How to Successfully Pre-Produce a Photoshoot
Looking on photography groups and forums, you’ll quickly find a reoccurring problem among photographers. No Call, No Shows. It’s going to happen regardless of your location and the seriousness of the industry, and security deposits sometimes scare clients away all together. So how do you counteract this and ensure that your talent and team are timely, and even show up?
I’m proud to say, only while I’m knocking on wood at the same time, that I haven’t had a no call no show in over a year. I’ve grown comfortable and confident that my subject will arrive on time, and that my entire team consisting of a hair stylist, makeup artist, wardrobe stylist, and sometimes, a video production team do as well. However, this wasn’t always the case, and I saw a sudden shift on when it all changed. It changed after I read a couple books on leadership and mastering your craft, and they helped me develop three key components needed for a successful pre production of photo shoots, or anything really.
The Three Components
Taking a leadership role during a photoshoot is the most important part of pre producing a high scale photoshoot. Don’t get me wrong, I want input from others. I look at everyone as a key component of a team, so I certainly what their creative sides to come out during the shoot as well. However, like most creative outlets, people often need to be fenced in a little bit to really get the urge to explore.
I think of it like a band. If anyone has ever been in a band before, you know the dynamic of having the band leader. They’re the one that gets things done, schedules practices, and often, gets the most gigs for the band. Certainly, the songwriting portion is a collective effort, but the band leader is the one who puts forth more than any other member. You have to be the band leader of your own photo team.
In my most recent shoot, in which I plan to show you a comprehensive behind the scenes to in a couple days, I was able to get a model, makeup artist, hair stylist, wardrobe stylist (and sponsoring boutique), classic car, and a video production team, both on the ground and aerial. This wasn’t done through a promise of fortune, through weeks of planning (It was all done in the course of a week and a half), or with any other secret techniques. It was done because I was distinct on what I was looking for, vocalized it well, and showed the utmost amount of professionalism and dedication to the project.
One example of this is my formatted paperwork I send out to each of my shoots. I have branded my work accordingly, and made it so all of my paperwork is clean, stylish, matching, and to the point. If I’m putting together a concept, I will send what I want from every part of the team in text format, as well as a concept board to follow it. This is all built in photoshop, and packaged as a PDF for their viewing. It looks so much nicer and far more serious than if I was to just copy and paste some text to them in email. It takes a little extra time, but if you want to produce a high quality shoot, that level of quality must be present in every single step. That brings me to the next component.
This one is paramount. You have to have the drive to get all the steps done for the photoshoot prior to it even happening. If that means finding a hair stylist, makeup artist and wardrobe stylist, then it still must be done. You cannot be lazy on any step of the way, as you don’t want to be left embarrassed on location when you get caught without a permit.
Perhaps the best part of motivation all is that it’s contagious. When you work hard on a group collaborative, all it does is encourage others to work hard as well. Stay highly ambitious, and watch how ambitious others can become as well.
For this recent shoot for example, I contacted different publications prior to even shooting it. I just sent them an email with a concept board attached, and a link to my portfolio. None of them got back to be, but I sent them an email again with some examples of the final product after I had shot it and had a edited a couple photos from the session. During all of this, I let the team know what I was doing, which only encouraged them to reach out to publications as well.
“Hard work beats talent when talent fails to work hard.” – Kevin Durant
You absolutely have to make yourself available, and be sure others in your team are as well. When I’m working with a big team, I look to meet with them a few days before the shoot and chat. Often, we’ll meet for coffee or a beer, and talk about anything other than the shoot itself. I’m not meeting with them to talk shop, I’m meeting with them to build a relationship with them. Not only will it help provide me with some insight on how they work if I haven’t worked with them already, but it’ll provide them with insight on how I work as well. My paperwork is usually very authoritative in nature, though I work best in a very casual setting. Its important for my team to know that.
For this recent shoot, I met with the stylist at Toad Road, the boutique sponsoring the shoot a few days before the shoot. I had the model come along, so that she could meet myself, and Solve Maxwell, the stylist for the shoot. Not only was this a comfortable environment to get to know each other, but we were also able to do fittings and wardrobe selection at the same time. The next day, I met with the owner of the ’69 Camaro we were using for the shoot. Certainly I knew it was going to be beautiful, as I saw plenty of photos of it beforehand. I didn’t really want to see the car for myself, I was much more interested in talking to Curt, the owner, and getting to know who he is. Each person I met with before the shoot got my business card, and was told to call or text if they have any questions or need anything. Building these relationships will help insure that you don’t get a cancellation 15 minutes before showtime.
Producing a photoshoot with a large team is a lot of work. When done correctly, and with the right team, it can yield some really great results. But there are no shortcuts; if you want to have a high caliber of work, you need to plan accordingly and work diligently before the shoot even begins. I will have an entire breakdown of the session this weekend here on Fstoppers, with lighting diagrams, retouching tips, and a behind the scenes video. Until that point, enjoy this teaser video put together by my video team from the session.