How to Prepare a Photoshoot
Whether you're just starting out with your business, entering a new role charged with image production or found yourself in a photographic pickle seeking 2am solutions via Google, this article is made for you to make sense of the general production process.
We'll assume you've already conceptualised your campaign goal on some level. Whether its to produce e-commerce product photography, lifestyle imagery, social media video, website banners, a lifestyle campaign or something on a grand scale. If not, it pays to put your marketing strategist hat on and collaborate with a copywriter then with a graphic designer/art director then brief your photographer to see your concept come to life. Or switch your hat between all the roles mentioned above and go through the creative process yourself.
Step 1 - Pre Shoot Planning
Start thinking broadly. What emotions do you want to communicate? What facts do you want to communicate or explain? How many images/angles are required to explain the product? Where will you use your imagery?
Emotive imagery is effective imagery. Envisage the mood and direction of your imagery and where it will end up. Work backwards from that final vision to start discussions leading to a final brief for everyone involved. You may need images for billboards, store signage, in-store printed material, direct mail, print media, digital screens, social media and website material. You could be using images worldwide or just in New Zealand. Or you might just need photography for your online store. Where your image ends up should impact the way you produce the imagery.
Eg. If you need a web banner for your homepage or a printed advertisement, do you need negative space in one area for text or graphics? Is the space to the left or to the right of the product or model? Where should the model be facing and looking towards? Will text graphics be placed over the top of a model or product or will any graphics and logos be placed independently of the photo or video?
Removing consumer guesswork is removing objections. Is a single image of your product enough for a customer to convert by glancing at your product and immediately understanding it? A wine bottle might be self-explanatory, but a bespoke tea blend might need a picture of the tin so someone can find it on a shelf as well as the dried leaves and ingredients to showcase the unique blend of ingredients. A dietary supplement might need a picture of the packet, the powder and another piece of imagery with a blender, banana and milk mixture showing how people might use your product. This might work best as a video or it could be a simple headline banner on the product page on your website.
Start working on a shot list. It doesn't have to be a comprehensive list but Excel or Google Sheets might help image file coding, assigning specific product SKUs to images with purpose.
More questions to ask yourself:
The eternal question: What is my budget and how far will it go?
Where will we use the images?
Is still imagery of my product enough? Does my imagery need any props to give context to someone viewing it online for the first time? Should a person interact with my product?
How many versions/angles/details of products need to be featured?
What sort of size, aspects and special creative effects need to be accounted for when your content is being filmed or photographed? eg slow motion, portrait orientation or file types to export to.
When is the deadline for final launch of imagery?
When is the earliest time you can produce the imagery? When is the final sample ready?
How many products need to be photographed?
What is the creative direction and what still needs to be finalised to achieve this? Set styling, outfits, hair & makeup, mood, editing, colour grading.
Who is needs to be briefed? Studio, editors, hair & makeup, stylists etc
Key Learnings: The more you know about where your imagery will be used and how your concept will look in the end, the better you can plan. Produce a shot list. Produce imagery with a plan and purpose and it's a more efficient process. The alternative is a more organic process where you work around what you produce on the day and fix issues afterwards.
Step 2 - Finding Talent
It's easy to find a good model or muse that will appeal to your brand's target audience. That's the obvious benefit having someone perfect bone structure, healthy skin and great hair. Not to get too Zoolander on you so early on, but being in front of the lens requires more than just being really, really ridiculously good looking. It’s the art of being a photographic subject with a variety of postures and looks. This is something that improves with experience and confidence in front of the camera and crew.
Most people working as models in New Zealand do so on a part-time basis. They are often teens or twentysomethings busy with their career or education which sometimes impacts availability. Because of limited availability, you'll need to make a call as to how important a particular face is to your brand versus your production schedule and other hires or bookings of people, places or equipment.
Your talent is a large part of the creative direction of your shoot, so your core concept should guide your model selection. Do you need a classic beauty, an every-man or someone strikingly unexpected? Clean cut or rugged? Slim, curvy or sporty? All of these might seem superficial but it impacts the end result of your imagery and the consistency of your brand message. You might need a sporty everyman for swimwear, a curvy classic beauty for a wedding dress and a slim unique model for streetwear or you might want to flip all of that on its head for your unique approach.
If you're unsure, ask us for a recommendation for good models. 62 Models, Clyne, Red11, N Model Management, The Others, Unique Model Management and many more fashion agencies operate within NZ. In some cases we can help cast Auckland-based models in our Live Machine for you, this saves you the hassle if you're outside of Auckland.
