The truth is, a professional photoshoot encompasses far more than anything even the best smartphone camera and filters can ever hope to accomplish. Ultimately, professional photos are visual compositions that have just as much science to them as art. Pulling off professional photoshoot calls for a lot of planning, a discerning eye, the right equipment, concepts, lighting, and more.

Whether you’re a seasoned professional photographer, or you’re embarking on your first product shots for your small business, it helps to understand all the things that go into a professional photoshoot.

Develop The Concept

Every photoshoot needs a good concept. Some like portrait photography might have a simple concept, whereas more sophisticated things like fashion photography, might require a more elaborate concept. Though whatever the concept might be, it needs to have the visual power, prominence and forethought put into it to influence all the other phases of the photoshoot.

Even the simplest photoshoot concepts still need to touch on a similar theme. It might be visuals that are inspired from a movie, or TV show, or perhaps lighting concepts or backgrounds that help a specific product’s color scheme to pop.

Finding The Best Locations

Some photoshoots only have one location, which is the photo studio or a retail space for portrait photos and product photography. Other, more elaborate photoshoot concepts might require multiple locations. Especially if they are exterior shots and you can’t plan far enough in advance to compensate for potential weather.

Having multiple exterior and possible interior locations scouted in advance will go a long way toward making sure that no matter what the weather or the scene requirements throw at you, you are ready. It sometimes helps to ask yourself a few key questions to determine if the potential location is a good one for your intended photoshoot concepts.

  • Does the proposed set/background compliment your concept?
  • Would you be better off creating your own interior set where you can control lighting and conditions?
  • Will the cost to rent a location affect the budget for the photoshoot?
  • Are there other costs you’ll incur at the location, such as needing to bring in a makeup artist or support staff?
  • Is there enough natural lighting, or will you need to use artificial light for the location?

Choosing the Best Equipment for Your Photoshoot

With concept and location taken into account, you can start dialing in the right type of equipment you need to bring on your shoot day. Also take the time to think about what you’re going to need at each location for each shoot, each product, or each subject.

Each location and shoot should have its own inventory list that will travel with you. This gives you a better idea of what you need to bring and can help you pair the right accessories with the right transport cases.

It might sound like an unnecessary hassle that takes a lot of time early on, but it will save you a lot of time when it comes to the day of the actual shoot. It will also go a long way toward making you look like a true professional photographer, even if you maybe aren’t.

Choosing the Right Models and/or Products

In a commercial photography shoot selecting the right model or the right individual product for the photoshoot is an important factor. Here again, you want to refer back to the original concept for the shoot. Then also take into account what subjects work best for the location, the lighting, the placement, and overall theme.

When you’re considering the subject, also take into account set dressing, possible wardrobe changes, and even minor changes in product placement that can be corrected.

Bringing multiple wardrobes, facilities for making convenient changes, and extra products with minor deviations can go a long way toward helping you make the adjustments you need to produce the best possible photographs on the day of the shoot.

If you are going to be using a model, make sure that they have a signed model release form from your model, whether they’re friends, family, or professionals. It is a critical legal document that allows you to use their image and likeness, protecting you from any issues that may arise if you decide to publish or sell your photographs.

Do Your Best To Make All Your Subjects Feel Comfortable

More than one professional photographer has ruined their own photoshoot by domineering the subjects and support staff. Considering all the planning and preparation that goes into a successful photoshoot, it can be all too easy to accidentally take over. Mico-managing, directing people, and failing to practice good manners make subjects and staff feel stiff and uncooperative.

How you conduct yourself is going to affect the shoot. Talking alone with the subject before things start is the best way to establish a comfortable rapport. Then also make sure to communicate politely and positively throughout the shoot. Follow up with them to make sure they are comfortable, and take plenty of breaks so that everyone feels refreshed and energized.

Making the extra effort to make sure that your subjects and support staff feel comfortable and respected helps everyone loosen up. Models look more natural, support staff are on the ball, and engaged and the entire photoshoot tends to be faster. Even if you do have to make multiple changes to wardrobe, location, lighting or other factors.

Develop the Right Mood & Atmosphere

Developing a mood and atmosphere that carefully matches the desired mood of your photographs can help achieve the best possible results. One of the best ways to do this is to play music during the photo shoot, which can help put your models and crew in the right state of mind and relax them.

Change Things Up To Find What Works

Very few professional photoshoots work perfectly with Plan A. Be bold enough to try changing it up with different poses, outfits, expressions, and compositions throughout the shoot.

Even once you have one “In the can” be brave enough, and polite enough with the subjects to try a few more options. This will give you more flexibility when it comes to post-production selections and minor photo edits.

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