8 Tips for Setting up and Planning a Successful Photoshoot

My passion started in 9th grade photography class. Since then, I haven't stopped learning. It has brought continuous growth, not only for my photography, but all of my design work. I find it easier to focus on small details, come up with creative concepts and to be more flexible when projects don’t go as planned.

In my junior year of high school I became part of New Voices, a program paired with City Gospel Mission, to tell the story of the homeless men in Over-The-Rhine recovering from drug and alcohol abuse. It was a life-changing experience because I found similarities and common interests with these men, who I once thought were so different from me. That's when I really fell in love with photography. I was able to connect to people and communicate a story through a series of photos. It was power. I realized that art actually is a universal language.

I honed my photography skills during my time at the School of Advertising Art. It was there that I learned even more about the endless possibilities of photography magic. From small techniques, such as using flour to replicate the look of snow, to larger conceptual thinking such as using color to represent the deadly sins, I am able to bring my artistic eye and technical skills to help me tell a story or solve a problem.

Now, I have my own studio equipment with four lights, three backdrops, including a green screen and multiple camera lens options. This equipment provides many possibilities in terms of the creative direction of my photography, and while envisioning your shots is exciting, executing it is the most important, and sometimes the most difficult, step.

Once you have “the shot,” you just know. It feels good to look at an image and instantly dig it before it ever gets to post production. Here are my tips for setting up and achieving the perfect shot!

These are my Tips for a Successful Photoshoot

  1. Before you ever start the shoot, you have a few things to plan out. What do you want the shot to look like; hard or soft light? Full body or headshot? Etc.

    Hard lighting is very direct, causing shadows. Soft light (using a softbox or umbrella) diffuses or spreads the light more consistently across the subject.

    For full body, you need to pack a larger backdrop to be able to get all of your subject in it and still utilize your lighting. For headshots, you could use a smaller background because only a small portion will be shown. Starting with the right set up will help ensure you are ready for the entire shoot.

  2. Is your camera set up to get the shot you want? Depending on what effects you want, you have to set your camera accordingly. This can change as you shoot. If you want to catch someone in motion without blur, you will need to bump up your shutter speed. If you want the blur effect, you'll slow it down.

  3. Take your time setting up. If you love photography as much as I do, your equipment is like your baby. Don't risk rushing and knocking everything over.

  4. Whether the lights need to move 1 time or 100 times before it feels right, then do it. No one is going to criticize you for wanting that lighting to hit in just the right spot.

  5. I often light my background before I light my subject. I do it separate from my subject so that it is easier to control if the shot needs to change. For example, you can turn the background lights down if it's too bright and it won't affect your subject that may be lit perfectly.

    For my portraits, I put two lights on my background, move the subject forward so the background lights don't hit them, then use the other lights for my subject only.

  6. You always want to include extra space around your subject and crop it later if need be. Having more space to work with is better because if the crop is too tight when taking a vertical image and later on you need it to fit in a horizontal space, there may not be enough picture on the sides to make it work. Having that extra space could save you tons of time.

  7. When shooting still life photography, composition is key. Grab a tripod and work every angle to see what works best for you and your subject. You have full control over the positioning, so make sure you keep it interesting. Only choose a few items to include because too many will be more distracting to the viewer.

  8. When you start shooting, my main advice is to have fun with it. I often find that if I am too stressed about getting good shots, then I have a harder time. Do what you can to relax. I often find myself chatting for a bit with my model to connect with them, then it is easier to capture their genuine emotion through the images. If I need a shot of my subject smiling, then I will say something funny that they aren't expecting to get that genuine response to capture. If you can do that, then you've nailed it!

Below is a photo from Topic’s most recent photoshoot to highlight some of the pieces in our portfolio. This is a well composed shot, with the front and inside showing without being too busy or overdone. It has light colors with pops of red to reflect their brand and overall tone of the project. Most of all, it catches the eye of the viewer, which is why it was a success!

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