Organisation is key, right? As a photographer creativity is always at the centre of my actions. But you have to able to actually realize all your creative thoughts and ideas instead of just keeping them in your head. In the following blogpost I am going to introduce you to my process of planning a (portfolio) photoshoot.
Portfolio shoots are perfect to experiment - try out new ideas, techniques and equipment without the pressure of a client’s expectations. They create a free space to be creative and re-define your photographic style and vision.
BUT: just pressing the shutter without a clear concept or idea is not the best way to approach a productive portfolio shoot. Do you want to reach a new target group? Make your work accessible to new clients? Do you need new images for (social media) marketing? Or do you just have an idea you need to realize? Make up your mind and define a goal!
STEP 1: THE IDEA
Without a captivating idea, you probably won’t get up and actually start planning your shoot. Inspiration is everywhere and I love visualizing my own ideas. Your shoot can be based on a styling idea, a color-scheme or pose - the possibilities are endless. I always ask myself: what story does this idea tell? It can be easier - for you and your team - to develop a background story to your shooting concepts, so everyone is on the same page and can understand - and execute - your vision.
STEP 2: THE MOODBOARD
Moodboarding has pretty much become a hobby of mine - ideally, a moodboard makes your vision visually accessible to other people by including textures, colors, poses, composition ideas and/or editing ideas or lighting set-ups. A moodboard can include various aspects of your shoot and will later help you to communicate your vision to your team.
I love creating moodboards on Pinterest - feel free to have a look at my moodboards to get some inspiration if you like! You can even invite people on Pinterest to collaborate on your moodboard if you want to work on it as a team.
STEP 3+4 LOCATION AND MODEL
Depending on your shooting concept your defined earlier in your moodboard - you can now start to look for locations and models. Of course, it’s also possible that a model or a certain location you want to shoot in inspired your shoot - this is not a linear process, it’s creativity!
Don’t forget: your model and location shoot underline or contrast your shoots’ visual language.
Great locations can be discovered anywhere. A pretty street, unique architecture or a colored wall - don’t just look for big locations, try to find beauty in the ordinary. You could also use a backdrop - this can be a sheet. some fabric or a even a seamless paper background.
Quick tip: always keep a list of location ideas. Take pictures when discovering pretty spots in your city and keep these images in a moodboard or list - so you are always well prepared.
Instagram is always a good place to start when trying to find models. Just write your potential models a quick and friendly DM, explaining what kind of shoot you would like to create and why you would love to work with them. This has really helped me create a network of people that like to work with me and that I feel safe experimenting with.
Currently I mostly work with agency models on so called Test Shootings. All professionals involved in a shoot - Hair and Make-Up, Model, Stylist and Photographer - come together to create great content for their portfolios.
HOW TO ASK AN AGENCY FOR A TEST SHOOT
First of all, your portfolio should be up to date. Send the agency all of your social links and portfolio link. Try to illustrate your idea and who will be involved in the shoot as precisely as possible.
Also, your inquiry should include:
-When and where the shoot will take place (also: estimated duration)
-Will there be a Hair & Make-Up Stylist
-Moodboard (screenshot, screen-recording or link to moodboard)
-Description of what kind of model you are looking for
If the agency you contacted is interested in working with you, they will send you a selection of models. In most cases, you are working with “New Faces” - these are models that have only recently been accepted into the agency. Sometimes they are very experienced nonetheless, but that depends on the models personal history.
As a fashion enthusiast I love styling my own shoots. It helps me visualize my idea. I am now working with different brands and labels or lend/buy clothes for a shoot. Working with a stylist can, of course, facilitate that process and give you a different view on your styling ideas.
Thinking a shoot through shot by shot has really helped me to achieve better results. Also, it reduces stress - you plan out some images you definitely need to get and the rest is improvisation and pure creativity. I take notes on the shots I want to take, some photographers draw - do what works best for you.
A lot of times, I even create a “shot board” - I collect posing, framing and composition inspiration that is not specific to my shoot in terms of colors and styling, but gives me ideas out of my comfort zone to direct my model.
Planning a shoot can help you to be more efficient and productive - but planning only goes so far. Working with your team, creating ideas on the spot and being flexible to weather, people and locations is a big and very exciting part of being a photographer.