Steps to Having a Successful Photo Shoot

At SCAD, photo shoots happen all the time. The first time I did a photoshoot for a class I was completely overwhelmed. From the mood conception to post work there are a lot of steps that are unclear when you’re just starting out, here's how  create a successful photo shoot.

Finding a photographer

Finding a photographer can be a challenge because there are so many to choose from. Photographers have specialities. Some have experience with fashion, landscapes, food, etc. Make sure the photographer has an interest in your concept. You should also consider their location preference.

Once you find someone that fits your needs, give them as much information as possible to give them the vision of your shoot. Let them know the cencept and format and show them mood boards and refrence photos. Timelines are important too. Consider the turnaround time. Does the photographer have enough time to edit all of your photos in time for you to finish your assignment? Photo majors have a lot of their own work too, so make sure you give them the time frame early on.


Creating a shot list is a must. This is a list of all of the shots you need to for your project. Some people chose to describe this and sketch thumbnails. Whichever way you choose to do it; it is essential for the photographer so they can get the shots you need, in addition to ones they think will look great.

Decide where the shoot will take place. If you want to work in the studio, let your photographer know so they can reserve the space. If you’ve chosen to do a location shoot, check it out ahead of time. Some locations need permission, i.e. inside buildings. Also have backup locations ready in case something unexpected happens, like road closings, or bad weather.

If you’re doing a shoot that involves models, have multiple clothing options, in case something doesn’t fit or look right. Hair and makeup is essential too. Many students are eager to help with hair/makeup or you can do it yourself too, just pull some reference images so that the whole team is on the same page.

The Shoot

It is important that the talent on set is comfortable so they can perform their best. Make sure to bring water and snacks. Consider the weather too; if it's cold, bring blankets, if there is a chance of rain, bring umbrellas. Touch up kits for hair and makeup are important, especially if it’s a long shoot. Don’t forget, photo shoots are fun! Keep the atmosphere high energy, with music and a friendly team.

Talk to your photographer before you start about directing the models. In many cases, it is best to talk through the photographer, to direct models properly but every case is different, so discuss it as a team. It's your shoot, so don’t be afraid to ask to see pictures along the way. You need to make sure you are getting the aesthetic you want. Don’t wait till after wrap to discover the pictures don’t have the look you’re going for.

Post Shoot

Photographers tend to be very attached to their work; most don’t like others editing their photos. If you see something you need to change, be aware and ask their permission first. Some don’t mind and some might make the change for you, but when in doubt, ask. When the project is completed make sure to give proper credit to everyone who contributed and send everyone a final copy.