The Importance of Test Shoots

The Importance of Test Shoots

Most of us reach a stage in our career (usually early on) where we feel a bit lost and like we are on the wrong train. If you are stuck in that rut, here are some great reasons to get out there and start collaborating on test shoots.

Social Media Content

I know this sounds a bit wishy-washy, but we all need social media content. A lot of my commercial work can’t get shared on Instagram for various reasons, so I try and get at least one test shoot in each month to create some new content. This is usually geared toward food at the moment, as it is a field that I am pursuing with a lot more gusto this year. 

Testing New Techniques

We are always looking to improve our skills. A well thought out and executed test shoot with clear outcomes and objectives is a great way to do this. Rather than rambling around with a camera hoping to get a good photo, set out a clear learning objectives that requires you to push your technical or creative boundaries.

Get the Jobs You Really Want

If your career has been anything like mine, you have ended up shooting a lot of work that really wasn’t the big sexy ad campaigns that you had hoped for. Birthday parties, weddings, pack shots, and 100 headshots in 2 days for ID badges. The reason you are getting this work is that people assume it's what you do. If you want to be shooting food editorials, go and shoot food editorials every day until everyone knows you as the person who shoots them. You need to be doing test shoots for the work that you would one day want to have.

Testing Out New Kit

We have all made the classic mistake of turning up to a new job with brand new pieces of equipment. Most of my new kit is tested several times before it makes it onto paying jobs. There is nothing worse than ruining a shoot because of a technical issue with some of your kit. 

Getting Creative

A lot of what I do is dictated to me. The client gives me a brief and I go away and execute it. Test shoots are a great opportunity for me to see what I can produce under my own steam. I love having a blank canvas to go and create whatever I feel like. It’s so rare that I get paid to do that, so I do test shoots.

What have you gained from your test shoots?

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6 Comments

What stand/rig is being used to hold the camera for the overhead shots in the first photo?

Joe Giacomet's picture

I'm not sure specifically which brand of stand that one is, it looks like one of the cheaper ones. But Foba and Cambo are the main/best manufacturers of this type of camera stand.

Scott Choucino's picture

Yeah, its a Manfrotto Super Salon (the older version now). Very sturdy, but it has a major design fault in that the foot pedal to release and lock the wheels is held together by a loose pin that falls out about once a week and needs to be put back in place. The ordeal means tilting the massive heap of stand on its side whilst someone places the pin back in place. I should probably replace the pin with a similar sized nut and bolt.

On a real budget, you can use a background support pole with a super clamp to hold your tripod head. Then I think you can get a chinese knock off stand for about £500, mine came in at about £1200 and the Cambo stands are about £2000.

Ewan Paton's picture

I find it so funny how universal this problem is. I thought my studio just had a bad bunch

Richard Bradbury's picture

Every time I see one of those camera stands I start looking on ebay.

I typically hate tripods but am pretty sure it's not just because they get in the dam way but the fact that traditional tripods are so easy to knock.

Good article Scott.... very true words.

Kirk Darling's picture

I've got a big, sleek black Inka studio stand that glides like butter across the studio. It's like dancing with Ginger Rogers.