How to Plan a Photo Shoot-A 3-Step Guide

Many photos featured on the cover of a magazine or other types of publications are captured using very simple tools. If you have a photographer’s eye, there’s a good chance that you would be able to tell the specifics of that particular photo production by just looking at how the shadow falls behind the image’s subject.

If you’re a newbie photographer or an enthusiast looking to make a career out of your hobby, you might need some help in planning your very first photo shoot. In this article, you will learn the systematic way to plan a photo shoot in three simple steps.

Step #1: Come Up with an Idea or Concept


When you’re into photography, odds are, you’ll have a mind overflowing with creative ideas. To avoid wasting inspiration that pop up in your head, always have something handy to write it down on, like a little book of ideas that you can carry around. Whether you’re stuck in traffic or idly waiting to meet someone, you can easily write down concepts and think about how you can make them a reality.

Aside from waiting for the ideas to come naturally, you can also ask questions to spark inspiration. For this, there are two different sets of queries you’ll need, depending on whether you’re planning a photoshoot for yourself or a client.

Conceptualizing for Yourself

When coming up with a photoshoot concept, you must set some parameters. If the shoot is for your own portfolio or just for fun, your imagination will be your only limit.

If you’re not sure where to begin, you can try sparking an idea with the following questions:

  • What movies, genres, or books do you like most? Is it possible to plan a photo shoot around that particular concept?
  • Is there someone or somewhere that you’d like to build the photo shoot concept around? What kind of story can you design around them?
  • Is there an emotion or story based on your life or experiences that you’d want to show the world?

Conceptualizing for a Client

When planning a photo shoot for a client, you must determine the story they want to tell.

To do this, you can start by having a chat with them within a comfortable yet professional setting and talk about how they envision the photo shoot to unfold.

You can also inquire about the reason why they decided to go with you in their shoot. Ask what they like about your photography style. Work your way from there to come up with a concept for the shoot.

If you’re not much of a talker, you can also prepare a survey containing the questions you wish to ask your client. This can be sent electronically prior to your first meeting or in person. The latter method can help you go over their answers and ask follow-up questions to clarify certain points.

If the first two don’t yield the results you want, you can try the third option: Draw up a visual inspiration board. This is arguably the most effective way of presenting your photo shoot ideas to a client as it removes the need for describing a scene in words. After all, a picture speaks a thousand words.

Step #2: Pick a Location


Once the concept or idea has been decided, the next thing you must tackle is the location of the shoot. Under this aspect of the planning stage, you can choose between having the shoot at an existing location or creating your own set by booking a photography studio.

To help you decide on a location, consider answering these questions:

  • Does the location or setting fit the concept or story you’re going for in the photo shoot?
  • Is there a need to get permits to do a shoot there?
  • Will there be an additional cost for shooting at that particular venue? Can the client shoulder this?
  • Do you need to prepare for a backup plan in case of bad weather in the photo shoot location?
  • Is there enough natural light in the location? Do you need to bring artificial lighting?

Remember that the location of the photoshoot can have a big contribution to the overall mood of the resulting photos. Make sure that you decide on a specific location according to the original intentions of the shoot.

Step #3: Gather Your Equipment


Now that you’ve picked a location, you can already gather the equipment you need to yield the best results from the photoshoot. Keep in mind that there is no single formula that applies to all, so you need to list down the equipment you need according to the location and timing of the shoot first before going on a photography gear shopping spree.

If you’re shooting outdoors, there may not be a need for artificial lighting since your main source of light would be the sun. However, if you’re taking pictures indoors, you should consider gathering enough light and some reflectors to ensure an excellent output.

Below are some of the basic gears you would need to have or look for in a photo shoot studio, especially when shooting a portrait:

  • Zoom lens – Zoom lenses come in the form of a 24-70mm f/2.8 wide zoom lens or the 18-55mm kit lens. These lenses are versatile and ideal for shooting in a small studio as well as in an outdoor wedding setup because they can shoot portraits with several subjects. This means that you don’t need to change your lenses when you go from snapping pictures of one person to a group of five people.
  • Fixed lens – These types of lenses have longer focal lengths that include 200mm, 105mm, and 85mm. Also known as “prime lenses,” this type of lens is an excellent choice for portraits since they offer an impressive depth of field and compression in photographs.
  • Camera stand – This can be a tripod or monopod, depending on what the situation requires. Using a camera stand is ideal for capturing photos in natural light with a static set-up or backdrop.
  • Artificial Light Source – If you’re like many photographers who don’t rely purely on natural light, you would want to have an arsenal of artificial light equipment for your photoshoot. This can include LED lights, continuous lights, flashguns, and even strobes or electronic flashes. These will allow you to shoot under any lighting condition at just about any time of day.
  • Reflector – Reflectors are useful tools for spreading light naturally for portrait photography. It is ideal for shoots in a studio environment and can help reduce post-production edits.

If you can’t afford to buy fancy equipment just yet, you can simply look for a photoshoot studio rental that offers the tools you need for the shoot.

The Takeaway

Upgrading photography from a hobby into a career can be daunting, but that doesn’t remove the fact that it is also a fulfilling journey. Make sure you start your career in this artistic field by planning a photoshoot professionally with the help of the steps listed in this article.


Adam Jacobs is the owner of Windsor Photo Studios in Melbourne, Australia and Managing Director of Bubblegum Casting, the country’s longest operating modelling, talent and casting agency for babies, children and teens. Adam is a creative digital marketer focused on growing companies’ online presence and performance using both tried and true as well as cutting-edge growth marketing and growth hacking tactics.

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