You don’t have to be a trained professional to create quality lifestyle photographs for your social media accounts or online properties. Setting up your own photo shoot can give you the customizable freedom to add your own personality, while saving big bucks! If you don't have professional experience, a photoshoot may seem a little overwhelming, but if you master the photoshoot prep, hunker down when you're on set and follow this DIY Photoshoot Checklist, you'll be surprised with the content you're able to produce!
The first thing you'll want to do for a photoshoot is set up a kick-off call to gather all the information you need. This kick-off call probably doesn't need to be more than 30 minutes, but it's an important step to make sure everyone involved is on the same page, setting a solid foundation for an organized and productive shoot. However, make sure to do your homework prior to the call to make the most of everyone's time. Here are a few questions you'll want to investigate before showing up at the shoot:
- What is the main goal of the shoot?
- Are you shooting indoors, outdoors or both?
- What does the lighting look like? Lighting is KEY! Make sure you see what type of natural light you might have to work with or florescent lights and shadows you'll be tackling.
- What is the layout of the room? Are the walls white or painted? This will affect lighting.
- What types of props will be available? Or which props are you missing and need to attain ahead of time to make the shoot believable?
- How many scenes will you be tackling in your shoot?
- Are there processes that need to be shot? If so, make sure to add stills of each product individually and the action steps to get from point A to point B in each process.
- Will you need to mask logos?
- Are you shooting people or things or both? Who is responsible for communicating with on-camera talent? Make sure to provide them a guide on what to wear and not wear and general expectations of on-camera etiquette so they're ready to roll the day of the shoot.
- Are you capturing activities? If so, what is all entailed in those activities?
Next you are your team need to put together an comprehensive shot list of everything you need to capture during the shoot. It is easy to organize your shot list into the categories of people and things. Remember, you'll be much happier when you get into editing mode to realize you shot too much content instead of not enough, so be thorough.
- People: You'll probably want to tackle talent individually and then in various small groupings. Pair people up, switch up who is in which shots, etc. It'll add nice diversity when all is said and done. If you're shooting product or activities, etc. figure out who you want to be with which product or perform which activities to ensure you get the shots you want the day of.
- Things: Again, remember more is not a bad thing here. Start by shooting products/things individually, identify steps to processes, etc. You'll also want to play with angles. So many people are increasing their photography needs these days to cater to Instagram. But guess what? So much of Instagram is built on a few shoots with a bunch of beautiful pictures of the same things at different angles! Play up your angles!
After you have created a game plan for your photoshoot, it's time to figure out what equipment you'll need and prepare it accordingly.
- When addressing your number one tool, your camera, make sure you have the proper settings in place. Most cameras have an “automatic” setting that works well in many cases.
- Make sure to address white balancing the day of the shoot in the environment you're shooting in. This will allow your camera to render a true white and will remove unrealistic color casts. White balancing can be helpful in providing a common foundation for all images.
- A tripod could be a beneficial asset to create a stable base if you'll be stationary for most of your shoot.
- Make sure your camera has a fully charged battery and bring a backup battery.
- Confirm your memory cards are empty and ready for new pictures. Bring a backup memory card too for good measure.
While You’re There
Find Your Lighting
While lighting is the single most important element in taking fantastic pictures, the first thing to do when you arrive to a photoshoot is to find and create the best lighting possible. If you are shooting inside open, all the blinds to let in all the available natural light. Set up your DIY studio in the most well lit area. It is helpful to shoot against light colored backgrounds. This could be light colored walls or you could hang a white sheet or board as a backdrop. Consider buying a shop lamp or box light to add extra light to a photoshoot. These are professional lights that photographers use for this purpose. If you don’t have one, you can use lamps with shades to create a soft diffused look. This limits any shadowing effects. Be aware of lighting from multiple sides. Generally speaking, you want to have two light sources to avoid shadows.
If you are shooting outside, try to avoid midday between 11am and 1pm where the sun is directly overhead. This lighting creates the harshest shadows. The best times are in the hours just before the sunrise or just after the sunset. These times provide the softest and most flattering lighting.
Watch Your Shot
If you want your shots to look professional you should always be aware of what is in your shot. If you have multiple photographers at one shoot, you’ll have to make sure you stay out of each other's way. It can be helpful to plan on your photographers shooting different scenes at one time. You also want to make sure all the props in your shot are meaningful to the scene. Remove anything that doesn’t make sense and arrange the props tastefully.
Be intentional with your props. Are you trying to create an open look and feel for your brand? Try to use more whites and light colors, less clutter, etc. Are you trying to create energy and excitement? Have each shot capture a variety of elements, textures, etc. Stoic shots are usually captured best from below. Birdseye views help to show the lay of the land. Whatever your intention, determine it ahead of time.
Lastly, you want to me aware of your angels. Some angels are more flattering than others. For example, if a little girl is wearing a skirt and is playing on the ground, you’ll want to shoot her from slightly above so her skirt lays down. It is best to shoot from a variety of angles to fully capture the content of your shoot. Plus, social media (especially Instagram) loves using different angles of the same content! The more pictures the better!
Take Shots Prior to The Action Getting Underway
Sometimes photoshoots can have a lot going on, especially when working with children or animals. Arrive at the shoot early to set up and take photos of preparation as much as possible before any potential action or on-camera talent arrives.
A quick tip for shooting during the activities is go off the shot list. While you want to get everything on your shot list, you aren’t limited to those ideas. Sometimes the best shots come from improvising in the moment. Keep your eyes peeled and be aware of the picture perfect moments.
Organize Your Content in Post Production
The fun of the shoot is over, but you’re not done yet! Create a common depository for your photographers to put all the shots together in one place. Create one Google Drive or Dropbox folder for the raw images and one folder for the soon to be edited images. This way the original pictures won't get replaced or lost in the process.
Find The Best Shots
Not all your photos are going to be winners, but if you followed the checklist there should be some gems that are ready to be used as public facing content! To find them, you’ll have to take the time to sift through each frame. We recommend deleting the non-useable pictures: any unflattering, blurry, repetitive, etc. shots will not best represent your brand, so no need to keep those. Once you trim the fat, per se, you can go through the remaining photos and find your favorites to place in a separate folder for editing.
Create Strategy For Editing
Some small editing on programs like Adobe Photoshop or Lightroom can transform average photos to works of art.
Sometimes you'll want all photos to have the same feel. In this case you can work on creating a filter in Lightroom and save it to apply to all other pictures. Then just go in and make a few tweaks here and there to every individual image. This way each image will look complete and have the same look and feel of the others.
You can also edit each picture individually to give photos a different feel to different platforms. This goes the same for cropping. For example, square crops look great on Instagram, but keep in mind, sometimes by cropping out parts of an image, it tells a different story.
Remember, taking photos should be fun! Make sure you have a clear intention and goals ahead of time, create a thorough shot list, but also don't miss out on spontaneous moments. Remember to shoot different angles, create proper lighting and don't rush the editing process. It takes more than a fancy camera to get a great photograph--it takes a strategy. Follow this DIY Photoshoot Checklist and enjoy the creative process and capturing the moment!
Digital Marketing Content Intern
Cecilia is a strategic communications major at UW-Madison with certification in digital studies and entrepreneurship. She has three years of social media and public relations experience, and integrates her photography skills on social platforms. Cecilia just returned from Galway, Ireland while studying abroad this past semester!more posts by Cecilia →