I have been shooting as a commercial photographer in the industry for 10+ years now. All these years I have learned something new every day from my experiences. I have mentored more than 600 students now. I have seen that most of the time the photographers are great with their technical skills but very poor with pre-planning or executions.
So today I will be sharing my in-detailed workflow for any of my commercial shoots. This article will guide you through an entire process from start to finish of a commercial shoot preparation.
When people see the outcome of any photoshoot all they see is the final product. But what goes behind that is never given justice to. There are so many artists working to create one image. From photographers, makeup artists, stylists, models to art directors everyone is working their best and that is what we see as one of the final products.
Preparation for any shoot is an essential part, and this also decides whether you will have an amazing well-managed shoot or a poorly managed unprofessional shoot.
Here is my workflow to make sure my shoots are going to be executed as a well-managed shoot.
HOW TO PREPARE FOR YOUR PHOTOSHOOTS WELL? – A complete guide from Varun Patel
Understand your clients’ exact needs
Sometimes A photographer and client communication are not so strong thus it will end up in a less understood requirement. Which will lead to the faulty execution of the shoot.
A very first rule is to understand the client’s requirement thoroughly and note it down. While finalizing the shoot you can draft an email with all those pointers and exact requirements and send it to your clients. So later there is no miscommunication.
Gather your team for the brief
Once the requirement is frozen from the client-side, your first step is to gather around your team. Yes, Fashion photography is all about teamwork and thus your team should be aware of each and every small detail.
Forming the right needed team is very important. Whom you need and whom you don’t decide that first. Call up those who are needed for a pre-shoot briefing. I prefer to work with certain people and not try out different artists all the time.
During the briefing with your team keep your mood boards, references ready so they all can have a visual understanding of what is expected from them.
Find out what gears you will need
Finding out the correct gear as per your shoot requirement and listing them down is essential. So you do not forget or miss out on any gear on the shoot day.
For outdoor shoots, your gear needs will be as per the time, weather, and location availability.
Time – What time you are shooting will decide, would you need heavy external light sources or not. If you are going to shoot the entire day in a space where it is all shady, you might end up using just two flashes and can get amazing output. But if you are shooting in an open space you will need a lot more than just flashes to comfortably create the light you need through the entire day. So decide the time and frames of your shoot.
Weather – I always study weather reports before I plan out my shoot day. Different weather will require different kinds of equipment. I also would suggest keeping some huge tents available on a shoot, especially during the monsoons.
Location availability – Throughout the day are you going to shoot at just one location or multiple? How much time is given to you on one location if you are planning to go to multiple locations during a day? This matters because you will need a mobile, easy to move, set up if you are planning multiple locations.
Other than these given pointers, the gear selection also depends on the nature of the shoot. Are you planning to shoot big groups, or just one model, or you are planning some motion freeze shots or you are planning some wide-angle frames only throughout the shoot? All these sure will matter deciding the lighting systems. Whether you will need high-power units like PROFOTO to freeze the moment with their specialized modes or you want to go with the basic cheaper units like GODOX to cut off the cost of the equipment? Many such questions you need to ask yourself during planning.
Managing production ( if the production house is not there for you )
I strongly recommend having a professional production house working for production. Managing the local travel, hotel, food, permissions, tents, and many other similar things are never the job of a photographer. So have a professional production house take care of such things.
If your client does not come up with a huge budget that you can hire a production house. You can hire a freelancer and let him do the job that will be cheaper for them. But never ever do it by yourself. As you need to focus on your shoot on shoot day, not on model is hungry, or the permission is not there to shoot here kind of questions.
Give out the call sheets
It is really important to have your team on time for the shoot. So giving out a proper call sheet to everyone with all the details about when each individual team will be required to do their job is written clearly.
Being a professional photographer I understand how important it is to start at right time. And my shoots are always so perfectly timed that I also know at what exact time I will be watching NETFLIX at my home.
Sketch your lighting diagrams
This particular tip would be for all the new photographers, who are just starting with their first shoots. Always draw, sketch your diagrams, and have them on a shoot to avoid last moment confusion.
I normally try for a visit to the location if possible, spend some time and check out the frames and lighting throughout the day for a big gig. But not every time it is possible to do so, then we at least refer to the images of the location.
I plan out my frame as per the day timings and sun direction during the entire day. And planning the lighting for the exact time slot is something I feel very important. After around 1000+ shoots I do not have to carry any lighting diagrams with me but ya when I was in my learning phase I always use to draw and carry a sheet along.
Have a backup plan
Always have PlanB for all your needs on the day of the shoot. You should have a backup of your team, locations, models, gears, and everything you need.
All the above-given pointers will help you plan your photoshoot in a professional manner. Which will give you real peace of mind on the shoot and thus you can focus on your actual art “PHOTOGRAPHY”.
A well managed shoot always gives a pleasing environment to entire team and they can deliver their best if they are working in their comfort zone.
Following this workflow will sure be helping you out for pre-shoot preparations. But on the shoot day also there are many important things to take care of for proper execution. I will be writing about them in my soon to come article “how to execute a professional photoshoot like a pro”.
Meanwhile, I would recommend reading the very important article “How to make your models comfortable during the shoot”