Don’t know where to start? Here are a few tricks for nailing your next photo shoot.

They say it is best to be prepared.  And when it comes to scheduling a photo shoot with clients, the key to having a smooth session is all in the preparation.  Whether you are planning a quick family session on the beach, or a large scale wedding with makeup artists, hair stylists, and multiple people, creating a plan and considering the following will assure you look professional and obtain great images.

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Send client questionnaire and session prep guides.

To even begin to know who you will be photographing, and what type of session they expect, you must get some basic information from your client.  You should send out a client questionnaire with each new booking, asking for basic information about the client and type of experience or session they require.  This should be followed by a session prep guide, informing them of everything from what to expect, to assisting with their wardrobe.  Providing your client with these two important items serves two purposes.  One, you will gain all the pertinent information you need as the photographer to provide a positive and fun experience.  Secondly, your client will gain confidence in your business and abilities, not to mention they will know what to expect on the session.

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Guiding your client’s wardrobe choices.

Your client’s clothing will play a large part in your images.  Clothing should compliment the client’s bodies and their surroundings.  For family sessions, it is recommended the clothing harmonize and stay within neutral color tones.  Assisting your clients with clothing suggestions also ensures your background and client compliment one another to obtain that perfect image.  Clothing will also help set the mood.  A long flowing summer dress will give the same location a different feeling that if your client is wearing cut off shorts.  The more formally dressed your clients are for your photo shoot, the better the images will be.

Venue and location scouting for your photo shoot.

Most people will want to know where they will be taking the awesome photos with you.  It is best to have a few locations scouted ahead of time that you may recommend.  If they are asking for a location you have not been, it is advisable for you to scout that location prior to your scheduled session.  Just because someplace sounds cool or interesting, does not mean it will make a great location to shoot at.

Know the environment which will give you the desired look you are wanting for your images.  Also, pay attention to the time of day in which you will be at the location.  Are you going for a hip urban look?  If so, an alley or graffiti filled overpass may be just the right spot.  Wanting more romantic images?  Look for a park or rural setting. Lighting will change throughout the day.  A beach at sunset has a different look than the same beach at high noon.  Pay attention to shadows and background distractions.

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Look for the light!

Lighting is arguably the most important aspect of taking a great photo.   And there is nothing like that dreamy glow from diffused backlighting.  Know when the sun will set and how the lighting will be at your scheduled session time. Look up into the sky.  Notice the position of the sun.  Is it overcast, or bright daylight? During day hours in harsh sunlight, look for locations offering diffused lighting or shade in which to capture your client in.  Search for the shadows on the ground, and point your clients in the direction of the shadow. On overcast days, face your clients toward the sun to avoid dark circles under their eyes.  This will also make their skin pop and not look flat in your photograph.

We have all heard of Golden Hour.  That magical hour leading up to sunset, and there is a reason why most photographers chose to shoot during this time.  The light is perfect and your photographs will not have any harsh shadows.  You can also shoot during Blue Hour, or the hour leading up to the sunrise.  Experiment.  See what works for you and your style of imagery.

Always check the weather!

Mail carriers have the famous saying, ” Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.”  Well, this can be said for photographers as well.  We have photo sessions in all types of weather.  But, face it.  Most clients do not want a stormy, dreary photo shoot.  Be aware of the weather forecast, and have a backup plan in the event of inclement weather.  This may mean rescheduling your photo shoot for another day or a last minute location change.  Also, make sure you verify the sunset time on your session date and schedule accordingly.  There are also great apps you may utilize on your mobile devices such as Sun Route and Golden Hour for determining available sunlight.

Equipment you should consider.

A high-quality DSLR is important, but nowadays even our cell phones are capable of capturing great images.  Decide what the images will be used for, and make sure your camera and processor is capable of delivering high-quality resolution images.  What about lenses?  What look do you wish to achieve?  Tight images with dreamy bokeh? Or crisp landscape shots with the clients in the distance.  (For a family session I always pack my 50 mm 1.4, my 85 mm 1.2 and sometimes a zoom for capturing those candid shots from afar.)  Think about what shots you will be taking, and plan accordingly.

Now, will you need a fill flash?  What about extra memory cards or a reflector?  Decide what equipment you may need, and make sure your bag is packed with backups.  Charge all batteries.  Finally, put a copy of your questionnaire in your bag, and you are good to go.

Drinks and snacks!

Packing a cooler filled with water bottles and snacks is a must to stay hydrated, especially on warm days.  You will not get any good images if your clients are parched and sweltering in the heat.  Take breaks and make sure everyone drinks plenty of water.  Don’t forget to bring a few “clean” snacks, especially for families with small children.  You do not want anything which may melt, or leave sticky hands or dirty faces.  (This may be a good time to add a few wet wipes to your camera bag as well.)

Benefits of bringing an assistant to your photo shoot.

Having an assistant along with you on your photo shoot can be a game changer, especially when you are just starting out.  From carrying gear to assisting with equipment, an extra set of hands is always beneficial.  They can hold a reflector for you, or help pose clients if you have a large group.  What about occupying small children, while you take a few shots of the parents alone?  Think of those large commercial photo shoots you see advertised on television, or on those reality shows.  There are many people working together to ensure a smooth production, and the photographer can concentrate on their job.  Taking great photos.  So, if you are scheduling a series of mini sessions or bookings back to back, think of bringing someone along.  Your photo shoot will go much smoother, and you won’t leave your clients alone to run back to the car for that other lens or water bottle.

Educate your clients about what is to come.

You nailed your photo shoot.  Your clients rocked their session and the weather was just perfect.  Before you pack it all up and say goodbye, make sure your clients know the next steps in the process.  Some photographers hand out a “what to expect next” card, other’s may verbally notify their clients of when their images will be available to view.  No matter how you chose to convey this information, it is important you do not omit this last step.  Everyone is always excited and super pumped to see their images.  Follow through with your committed time frame, and wow them with an altogether amazing client experience.

So, get out there and book some photo shoots.  With a little preparation and a lot of communication, you are sure to score that shot!

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