Your stomach churns and you worry that your first professional photoshoot won’t go the way you’ve planned. Did you think of every contingency? Do you have all the props you need? Will all your hard work and planning pay off? 

According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are around 41,600 professional photographers in the country. Some of those work for companies and some independently. You want to make sure you come across as professional and at the top of your game, because there are others who are happy to step in and take up the slack.

Ideally, once someone hires you, they’ll turn to you each time they need a photographer. Know your niche and follow these steps to ensure your first professional photoshoot goes off without a hitch. Cover photo by Daria Shevtsova.

1. Know What the Client Wants

Communication is one of the most vital elements of a successful photoshoot. You can’t give the client what they want if you don’t understand their needs. Spend time talking to them about their finished view of the project.

Ask for images they love and why they think those worked. Rough out a storyboard of the shots you plan to take and run through it with the client. Is there anything missing they expected? Is there anything they hate and want replaced? 

The type of photoshoot doesn’t matter. You need a plan for the images you’ll shoot whether you’re doing a commercial product shot or capturing senior portraits. 

2. Understand Lighting Challenges

Lighting is one of the most challenging aspects of photography. It’s very difficult to correct things such as shadows falling across someone’s face. Dim lighting can even negatively impact our moods and our home life. 

Make sure you have ample light, but it should also be a filtered light to avoid the harsh edges to your images. Take along reflective screens even for an outdoor setting. 

As a photographer, you’ve likely heard of the golden hour for taking images. For outdoor shoots, take advantage of the softer light just around sunrise and sunset. 

3. Take Enough Props

One thing that makes an image unique is the composition of the photo. Where things get placed and how they interact with the objects around. You should obviously use the Rule of Thirds and place the main subject so they are not directly centered. 

Getting your composition excellent takes time and practice. You may want to go to the place where you’ll take photos and snap a few practice shots. Study the images and figure out what needs improvement. 

Take a wide variety of props and ask the client to bring some of their own. 

4. Remember Water and Snacks

If your photoshoot lasts several hours, you’ll grow thirsty and possibly hungry. You won’t do your best work if you’re worried about getting something to drink. Take bottles of water and energy bars or another easy to transport snack.

Take short breaks and let your subject or client break, too. You can regroup after ten minutes or so and approach the project from a fresh perspective. 

You’ll be surprised how slowing down for just a few minutes can improve the quality of your photographs. 



snacks board

Photo: Jessica Ruscello

5. Take Enough Photos

IBISWorld reports the photography market is $11.5 billion in the U.S. There’s a reason why companies and individuals hire professionals to snap lasting memories. For marketing, a beautiful photo is much more effective than a poor quality one. For individuals, they want a gorgeous keepsake for their family.

One mistake a lot of beginning photographers make is not taking enough snapshots during a photoshoot. Especially for beginners, you may get one good shot for every 10 or 20 you take. The more images you have from which to choose, the more likely you’ll have a few truly stunning ones to offer your clients after the shoot. 

If you think you’ve taken enough photos, you haven’t. Go ahead and take a few more. Shoot from different distances and angles. Lay on your stomach and stand on a ladder. Move closer and move away from the subject. Take way more poses than you think you need. 

6. Take Extra Batteries and Memory

Make sure you fully charge batteries and take several extras. Invest in memory and take more than you think you need. There’s nothing worse than being in the middle of a fabulous moment and realizing you’re out of storage space or your battery just died and you have no backup.

It’s worth the extra money to ensure you’ll never run out of juice or space. Go ahead and buy more backups than you think you’ll ever need. You won’t regret it. 

7. Pad Your Time Estimates

When the client asks when the photos will be ready, pad your estimate with extra time. You’re likely still learning your editing software. If you think edits will take two days, ask for four or five. It’s better to deliver earlier than promised than later. 

Be Odd

Do you want some truly unique images for your clients? Don’t be afraid to get a little weird and think outside the box. Have the model pose upside down. Wade into the water to get that reflection you can’t get from another angle. Climb up on the wall and hang off sideways for the unique angle. 

The weirder you get while taking photos, the more unique and intriguing they’ll be. If you find a model or client ready to go along with whatever you want to try, you’ll wind up with some award-winning images and begin developing a personal style unlike any other photographer’s. 

Read next: Top 10 Professional Digital Photography Tips

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