Booking & Negotiating Talent Fees
$200 - $250 an hour plus 20% agency fee is a good guide to go from for a starting price. You'll typically get billed in half-day or full-day rates and this price may rise or fall depending on the model. The final charge-out rate of models is influenced by their demand, experience, category exclusivity clauses, length of booking, length of usage and the specific commercial usage of their likeness. TV campaigns and big billboards have high reach whereas ecommerce images might get relatively few viewers. It’s critical to know precisely how the imagery will be used when negotiating a price for talent or to come to an agreement for future changes to this in writing.
Decide which entity is most important to work around. These are typically the availability of the studio, photographer, talent or your own business’ cycle. Or in Asset Factory's case, usually just the availability of the Live Machine and the talent, unless you’re booking our Traditional Studio.
Once you've booked a studio, contact a handful of agencies with an outline of how you'll use imagery of their talent and a date you wish to shoot on and ask for a shortlist of who is available for that date period. It’s usually easier to give them a date and work with who’s available than the other way around.
Check through the portfolios of the shortlist and, from here, it's worth having a look at polaroids or any public social media profiles of the models to get an idea of a 'real life' look at them in advance in case of any drastic recent changes to appearance.
Decide on your favourite model from the shortlist and ask the agency to arrange a casting call to meet, measure and fit your garments to the model. Go to the next option if the model isn’t a match or consider adjusting your sample garments to fit either via tailoring or trusty old alligator clips and pins during the shoot. It's all smoke & mirrors. If your model/talent is more ‘prop’ than subject and you’re not selling clothes, we know a number of great stylists who can use their connections to get a suitable outfits for your shoot. You can also use our Live Machine to cast your models in-situ.
Get the agency’s usage contract or give them your own document outlining the terms of usage and fees and get both parties to sign and agree. It may be worth getting your legal team to go over anything particularly complex but these can often be plain-English agreements between two parties agreeing on exactly how the talent will be used.
Book the model(s) and get on with the rest of your planning. You'll be sent an invoice the day after you've finished shooting the footage.
Talent Pro Tips:
Book multiple models to cycle through your workload more efficiently. While one is getting photographed, the next is getting changed and made up. Two models might mean twice as many images but it also means less downtime for each person on set or require more hair & makeup expertise.
Height and size information on the agency websites are helpful as a rough guide. But, it pays to re-measure them and save every model’s measurements on file, the human body can change a lot from 16-24 so by keeping your own measurement notes you’ll be sorted when you need a model at short notice one day.
Like the Scouts say: Be prepared. Have a back up model in mind. Any seasoned producer can tell many tales of missed flights, broken bones and illness that throw spanners in the work.
Ask if your model has been booked by any close competition or brands you don’t want to be confused with. NZ is an easy market to get booked by competing brands. Do your due diligence to avoid this. Alternatively pay a premium and negotiate a category exclusivity agreement for a set time. This could be something like just bridalwear exclusivity or it could be exclusivity across all clothing brands or all commercial work for a few months. All of which is at the discretion of the agency and model.
Avoid much the above and fly in a model from overseas.
Don't be put off by a pricy model, you'll usually get more winning photos and winning photos sooner in the shoot. But, experienced models always start out as inexperienced models so give promising newbies a go.
Ask around, ask other people how their shoot went with your prospect. Did they produce 3 amazing photos after taking 100 or did they get 3 amazing photos from 10 shots?
Key Learnings: Work around when your shoot will be before settling on a favourite face so you can negotiate with the agencies and have alternative options if there isn't the right fit. Know the extent of your usage in the media and how many eyeballs might see your imagery as this impacts the price.
Step 3 - Deciding on Hair, Makeup & Stylists
Call in the professionals.
We like these guys and girls. When your career revolves around making people and sets look their best, you gain insights and learn of trends better than us mortals.
If you have the budget a stylist for your set or for your outfits can be a nice investment in quality and time saving. As well as putting together expert outfits, your stylist can process and prepare the garments, dress the models and make sure the garment is looking and worn correctly on the model, allowing you to focus on the bigger picture rather than every detail. A set stylist can find accessories, furniture, plants, backdrops and any other objects worth including within your shoot to make the mood and scene just right, doing all the leg work for you with their network of connections according to your brief. We have a number of expert stylists using our studio to create content with or without additional assistance from their clients, ask us for a recommendation.
Again, the more you know about where your images will end up and the mood you wish to communicate the better.
