How To Prepare For A Photoshoot – The Photographer’s Guide

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How To Prepare For A Photoshoot As A Photographer

Learning how to prepare for a photoshoot is a crucial step in making sure everything runs smoothly the day of. As a photographer, it’s your job to work with your clients and models to create a fun atmosphere. To capture the best images, you want your subjects to feel comfortable with you, and trust you know what you’re doing. In order to make that happen it’s crucial you’re well prepared! The last thing you want is to have forgotten something or are missing that one lens you needed. Whether you’re looking to streamline your workflow or prepare for your very first photoshoot, this post will outline the best tips to make everything run smoothly.

Consider The Location Of Any Photoshoot


The most important part of preparing for a photoshoot is to scout the location. As the photographer, it’s important you know the ins and outs of the area you’re shooting.

How busy is the area?

Is it a safe place to put your gear down or is it in a rougher part of town?

What type of terrain will you be dealing with? Any mud or puddles?

How long of a walk will it be from the car to the shooting location?

What backup options will you have if ‘location A’ doesn’t work out?

These are just a few questions to ask yourself as you settle on a location for your photoshoot.

The location will constantly change depending on who and what you’re shooting. Some places will provide more challenges than others, especially if they require a decent walk in.

It’s important to know the ins and outs of the location you’ll be at for a variety of reasons. The demands of a specific location will dictate:

  • How much camera equipment you bring
  • Whether or not flashes are required
  • What types of lens filters you’ll need (if any)
  • How you pack your camera bag
  • What clothing you wear

It’s unlikely you’d pack the same way for a shoot in a coffee shop versus a photoshoot on the top of a mountain. Each location has its own nuances you need to stay aware of.


– Scouting Locations Local To You

Fortunately, as a photographer, you’re often the one in charge of finding a location. You’re able to choose a place that makes your life easier but still works well for the image.

If you’re shooting locally, try your best to actually visit a location in person. This is by far the best way to get a ‘lay of the land’ and envision the photos you want.

While you’re out running errands, drop by the location for a few minutes and just walk around. Take note of any challenges in the area regarding access, terrain, or busyness that could cause issues on the day of the actual photoshoot.

It would really throw a wrench in things if you planned to shoot in a certain area that happens to get overrun with people. It’s best to discover these types of things ahead of time. That way you have more time to think of alternative locations to shoot at before you’re with a client.

By addressing problems before they happen, you’ll look like the master of planning to anyone you photograph.

– Scouting Locations Far Away From You

It’s not always possible to scout a location in person beforehand. It’s not worth your time to drive a few hours just to look at something quickly.

99% of the time you can get a good idea of any location with some online detective work.

With Instagram location tags, Google Maps, and Google Earth, you can get all the information you need.

Instagram location tags are the most basic level of virtual location scouting you can do. Here you’ll likely see some of the most popular spots and get an idea for how busy it gets. If there are a ton of recent posts from the area, it’s safe to say it’s well populated.

Depending on the place, you’ll often find the most ‘Instagrammable’ views here. This can provide an idea of why people visit a certain location or where the best scenery is.


Google Maps offers a view of access points, parking locations, and distances. For example, you might see a great view on a location tag, but it’s a 25-minute walk to get there.

Depending on your client, maybe that’s not the best place to go.

If you’re shooting in the city, Google Maps will also help you preplan where you can park. This way you can find the best parking in the closest vicinity for you or your client.


Google Earth offers a lot of the same as Google Maps, but with better viewing options. With Google Earth you can utilize better street view features to get a virtual look at a location.

This will help you to understand the layout of the area, and what you can expect when you get there.

With the help of these three tools, you can get a virtual look at nearly any location. Even if the location’s hours away, this will help to prepare for a photoshoot and make the day run smoother.

Discuss With Your Models Ideas And Styles For The Photoshoot

The second you’re getting paid to take photos for someone, you should aim towards their tastes.

To clarify, I don’t necessarily mean change the style of your work, but rather the mood of the pictures.

Luckily you don’t need to think too hard about this one though. If you’ve already been booked for the shoot, they already love your style of photos!

Regardless, ask your client what types of photos inspire them. Take note of any color palettes, poses, or locations they seem to like the look of.


By catering to these tastes, it’s a guarantee they’ll love the final images even more!

While you prepare for a photoshoot as a photographer you can take it one step further. Prepare your own list of mood boards or photo inspiration that you want to emulate.


Sharing these ideas help to bring you and your client onto the same page. Not every person you photograph will have an idea of what they exactly want. That’s why offering up some ideas of your own is a great way to get the conversation started.

Here are just a few reasons why discussing ideas and styles before a photoshoot is useful:

  • Give the client a better idea of what to expect and build their excitement
  • Offer you added confidence knowing exactly what and how you’ll take the photos
  • Make the photoshoot run smoother since you have a general plan
  • Make finding the location for your photoshoot much easier

Will You Need An Extra Set Of Hands For Your Shoot?


