How-To Plan a Photoshoot in 15 Steps:

What You Need to Know on How-To Plan a Photoshoot:

If you’ve never experienced it yet, you might not know that planning a photoshoot is actually A TON of work.  I’ve recently compiled a list of the top points that I try to remember when planning a photoshoot.  The larger the scale of the shoot, the more complicated everything can become.  So whether it’s clothing, books, jewelry, food, or some other product/person/place that you’re shooting; keep your purpose in mind as run through the list of tasks below and hopefully these gems will help (especially if you’re completely new to planning a photoshoot). Cliff Notes Version One-sheet At the Bottom 😉

  1. Decide on a theme.  What’s the overall feel that you are trying to portray?
    This will help guide the entire photoshoot.   You will want to come back to this statement as you decide on other aspects of shoot.
  1. Pick a Location. Look for a location that represents your theme.   If you are going for a coastal bright style, try to head to the beach.  If you can’t make it to the beach, look for light or bright colored buildings, neighborhoods, gardens, etc. that you might be able to use.  You can always crop out or blur the background of anything that doesn’t complement the theme as long as the color matches the feel of the theme.
  1. Choose your Timing. Along with the location, you need to think about light.  Decide if you are going for a dark & moody theme where you might want to shoot outdoors at night or inside a building with fewer windows.

If you are looking for a more natural bright look, think about the time of day when you can get sunlight…. During the peak of the day with no clouds, you might have really harsh shadows for a more dramatic look.  Or shooting just around sunrise or sunset might give a different look.

  1. Scout the Location. How can you plan to decorate a new home without ever seeing the inside of the house?  Not that it’s impossible, but why make it so hard on yourself?  The same goes for planning a photoshoot.  You need to scout the location of your photoshoot to truly make a solid plan and schedule.   Take photos and notes on what you may need.
  1. Acquire Proper Permits. Depending on where you end up choosing to shoot, there may be permits or written approval required.  I’ve seen permits cost anywhere from $25 to $500 to $4,500+ for the day.  You’ll most likely run into higher permit costs when you get into commercial photoshoots.

If you’re just shooting a few quick pics for your personal use (wedding, engagement, blog, etc.), sometimes a location won’t charge you if you just ask for permission in advance.  As a blogger though, you can sweeten the pot and agree to provide some shout outs on social media or on your blog in exchange for use of the space

  1. Choose your models. This would be easy if you aren’t going to feature any models at all, or could prove fairly expensive if you decide to pull in models from an agency.  Don’t forget, agency’s will upcharge you (about a 15-20% fee) and run you about $150+/hour for a model with a minimum of two hours.   An alternative might be to bring in aspiring actresses who are looking to build their portfolio.  Being based in Atlanta with the growing film industry, there seems to be a surplus of people looking to build their professional portfolios.  You could always pull from some of your attractive blogger friends circle as well 😉
  2. Find Hair & Makeup. After doing your research, you’ll want to do a trial run if you can. Similar to prepping for a wedding, you want to make sure the hair & makeup team is on point before the big day. Find a team that has the ability to achieve the look you are going for and can do so in a quick enough style.   The last thing you need is to have a slow hair or makeup artist who is bottlenecking your photoshoot.  If you are conducting a smaller shoot, find a single person who can handle both hair and makeup.  Most recently I used a hair & makeup artist who handled 3-4 models and did a fantastic job balancing the timeline… I mean, we were rushed and it would have been great to have additional hands on deck, but it worked out really well nonetheless.
  1. To Stylist or Not to Stylist?  You’ll need to decide if you are working with a stylist or not. There’s definitely a benefit to working with one because of the help you’ll have in executing the photoshoot, deciding on looks/set designs, and general networking they can bring to the table.

 If you’re working with a stylist, you’ll need to reach out to them well in advance of the photoshoot date in order to get the most benefit out of working with them (at least a month or more).   Most stylists can not only help style your looks for the models or staging area, but they might also have pull with designers to help acquire clothing or props on loan.  It’s a lot easier (and cheaper) to borrow 20 different looks than to have to purchase them right? Plus it’s nice to have someone help plan everything out for each scene you’re shooting. That’s why it’s probably worth the investment in my book.

  1. Choose a Photographer. Recommendations are a great place to start, but just make sure you do your research.   Hire a photographer who falls in line with the look and style you are trying to achieve for your photoshoot.  You probably don’t want to hire wedding photographer to shoot specific product shots unless you are extremely clear on the direction of images you need.  Some photographers specialize in headshots, lifestyle, wildlife, city-scape, candid, staged, etc.   Just make sure the photographer matches the look and experience you need.

