How to Plan a Photo Shoot for Your Brand or Boutique + FREE shoot planning workbook
So, it’s time to showcase your brand or capture your products in their best light. Literally…good light is the #1 most important thing for a great photo shoot, but your photographer will handle that. (If you’re more of a DIY-er, we’ll have some more behind-the-camera type tips coming to the blog for you soon.)
Whether you need to capture some new products for your website, or create some beautiful content for social media, here’s some things you can do to make sure your shoot runs smoothly and the photos turn out amazing.
Decide on Your Goal + the Type of Photo Shoot
The type of photo shoot you choose depends on your goals and needs. Each type requires planning for different things, like a location, whether or not to use models, whether you need props, and maybe even which photographer you hire. (Some photographers use very little equipment and only shoot with natural light, others prefer to shoot in studio).
What are you trying to capture with this shoot? Is it a close-up of some of your products or photos that convey the heart & soul of your brand? Choosing a goal before you shoot not only helps you pick the right type of shoot, it also is the first step towards planning a shoot that meets your exact needs.
⤑ Shoot Type 01: A Product Shoot
Shows you what the product is.
Product shoots are the most simple type of shoot. They include capturing your products in a straightforward way so customers can see it clearly and understand it’s features. Photos from a product shoot usually have a white or simple background to avoid distraction and give sole focus to the product.
CHOOSE THIS SHOOT:
If you need simple photos for the product listings on your website OR clean photos to submit with a press release / PR pitch.
⤑ Shoot Type 02: A Product Usage / Lifestyle Shoot
Shows you how the product can or should be + a little about who uses it.
Unlike a regular product shoot, which captures the product on a plain background, a product usage shoot shows the product in use — i.e. a real life setting that shows someone wearing the clothing or a styled flatlay that groups the product with items that convey how the product can be used.
This is the shoot style most bloggers use: they capture the product in use through action shots (like walking across the street or sipping some coffee). The purpose of this shoot is to focus on the product by showcasing it in a real life setting compared to just still on a background.
CHOOSE THIS SHOOT:
For more interesting product listing images OR for use as content photos for social media posts
⤑ SHOOT TYPE 03: An Editorial Shoot
Shows you where and when you could use the product and why you should want it.
Editorial shoots use elements to establish a theme or convey a story — whether it be through the location, the style of outfits, or the props you use. Maybe it’s to capture your spring line, maybe you need some holiday-themed photos for your blog or social accounts, or maybe you want images to convey the heart and soul of your brand as a whole that don’t focus on a specific product.
Editorial shoots are less about focusing on the product(s) itself and more about the context of the product. The product is being used as part of a bigger picture, and that bigger picture is the look and feel of your brand. This type of shoot creates a situation or event as context for the product, which can be powerful in encouraging a desire for the product, convincing your customers to become more loyal fans of your brand, or persuading potential customers to buy.
CHOOSE THIS SHOOT:
If you need photos for a lookbook, your website, blog posts, social accounts, or an article you’re being featured in.
Choose a Vision + Aesthetic for Your Shoot
Find your inspiration before you shoot.
It’s super important to establish a vision for your shoot and plan out the look and feel you want your photos to have beforehand.
There are already a lot of moving parts, between the photographer, equipment, and models (if you’re using them, then you might have additional parts like hair and makeup), so you need a clear plan before the shoot. Don’t expect to ‘just wing it’ or ‘see how it looks’ on the day of the shoot. While there is for sure space for making little tweaks or adjustments for things you didn’t expect, you should still have a solid big picture plan.
Share this plan with your photographer beforehand (maybe even before you hire the photographer) via email, a phone call, or even a coffee meetup. This will help your photographer plan ahead a little bit to help you achieve your creative vision, plus they can let you know some of the ideas or challenges they see with your shot list so that they can be discussed / fixed before the shoot. A good photographer will not only be able to understand what you are going for, but they will also be able to chat with you and provide great feedback and ideas about how to achieve your vision.
⤑ Step 01: Choose an overall aesthetic
The aesthetic is the look and feel you want your shoot to have. It includes things like whether you want your photos to be colorful and bright, or more monochromatic. The best way to establish an aesthetic is by making an inspiration or mood board that includes some of the elements you’d like to see come through in your shoot or pictures you feel convey the same look & feel you are trying to achieve. These elements can include a specific style you want to imitate, poses you would like to try, or certain backgrounds & settings that you want to incorporate.
Pinterest is really the go-to for this. It’s easy because you can add things from all over the web, plus upload your own images if you can’t find what you’re looking for anywhere else. You can also make the board private so no one can see your brilliant plan before it’s time. If you’re not a Pinterest fan, using PowerPoint or Keynote works too. You can make a single mood board, slide or a whole inspo slide deck is another good option.
⤑ Step 02: Make a shot list
Make sure to list the types of shots you want as well as what props you plan to use. It’s a good idea to make notes about how you will incorporate your props into the shot. Include some have-to-have pictures and some if-we-have-time pictures.
Spend a good 20min — 1-hour researching on Pinterest or flipping through fashion magazines. It’s also a great idea to look through your photographer’s portfolio and draw inspiration from their previous work. Look for poses and shots that you want to recreate with your own pieces or ideas. If you’re the model, you can research and practice specific poses beforehand. You might feel silly, but it will definitely pay off during your shoot. If you are hiring professional or amateur models, you can have them practice some of these different poses with you before the photographer arrives or even at the casting call.
