There are a million things both the client and photographer to consider when planning out a photoshoot. If you don't sort things out ahead of time it can lead to serious hiccups in your session.
This is precisely what happened to me on my shoot November 5th... the day we moved our clocks an hour ahead for Daylight Savings Time. So while my shoot was scheduled from 4:30-5:45PM -- the hour and a half leading to sunset -- I should have scheduled an hour earlier. Mentally I thought I had communicated this but in reality I never mentioned the change to my clients. Yikes!
After twenty minutes waiting for my clients to show up, I realized my mistake and panicked! Usually I feel really anxious leading up to a shoot and this day I had not felt nervous at all. Learn from my mistakes: if you ever feel like a cool cucumber leading up to a shoot, you are forgetting something.
My clients arrived about forty minutes after I arrived, leaving us with about twenty minutes of shooting. And although we got a few winning photos I could not in good conscience charge them the price of a full sitting. So, thinking on my toes I offered to meet them a few days later and get their full sitting time in. Fortunately they were flexible and understanding and the second session went much smoother!
Now after that story you probably wonder how you can trust my advice on how to plan a photoshoot. That's fair! But the bottom line is no matter how many shoots you schedule, every once in a while you'll screw something up. That's life!
Here are things I always try to get set with clients!
Date. Time. Location. Weather. Low or High Tide. Must-have poses. Props. Outfit Changes.
Date is a no-brainer! You will need to know the day you are shooting. Know your availability ahead of time. I work full-time so I know weekends work best to schedule a shoot.
Time is trickier. Know the times of day you feel most comfortable shooting and know how long it takes you to get a good variety of images.
If you are new to photography give yourself tons of extra wiggle room.
If you have gone through the motions of a handful of photoshoots you have a better understanding of how long it takes to get the shots you want.
Personally, I like to shoot the hour & a half or hour & fifteen minutes leading up to sunset OR to shoot in the first hour after sunrise. I always use weather apps to look up sunrise and sunset times a week in advance of the shoot.
You'll also want to take into account travel time if you are using two separate locations, clients are doing multiple outfits, etc.
There is about a 50/50 chance your client will have a location in mind for their shoot. That means you will need to have some places in mind! Have a few different environments in your inventory: something industrial, something with a lot of greenery, etc. If your client suggests the location, try to drive by it beforehand or look it up on Google! This is especially helpful when prepping for a wedding.
Just like timing, you'll want a really good idea on what the weather will be the day of your shoot. Before setting the date, try to pull up a weather app and check for rain, heavy cloud or fog. Also check if it will be excessively hot or cold. But talk these details over with your clients because they might like the uniqueness of this kind of weather. Which could lead to some of your most intriguing photos!
Low or High Tide.
If you live in California you will without a doubt be asked to shoot at the beach. This type of shoot could get an entire blog post to itself! With beaches being such a popular location to tourists and locals, these can be stressful sessions. Make your life easier by at least knowing what the tide will be like. Learn to read a tide chart. During different times of the year the tide can be so high you won't have any room to work with so don't always bank on the tide being the same from one day to the next. Try to schedule your session during low tide so you have one less thing to worry about on the beach.
Talk with your clients at the time you are scheduling the shoot and make sure you make a mental note or hard copy list of poses and images they can't live without. This will take a bit of the pressure off you and will guarantee they get their most-wanted shots.
I would guess about 80% of the time your clients won't feel an urge to add props into their session. Regardless, try to have a conversation ahead of time on if your clients want props in their shoot. This tends to be popular in newborn sittings but you never know what fun ideas your clients have!
I used to carry glitter and bubbles in my camera bag to add a little flair to senior photos on my college campus and it led to some really great candid shots!
This is more common than props so make sure you talk this through. If your client wants to get photos in two different outfits, make sure you have a game plan. Try to think of public restrooms they can change in at the location or see if they are a pro at modestly (or quickly) doing a wardrobe change in public.
It seems absurd, but I have had people change on the beach and in the middle of the woods. It's comical but when your clients want more than one outfit, they make it happen!
Do not ask me about the legality with all of this because I am sure public nudity could cause an issue. 😂
And That's A Wrap!
Save yourself the chaos and stress of a photoshoot by being proactive. Use this post as a checklist next time you schedule a session. Getting this all handled in advance will allow you to focus on making the sitting a comfortable and fun experience for your clients so they keep them coming back!
Now, here are some of the shots from my second sitting with the Daylight Savings Time couple! Make sure to tell me some of your planning horror stories and what you have on your checklist leading up to a shoot!