I’ve lost count of all the photographers I’ve worked with over the years on such a range of different jobs, from studio shoots with professional actors and models, to location shoots, live events and press photocalls. I’ve learned that the key to getting good shots you will be happy to use for some time to come, is all down to effective planning. It’s often too easy to rush ahead and not give yourself enough time to consider all the elements that combine to make a strong image. It’s also common to think that we are all photographers these days, with cameras in our pockets on our phones, and without the need for expensive film that needs to be bought and then processed. But there is a real art to taking an excellent photo, and I would highly recommend working with a professional photographer – it will always prove a wise investment.
This is my guide to the 8 essential points to consider when choosing, briefing and working with a photographer to ensure you get the best end result.
- Get clear on what kind of pictures you want as an end result
This may seem obvious, but most people don’t really give this much thought. I recommend that you take some time to create a visual references board using an online tool such as Pinterest or just a large piece of paper with magazine cuttings glued on, to build a clear idea of the kind of images want to create (and avoid). This will help to steer your photographer in the right direction and also to give you more clarity about what you are looking to achieve.
- Draft a shot list
Even if you only want one usable shot at the end of the shoot (e.g. for a simple headshot), it’s still worth trying a number of different outfits, facial expressions, gestures, props, seating arrangements, camera angles and lighting states before you pick the best final set-up. Take some time to consider how you might position yourself, what you might do in the photo and whether or not you want to be looking into the camera.For example, you might want to get photos of yourself:
- sitting on a chair smiling
- sitting on a chair looking more serious
- standing inside
- standing outside
- close-up, just head and shoulders looking directly into the camera
- full body, more candid (unposed) looking out of shot
For loads more really helpful ideas about what to consider with regards shot lists, check out: http://www.scienceofpeople.com/2015/01/take-perfect-selfie/ and http://www.scienceofpeople.com/2014/03/shot-list-30-ideas-perfect-photo-shoot
- Note down a few key words to articulate the style you want to create
Think about the overall look and feel you are aiming for, and consider what you are trying to express though the images. In particular, you might give some thought to whether you want something that looks:
- very classic and timeless or more contemporary and ‘on-trend’
- formal or informal
- posed or unposed
- still or moving
- serious or fun
- Be clear on the purpose for the images
List all the ways in which they are likely to be used, e.g. for press packs, social media, brochures, websites etc Think about whether landscape or portrait format images will suit your needs best – you will probably want to get a good mixture to give you different options.
- Get recommendations and talk to photographers
Ideally meet face-to-face with any photographers you are considering working with. You need to develop a good relationship with them and feel comfortable spending time in a studio or out on location in front of a camera with them. Ask them about their previous work, check out their portfolios and make sure they are clear on what it is that you want to achieve. Ideally they should show you they have experience in delivering the kind of end result you are seeking. For example, if you want to get a very contemporary headshot or a product inventory shot for a catalogue, you probably wouldn’t want to work with someone who mainly takes classic wedding photography. Enquire about what equipment and facilities they have access to, such as lights, backdrops and studios.
- Agree a location, time, budget with your chosen photographer
Do not just opt for the photographer who lives closest or is the cheapest. Think about who will do the best job! Professional photography can be a big upfront investment, but it will yield results for a long time to come, and is always worthwhile.
- Take some time to prepare for the shoot day
If you’re having portrait shots taken, bring along a couple of different outfits, make-up, hairbrush and styling products/accessories. Wear something classic and avoid jewelry and accessories that may be distracting and will date. If you’re organising an event, make sure you set aside time to welcome and greet the photographer on the day and double-check they know their way around and have everything they need.
- Invest in an extra pair of eyes and hands if you can
If you’re organising portrait photography, then it’s best to invest in a make-up person and stylist to be on hand. If this is really beyond your budget then at least arrange for another person to be present besides just you and the photographer. The photographer will be busy with the camera, getting the angle right, helping you to relax and get the right facial expression and posture. It’s really helpful to have an extra pair of eyes and hands to spot stray hairs or slight blemishes that can be sorted more easily before post-production (i.e. without the need for Photoshop). If you’re organising a press, event or product shoot then an assistant is always useful to be on hand if you have a large group to work with or lots of props or products.
If you’re looking to invest in professional photography to take your marketing to the next level and would like some fresh insight and expert strategic support, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll be happy to help steer you in the right direction.