How I Plan My Photo Shoots

Different types of photography shoots require different approaches to their planning and execution. In this video, I give an overview about my approach to four different kinds of shoots: freestyle, concept/themed, tutorials, and portraiture (specifically, Boudoir).

Freestyle Photo Shoots

I actually do very little planning and preparation for my freestyle photography. And since I focus more on the storytelling and emotion in these kinds of shoots, I rely on my experience and a solid foundation of technical skill to play their part in the background. Like driving a car, you’re not focused on the pedals and steering wheel and all the indicators as much as you are in getting where you want to go. Photography can be the same way when precision and accuracy isn’t the object. Most of my freestyle photography results in the type of edgy, gritty images you can find in my portfolio.

From a freestyle shoot with a friend.

My process goes like this: I start by putting out a model call on model mayhem, or craigslist. I’ve found some of the most interesting and enjoyable people to work with this way. Yes, not everyone I’ve connected with through these sites have been great, the stories of people totally flaking-out aren’t exaggerated, but the best people I’ve met make it all worth it.

All of the details are worked out via email; basically, I don’t want either of us to be surprised or disappointed because we didn’t cover important details before the shoot.

For these types of shoots, I tend to keep my gear as simple as possible (i.e., single camera, a 50mm lens and maybe a flash or two). Again, this helps me focus more on the model than on the technical aspects of the work.

See the video for how the rest of this process usually unfolds.

Concept Photography

If I’m doing a concept or themed shoot, I’ll usually spend a few days pre-visualizing what I want the images to look like. A lot more planning goes into a shoot like this, because I’ll be working with more people, and spending more money on it. After deciding on what I want the images to look like, I’ll start putting together a mood board so I can communicate my vision to everyone else involved. I’ll start talking to MUAs and stylists and anyone else that can help bring the images to life, and book studio time if necessary.

1979 Theme Shoot

The next step is finding an experienced and dependable model for the shoot. I usually like to bring on someone I’ve worked with before because a lot is riding on someone who’ll not only show up on time, but maintain a good work ethic. Since we know each other already, I’ll have a good rapport with her. Some of the people I’ve shot with (including non-models) in my freestyle shoots eventually become hired models!  See the 1979 Shoot behinds-the-scenes.

Tutorials

If I’m shooting a set of images for a tutorial like my Lighting & Posing series, planning down to the last detail is often key. I have to plan on using specific techniques, camera settings and lighting setups because the goal is to demonstrate doing specific shots in a way that allows other people to following along, understand, and reproduce. Here’s another situation where hiring an experienced and dependable model is very important.

Images from my Lighting & Posing Series tutorial: Nudes & Bodyscapes

Portraiture (Boudoir)

Any commercial portraiture I do is pretty straight-forward, for me anyway. A good example of this is my Boudoir work. For my standard, contemporary Boudoir, I have a system and already know my lighting setups for each type of shot, and I know what poses work for each type of client.

Boudoir

If I’m doing a unplanned, freestyle version of Boudoir, something I’d see closer to my personal style (what’s in my portfolio), I approach most of it the way I would a freestyle shoot. Otherwise I’ve done it so many times, the pre-planning and workflow involved is already established. The goal for these types of images is simply to give the client what she’s looking for, and that’s usually in line with the style of Boudoir that’s currently popular.

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