Organising a photoshoot from start to finish

You’ve done a few shoots, you know how it works. You have an amazing concept, so you want to organise your own shoot! But organising is a whole lot different than participating in a photoshoot. Here are the steps I go to when organising.
(I wouldn’t recommend organising if you’ve never done a photoshoot before. I will write an article later on how to start out in the business, so keep your eyes open for that one!)


1. Your concept
What is your concept? Do you have a very fixed idea in mind, or is it a vague idea on which you would like imput for your team? What is the atmosphere you want? The style of photography? Think a lot about all of this before you start doing anything.
A moodboard is a great way to organise your inspiration, and show the other members of your team the idea you have in mind. I am obsessed with Pinterest – it’s the best way to gather inspiration and make different moodboards in a very clear way – even a chaotic brain like mine can create some order in the whirlwind of ideas I have with this website.

2. The team
This is the most important part of the entire shoot. Choose your team wisely, because a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. Bad styling? Bad photo. Bad makeup? Bad photo. No matter how good the rest of your team is, one bad member in your team can bring everyone’s level down.
How do you look for team members? You can contact the people you’ve worked with before and ask if they are interested in the concept. But if you don’t really find the right people there, you can always put up a message on Facebook, Facebook groups, or modeling websites such as Modelmayhem.
What should be on this message?
– Concept – a vague description is enough. People can always ask for further information by PM. I don’t upload moodboards anymore because I’ve noticed people tend to blatantly steal moodboards and claim your idea as their own.
– What are you looking for? Model / Make-up Artist (MUA) / Photographer / Hairstylist / Fashion stylist / …
– If you are looking for a model, are there special requirements? Hair color, length, measurements (this is important for the styling!), skintone, …
– Time for Portfolio (TFP) or paid?
– Location (if you have one. If you don’t, just put “Location not set, we agree on it by PM”)
– Date (same as above)
– If you want, you can also mention “please respond with portfolio”. I hate it when people just answer “I am interested”, without any pictures of their work. Then you’ll have to browse through their personal profile, which is often not even on public, and it’s just a big hassle.

What I also find important, is that you are polite in your message. “I am looking for two models for this shoot. Thank you for your response!” is much better than “need two models”. It makes you more approachable and people will be more likely to respond.

Ask all of the members of the team if they are interested, and also inform them about the other team mates. Sometimes, people don’t want to work with a certain person because they have a bad history or bad reputation. You don’t want the team to arrive at the location and then find out two of them hate each other for whatever reason.

When you have your entire team, communicate about the concept. Who will take care of what? What are the ideas for make-up, hair and styling? If you have a fixed idea, show them lots of examples and be as clear as possible. If you trust them and let them go with the flow, it’s always nice to give them one or more pictures, just as a guideline. Just get your message across. If you notice someone in the team is not very engaged or interested, don’t feel bad about replacing them with someone else. It’s a hard lesson I had to learn, myself, too.

3. Location
Do you want a studio or shoot outside? Does the photographer have their own studio? If not, where can you rent one?
If you shoot outside, where? If it’s a public space, make sure the concept doesn’t go against the law or frighten children. If you shoot in a space where you have to pay an entrance fee, who will take care of it? Does the whole team share the price or not?
About urbex: this means that you to to abadoned buildings and do photoshoots there. Locations are often kept secret, as to avoid vandalism. If you have found an urbex location yourself, great! If you see one online, it’s absolutely not done to ask “what is the adress?” You can, however, send the person a PM, explain your idea and ask for the adress politely.

4. Date
If you have a fixed date, check if everyone in your team can make it. If not, change the date or look for someone else to fill their spot. This is very tricky business, sometimes it can take months to arrange a date, especially with a bigger team.
I find the website doodle very handy to plan a date together. Fill in all of your free dates, and doodle immediately shows you on which dates the most people are available.
Write the date down and don’t forget it!

5. Preparations
Now you have a date, you also have a deadline to make all your preparations, and make sure your team does them too. The stylist has to make a dress? Make sure they’re working on it and ask for work in progress photos to make sure they don’t run out of time.
If you have to order something online, make sure it arrives on time! I always order my stuff more than a month on beforehand.

6. A few days before the shoot
Check if everyone still remembers and if everyone’s still feeling good about the shoot. Worst case scenario, someone bails out, but then you know it on the day before, and not on the day itself, when your team is waiting for the last person to arrive. You can also try to look for a last-minute replacement, but this is very tricky.

7. Shooting day!
If you organise the shoot, you should be the first one on the location. It’s also a very nice gesture to provide breakfast or lunch for your crew, or find a location that’s close to a shop so people can always grab a bite to eat.
Listen to your team and work together. Keep everyone motivated! Don’t be scared of being strict – if you don’t like the make-up, just say it. If some poses don’t work, don’t be shy to mention it. It’s your shoot, so it has to be perfect. The worst feeling ever is coming home after a shoot and thinking “well, that was a complete waste of time.”
After the shoot, make sure to thank everyone for their hard work. If you have business cards, hand them out, for future collaborations.

8. After the shoot
If you are the photographer, let your team know when the pictures will arive. You can give teaser photos in the first week, and work on the rest of them at ease.
When you publish the photos, always give proper credit to everyone! It’s also great to leave reviews for your team.

Hopefully this article gave you a bit more insight on how a photoshoot works. If you have any questions, or want to add something to this list, feel free to tell me in the comments!


Julia Lion Hair



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