Photoshoot Backdrop Setup with Lighting and Equipment

3 Tips for Planning a Successful Photoshoot

Photoshoots can put a lot of pressure on all parties involved. It’s nerve-wracking for the models (especially in the common case that they’re authentic patrons of a brand, and not professional models), it’s an investment for the client company, and it’s a ton of details to get right all in a single moment for the creative and project management team. The key to success with such an involved project is thorough planning. Not only will this increase likelihood of high quality images, but it will also decrease the number of decisions you need to make on the day-of, freeing you to spend your limited time and mental bandwidth to navigate inevitable unexpected problems. Our team will be onsite this week executing a photoshoot we’ve been planning for weeks, so I thought this would be a great time to share a few tips that set up these projects for success.

1. Document the Details

As a first step, it’s important to document several supporting components for the shoot, which will form a foundation on which the creative vision can later be built. What is the end application for these photos, and what is the primary goal of that application? Is it a report sharing the growth of a company to gain investments? Social media content to engage followers? Product photos to attract customers? The key objective for the project will likely inform the next detail to nail down: the target audience. From there, discuss the specific deliverables needed from the photographer, the budget, and timeline. Oftentimes this basic foundation will prompt thoughts on other important details and parameters that are important to inform the creative direction of the shoot.

Next, you can ideate the creative direction of the project, which should be included on the same document, followed by a list of any props and equipment that should be brought on the day-of, as well as a detailed “shot list” that can be printed and followed while shooting. As an art director and project manager, there is nothing more comforting than an umbrella document that holds all the information I may forget as weeks pass in the planning phase, and can ensure our team, our client and the photographer are on the same page when rubber hits road on shoot-day.

2. Consider the Scope of Creativity

The beauty of imagination is that it’s limitless. This is the reason for any innovation from which our world has benefitted since the beginning of time, and the reason we can hold perpetual hope for a brighter future. But it can also pose challenges for marketing visionaries who have to reign in their passion in order to fit the parameters of a given project, such as budget, timeline, location, logistical complications, or resources. But for anyone passionate about serving their client well, this requirement is only more inspiring, because the fact is, true creativity is the ability to achieve a goal by finding ways to work within difficult boundaries.

For this week’s shoot, we discovered that our original vision was becoming too complicated. It was creating inconveniences for our voluntary talent, it was going to require twice the amount of shooting time that our client had envisioned, and that time was looking expensive. So we narrowed our scope of creativity: instead of environmental shots at several locations, we created a plan to shoot each model in front of a seamless backdrop, using props and each individual’s personality to tell the story. The brand recently established a new color palette as well, so this new direction gave us an opportunity to use a different hue from the new palette in the background of each person’s portrait. When it comes to quality and effective use of resources, sometimes less is more.

3. Prepare a Talent Brief

Just like the client and production team, the models for the shoot are a part of your team as well. It’s important to include your Talent in understanding the shared group vision. They are motivated to do a good job, so give them the opportunity to do the best job possible by painting a picture of what you need from them.

In advance of the photoshoot, it is helpful to distribute a “Talent Brief” to all photoshoot participants, sharing the vision for the project (if appropriate), the itinerary for the day, wardrobe specifications, and generally what to expect. Not only does this establish your expectations, but it is likely the model’s first impression of your team and the tone you want to set for the experience. It’s important to put your models at ease, help them feel that they’re in good hands, and overall make it a good experience for them and everyone else involved. After all, there’s no reason photoshoots should not be fun!


Olivia Hiles

Senior Art Director

Olivia leads the Sweeney creative team with an eight-year history of agency experience and an education from the University of Cincinnati’s School of Design (DAAP). She specializes in identity and brand communications, having contributed to work for Verizon Wireless, Whole Foods, P&G, and more. Olivia’s approach to design places a strong priority on objectivity and intentionality, achieving optimal audience communication based on scientifically backed visual principles. She applies an unwavering standard of quality to the creative team’s work, with high expectations for both concept and craft. Olivia prides herself in her ability to empower teammates to do their best work, and her determination to push creative work to its ultimate potential.