Planning an Effective Photo Shoot



Organizing and managing a photo shoot takes time, but with the right preparation, the results will be amazing.  After having helped clients with thousands of photo shoots over the last twenty years and hearing the same questions, we wanted to share some of the key ways to help ensure you get the most value from your photo shoot. This way, both you and the photographer will know what to expect when it comes time for the shoot.  To help you organize, consider the following.

Know your budget and share it with the photographer. Many clients seem reluctant to share their budget prior to the shoot.  This is an important part of any shoot and the photographer needs this information to properly plan (and estimate) the shoot.  Back in the days of shooting film, if a client had a modest budget, we would consider shooting his job using a 35mm camera.  The cost for this film was economical but still yielded adequate quality.  If the budget was higher, we could shoot medium format film, a bit more costly but allowed for more flexibility as to how large the images could be blown up.  When the client had a larger budget, we would shoot 4×5 film giving the client the best in quality and most capability for enlargements.  The point is, even in today’s digital world, the photographer can produce your shots in a variety of ways, depending on your budget.  To withhold your budget does not give the photographer this important information needed to best plan how to shoot your job.  Remember, the photographer wants to work with you and will figure out how best to shoot your job given any reasonable budget.  It’s also important to understand that the more limited the budget, the more limited usage you may be granted for the photographs.  For example, the photographer may agree to shoot each shot for $150 for your catalog, but may require a higher fee if you also intend to use the shots for packaging or advertising.

Know (in your mind’s eye) how you want your photos to look. We’re sure you may be thinking, “Wait a minute the photographer is the artist…he’s supposed to make the shots look good.”  This is true, but only to a point.  The photographer, through the skillful use of light and shadow, depth of field and composition will make your shots look great.  But you still need to have some kind of idea of what you want your shots to look like.  On more photo shoots than we can count, we’ve asked clients what background they want their products shot on only to hear, “Whatever you think looks best.”  This response sends up warning flags that this client is not adequately prepared. This important decision is not the photographers to make. This falls more into the “company branding” department and should be made by someone who has a broader view of the company’s overall marketing plans than the photographer probably does.  Is the overall look of your company high-tech or natural and organic?  If you say high-tech but leave the look of the shots to the photographer and he is thinking organic, you may end up with shots with beautiful foliage and water drops that look out of place in your high-tech marketing materials.  Similarly, if your new website has a blue theme throughout, but the photographer thinks a red background would be nice for your products, again you may end up with shots that don’t work well on your website.  You may be thinking, “I’m not a graphic designer, I don’t know how the shots should look”….and that’s okay.  An experienced photographer will know what questions to discuss with you prior to shooting.  He should offer options for different backgrounds or the option to digitally remove the backgrounds and create them later on the computer.  He should also explain the pros and cons to each option so that you can be confident before the first shot is made that you’ll be happy with the look of the shots.

Know where you intend to use the photos. Where you intend to use the photographs is important for the photographer to know prior to beginning the shoot for a number of reasons. First, this helps the photographer to determine whether to shoot in portrait or landscape orientation. Consider what you want photographed. For example is your company’s newest product only half as tall as it is wide, yet you need it shot for the cover of your new product catalog that is 8.5” x 11” vertical format?  Informing the photographer where you will use this image enables him to understand that, even though the product is horizontal in shape, he still needs to shoot in a vertical orientation to allow for the vertical format of the cover page.  That’s not to say that you can’t also use the same photo on your website, you’ll just need to re-crop the image for other uses.  Knowing how the photos are going to be used may also determine what camera the photographer uses.  If the image is intended to be used on a large billboard, he may shoot with a camera that produces larger files.  If the shots are only intended for use online, he may choose a camera that produces smaller files.  Additionally, the use of the image(s) will have a bearing on the photographer’s fees.  Typically, the photographer will produce your images for a fee based in part on the usage that you both agree on.  This is simply a negotiation between you and the photographer and a good negotiation is one where both parties are pleased with the agreement.

The end result:

Taking the time to properly plan your shoot will go a long way towards a more efficient and cost effective shoot.  Good communication between you and the photographer is key. The photographer should be interested in hearing your objectives and may ask for specific information to best understand your goals. Then you should be confident in his ability as a professional to make great images for you.

This preparation will ultimately result in high quality images that were produced on time and within your budget parameters.  Then you can incorporate these beautiful photos into any advertisement, tradeshow graphic or other marketing pieces you planned for.  The results will be amazing! And of course, we’re here to help you get the most from your photo shoot!