The five simple tips for a successful photoshoot

So you don’t have the budget for a team of wardrobe, hair and makeup stylists to get you ready for your shoot?  No problem!   A little creativity and some planning will reap huge rewards in the quality of your images.  Just remember there are FIVE things you must have for your shoot:

  1. Have a goal
  2. Have a wardrobe
  3. Have good Hair and/or Make up
  4. Have energy
  5. Have fun

I’m going to poke some fun at my friend Phil’s expense to show you want I mean.   Phil and I have been friends for quite a while and he has my eternal gratitude for gladly volunteering to be a test subject whenever I had a crazy shoot idea.  Because of these informal creative outings we’ve always had a pretty relaxed attitude when it came to shooting.    A few years back Phil wanted to take some photos that he could use for his acting/modeling career – something vaguely reminiscent of an Abercrombie and Fitch Ad.  I left it to him to put together his wardrobe, work on his muscles and we had a few rough ideas on where we wanted to shoot.  We didn’t have a very specific goal but we thought our plan would be good enough. When the day came to shoot I showed up to Phil’s house and we went through his wardrobe.  We picked some stuff from his closet but to be honest, some of the items were fished out of his dirty clothes hamper – So, we did our best (not very successfully) to try and put together a few looks.  We threw some product in his hair, stuffed his wrinkled wardrobe in his backpack and headed down the street to shoot outdoors.   Now Phil, for his part had been working VERY hard to be in shape for the shoot.  He worked out constantly and didn’t eat much so his Abs would show up in the shoot.  His Abs looked great but the problem was he was so hungry that he could barely concentrate; after about a half hour I lost him to fatigue.

So to recap – we were going to shoot an Abercrombie and Fitch Ad on a budget with a dirty wrinkled clothes from Old Navy, flip flops, a model who was so hungry he was ready to pass out and photographer who only had a vague plan about where to shoot.   Needless to say it wasn’t a very productive outing.  We did manage to get a few nice shoots but for what we vaguely set out to do, it was a bust.



Cut to – 2 years later.  Phil wants to do another shoot.  He wants some stock commercial modeling images for his portfolio. I decided to approach the shoot the same way I would with any client.  We had a consultation.

The first thing we did was to HAVE a set of GOALS – specific shots he needed.  It turned out to be 3 shots in 3 different locations which is do-able but a very long and potentially exhausting day.  I prepared him for the day and explained exactly what he would need to do to have the day be a success. I picked 3 locations specifically to lend credibility to the shots we had planned and for the quality of light at the time of day we were planning on shooting.


The next thing we did was talk about HAVING A WARDROBE.  I had him start pulling pages out of magazines and online publications so he could see how wardrobe stylists were dressing guys his age in stock photography shoots.   There are tons examples on how to dress and style yourself for photo shoots, all you have to do is look for them.  Professional stylists can put together complete looks but also know which colors photograph well and which ones do not.  They know how to choose colors that might pop out of a background or conversely steal the focus in a shot.   There is a great online tool you can use to start putting together boards of images that you find while surfing the web; it’s a new web site called Pinterest .  It’s the perfect place to share inspiration and lay out projects. I highly recommend you check it out.

Once we went through Phil’s wardrobe it was obvious that he didn’t have much in the way of commercial wardrobe.  SO, armed with images he collected and some advice from me, he went shopping.  ALL professional stylists will pull looks from different stores to style their shoots.  They bring LOTS of choices in both style and color so they are prepared for different backgrounds and models.   MOST of those clothes get returned by the end of the shoot.   Phil bought his 3 complete looks for his 3 shots as well as plenty of options.  While he did keep some of the items, he ended up returning most of what he bought so wardrobe didn’t have to cost him a ton of money.

We made sure he had GOOD HAIR and/or MAKEUP.  He got his hair was cut a week prior so it had time to settle and he was able to get used to styling it himself.  This is something I recommend to everyone.  Make sure you don’t make any drastic changes to your hair the day before your shoot.  If you’re going to die it or get it cut do it at least a week before.   He also bought some simple make up for men.  You can get it an Macy’s – I recommend going to the MAC cosmetic counter and Macy’s.  They will be happy to find just the right shade of concealer and powder and even teach you how to use it.

Helpful tip for both Men and Women:  Go to Macy’s a few hours before your shoot and they will most likely do your make up for you.  Professional Makeup artist for free!  Just don’t overdo it.   And if your budget allows for the added expense, I can arrange for a hair and makeup artist to be on set for your shoot.

Since we had very specific GOALS I was able to plan out our day;  the shoot would take  9 hours total. We schedule breaks and brought plenty of food and drink so he would HAVE ENERGY.   In fact, I recommend that you keep your schedule light on your shoot day so you arrive relaxed and ready to HAVE FUN.  Get plenty of sleep and drink lots of water starting a few days before your shoot – it will help clear up your skin and minimize the bags under your eyes.   Try and avoid tanning beds or spray tans AT LEAST a week before you shoot.  Eat frequent small and healthy meals to keep your blood sugar up.   Thankfully this time around, Phil didn’t starve himself and lots of energy when he needed it.  We had a great shoot!   – it was lots of FUN because we were prepared and most importantly, we got ALL the shots we needed.


So there you have it –  Five simple tips to help you get the most out of your shoot.  Remember, whether your  a commercial client with a big budget or you’ve saved up money for a shoot for yourself,  Every shoot I book includes consultations and email follow ups so that you feel completely prepared.   Let’s make some beautiful images!