The top five mistakes I’ve seen happen on shoots and how to avoid them
As a creative, you already have a lot on your plate, and now you need to do a photo shoot. There are many aspects of a photo shoot that have to come together just right in order to get the best possible images and make sure your investment pays off. Even some of the smallest things can derail a shoot and leave everyone scrambling. I wanted to share a few things that I’ve learned over my career to help you put together a perfect photo shoot. Here are the top five mistakes I’ve seen or experienced and some tips on how to overcome them.
Choosing the Wrong Photographer
There are a lot of photographers around, but not every photographer is the same. It can be hard to know who to trust with your photo shoot. As creative people, we like to work with people we know or with whom we have a connection. However, choosing the right photographer for the project is critical, and just because you know someone who is a photographer doesn’t necessarily make them qualified for the job. Experience and vision are key to making a photo shoot successful.
Here are a few suggestions for selecting a great photographer. Do some research and ask other peers about photographers they like. This is a great place to start. Pay close attention to style, production value, and the overall look and feel of the work. Also, consider the feeling the images convey. Does all that match what you need? Most commercial photographers have one or two specialties and choosing the photographer with the images that reflect the look and feel you are going for will be something to consider closely.
Next, evaluate which photographer best matches your budget and usage needs. The tendency can be to pick a photographer based on price alone but this can cause major problems come shoot day. A good idea is to discuss the photographer’s experience, approach, equipment and crew requirements. In addition, an in-person portfolio review can be the best way to ask questions and see a photographer’s personality, and really get a feel for what it would be like to work with them. The extra time you take selecting the perfect photographer will pay off in the end.
Cutting the Budget in the Wrong Places
This can kill a shoot before it even gets off the ground. Everyone’s budgets are tight these days. We are all being asked to do more for less and everyone is looking for the best options at the best price. It’s important, and even critical, to understand where you can cut and trim and where you need to keep money in place to make sure everything goes smoothly. There does come a point where cutting things too much can cause serious problems on shoot day.
Some ways to trim the budget without sacrificing the quality of the shoot is by shooting fewer shots, fewer days, shooting locally, or evaluating crew needs. All this needs to be clearly communicated so everyone is on the same page come shoot day. A good photographer will ask lots of questions about the number of images they need to produce during a shoot day, how the images will be used, what client and agency expectations are, etc. Together with your photographer, you can find a good balance between quality and cost.
Miscalculating Time for Shots
This is one trap that I think everyone has fallen into, even myself. With budgets tight and clients often wanting stills and video shot together at the same time, being realistic about time requirements is critical. People tend to under-estimate how long it takes to shoot. It all comes down to making sure expectations are discussed and communicated.
As a photographer, I spend a lot of time trying to set realistic time constraints. Deciding in advance what shots are the most critical is important. Then if there is time, you can add in some extra shots. I suggest having a shot list with a list of “must haves” and then “extra shots” with time allocated to each of the critical shots. Setting locked in times when we move onto another shot or location is also important. This should all be done during a pre-production call or meeting. My philosophy is to provide clients with the most high-quality images possible, and trying to cram in too many shots in a single day can compromise that quality.
Not Having the Right Wardrobe
This is something that most people think about before the shoot but I’ve seen it fall through the cracks often. You can be in the perfect location with the perfect model and the most amazing light, but if the model is wearing the wrong clothes it will definitely kill the shot. You may be tempted to rely on talent to bring the right clothes. Doing so can cause problems unless things are communicated to the talent correctly. I always tell talent to text me pictures of what they are going to bring so I can see it beforehand, then I know what they have and we can buy something before the shoot to make sure we have what we need. Usually, you will need to go buy a few things to make sure everything comes together properly. Having a wardrobe stylist that can provide the talent with a full wardrobe is always the ideal, but not always in the budget. With careful planning, any potential wardrobe problems can be addressed and solved before the shoot. For most
I always tell talent to text me pictures of what they are going to bring so I can see it beforehand, then I know what they have and we can buy something before the shoot to make sure we have what we need. Usually, you will need to go buy a few things to make sure everything comes together properly. Having a wardrobe stylist that can provide the talent with a full wardrobe is always the ideal, but not always in the budget. With careful planning, any potential wardrobe problems can be addressed and solved before the shoot. For most shoots the combination of talent supplied wardrobe along with some supplemental purchases is ideal.
Choosing the Wrong Models
The last thing to keep in mind is where and how to get your talent for your shoot. There are times when you can use employees or friends but that often takes much longer to coordinate and sometimes doesn’t bring about the best results. In my experience, if you are shooting something specific about employees then use them, but that’s about the only time it makes sense.
Finding the right talent for a shoot can be a lot more time consuming and difficult than most people think. It’s critical to match the type of talent with the type of shoot you are doing. If you need to shoot a running shot make sure you have an actual runner, not just a pretty face. If you doing a lifestyle shot, make sure the models look good together and look believable, etc. Seems pretty simple, but the wrong model can really make the shoot much more difficult. On the other hand, the right model gives you exactly what you need and makes the shoot go much smoother.
I recommend developing a relationship with a few modeling agencies in your area and reaching out to them every time you have a project come up. That way you can see who they have to match your specific needs. Also look into specialty agencies to get exactly what you need.
I hope you find these tips helpful and that you can learn from what I’ve experienced over the years. Avoiding these five pitfalls on your next photo shoot will help ensure success. If you have any questions or would like to reach out to discuss your next upcoming project, please reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me at 801-875-8620. You can see my work at www.brandonflint.com and follow me on instagram at brandonflint_.