit, Google maps, for example, can assist with identifying possible shooting locations that will provide the best angle from where to shoot. The internet is once again a great resource for investigating light conditions e.g. weather conditions, sunrise and sunset times, direction of sunrise or sunset etc.

Use this information to plan the best time to visit the location and preliminary ideas on shooting position. Once at the location can you finalise the best shooting position.

I always say that it is best to get the shot right in camera than to rely on post processing. With the power of software continuously increasing it has become very easy to add effects to images. Some of them are effects that are better created in camera using filters. For this genre, as a minimum, I carry a polarizer, and a set of neutral density filters. Oh, and do not forget the sturdy tripod.

Also consider additional lighting for architectural shoots. For example, strobes to light buildings form within or from without. Naturally these need to be quite powerful, upwards of 1000W.

When travelling it is advisable to always have a couple of Speedlights on hand to illuminate dark corners or add creative lighting effects. As an added tip, keep a pack of colour gels on hand to add colour effects.


Model or Object Release

Note that it is important to understand what commercial usage rights you as a photographer has of images containing models, man made structures and objects. Signed releases may be needed. iStockphoto has more on this subject and also provides a sample release form you can download and use.

So, now that we have concluded the intro posts, let’s start unpacking some recent shoots and images.


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