Whether you work as a professional photographer or you took it up as a hobby, using a checklist for your photo shoots can speed your process and simplify your shoot day.
Using a Shoot Checklist
When you use a checklist for your shoots, you make things easier for yourself and any staff you have working with you. You can improve the following with a checklist:
- session flow,
- post-production workflow,
Your checklist focuses as much on the equipment as the creative preparation. You can speed through the workday by focuses on planning and ticking things off as you go. Print your checklist to make it a breeze to note when you finish each item.
Conceptualize your shoot. Think about what you want to achieve. Look through some magazines to find print work that speaks to you. Tear these sheets out and tack them up on a bulletin board. This creates a sort of mood board for your photoshoot. Since you use a bulletin board, you can pull off the tears when you finish the shoot and re-use the space for the next shoot.
Prepare yourself by getting a good night’s sleep. Hydrate yourself and eat a good, healthy meal before the shoot. Also, provide some healthy snacks for the model and/or crew. Skip the chips and chocolate, instead of focusing on fruit and raw vegetables. Have plenty of bottled water handy and straws available. Your model will need to drink water to remain hydrated, but the makeup artist (MUA) needs their lip stain and lipstick to remain perfect. Straws solve this problem. If you have to pay an MUA to remain at the studio or location for the shoot’s duration, you end up paying for hours of work instead of just one. It’s better to have the makeup remain perfect by providing little items like straws and blotting cloths, so the model can blot any shine that develops on their face or neck.
Prepare your equipment, especially your camera and lens. Check your batteries and make sure you have backup batteries available. Pack as many SD cards as you can, especially if you will shoot on location.
Lights, Stands and Light Meter
Pack your light meter and lights if you will shoot on location. If you have a shoot in your studio, set up your lights and test them. Check your light settings using a light meter. Have a helper stand-in for the model, so you can pre-check the light levels. If you shoot outdoors, you will need to wait until the model arrives and gets ready. That’s because in outdoor shoots the light gets controlled by the sunshine. The sun’s placement in the sky determines what your light level will be. You can use a reflector or two, but you will still need to adjust your f-stops as you shoot because of the sun’s movements and changing conditions such as cloud movement that covers the sun. Carefully consider your placement of the model and settings ahead of time. You might think an area ideal when you visit it at 3 pm, but at 6 or 8 am, it might experience shadows caused by trees in the area. The reverse may also happen. You could visit the site during the very early morning and see no shadows, but you might also need to shoot with soon-to-be-graduates for their senior pictures in the afternoon and discover many shadows to the worksite.
Evaluate the backgrounds available to you, too. Shooting in the studio means you can use any backdrop you have but consider if it meshes with your shoot concept. Business headshots work best shot against a medium grey background. The same is true of shooting school pictures, senior pics, and any other formal headshot. On the other hand, when shooting fashion, you might use a black or a white background. Going for a trippy concept shot that recalls the 1970s, you might use a tie-dyed background. To capture haute couture, a stark white or light grey background works best. Check your backgrounds carefully for stains, tears, wear and tear, etc. Leave yourself time to fix any problem you find.
Consulting with Your Subject
Greet your model or subject. If you shoot family photos, have a few age-appropriate toys for the kids to amuse themselves with while you talk business with their parents. This keeps them from wandering the studio, potentially messing with your equipment, and shows their parents your preparedness.
Position Your Model
Position your model or photography subjects. You might not shoot people. Perhaps a marketing agency hired you to photograph products for a client of theirs. You need to have conceptualized the shoot and have ready the stands, tables, etc. for the products. Set up any gels on the lighting to cast a glow or show the product or person in the best possible light, literally and figuratively.
Double-check Your Background
Double-check your background with the model or product in front of it. Also, check your lights. Your actual subject(s) might vary in height, weight, hair colour, etc. from the helper you used to set up the lights. Different colours of clothing reflect light in various ways and so do various fabrics. Use your light meter to double-check the lighting.
Make your camera settings. Set your f-stop and focus parameters. Change lens if needed. You have many items to set depending on your camera and its options. If you connected your camera to your computer or tablet, so you or the model can see live images or poses, you need to check it, too. Make any settings adjustments.
Take Test Shots
Take a test shot. This lets you confirm your settings. If anything needs changing, this test shot or two will show it. You may need added lights or a reflector. You might need to change the light levels or add a gel or take one away. Perhaps you need to alter the gel colour. You can layer gels. If you need a purple light but have no purple gel, layer a red gel over a blue gel to create the purple light.
Pose the Model
Pose your model or subject. Explain the concept and the first few poses you want. Practice the first pose and ensure that you have the model or product properly placed to capture. Provide the model parameters for movement. You can tape an X to the floor to let them know their “mark” or the place that they should stand, but you will end up with a very rigid-looking set of photos if they cannot move at all. You should tape a box on the floor that provides the model with at least a foot of space within which to move. Two feet work better. They should be able to step forward or backward and side to side at least one full step without you needing to reset anything.
It Is Shoot Time
Begin your photoshoot. After the first five or ten images, pause to consider the shots. You can look at your viewfinder LCD or check them on the computer or tablet. Let the model see them, too. Point out what has gone perfectly. Also, let the model know what can be done to improve the images.
Move on to the next shot or keep shooting that pose until you get “the shot.” You will know when you capture the shot because it will look breath-taking. When you look at the image and like “I could see that in Vogue or Sports Illustrated, etc. you have “the shot.” You can then call it a day and wrap the shoot.
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