How to get the best from a photo shoot

Please note the following guidance has been written with studio shoots in mind but the advice is still pertinent for a home or location shoot.

What to Expect from the shoot.

Each shoot is individual and the photographer will aim to take around 50 shots for each half hour of studio time. Any time taken to change costumes etcetera will reduce the actual studio time and therefore may reduce the number of shots taken. Therefore an hour and a half portrait shoot with 2 changes of outfit should yield between 100-150 shots in total.

Preparing for your photo shoot - Have an idea!

Before you come to the shoot think about what you would like to get from the shoot and what the purpose of the photographs is i.e. part of a portfolio, for a family album, a gift for a loved one or just for yourself etc.

Once you have decided on what you wish to achieve from your shoot you should look through magazines and the internet to find poses that you like and will feel comfortable doing. Make notes and bring examples with you (if you require an aid memoire on posing). Please note that studio poses may require a degree of exaggeration in body movements to look effective.

Lighting Styles

It is also useful to look at the type of photographic lighting that has been used in any photos that you like as this can help the photographer recreate any moods that you would like you try. Lighting can be broken-down into 3 broad categories.
  • High Key – White background, strong lighting with no shadows. Good for fashion shoots, children or general studio photos.
  • Medium Key – Any background including outside with both shadow and highlight detail captured. The background/sky exposed for a typical shot and extra light on the model to make them stand out from the background. Good for environmental portraits, fashion or general photography.
  • Low Key – Dark background, lots of shadows. Good for moody, arty, sexy or slightly edgy photos.

Clothing and Accessories

With the above in mind you can sort-out what clothing you wish to be photographed in. Simple classic black and white or bold/brightly coloured clothing works well. Avoid busy patterns or fussy clothing unless there is good reason for this.

Think about what you would like to get from the shoot and bring appropriate clothing such as eveningwear, business wear, sportswear, casual i.e. jeans and a T-shirt, swimwear or lingerie. Remember each change of clothing will require time that will be deducted from shooting time.

Accessories help make poses more interesting and help to add variety to the shoot. Simple clothing accessories such as hats, scarves and jackets are easy incorporated into a shoot, as jewellery can be. Other props can also help with poses and impart some interest to the photos. Such accessories can include mobile phones, sun glasses, microphones, musical instruments etc.

Pre Shoot Preparation

Depending on the type of shoot you require and your own personal outlook the following areas maybe worth considering to make your photos as perfect as possible.
  • Nails – Don’t forget that attention to detail such as a manicure can make a difference to the overall appearance of the photographs.
  • Grooming - Do think about Waxing/Shaving etc if you are showing your legs or require a sensual portrait. Also where possible please pluck, shave etc the night before to allow any redness to subside.
  • Tanning - Some people believe they look better with an all-over tan so you may wish to consider using tanning products.
  • Clothing - Ensure you have all the clothing and any accessories/props you require. If posing in lingerie choose this according to the style of photos you require i.e. romantic, sexy, erotic, fetish and glamour aka Page 3.

Day of the shoot

Come in with your hair ready styled and make-up done. Come prepared with examples of lighting styles and poses you wish to try. If you are looking to pose naked/in swimwear/or in sensual portraits try to avoid wearing tight clothing before the shoot as this can mark the skin and requires time to fade.

Arrive in good time to change before the shoot (if required). Discuss with the photographer what styles and poses you would like to try. Finally enjoy the shoot.

Additional information

If you require children to be photographed please bring favourite toys for children that can be used as props and to get/keep their attention while being photographed.

Home/Location Shoots.

The minimum location/home shoot lasts 1 ½ hours. Therefore if discussing your requirements for the shoot including styles, poses etc, setting-up the shooting area and changes of costume take 30 minutes you will only get an hour of shooting time. Will this be enough time to cover all the shots you require? If not you may wish to consider a longer shoot.

For a home/internal shoots I would normally use a portable studio this requires a 4 x 4 metre area to shoot in and a power supply. The studio set-up includes a backdrop and up to 4 lighting strobes and can be used for High-Key or Low-Key shots.

Where the space to shoot in is restricted or when shooting outside I use a mini studio set-up as this requires no minimum space or power to use. This includes up to 4 off-camera flash units with accessories and can be used for High-Key, Medium-Key and Low-Key Shots.

If you are planning a home/location shoot please consider the following elements that will improve your experience and help improve the final impact of the photographs.

  • Do you have space for a portable studio?
  • If not, then have you a suitable area to shoot in? i.e. plain walls, free of clutter etc.
  • Have you any furniture you would like to pose-on i.e. a chair, sofa, bed etc and is this area uncluttered?
  • Do you have a space you can change/hang outfits (if you require), away from the shooting area that gives you privacy i.e. a bathroom or bedroom?
  • Can you pull curtains/blinds for privacy and to limit external light?
  • Can you control the heating so it as at a suitable temperature for your attire?
  • Will the shooting area be free from distractions i.e. pets, children, ringing phone etc?
  • Is there somewhere suitable to park nearby? Is a permit required (for controlled parking zones) if so can you provide one?
  • Have you read the “Preparing for your photo shoot” advice section above?
  • It may take up to 20 minutes to set-up the shooting area (for complex lighting arrangements) so prepare as much as possible to reduce the non-shooting time.