Crafting An Efficient Photo Shoot

Photo shoots are time consuming and expensive, so it’s imperative to drive down costs to capture images. But it’s just as important to capture quality images that portray your product’s best features.

How do you achieve both? By being a diligent planner and organizer of your photo shoot. The more you plan and organize, the more efficient your shoot will be. And surprisingly, a well-planned shoot allows the creative team to be more creative and flexible.

There are three areas to consider:

• Plan the shots
Most projects start with well-defined merchandise, brand look, and pagination. And, it’s common practice to create layouts for space allocation.

But don’t stop there. Take your layouts one step further by defining exactly how each item will be shot. For each item determine if it’s a frame shot or silhouette, the camera angle, backgrounds, surfaces and props.

Once you have finalized the layouts, build a shot list. You will use this list to prioritize the order of your shots and develop your schedule for the photo shoot.

It is typically not efficient to shoot by spread. In a studio shoot, organize your shots by camera angle, because every time you move the camera, the lighting has to be redone. Second, organize by background color or set.

Once you’ve determined what order to shoot, estimate the time needed for each shot and then create a schedule for each day. Be aggressive–yet realistic.

• Build the team
Your product will dictate the type of photo shoot needed, for example, location vs. studio, full-room sets or framed and silhouettes. You’ll want to select a team (photographer, stylists, production manager) with experience in your type of photo shoot.

Schedule every member of your team as early as possible. For large shoots, you should book several months in advance.

About a week before the photo shoot, have a preproduction meeting with everyone on the team. During the prepro meeting, revisit the goal of the shoot, lighting, styling, and emotional feel. Review the layouts paying particular attention to surfaces, backgrounds and camera angles. Also go over the schedule and expectations for shots per day.

It’s helpful to review your expectations for communication flow. The more opinions allowed, the longer each shot will take and you risk getting bogged down. Typically, you’ll want to determine the primary decision maker and have them work directly with the art director.

• Organize the shoot
Set up one or two days prior to the shoot. You will need areas for props and product, space to build sets or prep materials, and tables for return product or props once they’ve been used. Create a workflow to keep incoming and outgoing items separate which will minimize confusion and time spent trying to locate items.

During the shoot, post the layouts on the wall and mark off each shot as it’s accomplished. This will help you avoid missed shots and expensive reshoots later. And use the shot list to keep on schedule and make adjustments as needed.

All that goes into setting up a proper photo shoot may seem like a lot of work. But careful planning and organizing will allow you to create efficient photo shoots that cut expenses without cutting out the creativity.

Kathy Johnston is general manager and Kristen Moreland is an account executive for J. Schmid & Associates, a Mission, KS-based catalog/multichannel marketing consulting firm.