How I Plan And Prepare For My Photo Shoots

Picture from a recent photo shoot. 

Ever since I got into portrait photography, I have been consciously working on developing a repeatable process. My workflow has evolved quite a bit since I started out on this journey and continues to develop as I learn from new challenges. After every shoot, I jot down my notes in a little notebook and use it to refine my process.

I like to parse any photo shoot into three phases: Planning, Shooting and Post-Processing. Planning fills me with excitement and shooting gives me the most joy. However post-processing is a completely different story - it is my desire to get things done that gets me through this phase.

In this blog post, I would like to delve into the first phase. I follow a simple workflow to plan my shots:

  1. I first look at the clients’ photos they have shared on social media and look for themes. They typically tend to share the ones they like a lot. This gives me an idea of what tends to make them happy and what personal features they are proud of 😊.
  2. I then decide on the backdrops (indoors as well as outdoors) for the shoot. This involves physically visiting those spots and taking some test shots. Fortunately I am surrounded by very many picture perfect spots that serve as great backdrops.
  3. I create a board on Pinterest for each shoot and start collecting ideas. I look for examples that are suitable for the client. For instance, I pin images that have similar hairstyle and facial features to that of my subject. If clients like to collaborate on this board, I share the board with them. If not, I keep it to myself. Some clients don't want to be bothered with all of this. They just want nice pictures and trust me to figure these things out. 
  4. Next I make a list of shots I would like to take. This list includes the subject(s), orientation (landscape vs. portrait) and backdrop for each image. I end up taking a lot more photos (roughly 4x) than what I have down in my list. This list guides me well during the shoot. In case I get stuck, run out of ideas or the subjects start getting tired, I use this list to quickly change the scene or move on to other ideas.
  5. Last but not least, I spend some time right before the shoot to charge the camera batteries, clear the memory cards and pack the bag.  I also review my list and the Pinterest board one last time before heading out.
For some reason every time as I head out for these sessions, I am completely petrified😨. I wonder what if I am not able to deliver? What if I ruin the relationship? What if I don't get a single decent picture? What if this and what if that ... It is nothing but my planning and preparation that helps me overcome my doubts. Eventually, I take that step forward with the fear still lingering...and roll with my plan!