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Planning a photoshoot – a quick how-to guide

Having a plan is half the battle!

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Kimberly Karisch

For a visual storyteller, nothing is more fulfilling and enjoyable than a perfect shoot day. To create the best possible output for everyone involved, you should always remember: Having a solid plan is half the battle!

What do you need to keep in mind when coming up with the perfect plan for your photoshoot? And is there still room for spontaneity? Find out in our quick guide on how to plan a shoot!

First things first

Where to start when planning a shoot

To be able to properly start planning, you first need to know the cornerstones of your shoot. First and foremost, you need to figure out how long it should last and how much time you have available. The total duration gives you a clear framework to work with.

Timing is key!

Which assets (equipment & accessories, wardrobe, set decorations, etc.) and people do you need? When do they need to be where? These fundamental questions are the next step in planning a successful shoot. In short: What will be shot and when? And how long will it take? The answers to these questions will come up almost by themselves once you know the topics of the shoot.

For an outdoor session that aims to capture the scenic beauty of a tourist region, you probably already know: Landscapes and places are simply magical, especially at daybreak. So you might want to schedule this topic at the very beginning of the shoot.

Are you shooting with a family and small children as your models? Then it’s quite obvious that you can't shoot until late at night and that the little ones’ nap times and attention span will likely dictate the pace.

Are your models only available at a certain time? Once again, the circumstances determine the framework for when to shoot which topics.

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Locations for the shoot

An important factor to consider for shoots that take place at several locations is: How far apart are the individual locations? And in which order will you go there? Use a navigation system or route planner to find out in advance how long it will take to get from one location to the next.

Tip: Make sure you have a buffer for finding a parking space and possibly having to walk there.

Maybe you or another person involved can do some location scouting upfront – to check out the different spots you’ll shoot at, and to take some snapshots of them. Ideally, you should do this at the same time of day that the shoot will take place, so you know in advance what the light will be like.

Can’t do a location check ahead of time? Then you definitely need to schedule a time buffer for the day of the shoot to take a look around on site.

Models and extras

Now you already know the time frame and the location. Next, you need to figure out which people and objects play an important role in the shoot. How long do the models and products need to be available to you on day X? With this information in mind, you can make a booking with a model agency and reserve all the necessary props (accessories and set decorations) as soon as the rough thematic focus has been established.

Props and accessories

Props and accessories play a major role in many photos. Nothing should be left to chance. Do you want to shoot in a hotel room, and you want green plants there as props? Then you need to note down in the shooting plan that you’ll need plants.

Who is doing what and when? You should also specify who is responsible for providing and organising the props and accessories. This applies to all assets that are indispensable for a production and that form an essential part of the final shot (e. g. specific clothing, accessories, decorative objects, etc.).

Consider the format and channel

As you prepare for the shoot, you also need to consider the following questions: What will happen to the images afterwards? For which channels are you creating the footage? Is it a shoot for social media or do you also need photos and videos for large campaigns and print media? This not only determines the choice of motif, but also technical considerations and the possible output in the given time.

If the photos are only for social media, the creator has to take into account the formats commonly used for this purpose (e. g. 4:5 for Instagram). If you’re shooting a video campaign primarily for Instagram, this must be clearly noted in the shooting plan of the visual storyteller – so that he or she works in accordance with the technical requirements. That’s the only way that the final product will do justice to the channel.

This means: Before you start shooting, you need to clarify what the shots will primarily be used for. This saves the photographer or videographer time in post-production and ensures the best possible output!

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Goodbye to flexibility? Of course not!

With such detailed planning, there can hardly be any room for spontaneity on set – or can there? Well, there definitely is! During the planning phase, you can take that into account and schedule time buffers. For what? For creative gimmicks! Time buffers not only leave you with enough room for creativity, but also serve as a safety net if things don’t go quite as planned.

Time buffers make room for spontaneity on set

You can't always trust the weather to be the way you need it. There might be other environmental influences, and sometimes a brilliant shooting idea only comes up while already on location.

So think about which of the time blocks could be shifted around. This will mainly depend on the overall flow of the shoot, but also on the priorities regarding the output.

Prioritising made easy

When coming up with your plan for the shoot, you should ask yourself the following questions:

  • Which scenes must be shot that are absolutely essential for the final output?
  • What’s considered "nice to have"?

Prioritising what you’ll shoot will allow you to keep your cool while on set. And you’ll start to see your plan not as something that’s set in stone, but rather as something to fall back on when things get a little crazy.

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Checklist for your shoot

So you’re perfectly prepared

Last but not least, we want to equip you with a checklist to help you plan your next photo or video shoot:

  • Topic list for the day of the shoot: What topics will you shoot?
  • The desired output: What do you need the photos or videos for? What do you want to do with them? What are the objectives behind creating them? Which channels will you feed with the footage?
  • The people involved: Do you need models? A shooting assistant? Styling support?
  • Location check: Can you do the location check independently of the actual shoot or do you need to schedule some time for this on the day of the shoot? Will the shoot take place at only one location or will there be a change of location?
  • Props: Which accessories and equipment do you need? Who’s going to get them and when?

Are you planning to do a photo or video shoot and could use some help from the professionals at punkt & komma? Get in touch with us any time!

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