Is your product best presented in a particular setting or aesthetic? eg rustic, modern, distressed, minimalist etc
Is there a colour palette to work within?
What accessories would someone be interacting with or using with your products?
Hair and makeup expertise is nearly always essential. Flash lighting, natural lighting and studio lighting all produce different effects on the skin. Plus, every model has different skin and bone structure that need different treatments. All of these are important factors in influencing how your brand and products are perceived. Every hair & makeup artist has a full spectrum of products for every situation at the ready so they are a very low-maintenance addition to your team on the day.
When you brief makeup artists remember to cover off the following:
Give them the bigger picture. Show them the outfits, give them the general creative direction and listen to their expert opinions. Sometimes another perspective is what you need to complete the look.
Provide inspiration and examples of looks.
Show them the models in advance so they know what they're working with.
We know plenty of great hair & makeup professionals, get in contact if you need one.
4 - The Days Before
Food, Water & Caffeine for the Machine
If there is a situation where quantity is more important than quality, feeding a team is that situation. Nobody will remember to bring a packed lunch and you need to feed everyone. But think of this as an investment in better images and efficiency in keeping people on-set rather than out looking for lunch.
Cold water, milk, coffee & tea. A platter of sandwiches or sushi. Fruit & nuts to snack on. That's the minimum but your team will be thank you for a better spread with boosted enthusiasm and better images. An army marches on its stomach. For larger budgets, find out if a nearby cafe or store can be utilised for hot espressos and lunch goods and ask if they need advanced notice. Or get food delivered by Uber or head to the supermarket, Nigella.
Here at Asset Factory in Kingsland, we have a full kitchen for you to utilise. There’s a selection of tea, freshly-roasted Atomic Coffee beans, a Rocket Espresso Machine and sometimes a few snacks. We're within 5 minutes walk to a number of great nearby eateries: Greenleaf Organics, Hero Sandwich, Harlan Pepper Food Co, Bluebells Bakery and more.
Get fully equipped
Build up a tool kit of equipment for every eventuality.
Pins - clothing pins, safety pins.
Shoes often get scuffed even with minimal wear from models so you can use electrical or painting tape with low-stick glue to protect the soles.
New disposable garments for the models, if required: socks, stockings, leggings or undergarments for the models. (New products require very little removal of dust and rogue fibres in post-production editing)
Leather polish & leather accessories.
Microfibre cloths & glass cleaner or similar, for handling high-shine objects.
Snips or scissors for loose threads, garment tags and visible care labels
A way to quickly retag your sample garments such as a Dennison Pin Tag Gun or plastic loop tags. Recalling which Black Mini Skirt is which a few days later is not always straightforward.
Garment tape and sewing kits or equipment for when a sample falls apart unexpectedly.
Baby wipes, lint rollers or other cleaning equipment
Iron, ironing board and garment steamer.
At Asset Factory we have some of the above, get in contact if you want to double check the availability on a particular day.
Get In Contact
Get all the contact details of everyone in one place and share it with one another. Make sure your team knows where and when you’re meeting. Provide directions, parking information, carpooling or other transport suggestions. There is a 100% chance of at least one person getting lost on the way, towed from a car park they shouldn’t be in or late because they had to park in Tauranga and walk to Kingsland because all the available parking in between was taken.
5 - Shoot Day
At the start of the day ensure the team knows exactly what they’re doing for the day and what the end result should be. Especially if there are a few new people on set. Who is preparing the next outfit? Who is styling and keeping an eye on the garments or products being in their best position on the model? Who is packing up and re-tagging the products afterwards? And most importantly - who’s getting the end of day pinot noir?
Some of your hard-earned product preparation might have been undone in the process from moving your goods from A to B. Be prepared for some additional garment steaming and product preparation. The better organised you are before the shoot, the more you can focus on producing great imagery.
Make sure to not neglect your shot list. Once you’ve achieved a winning shot or two according to your shot list, it’s time to move on to the next shot. Not onwards to shoot something arty for someone’s portfolio. Although, sometimes those are the best shots of the day.
Nail the image coding process before your shoot. Sorting through 1200 file names starting with _M3A78932 is much less efficient than AW18_Jackets_JM52 so this is something to spend time with your photographer discussing or setting up on our machines. Especially if your stock management software can assign attributes to your products based on file names.
Trust that your planning will make everything alright and be prepared for something to not go according to plan.
Have you got any additional tips? Tell us in the comments below.