How To Prepare for a Brand Photoshoot

Photography -  it's something that we all need for our social media profiles, blog posts or our websites.  Yet many of us are not used to being in front of the camera, let alone planning for a photoshoot. 

Over the years, I’ve worked with a variety of photographers on photoshoots – whether for my jewelry company, Your Legal BFF, or for this site -- and I’ve learned some really useful tips along the way about what to look for in a photographer, where to find one, and how to plan and prep for photoshoots in order to maximize our time.

How Often to Do a Photoshoot

I used to only do photoshoots about once every year to year and a half. Then I read this post from Go Live HQ where it suggested to do a photoshoot every three to four months so that you have consistently fresh content to share. It was such a big ah-ha for me and got me wondering "Why am I only waiting once a year to do these photo shoots?" 

Maybe you can relate to this inevitable situation.  You’re getting ready to post on social media, but can’t find a relevant photo to post along with it. In the past, I’ve subscribed to different stock photography services, but I really enjoy creating my own images that are unique to me and my brand.  

Though doing regular photoshoots can get pricey, budget for them in advance. Perhaps you don’t have room in the budget to do them quarterly, but it’s a good practice to set aside some funds to plan a shoot at least once a year.

Identify the Purpose for Your Photography

Before you even hire a photographer -- get clear on how you intend to use the photography.  Will the photos be used for your website? For social media content? Maybe you want to use it for Facebook ads? For instance, we recently launched our sister company -- Your Legal BFF -- and relaunched my personal website. So,  I knew that I needed images that I could use for the websites specifically and they needed to fit certain specifications based on the design of the site. 

What about you?

Are you doing a styled photoshoot to submit to a blog or magazine?

Are you putting together a look book for your products?

Are you launching a new product or service and need social media content for that?

Whatever your purpose, be thoughtful about what you want to get out of the photoshoot as that will help inform your choice of a photographer as well as your photoshoot planning.

How to Find a Photographer

A great tip to keep in mind when looking for a photographer is to remember that not all photographers are created equal. Here’s what I mean:  generally speaking, photographers are usually good at one or maybe two styles of photography. For example, one photographer might be really good at doing flat lays and product photography, another might excel at portrait photography, while another is great at landscape photography. 

Just because you love a photographer’s style, keep in mind that they may not be a perfect fit for what you're looking for in a particular photoshoot.  It’s your job to discern whether or not the photographer you plan to hire can produce the style of photography that you need. 

In terms of finding a photographer, I knew that there were a lot of great photographers who belonged to the Rising Tide Facebook Group so I shared a post looking for recommendations. I was pretty specific about what I was looking for in terms of my aesthetic and needs.  I asked for people to include links to their portfolios and once I narrowed it down to a few photographers I liked, I got in touch.  Also, because I knew I wanted to do these photoshoots on a regular basis, I was looking for someone who was local who I could develop a long-term relationship with. 

Another way to find a really good photographer is to search for photographers on Instagram.  Whether you like a specific photographer’s work or you like the images another Instagrammer is posting, find out who the photographer is and get in touch.  

Prepping for the Shoot

Here’s the thing - I don’t just show up on the day of the shoot and just “roll with it.” Nope. Rather, a lot of thought and preparation goes into the photoshoot, including: 

  • Picking the locations

  • Identifying the Setups and Collecting Props 

  • Prepping Yourself and Your Wardrobe

  • Creating a Shot List

Picking the Locations

A few days before the shoot, I’ll brainstorm the locations where I want to snap pics and I’ll start prepping those spaces. The last few shoots we’ve shot in my home and I spent about a week clearing stuff out and moving things around. For example, in my office, I have a huge computer monitor sitting right on my desk, but I don’t want those in my pictures because it ain’t cute!  So, I make sure to rearrange things and clear the clutter so it creates a beautiful backdrop for our shoot. 

If you won’t be shooting in your home, brainstorm different places where you can shoot instead:

  • A favorite coffee shop 

  • A favorite street in your neighborhood 

  • A co-working space

  • A rented space like a vacation rental or peer working space

Make a list of the locations and get to work prepping them to serve as your set.

Identifying the Setups and Collecting Props 

Identifying the setups and collecting the props go hand-in-hand with picking the locations. I’ll think about the different types of images I want to produce.  I might think “"Okay, I really want some pictures of me sitting on the couch working on my computer” or “I want some pictures of me with my dogs” and I’ll start creating a list of potential scenarios and images that I want to create.

If you don’t know where to start, pay attention to what images you really like of other people. As you’re scrolling to Instagram, for example, I’ll ask, "Well, why did this picture catch my attention? What was it about it that I really liked?" 

Jot it all down.

Now the fun part – collecting props! Whether it’s stuff I already own or things I purchase (hello Target dollar bin!), I make sure we have plenty of props to style each of the setups!  Notebooks, coffee cups, snacks, flowers, pens, stationery – I collect props that I can use to complement each of the setups.

Prepping Yourself and Your Wardrobe

Whether it’s getting your eyebrows threaded, your hair colored, or your nails done, remember to leave some time in your schedule to tend to these things.  In terms of hair and makeup, I’m not really good at that sort of thing.  Over the years, I’ve learned how to do it myself, but sometimes I’ll make appointments to get my hair blown out or get my makeup professionally done.   If you plan on getting your hair and makeup professionally done on the day of the shoot, make sure to plan your photoshoot start time to allow plenty of time for you to get dolled up! 

Another part of prepping yourself is to prep your wardrobe. To be honest, this is not my favorite part because I’m not super into clothes.  So, I keep it simple and stick to what I know works for me. For example, I normally wear solid colors in certain tones that match my brand and I try to stay away from busy patterns. Perhaps you have a friend who is really good at wardrobe styling. If so, enlist his/her help. Gather all of your clothes from head to toe. This includes any jewelry and shoes too! If anything needs to ironed or dry-cleaned, get that done ahead of time!

Creating a Shot List

This is where it all comes together and it’s the key to making sure you get all the photos you want out of the photoshoot.  Once you’ve thought through the locations, the setups, the props and your outfits, prepare a shot list and share it with your photographer.

Preparing a shot list is as simple as creating a list of every setup, what props will be used, what outfits you’ll wear and the type of images you want for that setup. 

For example, at the end of the shoot, I don't want a million pictures of me wearing the same pink shirt. So, I’ll include what I’ll be wearing for each set up on the shot list. Maybe for the setup on the couch where I’m working away on my laptop, I’ll wear a pink shirt and jeans.  Then we’ll move on to the next shot, where I’m still sitting on the couch, but I’m wearing a blue tank top and having coffee.  The shot list allows us to be really efficient with our time and to maximize the variety of photos that I get.

Doing a photoshoot without a big team to help can leaving you feeling like you’re wearing multiple hats: not only are you the model, but you’re the creative director, the photographer’s assistant, and the hair and makeup artist. That’s why a little prep and organization ahead of time can go a long way to make sure you maximize your time and resources – not to mention that it’ll increases the odds that your photo will get a double tap!