Organising a Shoot


A lot of friends outside of my photography circuit (and a few inside it actually) think that a shoot just involves turning up at the studio with a good looking model and start clicking away. Whilst some test shoots, especially my latest 15 minute project for example, are more relaxed, but for the more editorial style shoots a lot of hard work and preparation goes in behind the scenes. I thought I'd give an insight, to help beginners into what actually goes into organising a shoot and how to go about it.

1. Find your Team - When you are starting out this can be the most difficult part of the process unless you are paying. If you are planning TFP shoots it becomes a chicken and egg situation, which comes first your portfolio or creatives that will work with you?

The basic team you need is just yourself and a model, but if you want to try and take your portfolio up a notch, whilst by no means essential, these are the people you need, probably in order of necessity if you want a big shoot:

1. Model

2. MUA

3. Hair Stylist

4. Stylist/Designer

When you are starting out numbers 3 and 4 are hard to find and probably unnecessary while you learn your skills (TFP Stylists are like unicorns, amazing and magical, but I'm not sure they actually exist!). I would however, highly recommend trying to find MUA's as these can change images from pictures of pretty people, to cool stylised images! So, where do you find these like minded creatives? If you're brand new then use your friends! This will let you learn your basic skills in a fun and relaxed environment and give your friends some nice images. Then when you feel you are ready, sign up to one of the creative networking sites available. Purpleport and Model Mayhem are the two most popular, allowing you to search for all the categories in your local area. Try and find people that are enthusiastic, reliable and of a similar standard to your ability. This way you can grow together and build a great rapport. Aiming too high at the start may knock your confidence with the rejections, when working TFP, it's important to accept your ability and work with a similar standard, don't worry, keep practicing and the big guns will come in time! For MUA's I find university and college students are brilliant. There is some real early talent in this pool and they are buzzing to start using their skills at shoots.

2. Create the concept - Everything starts with an idea, a spark! This can come from something I've seen online, in a magazine or perhaps a model reminds me of something in my subconscious but it's good to have a starting point even if it's just a vibe? Something along the lines of 70's fashion, horror, shadow, plants anything! 

3. Moodboarding - One word Pinterest. You can't beat it for creating boards for your team and all adding ideas to brainstorm. Create a board to include, colours, make up, poses, locations everything. This way you can make sure everyone is on the same page. A little tip at this point is if somebody isn't pulling their weight adding, discussing the board, I tend to get alarm bells in my head about their reliability. It's not a sure fire way of filtering them out as some people are shy/busy etc but I find it's a good way of seeing people enthusiasm for the project.

4. Location - So now you have your team and concept, it's time to decide where you're going to shoot it. Are you going to just use a studio? I'm lucky that I have my own space but if you're starting out you need to find a good local one. Purpleport is again another good source of these or perhaps someone on your team may of worked somewhere suitable so ask them. Studios can vary massively in costs so make sure you are not booking one with lots of facilities you don't need. Remember you need to include plenty of time for your MUA's and stylists to work their magic, this is included in your studio time unless you can arrange to perhaps get this done before hand perhaps at one of the team's houses? Or maybe your shoot is going to be on location to keep costs down. Everywhere can be a studio and I find as long as you're respectful, you get very little trouble shooting anywhere. You'd be amazed how many places will allow you to shoot for free if you just ask! I've shot a model in a stately home lake, an upmarket restaurant, while open and a night club all free of charge just by asking! A tip is to make sure you make it is clear it is not for commercial use. What's the worst that can happen, they can only say no.

5. Sorting a date out - This can be one of the hardest parts of the preparation and the bigger your team the harder it gets! (I did tell you a lot went into this!) Trying to coordinate when everybody is free including the venue takes a lot of back and forth messages. Sometimes, unfortunately you may have change members of your team. I hate doing this but shoots would never happen otherwise!

6. Shoot day! -  Let the fun begin! This is where everything comes together. Things rarely go to plan so don't panic. Shoots often end up different to the original concept but I find this is part of the creative fun. Keep everything relaxed and make sure everyone is enjoying themselves. Remember you are a team so let everyone have input to the shoot. I like my MUA's to get involved as much as possible watching for makeup touch ups, stray hairs, twisted jewellery. But I also love them to throw creative suggestions to me. Its also important to trust each other and not tread on eggshells. Nothing is personal,  if something isn't working speak up. It's no good moaning about it after the shoot. Change it up that way you will get good results!

So those are the basics for organising a shoot. Hopefully it's helpful to you if you have an interest in starting out at portrait photography or just given you an insight into the actual workload that goes into creating a great image!