Vision vs Reality: A List of Key Questions for a Photo Shoot

Oftentimes, when envisioning a project or photo shoot, what you have in your head is much grander than what can be logistically accomplished.  Sure, an equestrian photo shoot would look beautiful against an ocean sunrise and a majestic mountain backdrop!  But…you’re in Iowa.  It just isn’t possible.  Or, even if it is logistically possible, your ambitious plan may still not come to fruition due to something as simple as running out of time.  Even if there were mountains and a beach in Iowa, can you get to each location, set up, and shoot within the allotted time?

For brilliant shoots (grounded in reality), here are a few key questions to ask yourself:

1) Can I accomplish this shoot by myself or will I need an assistant?
Meaning, will I be able to carry and/or transport all the gear necessary to accomplish the shoot?  And can I do it in a timely manner?  This might be more difficult in some cities than others.  I find that, especially if I’m bringing my lights, I like to have an assistant help me with the gear.

2) How many people will be involved and what is their role (i.e. hair, make up, location scout, models, stylist, etc)?
If you anticipate several cooks in the kitchen, establish the menu beforehand.  As the point person on a project, it is inevitable that you will get bombarded with questions.  Have a pre-production meeting to get everyone on the same page before the shoot.  This will help keep you focused on the important stuff (lighting, models, etc.) without needing to worry about where to order a tofu pizza for the vegan stylist. You don’t want to sacrifice the quality and efficiency of your shoot due to preventable distractions.

3) Do I need to have a shot list written down either from myself or from the client?
Even with personal shoots, I find it extremely useful to have a list of shots that I know that I want to get.  I accomplish those first and after that, I play around and try to come up with things on the spot.

4) Should I start with the hardest or easiest shot first?
That depends on whether the shoot is personal or for a client.  If it’s personal, I usually start with the most difficult shot first so that I can take time and tweak what I need to. But if it’s a client shoot and you have control of the order, I’d probably start with the easiest shot first to ensure that, at the very least, you have something to show your client.  You don’t want to go out on a client shoot, waste time figuring out a difficult shot, and end up with nothing.

5) Should I scout and test some techniques beforehand?
If you have a client, this is a definite YES.  The last thing you want to do on a photo shoot is stack the cards against yourself and encounter challenges that you could have mitigated by doing a little bit more homework.  If you’re hired to do a shoot, the client expects you to be able to deliver and Bring Your A-Game.

…. there are a lot of other questions you can ask to prepare for your project, but these are the ones that I constantly ask myself to minimize problems and set the foundation for a fun, successful shoot.

For example, most yoga-inspired shoots I’ve seen take place in a pristine natural habitat like a mountain top or isolated beach. But, honestly, how many of you yogis out there can travel to the nearest mountain range or ocean to do your daily downward-facing dog, or in the photo below, a dancer pose?  In the real world, a yoga session is usually squeezed in between getting off work and picking up the dry cleaning, probably in a yoga gym, not exactly an exotic locale.  With that in mind, this shot shows a young woman practicing the ancient art amidst her own urban jungle, a familiar environment, if you live/work in a city. Grounding  the photo in some sort of reality helps the viewer to create a connection or association with the image.

3 Responses to “Vision vs Reality: A List of Key Questions for a Photo Shoot”

  1. Ryan Sarjeant

    This is more of a question I am a beginner and I want to know us there a questionnaire that can be used to give me an idea on what the client want or what shoot would be best for them?

    • darrensabino

      Theoretically, the client will have chosen you for a particular project b/c your style fits their needs. Think of it as being type-casted for a role in a movie. Megan Fox will always play a hottie or Michael Cera will always play the awkward teenage guy, in a movie. And often clients don’t necessarily know what they want. You have to be able read them and their reactions and ask them the right questions to pull the right art direction out of them. I know that does not answer your question, but your work should show what you want to shoot and how you want to shoot. It should be part of your branding. That way, you will be selected for projects that are your specialty.



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