Planning and executing a photoshoot can be a lot of work. It’s a bit like me, right now, staring at this blank document on my computer screen, knowing that I need to fill the page with words. It’s daunting! But it doesn’t need to be – each and every stage of a shoot can be a pleasant and enjoyable experience. You can love it – you just need to learn how.
Some people love to plan, others hate it. I’m a self-confessed planning lover. There’s nothing that I love more than opening up new diary at the beginning of the year and writing out my goals. But you might dread the thought! So how do you learn to enjoy the planning process? Whether you’re shooting a personal project, or you’re planning something for a client, you need to give yourself time and space. I know this isn’t always possible, because sometimes shoots are super last minute. Planning a shoot can be a big job, and involve many moving parts that really impact the shoot itself. Do yourself, and your client, a favor by allowing yourself as much time as you can to plan out every aspect of your shoot in a calm and stress-free way, so that the shoot itself runs smoothly.
Equally important, think about when you’re at your most focused. Are you a morning person, or a night owl? I know that I’m at my most productive in the mornings, so I prioritize my mornings to tasks that demand focus. Anything hard that requires a lot of energy typically gets done first thing in the morning. If I’m asked to something difficult (like put together an estimate for a job, for example) and it’s late in the day, my brain simply will not function and I’ll find it hard and frustrating. If I wake up and do it first thing in the morning, I’ll find it much easier. I also like my office to be quiet (something my boyfriend and I had to have a chat about back in Lockdown 1.0 when he started to work from home for the first time!). When I’m planning, I can’t have music on and I can’t listen to a podcast. You might be different! Think about what your environment should be and do your best to make your workspace as tailored to your needs as possible.
It would be nice if each shoot we did was nothing but pure joy, but the reality is that being on set can be very stressful. There are things that you can do to try to make shoots as stress-free as possible. The key is in the planning. In order to have a relaxed as possible shoot day, you need to be organized. I used to think that I could just rock up on set with a vague idea of what we’d be doing, wing it, and produce something amazing. I was wrong. The magic happens when you take the time before the shoot even begins to plan it all out. I’m talking about planning your lighting, knowing how many shots you need to take, thinking of the storyline ahead of the day, and making sure that you not only have all the items that you need with you, but that everything is in working order. I personally love to draw shot lists for myself. They’re terrible drawings (usually of stick men) but it doesn’t matter how they look. All that matters is that I’ve taken the time ahead of the shoot day to think of composition, poses, props and lighting for each shot. Then, when the time comes to pick up my camera, I know exactly what I’m doing.
If you can, I also highly recommend creating yourself a timeline for the day. I started doing this about two years ago, and it has absolutely been a game changer. I create a full timeline with times ranging from when everyone should arrive on set, when makeup and hair should start and finish, all the way through to how long each shot should take to do. I know it sounds like a lot of work, but it’s 100% worth taking the time to do. I send my timeline to everyone involved in the shoot, and everyone says that it’s incredibly helpful and allows them to stay on track. My extra tip: allow yourself more time than you think. Better to finish early than to go overtime!
Confession time – this is the part of a shoot that I struggle with the most. Generally speaking, I don’t love being a slave to my computer for hours, and I don’t enjoy skin retouching. But again, I’ve found ways to make this part of the process enjoyable. I’ve learned what works for me, and you can, too. First of all, get yourself a good desk chair. If you’re going to sit at a desk for hours and hours, not only do you need to be comfortable, but your back will thank you for it! Play some good music or listen to a great podcast (I’m currently really enjoying The Exposed Negative by Greg Funnell and Tom Barnes). I know that some people like to watch movies or Youtube videos… that’s taking it a bit too far for me. I can’t quite manage that! But if that works for you, go for it. And finally, invest in your skills. Take the time to learn how your software works and understand it. When you truly know how something works, you’ll be a million times quicker with it, and find it far less frustrating, so invest that time in learning how to properly use the tools that you have at your disposal.
Model: Lindsey Isla