This may be one of the highest expenses for your photoshoot budget so you want to research their experience, and clearly define what you need from the photographer.  Don’t assume the photographer can read your mind and know what direction you are trying to achieve.  You are hiring them for their creativity but at the end of the day, you are still hiring them to do a job, so make sure you are both clear on expectations.

  1. Decide on Attire & Props. You’ll want to plan out everything you need in advance.   You’ll always run into something that may cause a kink in the plans, so the better you prepare, the less you’ll have to worry about scrambling around at the photoshoot.

Attire: Grab some cheap plastic garment bags from your local Ikea or Walmart, and set each look (from head to toe… jewelry, belts, etc.) inside to keep it all together and easily accessible.

Props:  When possible, a great way to keep your props together is to group them by scene and keep them in plastic bins or other storage products.

Make sure you label everything!

  1. Read The Fine Print in Contracts. As with any contract you enter into…. don’t forget to read the fine print.  Will you need the images free of copyrights from the photographer?  That may cost you extra.  When do you need the images back by?  You may be charged more for expediting the process.  Do photos need to be edited?  Most of the time this is included, but sometimes the photographer will only send you their selected images… so if you need all the raw photos, this may cost extra too.  What hours are you going to shoot?  Go over your scheduled timeframe with hair & makeup, stylist, photographer, etc.?  You’ll be paying extra there too.   When are final payments due?   Double check the fine print and make sure that you are clear on everything you are agreeing to on your side, and that you’ve included everything you need from their end in writing too.
  2. On-Site Reminders. Things to ask yourself: 
    • Where will the models change? Are there rooms, bathrooms, RVs, etc. to change in?  We had limited access to public changing areas during the last photoshoot I was on, so we purchased a folding pop-up changing tent.
    • Will you need electrical power on site? Will you need significant power for lights, fans, etc.? That may require you to rent a generator if you’re not in a building with a power source.  If you just need a small amount of power for curling irons, straighteners, or steamers on site… you could probably just use the an outlet or adaptor from your vehicle.
    • Weather? If you’re shooting outdoors, there’s always an element you won’t be able to control.  The weather.  Just in case you run into any major problems, do you have a plan B?   You may not, but it’s definitely something you should give some thought to.
    • Emergency Prepared? Whether someone may get a headache or a blister, having an emergency medic pack with basics like aspirin, band aids, medical ointment, etc.… you never know what kind of little mishaps may take place.
  1. Don’t Forget the Nourishment.  The last thing you need is to run out of energy in the middle of a photoshoot.   So make sure you’ve got snacks and refreshments on hand… and don’t forget to schedule a break for legit food if you’re looking at working for more than 2-4 hours.  It’s easy to get caught up in your shoot if you are moving fast and have a lot going on, but don’t forget to take a break. It’s probably poor practice to have someone pass out on site because they were hungry or dehydrated.  Plan ahead to either bring snacks or have food catered while you are on site.  It would be terrible to choose a location off the beaten path and then be stuck far away without food to eat or drink.
  1. Arrive Early. If you’re traveling to a destination photoshoot, you’ll want to arrive with at least a day buffer before you actually get to work.  Dealing with jet lag or scoping out the local scene is tough enough to do while you are on vacation, but adding in the work you’re going to be coordinating for a photoshoot and it’s even tougher.   Allowing yourself enough time to rest and get acquainted with the area is much more helpful than trying to arrive late the night before you start on a 5 am shoot!
  1. Have Fun! Photoshoots are exhausting.  Especially larger ones that require multiple days or very long hours on site.  Don’t lose sight of the fact that you really can be creative and have fun with a great group of talented people!  You’re all working towards the same goal of creating a fabulous end result, so keep that in mind as you go.

And for those who didn’t want to read all of that… I give you, the cliff notes version of how to plan a photoshoot in 15 Steps (which would make more sense if you read through everything above):


Good luck planning your photoshoot!  If you have any advice that I left out, please share it below!!!  signature




    1. Right on Christine, it’s so easy to get overwhelmed by everything that I always think it’s important to remind people to keep a clear perspective and enjoy life! 🙂

  1. Hey. I am amidst a good ‘problem’ of having been offered a huge photo gig. But it will be y first of such a scale. An contacts on walking through the steps you have in your post?


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