By Annie Tao
For those starting out in the photography business, you may wonder how to best prepare for your client photoshoot. Once your subjects start paying you for photography, there are expectations to deliver a certain level of quality and even quantity of “good shots”. So preparing for your shoot is more than just grabbing your camera.
When I first started out, I made a Check List that I would go through before each client shoot. Now, I don’t have a physical list, but I still do all of these things. Hopefully, by sharing my preparation process, you will have a place to start or at least something to think about.
Most of my equipment preparation happens the day before the shoot, so that my mental preparation can occur the day ofthe shoot.
The Day Before the Shoot
1. Figure out what equipment I want to bring.
For an event, I would probably bring 2 camera bodies, my 24-70mm, a wide angle and a prime lens for low light detail shots.
For lifestyle shoots, I would probably bring 1 camera body, my 24-70mm, my 70-200mm, and a prime lens. (The actual lenses depend on how many subjects I’ll be shooting and the location of the shoot.)
2. Charge batteries.
3. Check settings on my cameras.
I would clear my memory cards, so I have the maximum amount of space for my shoot.
I’d “neutralize” my camera settings, so that the day of the shoot, I don’t forget I had the ISO set at 1600, for example, or have the exposure compensation set at +2!
4. Clean my equipment.
This includes both ends of each lens and the inside of the lens cap.
5. Check directions.
So much can happen right before the shoot, so I try to minimize surprises. If it’s a new location (or maybe even one I’ve been to before, but haven’t in awhile), I’ll check the directions online to make sure I know how to get there and see how long it’ll take.
6. Put the client’s contract in my bag.
All my clients have paid in full before their shoot, but I like having all the client’s information in my car in case I need to reference something.
The Day Of the Shoot
1. Plan to arrive early.
I usually plan to arrive 15 minutes early for lifestyle shoots and 30 minutes early for events, so I can get my gear set up based on the light at the location.
I will arrive even earlier if the shoot is in an urban location where I need to find parking or if it’s an unfamiliar location, so I can do a quick walk-through.
2. Review the details.
Every client is special to me, and the last thing I’d want is for them to feel like “just another subject” I am photographing. So during my drive, I’ll read over my notes and try my best to remember names.
If there is something novel about the shoot (ie, the location, the types of people, the type of shoot), I will visualize a few things I’d want to do during the shoot. How will I shoot it? At what angle? How would I compose the shot? Which lens would I use? Where would I be versus my subjects?
Of course what ends up happening at the shoot may not be what I visualized at all, but I’ll have a few ideas “up my sleeve”, if I need them.
4. Load up on coffee.
I drink a BIG cup of coffee before my shoots. It is mostly because my 3 little monkeys — though adorable — zap my energy, so I am in a perpetual state of exhaustion. So for my shoots, I load up on caffeine, and then no one will know why I have bags under my eyes, except me!
5. Listen to music.
Only in hindsight do I realize I do this: I like listening to the kind of music that will put me in the mindset I want to be in for my shoot.
For a family shoot, I’d listen to something upbeat that makes me want to dance in the car! Then I’m ready to run around with the kids.
For a wedding, I’d listen to mellow tunes and avoid rock and hip hop songs that may make me too bouncy for a quiet ceremony.
Photography Tip for Beginning Pros:
My advice is to prepare your gear early, so you don’t have to worry about your equipment. The last thing you’d want is to find out you forgot to pack a much-needed piece of equipment or your battery level is low right before you have to leave for your shoot.
Then, for mental preparation, do what YOU need to do to be open to creative thinking. Whatever that is. Maybe that’s sketching, baking, reading a few pages of your favorite novel or going for a run before your shoot. Do it your way.
And lastly, be confident and have fun!