Your shot list can be a simple list of poses you want to capture. i.e. “I want pictures of my model sitting on some steps, wearing the new floral top.” Your list can be more involved and specify things like the background, to which props, to a specific pose, etc. Make a simple or detailed list, collect images that capture what you want to do, or sketch out a stick figure drawing. Whatever it takes to convey the vision you have for your shoot.
It’s a great idea to save your mood board and shot list to your phone so you have them on the go and can show them to your photographer as a refresh during the shoot.
Get this free photo shoot workbook to help you plan your shoot. Just go to this post and enter your email in the form.
Choose a Location for Your Shoot
Choosing a location is usually a back-and-forth between revisiting your vision + aesthetic and considering a few other important factors. Maybe you have something specific in mind, or maybe you don’t even know where to begin. The good news is that you can work with your photographer to narrow down the best location options. Here’s a few steps to working through the location selection process:
⤑ Step 01: Pick your location based on lighting / timing
The only real must-haves when choosing a location for a product shoot is great lighting. Natural light is the best light, and the best natural light happens during early morning or just before sunset (called golden hour). This light is best because it’s coming more from the side vs. shining directly down, which tends to cast weird shadows on faces and doesn’t light things evenly. If you’re shooting outdoors shoot in the morning, before sunset, or in a shaded area if you have to shoot mid-day.
To get proper lighting indoors, your photographer will usually set up equipment like lighting and reflectors. Work with your photographer to determine which locations work best.
⤑ Step 02: Consider your aesthetic + vision
Besides lighting, your location is dictated by your shoot type. If you’re using simple backgrounds, you will likely be shooting in a studio or somewhere with plenty of space. Your photographer may own a studio or rent space at a shared studio space. If they have their own studio equipment, they might also be able to come to you and set up the shoot at your location. Make sure to ask them about all this before you book the shoot. Sometimes there are extra fees for using studio space to shoot.
Location options for a product usage / lifestyle shoot are almost endless. The only rule is that your location should fit your aesthetic in a direct way. Choose a location that fits the elements on your shot list, or the look and feel of the shots on your inspiration board. The location can be a direct compliment to the products your using: For example, if you’re shooting your summer collection, your location might be an amusement park, an ice cream parlor, somewhere poolside, the beach, etc. Your location choice might also be totally unrelated to your products: maybe it’s just a fun-colored wall that makes a good background.
⤑ Step 03: Think about privacy / access
If you’re shooting somewhere public, consider how busy it might be during your shoot. You might have more luck with a downtown location on a Sunday morning compared to a busy workday. If you want to shoot somewhere that isn’t public like a coffee shop, make sure to reach out and get permission BEFORE you shoot. Most businesses are more than happy to let you take pictures, but some might be more reluctant or require something of you like crediting them for the location.
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Select Your Products, Models & Props.
Based on the two previous phases, you probably have a general idea of the products you need shots of, the type of models you need to include, and the props you’d like to use. It’s time to get all those things a little more set in stone.
⤑ Finalize your product list
You probably know what products or pieces you need to capture. It’s a good idea to make an actual list that you can work through and cross off during the shoot. Not only does this ensure you don’t miss anything, it also allows you to rank them in order of importance. If your shoot is time-based (where the photographer is shooting at an hourly rate) you’ll want to make sure you get the most important things captured first. After that, you work through things that are not as big of a priority if you still have some time. If you’re doing a product shoot, then this is your last step! Time to move on and shoot!
⤑ Find / hire models
If you’re doing a product usage or editorial shoot, you’ll need to decide on models. If you’re not doing your own modeling, then it’s up to you as far as how to hire models. You can search for professionals or opt for up-and-coming talent. You can post a model call announcement on your social media, run a facebook ad, or go through an agency.
⤑ PROPS! Props, props, props
For product usage / editorial shoots it’s a good plan to bring a variety of props with you to your shoot. Props are great because they add interest to your shots, and help convey the story you’re trying to tell. Props encourage movement or action. For example, when you’re holding a pen, you will probably find yourself twirling, clicking, or chewing on it without even thinking about it. Encouraging movement that doesn’t take much thought makes it so much easier to capture real candids.
Props give non-professional models (and maybe you if you’re modeling) something to DO besides just stand there and overthink the way they’re posing (which results in stiff and awkward shots). Using a prop provides a good distraction during the shoot. They can help models to feel like they have a reason for being in front of the camera.
This is especially important for models who don’t have much experience since posing every single party of your body.
Shoot Time!! (Tips & Tricks)
Tip 01: Set the mood by playing some music.
Seriously. Music helps everyone relax, and create a more fun environment for the photo shoot. Music can help models find confidence and loosen up a little. Plus, it’s a great way to sent the tone for the shoot. (No fluff here, this tip seriously works)
You can plan ahead and make a playlist. Choose songs that you think capture the mood you want your shoot and images to have. This will help everyone get into the right frame of mind and can help convey the look and feel you want your shots to have.
Tip 02: Don’t be afraid to ask questions + re-evaluate mid-shoot
Just because you did all that great planning doesn’t mean you can’t make adjustments.
Don’t stay clueless. If you are feeling just a little lost at any time during your shoot, let your photographer know! They’ll be able to explain what we’re doing and can offer suggestions. If it’s still not clear, then you can let them know you’d like to move on and try something new. If your photographer is ever doing something you don’t understand, it’s totally ok to just say, “Hold up, I have no idea what we’re doing here.”