Planning a shoot is a serious undertaking, it is not point and shoot as one might expect. A picture is taken four times; the first time it all happens in the imagination of the photographer, followed with a visit to the scene or location, the shoot itself and the artistic additions in the post processing. Sounds familiar?
But how do you start? Well it all starts with the selection of a specific topic. What that topic might be is entirely up to the photographer and largely depends on his or here interests and social engagement.
Certain questions will need to be answered regardless of the topic.
For instance, what are you trying to bring across or say. Is there a message that you want to embed into the picture? What is the best possible method of embedding the “message”. If the message is to obvious, then it is more then likely that the picture will miss its punch. Maybe you want to shock the viewer. That always works, but be aware that you will receive lots of negative critiques.
So lets assume that we have a theme and message. Now the real work is about to start. The first thing to do is to picturize what kind of scene/décor is needed . One that fits the mood set of the theme. Maybe it requires work in the studio, building a theatric environment where the model will play the roll as envisioned.It might be that the studio is not suitable at all and an outdoor location is needed. In each case, one has to plan for the scene no matter if it is in the studio or location.
Scouting a location takes time, not only does it has to fit the theme it has to be doable and agreeable by the stakeholders and different parties. That is to say, the owner of the location needs to agree, the model must be willing to work on that location and is it practical possible.
I can imagine that a shoot in the small alleys of an urban area creates a certain atmosphere of danger but potentially not that good for your health. So plan it right and make sure that everything is sorted out in advance.
The next step is to figure out the mood setting ,that entirely depends on the chosen theme. Drama will require a complete different fill-in then a beach shoot. Plan and select the attributes and lighting so that they create synergy with the surroundings and the model.
Finally the word “ model” has fallen, finding the best suitable model for the job is always a challenge. There are plenty of pretty models, however few have the ability to step into the game and play the roll that you envisioned them to play. I needed once a model for a theme where the model had to pose naked with a priest and crucifix.
Finding the model for artistic nudes is not that hard, adding a religious attributes to it reduces the interest and when a second person is on the scene dressed as a priest, well then there is very little change that you will find a model. Large sums of money will do it , but that is not the intend .
Now we have the theme, location, model, light and attributes.
Plan for a make-up artist and a stylist, getting the model in the perfect condition is 75% of the success. So don’ t take any shortcuts.
The worse thing to do is becoming sloppy and convincing your self that it will be corrected in Photoshop. Don’t.
It is good practice to create a mood board, so that everybody in the team knows exactly what the aim is.
The day of the shoot , don’t leave your model alone in the hands of the make-up artist, instead tell and guide them on what you want the make-up to look like. I know diddlysquat about make-up, but that has never stopped me to show what I expect.
Setting up the lights can be a tedious job, however if everything was planned and tested before hand it should be a piece of cake. Visit the location days if not weeks in advance without a model, and try the light set-up.
Try to find an assistant, who can help out with the reflection screens and material. It is good practice to take your model through the different scene’s and compositions prior to the shoot. Yes, it takes time but it will pay back during the shoot.
Shooting is fun, as long as you are a team. If the team spirit is broken just stop the shoot, it does not make sense to continue, as it will rub-off on your work. I seldom show or look at the pictures during the shoot. Some do, I don’t because those are RAW pictures and it is very difficult to explain that the colors, contrast and sharpens are not things to look for on a small display on the back of the camera unless your shooting tethered. Anyhow, there will be plenty of time afterwards to select , praise or despise the captures in the post processing.