You don’t need to be shooting for the front cover of Vogue to qualify for some extra help. Depending on the location or how much set-up is involved, having an extra set of hands goes a long way.

Ask a friend or family member if they are available to help you for an hour or two. If you can, offer to pay them but at the very least buy them lunch!

Having someone else there to help you during all stages of a photoshoot makes a big difference.

Whether it be just to hold a bounce in place, move a light stand, or help you move gear. All these little things eat away a lot of time when it’s left to one person to do.

Consider whether or not you’ll need some extra help well ahead of time while you prepare for a photoshoot. Giving as much notice as possible helps people to arrange their schedules.

Plus if you struggle to find someone, asking ahead of time gives you more time to seek someone out!

Consider What Equipment Is Essential For The Photoshoot

You don’t always need every single lens, filter, and camera accessory you own for each photoshoot. Consider what you actually need to lessen the clutter and weight of your gear on the day of.

Unless you’re shooting in a studio, odds are you’ll be carrying around your camera gear. Rather than carrying every piece of equipment you own, slim it down.


A lighter bag will not only save your back but give you more energy over the course of a long day.

The biggest contributor to weight and space in a camera bag is lenses. When you can, opt to use zoom lenses instead of multiple primes to save space.


Zoom lenses are extremely handy because they cover a wide range of focal lengths in a single lens. With just two lenses you can cover the entire range of 14mm – 100mm in some cases!

Unless you have a specific reason to carry a bunch of prime lenses, save the weight and pack fewer lenses when possible.


The second piece of gear that eats up space is lens filters. Although small, they quickly fill up pockets and leftover corners of your bag.

When you’re photographing an outdoor photoshoot, lens filters can come in handy, but not all of types.

Say goodbye to your 10-stop ND’s and grad filters you’re unlikely to use. At the most, all you will need is a polarizing filter and a UV filter for your photoshoot.

Ultimately what matters most is to reduce the clutter and weight of your bag. You don’t want anything to overflow from your zippers or have a hard time finding things.

Ensure you know exactly where everything is and your gear is as streamlined as possible when you prepare for a photoshoot. Sure it might look more ‘pro’ to have 10 different lights set up, but that doesn’t mean you’ll get a better photo.

What Photographers Should Prepare The Day Before A Photoshoot


To make sure your photoshoot goes smoothly as a photographer, it’s important to prepare ahead of time. Here are some things you should do the day before a photoshoot.

– Charge Your Camera Batteries

Without batteries, you won’t be taking many photos! Make sure to charge all of your camera batteries the day before a photoshoot.

At the very minimum, you should have two fully charged batteries. In case the shoot goes longer than expected or a battery malfunctions, having a backup is key.

If you’ll be using an off-camera flash, make sure to double-check those batteries too. It’s easy to forget about those AA and AAA batteries required for certain accessories.

If you aren’t already, it’s a good idea to use rechargeable AA and AAA batteries. It saves money, reduces waste, and saves you countless trips to the store. I’d definitely recommend the Energizer Recharge Pro Batteries!

– Organize Your Gear And Pack Your Bags

Consider what gear you need for the shoot and pack it into your bag. Take a moment to remove any unnecessary items from your camera bag as well.

Anything you can do to streamline the weight and clutter of your bag is a good idea. Only carry what the equipment you’re going to use for a particular photoshoot!

– Clean your Lenses And Filters


Rather than doing this the day of, clean all your camera gear while you prepare for a photoshoot. This way you can just pull out your camera on location and start shooting without the worry of smudges!

If you’re new to cleaning your camera gear, be sure to check out this post on how to prevent scratches and damage to your equipment!

– Plan Out How Long It Will Take To Get To The Location

Confirm where and when the photoshoot is taking place. Type in the address to Google Maps and take note of how long it will take to get there.

Will you be leaving at rush hour? Be sure to take that into consideration!

It’s a good idea to arrive 15-20 minutes early to get a feel for the area and greet your clients when they arrive.

Once you know how long it will take to get there, set a time to leave for the following day.

– Reach Out To Your Models & Assistants

Send a quick text to anyone who’s coming to the photoshoot. Just something like:

“Looking forward to tomorrow! See you at 9 am”

This is a good way to gently remind them of the shoot and encourage them to ask any last-minute questions.

It also adds a nice touch to show you’re keen and well organized.

– Print Out Any Contracts or Permits To Keep In Your Bag

If you have to deal with any contracts or permits for the photoshoot, print out a copy to carry with you.

Some people are painfully slow at signing digital contracts. Bringing a physical copy with a pen for them to sign at the photoshoot makes it easier for everyone.

What Photographers Should Do The Day Of A Photoshoot


Today’s the big day. Here are a few tips to make sure your photoshoot is a positive experience!

– Arrive Early For The Photoshoot

Arrive 15-20 minutes early for the photoshoot at the minimum. Depending on if you need time to set up, consider arriving even sooner!

