Prepping for a photoshoot can be terrifying
Before you think it's just you – it's totally not.
Even though I've been at this for years, I still get butterflies before each session. Maybe it's the excitement of getting out in God's gorgeous creation with a new client, the anticipation of what magic we'll capture on camera, or (let's be honest here) fighting the voice of self-doubt and desperately hoping that you can live up to your client's expectations and be as creative as your own *impossibly high* standards demand.
This is a very real struggle and it's easy to let your own emotions and thoughts derail what would otherwise be an amazing session. So, regardless of what your particular struggle is, I'd like to propose a list of seven steps that will help you as you prepare both physically and mentally for your next session.
1. Do Your Research
This is huge. For some reason we creatives seem to live with the delusion that we can show up on a job location, turn on the creativity, and have a perfect shoot. And if that's you, kudos...you can skip to the next step. But for the rest of us, a successful photoshoot starts days before the session.
So before you pick up your camera, learn your clients.
Talk with your clients about the things they enjoy, discover their personalities and unique style, find out what makes them happy and the hobbies and interests they have. Work with them to curate a theme and wardrobe for the session. Get on Pinterest and share some ideas. However you do it, learn your clients so you have an idea of what the session will look like before you even show up and can arrive on the day of already brimming with ideas.
2. ready your equipment
This one should be way obvious. In my mind, I'm not ready for a session until I've wiped my memory cards, charged extra batteries, and cleaned my lenses. So if I show up on location without doing those things...I've arrived unprepared. Personally, I do my prep the day before each session. Then, I pack my bags exactly as I want them so I can show up confidently and not even have to think about my cameras at all.
From the moment I step out of the car to the moment I turn off the camera at the end of the session, I want 100% of my time to be devoted to my clients. Any second I spend fiddling with my cameras is a second I'm spending distracted so showing up prepared allows me to keep my focus where it needs to be – on my clients.
3. STAY HYDRATED
Water is life-giving. I'm not kidding. It's absolutely amazing how much keeping your body hydrated will help keep your energy up, give you momentum, keep the creativity flowing, and give you the enthusiasm you need to drive the session forward. On longer sessions, I carry a bottle of water in my camera bag so that I can refresh myself partway through – it's amazing how many sessions I've saved simply by keeping hydrated.
4. DRESS TO OUTLAST
I can't overstate this. The last thing you want on a session is for you to be the one asking to cut things short because you're too cold/too hot/too tired/etc. As the photographer you always want to outlast your clients and be willing to try anything and everything they're willing to do...and that takes some preparation!
Additionally, keeping your brand in mind and staying professional is also paramount (in other words, don't show up to a wedding dressed in swim shorts and a tank top under the guise of keeping cool). Find ways to dress so that you look good but are always ready for more. This will leave your clients pleased with how the session played out and impressed by your willingness to keep going until the very end.
5. Arrive Early
I make a point of showing up to every shoot at least 15 minutes early. This gives me some space to think, make any final camera adjustments (I feel like we just talked about that or something...), drink some water, and even check out the location. Showing up early really helps me calm my nerves and kindle my creativity so that as soon as the clients show up, I'm ready to go and let the magic happen.
6. Shoot in RAW
This is really a point for a much longer post (maybe I'll have to write one)...but if you're not already shooting in RAW, start now! As photographers, we'd like to think that we can nail each photo we take and that our straight-out-of-camera images always have proper exposure and toning. The reality though, is that we all make mistakes. In the heat of a session, a perfect moment can arise and you won't have time to fix all of your settings before the moment is gone.
Shooting in RAW lets you recover details you may have missed and compensate for errors you made with exposure and white balance without losing detail in your photos. I can't tell you how many way-too-dark photos I've recovered and then delivered to clients simply because I was shooting RAW.
Long story short? Just do it already.
7. Be Positive & encouraging
Finally, at the foundation of everything is your attitude. Show up on every photoshoot ready to have a blast and determined to capture amazing photos. Treat every client like they're your ideal client and, chances are, you'll end up with results that you adore. Negativity or even an "I-just-want-to-get-this-done" mindset can destroy your chances of achieving powerful results, so show up at every session ready to slay it and then watch the magic unfold.
Additionally, encouraging your clients throughout the session will help them relax and assure them that the shoot is meeting your standards and that they're doing a good job. Capture an image that you LOVE? Show it to your clients! Not only will this encourage them that they look great but will also give them confidence in your process and instill trust that will allow you to capture even better images as the session progresses.
At the end of the day, photoshoots can be both numbingly terrifying and amazingly satisfying. But as with everything, preparing well will allow you to show up confident both in yourself and in your clients, creating a relaxed, stress-free environment in which relationships can grow and creativity can flourish.
Now, get out there and make it happen!
I'd love to hear your thoughts on this post! If you have thoughts on any of my steps or have some ideas of your own, leave them in the comments – I look forward to hearing from you!