Preparing For A Client Photoshoot

Preparing For A Client Photoshoot


Annie-Tao-Photography-couple-kissing-on-beach.jpegFor 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

Annie-Tao-Photography-baby-portrait.jpeg1.  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.

3.  Visualize.

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:

Annie-Tao-Photography-family-on-boat-in-the-Bay.jpegMy 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!

Read more from our Tips & Tutorials category

Annie Tao is a Professional Lifestyle Photographer in the San Francisco Bay Area who is best known for capturing genuine smiles, emotions and stories of her subjects. You can visit Annie Tao Photography for more tips or inspiration. Stay connected with her on her Facebook page

Some Older Comments

  • PaulB April 25, 2012 10:11 pm

    Good stuff, very much like preparing for a wedding photo shoot! Always carry an umberella in the car too lol

  • Valerie April 24, 2012 07:55 am

    Thanks for the article! Lots of good info! Shot my first event 2 weeks ago. I am used to shooting family functions, but I was still extremely nervous about this one because it was my 1st paid job..... in addition to the fact that I was to take portraits during the same time I was trying to capture the other 15 billion things going on. : ) And there were many more children to photograph than I'm used to keeping up with at any one event. Turned out well, although I see a few things I could have done differently. The client was happy, so all is well. I am rarely that exhausted after a day's work! : ) I'm thinking if I am asked to do another event similar to this one, I may grab an assistant to share the event/portrait portion.

  • Martin April 23, 2012 11:22 pm

    Some great tips there.

    If shooting an event with multiple bodies, I always ensure the clocks in the cameras are synchronised, so I can easily sort the photos from multiple bodies chronologically.

  • StacyM April 21, 2012 06:00 am

    I also try to map out (write down) at least 4 or 5 poses or specific shots I want to try to get. They certainly can be adjusted on the fly (and almost always are) but it gives me a structure to work from.

    I'll also rehearse (in my head) some fun things to do (or say) that gets them relaxed.

  • Shane Fleming April 20, 2012 03:46 pm

    I agree with Dewan's point about taking some shots to warm-up prior to the shoot (and the subjects don't even need to be involved) for 2 main reasons:
    1. It helps me to get to grips with the lighting conditions and fine-tune my settings
    2. I find personally that my first shots are often the standard - predictable - shots so by getting these out fo the way during the warm-up, I'm already looking for more interesting shots and angles by the time the shoot begins.

    Nice article, thanks :)

  • Michael Long April 20, 2012 09:13 am

    I'm from the old school of photography, The film days! Anyway, I always used a shooting script and a take along list. I always set up my equipment the night before a shoot. And double checked it before loading the car the day of the shoot. I also tried to visit the site that I would be working so that there were no surprises....

  • Shariq April 20, 2012 07:39 am

    Good tips. I find it's so important to be in the right place mentally, and all costs avoid shooting in "headless chicken mode". It's when you feel rushed that you start forgetting to reset settings and end up with a whole series of images with the wrong white balance, ISO or some such.

    One tip I would add to this, especially for events (including weddings of course) and portraits but might apply to various other forms as well:
    Prepare a shot list
    Have a list of shots that would make it a complete shoot, from your as well as the client's point of view, while also being classic shots that are both straightforward to set up as well as the type that always work. You may or may not actually be able to actually get all of those in, but if you are able to get most of these bread-and-butter shots in, you can then feel free to get more creative with your shots, or even to hit the food!

  • Derek Cooke April 20, 2012 03:20 am

    I just have to say that it is not the best idea to load up on caffeine before a shoot. Sometimes when I've been shooting at events all day I'll drink a bunch of soda from the bar in lieu of eating or having energy, but lots of caffeine makes people have to go to the bathroom a lot! This is not good if you are on location or have a tight schedule or are working an event where you have to capture moments.

    I recommend eating a healthy salad with lots of nuts or something similar for lots of real, quality energy that will last through the day. And drink water!

  • Alexx April 19, 2012 04:49 pm

    Thanks for the post. Great pic of the baby.

  • Max Almonte April 18, 2012 11:07 pm

    Great tips, Even though I do follow religiously some of them, like cleaning and packing the necessary gear, and the visualizing part. Need to worki harder on the timing and thanks for the listening to music tip.

  • raghavendra April 18, 2012 12:37 pm

    Recently i have taken a picture with two kids, it's not an exact client photoshoot
    but the theme is good.
    kids feeding the goat

  • Jeff E Jensen April 18, 2012 12:06 pm

    These are all good pointers. The one thing I would add is that you have to try and anticipate the unexpected. I was shooting some prom pictures this last weekend and had rain and darkness to deal with for an outdoor shoot. Fun stuff.

  • Dewan Demmer April 18, 2012 07:57 am

    I would add one tip for on the day, somewhere after walk-through and probably before coffee take pictures of 15-20 minutes as a "warm-up", get those creative gears turning and so as you get to work with your client you don't find yourself half a step behind. Perhaps that just me.

    The above mentioned are spot on, and concise so its easy to remember. Be a boy scout and be prepared.

    Now this shoot I did recently and I did a little warmup before and spent the first 10 minutes with my model getting into the flow as it were, it also allowed her the time to relax in front of the camera which does help.

  • Lara White April 18, 2012 05:19 am

    These are great tips Annie, I especially like the idea of listening to music that puts you in the right mood for the session, that is absolutely brilliant! I have a couple of other tips to add:

    1) Ask the client if they are looking for a certain type of product so you can shoot with that product in mind. For example, if it's a family session and they are hoping for an album, I will shoot more variety, more poses, more groupings etc. than if they are mainly looking for a traditional family portrait (more horizontals of entire family). By knowing what the end goal is, you are able to create images specifically for that purpose. This also helps to lay the groundwork for the sale, as you begin talking with the client about the reasons and end goals of the session.

    2) I have found it really helps people to relax when I explain to them upfront how the session is going to go. Like, hey, we are going to start out with a big family group, and then after we cover that off, I'll ask you to just hang out and play-very casual, just be with each other. Later, we'll do individual portraits. I tell subjects I will let them know when I want them looking at the camera, so they aren't worried about where they are supposed to look, etc.

  • steve slater April 18, 2012 03:36 am

    Being prepared also applies to wildlife photography. Sometimes you only get a fleeting moment and you do not want to miss it by not being ready:

  • Mridula April 18, 2012 02:01 am

    Some of these things are true even if you shoot as a hobby. I ended up on trip without the battery charger. Have to say I was not a happy camper. And since the readers at DPS are so kind, I will leave with a picture I took on Sunday.