By arriving early you get the chance to settle in and get your bearings. You can get your gear ready or anything else you need to do to streamline the process once your models arrive.

Ideally, you’ll be ready to go the second your clients show up. This way you’re not wasting anyone’s time and you look more professional.

– Go Over What Types Of Shots You Want In Your Head

Go over exactly what you planned to accomplish for this photoshoot in your head. What types of angles, poses, backgrounds, or lighting setups are you aiming for?


Try to create a mental map of what you want to accomplish and tick each one off as the photoshoot progresses.

When you constantly review what you were hoping to capture, it’s far less likely that you’ll forget about that crucial shot.

If you’re not great with memory, it’s never a bad idea to carry a small notebook in your camera bag. Hopefully, you’ve filled this notebook with ideas and requirements the day before your photoshoot!

– Stay Active And Chatty

Nothing helps people feel more comfortable with you than if you’re chatty. Try to learn something new about the person you’re photographing or share how you got started with photography.

The second someone feels more comfortable around you, the more natural they will look in pictures.


If the situation allows, you can even say things while taking photos to make your subject smile or laugh more naturally.

People won’t remember the photographer who was quiet and awkward while taking photos. Try to be yourself, actively spark up conversations, and make your client feel like they’re hanging out with friends.

Doing this will significantly boost your chances of getting referred to their friends or getting rehired!

– Show Your Models Photos From Your Camera To Build Excitement

It can be unnerving for some models to hear the shutter clicking away but have no idea what the photos look like. Every so often, show your subjects a few of the photos to get them excited.

Giving them proof that you’re taking awesome photos and making them look great will boost their confidence. The more confident someone becomes, the more natural and fun they can act during the photoshoot!

– Be Sure To Pack Snacks And Water For Yourself

As a photographer, you don’t get much rest during a photoshoot. To keep your energy levels high and your brainpower at 100%, bring some snacks and water.

Keeping a few things to eat in your bag is always a good idea for a pick-me-up at midday. By keeping yourself well fueled you’ll notice a huge difference in your focus and attention to detail throughout the photoshoot.

What Photographers Should Do The Day After A Photoshoot


Now that the photoshoot is over, the work is hardly done. For photographers, this is just the second half!

– Send A Folder Of Selects For Your Client To Favorite (When Applicable)

In some cases, you may want to send your client select images to choose from. This helps you to perfectly narrow down the photos and only edit the ones they really want.

To make a selects folder, go through Lightroom (or your program of choice) and cull through the images. Rate or flag the best photos from the shoot and export them to their own folder.

Remember, you don’t need to edit the photos. Maybe a slight exposure adjustment to balance things out at the most. Just something to give your client a good look at the best photos.

From here you can upload your images to a freemium website called Pixieset. This site allows you to make catalogs of pictures for your clients to view online. They can go through your selects and ‘favorite’ the ones they like best.


You can then use this favorite list to further slim down the selects for the shoot. Now you’ll have a perfect selection of photos that your clients will be happy with!

From here it’s time to edit your pictures.

– Begin Editing The Photos

With your images culled and selected, it’s time to work some photo editing magic.

Editing your photos shortly after a shoot is always a good idea to ensure timely delivery. Aim to have all your photos done and delivered within 3-7 days. Depending on the number of photos you have of course!

– Send Thank You Messages To Anyone Involved In The Photoshoot


It’s important to acknowledge your appreciation for people you collaborate with and work with. Send a message to anyone involved expressing how much you enjoyed the shoot and hope to do it again.

Saying thank you goes a long way and shows you actually care. If you’re kind to the people who work with you, they’ll continue to stick around well into the future.

– Write Up An Invoice (When It’s A Paid Photoshoot)

If you are getting paid for this photoshoot, make sure to put together an invoice the day after the shoot. Unless you already have an invoice template you use, definitely checkout Invoicely. 


Invoicely is a super simple invoice making site that helps you track money, clients, and invoices. It’s totally free to get started with but does have more premium features if you want to upgrade. If you’re just getting started with creating invoices, this is a great way to make it easier!


Learning how to prepare for a photoshoot as a photographer can feel pretty overwhelming the first few times. There’s more pressure to take great photos and more business to take care of.

It gets easier each photoshoot you do so don’t let yourself get overwhelmed. Eventually, you’ll find a groove that works for you to make every shoot run smoothly.

The tips in this post are a great starting point to learn how to prepare for a photoshoot as a photographer. Depending on the nature and size of the shoot, you can customize certain steps to perfectly suit your needs!

If you know someone who’s about to do a photoshoot, be sure to share this post with them!

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I'm a Canadian photographer and photo retoucher turned founder of bwillcreative.com. Around here I help you to decode the mystery of photo editing with no-fluff videos and written guides to help you achieve your creative goals. Outside of shooting photos and my passion for educating, you'll find me mountain biking or on the trails with my dog, Sunny!

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