Useful Tips for Saving a Photo Shoot

Useful Tips for Saving a Photo Shoot

There is no perfect shoot, but here are some useful tips that could save you and your final images against possible mishaps. It is better to be prepared against various external factors. 

Learn to Be Your Own Assistant

Whether you’re an amateur or a professional photographer, it is always better to have a sidekick on set, but what if your assistant cannot come to set on time or gets sick? Well, you should consider everything for a stress-free shooting. First of all, as a photographer, you should be at your photo set on time, even before everyone, to take control of everything you can in any circumstances.  Secondly, always keep a reflector holder. That will be the most useful gadget in case of a photo assistant absence.

Keep Some Cosmetics With You

If you’re shooting portraits, it is common for a client to not want a makeup artist, due to financial reasons. They don’t want to spend extra money for a makeup artist, but they always expect to have perfect images. Therefore, at least just to match the overall skin tones on someone's face, always keep powder and a makeup brush with you. By the way, it is better if you have different colors of powder ready for different skin types. It will save lots of time on post-processing.

Keep Color Gels in Your Photo Bag

Imagine you’re hired for a last-minute shoot, and you don’t have a chance to scout the location. Sometimes, storyboards don’t match the reality. If you’re shooting inside, always have different color gels in your strobe case. If you haven’t shot with color gels before, you will be surprised with the effect you’ll get. Using trial and error, change the color of your lights, and shoot with the best combination. Gels are one of the most important shoot savers. They can totally change the mood of the image, and sometimes, you get better results than you imagined.

Color gels are magical pieces.

Don’t Underestimate the Power of Color Grading

Contrary to ordinary thought, you can shoot whenever you want, even under rain. Well, sometimes the results don’t come as expected due to gray weather and lack of tones in the image. The weather can turn to gray even you start shooting on a sunny day. Everything is possible in terms of weather conditions during a shoot. Well, converting to black and white could be a solution, but sometimes, we just want to use color images. Therefore, during post-processing, always try to achieve the best results after color correction, and then, apply your color grading. While doing this, try different methods and software, learn about different color spaces and presets, and definitely check out what you can do with 3D LUTs.

Color grading is your friend.

Fake It Until You Make It

What if your model is in a bad mood during your shoot? Models are human as well, and even in professional work, it is normal to face a situation like this, and photographers should empathize with it. I’ve done many shoots with professional models who were hungover, tired of working for the whole week, or had a recent breakup with their lover. This can happen to any of us, whether we are working with an amateur or a professional model. As a photographer, it is your duty to keep your model’s mood up for the sake of your shoot. So, even if you don’t like the poses, pretend that you really like them, and get what you want in terms of photography. Try not to reflect your real thoughts and feelings in your words and body language. This attitude will definitely change your model’s mood, and you’ll soon see the change.

Create Your Own Wardrobe

No, you’re not obligated to be fashion stylists. But, as most of us know well, finding a fashion stylist for personal shoots is a real hassle. I’ve only worked with professional models when I started to build my portfolio; I had good connections with model agencies, so it was easy for me to book professional models, but it wasn’t easy to find a stylist and convince them to collaborate. So, most of the time, I asked models to bring their own clothes, but I never got good results with that method. Therefore, just to build my portfolio, I bought some women's clothing: dress, shoes, and accessories to use on my shootings. You don’t have to buy expensive stuff; just buy some cheap replica shoes, black jackets, and stilettos. They are always better than jeans and a shirt. 


It is always better to keep a separate camera body in your bag, because you never know when your fancy DSLR will fail. Your backup camera doesn’t have to be as good as your main camera body.  Any camera will be fine in case of an emergency where you are too far to find another body. Lenses rarely fail, but it’s better keeping a nifty fifty lens as well. They’re cheap, yet they’re sharp and perfect workhorses.  Batteries, cables (if you’re shooting tethered), and memory cards can fail easily, so have some backups.

Never Rely on Your Equipment

Every brand and every product can break down during a shoot. I used to do shoots using rental Hasselblad bodies and Phase One backs, tethering with the latest Mac and the recent software. Yeah, this sounds like a very expensive and perfect setup, but they fail too. Unfortunately, nothing is perfect in the digital world. Luckily, rental companies always keep the spare gear and digital operators ready for any possible issues, but if you want to start building your own studio and buy your own gear, spend a bit more and buy backup gear. I've even seen Elinchrom, Broncolor, and Profoto strobes fail. Even if you’re going to use only two strobes, always keep the thirrd strobe ready in case of an emergency. The same principle is valid for the rest of your equipment.

In conclusion, these are some of the tips and tricks that I’ve been using for eliminating mishaps during or after a photo shoot. If you have any useful tips that you use in any kind of photography, please share in the comments section below.

Burak Erzincanli's picture

Burak is a photographer and creative retoucher specialising in fashion and advertising, working with international clients from Canada, Europe and Australia.

Currently lives and works in Manchester, UK.

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Thank you!

I would also suggest always backing up your shot's to external hard drives and having 2 copies always, nothing worse than following all your suggestions above yet your hard drive get's broken, stolen,dropped or corrupt. In Studio I keep shot's in my computer and back up everything to a raid dual drive HD after each shot, on location I use a NEXTO to copy all files and sometimes keep shot's on my CF or SD cards until I get back to the studio or Hotel where I also make double back ups. I am pretty paranoid but I get paid well by my clients and a Days shoot including models, location fees, etc etc is impossible to reshoot due to the costs. Just the Models fees, hotel fees etc would bankrupt me if I had to do reshoot. Cards are relatively cheap these days so buy a bunch and keep the days shoot on the cards, CF are really hard to destroy or break.
Just my opinion. PS. NEVER trust just your assistant to correctly copy things and download correctly, I ask my assistant many times if he is sure he copied the files correctly before I reformat, If I have to reformat on location. In studio I am almost 100% tethered unless I have to do some extremely fast shooting.

Thank you for sharing this good advice Sir!
I'm paranoid about the data as well, I even shoot tethered on location and do double backups, and I keep the hard drives on different bags separately until I go back to my home (just in case if a car hits me behind and crashes my trunk with all the equipments) yeah this is the highest level of my paranoia :)

Keeping basic cosmetic supplies in your bag is CRUCIAL, especially if working with women. Even a little bit of wind can ruin a photo shoot by blowing the model's hair everywhere. Having a brush can save your shoot.
Also small clamps and clothespins are a must because you can use them to hold the model's clothing in place. These little details can make a world of difference.

yeah you are definitely right about the clamps Antonio, I'll add that on my list!

Silly question, but what is the camera make and model in the opening photo? Looks interesting!

Fuji X-20 ;)