Photoshoot Checklist

This month I have been working with my client, Simone, who commissioned me to be her guide for a 12-month reboot of her website and marketing strategy. One of her goals is to produce a new body of work based on her love for shooting mature women in seriously glorious character and fashion.

That’s all I can tell you for now. I can’t wait to share her finished work with you later this year!

As I was working with Simone this week on to-do lists, I realized that I have such a wonderful range of consulting clients, not only in style but experience as well.

Some of you have produced scores of large-scale advertising shoots, and some of you have never collaborated with a team before. So, I thought it would be of great value to share some production tips and checklists from the pros! This is an interactive blog and I’d love to hear your feedback (see below).

Photoshoot To-Do’s:

Concept. Write down all of the details of your shoot. How many days will it be? What kinds of talent do you need? Where will you shoot it? Do you need talent/location scouts? How many final shots do you hope to get per day? Will you need to hire stylists, set builders, etc.?

Build a creative deck and inspiration/Pinterest boards. Don’t keep all the information in your head.

Start working on your budget. Break the concept down in to numbers. Determine if anything needs to be reined in or if there is room to add more.

Create a production schedule. If you are working with a team, a concise but flexible schedule is a must, but don’t create the schedule in a bubble. Reach out to your key team members to find out how much time they need to do their preparation work. If you have the budget for one, hiring a producer from the beginning will take a lot of weight off of your shoulders. 

Depending on the size of your shoot, I recommend planning it about 8 weeks before, but no less than 4 weeks in advance of your shoot day. Consider how much time will be needed to build sets, scout locations, scout talent, fit talent for wardrobe, reserve locations, order props and equipment, acquire permits, etc. Having a generous schedule and getting feedback on it will go a long way in setting a great tone for your shoot.

Revise your budget as needed.

Book your team. Producer, hair, makeup, clothing stylist, set stylist, set builders, assistants, drivers, security, catering, talent, animal wranglers… I recommend putting holds on your crew at least four weeks in advance. It can be next to impossible to book a great crew with only two week’s notice.

Meet with your team. Planning your shoot via email can be highly inefficient and leaves a lot of room for misunderstandings. Getting your key team players on individual and conference calls at different stages of planning can help you anticipate a lot of needs and help you feel more prepared and supported.

Reserve locations, equipment, catering, etc. The sooner the better, but at least four weeks out if possible.

Create a shoot day schedule. This is more than call time and wrap time. You’ll need to figure out how much time hair, makeup, and wardrobe will need with each talent (be sure to ask them!). This will inform you of when your first shot will happen. How much time will you need for each look/shot? How much time will be needed to change looks, change lighting, change location? Should you stagger your talent? How much time does your set builder need to unload and prep? What time will you break for lunch? A carefully planned day will help you avoid stress and overage fees with talent, location, etc. A schedule is especially crucial if you are expecting to shoot with natural light at specific times of the day. 

P.S. What is your inclement weather plan? Check the weather a few days out and anticipate if you will need tents, umbrellas, heaters, sunscreen…

Set post-production expectations. Make sure to discuss final deliverables with your client. Expectations or another schedule should be set to define when a first edit will be delivered, how much time the client should take to choose final images, how much time retouching will take, how many rounds of retouching will be allowed, how and when the final deliverables will be sent. It’s also gracious to communicate this timeline with your crew if any of them are expecting final images for their portfolios (hair, makeup, stylists, etc.) or if you are hiring external retouchers.

Pay your crew. If you are working on a larger commercial shoot, most clients will pay an advance before your shoot to cover all crew and expenses. If they do not, make sure to communicate with your client on payment expectations and relay that information to your crew so that they know when it’s coming.

Being an organized and inclusive communicator and photo shoot planner will make you especially memorable to your clients and crews who will no doubt return to work with and recommend you again and again.

Did I miss anything? Let me know! This blog is a work in progress and I would love to hear your feedback and learn more about how you produce your photoshoots. Sign up for my newsletter to receive the final checklist when it’s done!

Hey, P.S. I’m rooting for you!


Interested in hiring a business coach? Need someone to map out and hold you accountable for your goals this year? Shoot me an email or click here to schedule a free 15 minute call. Let’s chat and find out if we’re a good fit.

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