There’s nothing worse for a photographer (or a client) than a badly executed photo shoot.  There are many ways that a photography shoot can go wrong that are completely out of your control; something as simple as the weather can ruin your shoot in no time.  However, there are some things that you can do to ensure the best possible outcome for your shoot.

Help your clients feel comfortable

You will always get better results from a client who feels comfortable and confident. Taking the time to get to know your clients before their scheduled session will help them feel more comfortable with you as their photographer. You can promote a sense of comfort during your shoot by allowing the client to bring their favorite music to play while you photograph them.  You should also be sure to ask permission before touching someone, communicate throughout the session, and try to remain positive and encouraging in all of your interactions with your client. When it comes to posing, try to mirror what you’d like your client to do and allow them to see how the poses look on camera to visualize what the final product will look like. If you’re shooting children, you may want to bring along some snacks, toys, or other items to distract little ones and avoid tantrums.

Have a plan and a backup plan

Being organized and planning ahead is key to a smooth shoot! You will want to make sure that you have all of the equipment you’ll need and backup equipment when possible. Try to develop a plan with your client for the type of posing and images you want to capture to create a session game plan.  If possible, take the time to arrive at your shoot location a little early so that you can get a feel for the best areas for good lighting, angles, and interesting backdrops for capturing the best photos. Take some test shots to ensure that your camera settings are ideal for the setting you’ll be shooting in. Have a backup plan in mind for if something goes wrong so you can try to avoid finding yourself fixing problems on the fly. For example, if you are in an area with unpredictable weather patterns, it may be wise to book a backup session date.  With the proper planning, you will give yourself the best foundation for a great shoot.

Know your equipment

Knowing your equipment is so vital to a smooth session. If you constantly have to fuss with your camera and other equipment, you could be wasting valuable session time. If you plan properly beforehand, you should have a good idea of what settings you’ll need for the session you’re working on. By knowing your equipment and setting it correctly for the session type and location, you can use your time to focus on your client. The best way to get to know your equipment is by practicing.  The more you use your equipment, the better and faster you’ll be getting exactly the shot you want when you’re working with a client. Plus, not knowing exactly how to use your equipment to get the desired effect is just a stressor that you don’t want or need affecting your session.

Know your subjects 

This is especially important for wedding and family portrait shoots.  You will need to talk to your client about who will be at the session.  You need to know how many people will be there, how the different subjects relate to each other, people who will absolutely need to be included in various configurations, and whether or not there will be small children or pets included in the shoot. You’ll want to discuss the dress code with your client so that everyone will be coordinating if that’s the type of photo the client is looking for. Make a list of different groupings of people such as mother/child, father/child, grandparents/grandchildren, siblings, etc., so that you can be sure to capture everything you need. This information will be essential for planning your shoot and ensuring that you have the proper equipment on hand to get the job done.  You should also keep in mind that larger groups tend to have a shorter attention span, so being quick with your shots will be critical.

Be efficient 

Efficiency is essential to a smooth shoot. Efficiency starts with planning ahead; knowing what poses you want to capture, what locations you’re going to utilize, and what settings you need to capture each shot will make the actual work of capturing the image much quicker. Try not to make your clients hold a specific pose for too long; that can get uncomfortable and make it much more challenging to get a good shot.  While you want to capture each pose quickly, you still want to avoid the spray and pray shooting method (meaning rapid-fire shooting and hoping that something comes out).  Take the time to make sure that you are capturing the exact look and style you’re going for by checking your work often to ensure the correct lighting, framing, and composition as you go. Try to set a certain amount of time for each pose so that you can get a good variety of photos.  You also want to make sure that you aren’t trying to do too much in one session.  If you’ve only got an hour to get the shots you need, you don’t want to try to do too many location changes, wardrobe changes, or an excessive amount of poses. Having too much on the schedule just causes you to feel rushed and won’t produce your best work. 

Photography is an art form, but there is a science behind it to get the best results as with any other artistic pursuit.  By following these simple tips, you will give yourself the best opportunity to enjoy the process and provide your clients with the best experience and create photos they’ll treasure forever.