Your first photoshoot – 5 tips to ace it

5 Tips To Get Through Your First Fashion Shoot

Surviving your first job

Recently I was talking with a friend  about a photoshoot I did for Mint Clothing.

He, as I once did, is doing his first paid photo shoot for a local clothing company and asked me for some advice on how to go about it.

The prospect of doing your first job is always terrifying (what if they don’t like my pictures? what if I suck? I’ll be outed as a fraud!). First let me tell you something, you’ll be fine. Seriously.

With time you will forget these feelings, but in the mean time it can be a nerve wrecking experience.

Here I share with you 5 tips which will help you feel more at ease and  get the best possible pictures during these first shoots, so let’s get started!

1 - Trust Yourself

Let’s think about it for a second. you have been hired to do this photoshoot, chances are, they have seen your work and are happy with the kind of results you could realistically deliver.

They probably won’t expect Annie leibovitz if they are paying you $50 an hour.

You know your stuff, you’ve done it countless times, the only difference is that this time you’ll be payed for it, and the people who hired you believe so, that’s why they are willing to pay you for it

there are hundreds of photographers out there, if they didn’t think you were good, why would they bother?

Impostor syndrome is a real thing and one of my favourite authors, Neil Gaiman explains it perfectly here (it’s around the 7 min mark but honestly if you have time, watch it all, it’s really worth it.)

He describes it as feeling that he shouldn’t be making money writing, that eventually he would need to get a “real” job because he couldn’t really be a writer.

Translated to photography, it’s the feeling that you’re not really working and people shouldn’t pay you for this, it’s not real work.

This happens often in creative circles. so first you need to convince yourself. I’m a photographer, my work has value and people are happy to pay for it.

2 - Do your research

You need to be well prepared before going to a shoot. It amazes me the number of photographers who just go in without a clear defined plan, it’s like shooting in the dark hoping to hit something.

You need to be prepared because  you will take much better pictures if you know before hand which shots you will be doing and many other factors which I’ve outlined on this other post.

Perhaps the major advantage, particularly for new photographers is that being prepared calms you down. When you know what you need to do, you visualised it and you have planned it all out, you’re in control, this will calm your nerves.

In a way it’s like having a map, if you are lost in the woods you might panic, but with a map you can find your way out and remain calm. Same thing here, you know the shots, you have the skills to pull them off and the less you have to think during the actual photoshoot the better.

So before you go, plan your day, how many shots, locations, models etc. I promise it will make you feel at ease on the day of the shoot.

3 - Understand the needs of your client

I see this very often, even with experienced photographers, you are asked to do a shoot for a 10 year old girl’s portfolio and your pictures look like a frame from  David Lynch’s Lost Highway.

There is nothing wrong with the pictures themselves, they are very artistic and interesting, however they are not what the client wants or needs.

I like to sit down with my clients before the shoot (days before not 5 min before) and ask them a few questions about what they want with the pictures.

Here are the questions I usually ask and they give me good insight into what kind of assignment it is.

What are you using the pictures for?

It can be a model book, advertisement, personal use. Either way this will help me decide the kind of shots they need. It also helps you in case they need large prints to see if you have the right gear for it.

Where would we be shooting?

Usually people have a place in mind of where they want to shoot, this can help you plan your shots accordingly and make sure you have the right equipment, you could even scout a few days in advance to find the good angles.

Do you have any references?

I like to ask this because many people can’t articulate what they want, but they can show you, if they have an idea of what they want it makes your life much easier because you can look to either imitate the style or use it as a strong influence.

Once you know this information you can see if your style of photography is suitable and if you can achieve what they’re looking for.

4 - Ready your gear

I have to admit I am guilty of this. There is little more terrifying during a shoot than to realise you didn’t pack the correct lens, or your battery just died and you don’t have a spare one.

This can make you look very unprofessional and possibly ruin a shoot. If the people in question hired a model or a location, it could be very troublesome because they already paid for it and you’re wasting their time and money.

The night before do a list of what equipment you need, put it all in one place and make absolutely sure your battery is charged (you should always have a spare battery anyway but still).

Making a list not only ensures you don’t make a fool of yourself the next day but also saves you time in the morning before the photoshoot and most importantly, you can refer to it when you leave to make sure you took everything. with several lenses, cameras, batteries, flashes etc it’s very simple to forget something so a list helps you keep track of everything.

5 - Relax

As we have previously discussed, yes this is a stressful experience but it’s also a very exciting moment. You’re being paid to do what you love! how many people can honestly say that?

So take a deep breath and relax, it will help you focus better on your job if you’re not constantly worrying about what they are thinking about you, just go with it.

Being relaxed also helps ease the mood, the model/models will be more cooperative and receptive if they sense you are calm and in control, you can joke around, and enjoy the experience.

Unlike hard sciences, photography is an art, and it requires emotion to achieve it’s fullest potential, so don’t be afraid to talk, have a good time and you’ll see the results yourself. Who would you rather work with? a grumpy totalitarian boss, or an easy going results driven leader?

Be that leader, this is an orchestra and you are the conductor, enjoy every moment and conduct your models with precision (for a more in depth tutorial on how to work with models follow this link).

So there you go, these are 5 things you can do to survive your first photoshoot. Honestly it’s not that hard, if you’re at the point where people are willing to pay for your services you are probably ready anyway.

If you found these tips useful why not leave a message telling me about your experience? I would love to hear how it went for you and if you had any issues I could help you with I would be glad to help.

Best of luck!