If you’ve been keeping up with me on my YouTube Channel, then you’ll know that I recently went to London to do one huge photoshoot for my projects at college. I filmed the whole day and brought you along with me as I did the shoot, so if you want to watch that then you can click this handy link to take you straight there: Behind The Scenes: London College Photoshoot
I mentioned in that video that I was thinking about doing another video on how I plan my photoshoots, which I am still thinking of doing, but I need to wait until I have another photoshoot to do to show you that, so for now I thought I would walk you all through it in blog format. I know some photographers plan their photoshoots in meticulous detail and I think that is neseccary sometimes if you are doing weddings or a client shoot because you’re being payed and want to make a good impression. I also know some photographers that don’t plan a single thing, which can also be good in some situations when you’re doing creative exercises or just shooting for fun, but I personally always sit somewhere around the middle.
Usually whenever I shoot I have a brief or an idea in my head that I am working towards. Many of my shoots I’m doing at the moment are to a brief or for a project since I’m at college, so I’m going to work off my recent topic of ‘street photography’.
Street Photography is a very broad subject, which I like because it gives you a lot more creative freedom to work within the brief, but I did have several artists that I had to create images inspired by. Once I know what it is I’m meant to be shooting and working towards I always start with a bit of research into what it is I’m shooting. I usually have to do this as part of my course anyway, but I do it for my own personal shoots as well because it gives me a wider understanding of what I’m trying to achieve, can help me pick up on small details in an artists work that will help me recreate it and can give me more ideas and inspiration.
Once I’ve done my research, I start collecting inspiration images from the artists themselves and from other things that inspire me related to the topic and I print them out and stick them in a little A6 notebook (the small size is important so that I can easily slip it into a pocket for easy access) that I will then take with me on the shoot to remind me of the smaller details I may have forgotten and to spark my creativity if i’m feeling a little unmotivated that day. In my little inspiration book, I’ll also write small lists of props, ideas and specific shots I want to try and get, so that I don’t forget and then I’ll move onto planning the technical side of the shoot.
Sometimes if I’m doing a more concept heavy shoot like surrealism, I will use my sketchbook and actually sketch out each individual shot I want to create since those involve lots of different elements, studio work several different shoots to pull together on image, but that doesn’t really apply to street, which is much more of a spur of the moment kind of photography that simply requires you to keep your brief in mind.
Location is an important aspect to every shoot. For some shoots that may just be a studio set up of some kind or even as simple as the park round the corner, but for others it might mean travelling to cities or places elsewhere and I think it’s important that you plan that thoroughly to make sure you’re not going to run into any unexpected variables on the day. If you’re shooting in a studio then there is less you have to think about since that studio is likely yours already, but if you are going further afield then you have to think about other things such as: school leaving times, rush hour traffic, tourists, bin day, opening hours and many many more.
If you’re shooting somewhere round the corner from your house or near your local train station then think about doing it outside of rush hour, so you don’t have the commuters in the way and do it during school hours if you can as well so that there aren’t going to be a lot of children. If you’re going to a bigger city such as London then it doesn’t particularly matter about rush hour and school leaving times because London is always busy; however, it is worth checking the opening hours of everywhere you’re planning on going so you know what order to do things in and whether you’re allowed to take photos there – you may have to phone ahead and get permission if you’re doing something more formal and working with a payed client, but you can usually get away with it as a student as long as you’re not to obvious.
Another thing you should definitely check is bin days and delivery days of the places you’re going. There have been several times where I have been caught of guard by it being bin day or delivery day and I’ve just had to leave that shoot for another day because the streets are lined with vans and rubbish. You don’t want to have bought train tickets and travelled for 2 hours only to find out you can’t shoot because the streets are lined with rubbish! Trust me on this one.
Props are an important part of any photoshoot, but unfortunately I can’t really tell you what props to bring since every shoot is different. I can tell you some of the most common props I use though:
- neon lights
- fake flowers
- photo frame (with the glass)
- spray bottle of water (to create my own rainy window)
- glasses (I wear glasses, so this is a prop I always have on me – although it does mean I can’t see that well, so I recommend using a different pair of glasses if you can 😂)
- Anything reflective (I personally have a piece of broken CD that I found on the floor, so you really don’t have to spend much money!)
Those are just my most commonly used props and most of them are pretty small, but I also use Umbrellas, fabric, books, shoes, coffee cups and anything else in the moment that fits the shot, so it is really something that you just pick up with time. One piece of advice I can give you though is try to make the props small or only bring them if you definitely need them. Carrying around a bag fully of big heavy props around London all day gets old pretty damn quickly I can promise you that! If you’re going somewhere smaller for one specific thing then you can put all your props in your car or bring a suitcase, but for cities, you 100% want to travel light, so only bring what is necessary.
What I look for:
What I look for in a photo changes depending on what I’m shooting and where I am. It’s also something that is incredibly hard to teach and describe because it’s one of those things that I just know it when i see it. I look at a scene and I can tell whether or not it will make a good photo and I know how I can make an boring scene look interesting, but that sort of creativity is not something that anyone can really teach, but I’m going to give it a go.
One of my favourite things to look for and one of the things that I think creates the best photos is interesting people. I find this is definitely easier in a city, but look for people who are dressed interestingly, have interesting features or look like they have a story to tell. Not all photos are going to have people in, but finding the right person to be in a photo can really make or break it. You could take the same photo, but having a fashionably dressed exchange student, taking photos in it is going to look 100 times better than having a middle-aged man in a fleece trying to use his phone!
A few other good things to look for are patterns, textures and reflections. These can be in buildings, nature, puddles and so much more, so just keep you’re eye out for them and with practice you’ll start noticing them without really trying.
After I’ve finished collecting inspiration, props and getting to know the area, the final step for my is getting it all together, planning my outfit to match the shoot, but to also be practical and picking my camera. I personally only have the one camera (A Fujifilm X-Pro 2 that I love very much), so that isn’t much of a decision for me, but others will have more than one camera or lens, so make sure you pick the right one that fits with your subject matter.
And that’s it! Those are all the steps I take to plan for a photoshoot. This can take me anywhere from and hour and a half to a whole day depending on how complex the shoot is, so it can be quite a long process, but it’s worth is because it streamlines the shooting process and saves me a lot of hassle. I hope you’ve found this post helpful and if you want to see more of these sorts of posts or videos, then let me know down below! You can also see more of the photos I took on my recent London shoot on my Instagram during the coming weeks: @thephotographydragon and here on my blog! Again I hope this was helpful and I wish you happy shooting!
Oh and don’t forget to check the weather…! 😉🤨
Goodbye for now!
Over and Out