I really want to have absolutely breathtaking images on the front page of my website, so I’m currently planning a styled shoot. Do you have any tips that could help me?
Firstly, congratulations for understanding that high-end styled shoots can really make the difference in your business. When you have beautiful images on your site, social media, and marketing materials that are the very best that you are capable of creating, you take your professionalism to a whole new level.
You provide that aspirational imagery that says to your clients – I want that! I want what that photographer is creating!
Whether it is delicious pearly-perfect newborn images, fine art film weddings or haute fashion pages, having your very best work on display at all times – not the shots you gained from your friend’s newborn session / your friend’s wedding / your friend on a night out shot with vsco /party-party filters – is essential.
So, in order to get your best-ever work, you need a professional-level shoot. Here are our tips on how to make sure your shoots are incredible, not stressful, and that you love the results.
1. Find a good location
So often I see typical venues – like beaches, for example. You need to think about your theme, and think outside the box, and don’t ever think that your dream location is beyond reach.
I managed to secure a shoot at one of the most luxurious and decadently deliciously quirky location simply by sending an email briefly explaining my shoot idea and publication intention, with a few samples of work. Nobody believed there was any way on earth I was going to get it, so I was pretty happy when the ‘yes’ came through.
You have nothing to lose by contacting your dream locations and making an enquiry. This isn’t just for wedding and fashion shoots- if you want gorgeous newborn or maternity photos on your site, find a location that has gorgeous huge light-filled windows and a beautiful room you can style as a nursery, for example.
2. Pay a professional model
There are some things you can absolutely scrimp on when doing a professional shoot; a model is not one of them. A professional model will take the headache out of posing for you and instinctively know how to work the camera and make their clothing look amazing whilst at the same time looking natural.
A non-professional model can often look posed, contrived, and unsure of how to use expression properly- meaning you spend your session worrying about your model, or fussing over the angle of their hands, etc; instead of concentrating on your lighting and composition, etc.
Find a great agency, and pay for a great model. It’s entirely worth every penny when you consider this choice could make or break your shoot.
3. Plan In Advance
Like, ridiculously far in advance. You need to allow yourself enough time to research thoroughly, which could trigger more beautiful and creative ideas that you wouldn’t have otherwise had. You also need to have everything planned with military precision from your call sheet to your outfits to your styling – the more time you give yourself the less it becomes one huge stressful mountain to conquer immediately before your date. You also give yourself a little breathing room should anyone pull out or anything go wrong- you’ll have time to fix it, properly.
4. Work With A Stylist
A stylist can take your shoot from blah to brilliant in the blink of an eye. Never underestimate their value. They will source products and add detail into your captures that make your shots look super-professional, whether it’s spray painting seashells in powder blues to decorate a baby nursery or calling in the hottest shoes that you otherwise wouldn’t be able to get, a good stylist has the best access to the props you need on speed dial and knows how to make them look fantastic on set.
If you’re just starting out and can’t afford a stylist, reach out to those on training courses or those who want to broaden their own portfolios. You’d be surprised how many talented stylists are happy to work collaboratively with the result being you both have gorgeous images for your portfolio.
5. Use Group Pinterest Boards
Group Pinterest boards are a wonderful way of ensuring that you and your stylist are on the same page, visually speaking. When you create a vision with your stylist you broaden one another’s vision and can bring in new ideas for one another. You can then share the board with your team at a later date to ensure that they too share the same vision and that you are all working towards the same goal.
6. Prepare A Shot List
Preparing a shot list for the day is essential. When you know in your head exactly what is being shot in what way and when, your shoot will run much more smoothly than if you were just turning up and thinking about potential shots on the day.
Not only that but it will actually give you much more time to think creatively- once you know the shots on your list are complete for each ‘set-up’ you then have more time to play and experiment. It will also put your mind at ease about getting the essential shots that you need.
Oh, and if you’re familiar with photographer’s block, this list will definitely help to prevent pressure causing that on the day.
7. Create A Day-Before Checklist
The amount of times I have forgotten something on a shoot… even something as small as hair grips or bulldog clips (for clipping back those dresses that are too large) can throw you out slightly, and when you are in a pressured shoot situation even the little things can cause you to feel stressed.
I know it sounds kind of (definitely) obvious, but something as small as creating a ticklist can make a huge difference in the smooth-running of your shoot.
8. Beg, Borrow, Steal
Those three words are how you find resources for your shoot, seriously. The ideal way to create a beautiful and professional looking shoot is to assemble together a team of people who can work together to create something wonderful; and if you can’t afford a fee, look for people with the same level of experience as you, students, or perhaps people in the industry who would be happy to provide their creative expertise in exchange for coverage, credits, and gorgeous new photos for their sites.
Tip- You know how we like to cosy up over winter and entirely revamp our websites? The rest of the world does that too, so autumn is a pretty good time to plan a shoot, when others might be in need of pretty new images to complete their new branding, etc.
Once you have assembled your team, assess what is missing from your shoot that you would like (it’s most likely to be prop-related) and work with your stylist on how to acquire it. Many companies are happy to lend their products for a shoot, a quick phone call or email is all it takes. Otherwise, beg, borrow, or steal, particularly when it comes to clothing and accessories. Ok well maybe not steal, but a little ‘borrowing’ isn’t harmful. At University we were told that it’s common practice to buy clothes, use them for the shoot, and then send them back- after all, they will be barely worn. Just make sure you protect them at all costs if this is your plan, they need to be returned in immaculate condition if you want your money refunded. If only this worked every time we needed a new outfit.
These are our top tips on making sure your photoshoot is professional and produces the absolute best work that you are capable of, so that you have a website that is entirely gorgeous, you have a body of work that is cohesive and attractive, and that your clients fall in love with you + your work!
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