We're Erica + Jon, professional photographers, Mr + Mrs and Mom + Dad. We like to share insights into our industry, behind the scenes and stories about our life and chips + salsa obsession.
When it comes to a successful brand photoshoot, we preach the same mantra over and over again: “Preparation is the Key to Success.” This has proven itself to be true in our career time and time again. Early in our career, when we reflected on shoots that didn’t go the way we had hoped, we found that lack of preparation was the common denominator in every one of those shoots.
It wasn’t the person, the brand, the product, or the message. It was lack of preparation.
That’s the reason why today, any new client working with us to capture brand imagery either needs to be working with a marketing agency or utilize our pre-production planning services.
Our pre-production services include location sourcing, timeline creation, and shot list creation.
And over the next three weeks, we’re going to unpack each of those pre-production services to better help you understand the reasoning behind why we require them and what we look for when we put these planning elements together. So let’s quit talking about it and jump straight in!
One of the quickest ways to burn yourself on a brand photoshoot is by not having the right location. You. Can change a lot of things mid-shoot if needed – posing ideas, wardrobe, hair + makeup, props, messaging – they can all be tweaked and changed if things just aren’t clicking. But a location offers very little you can change over all. Sure, you can move things around and add tasteful details, but if the location is wrong from the beginning, you are really making things extremely difficult on yourself.
In our experience, we’ve found that clients might be drawn to a location because of a certain sentiment or a particular design detail, but since they aren’t photographers, they don’t approach the space with the eye of the overall shoot.
In other cases, a client might choose a space based on photos online, only to find that those photos have been heavily edited or shot with an ultra-wide lens to give the appearance of something that doesn’t translate into reality.
One question we often hear from photographers is how to decide on shooting at a location or in a studio environment. Our answer? Completely depends on the shoot. We like shooting on location for personal brands and brands that need lifestyle content, while a studio space allows complete control for product photos, photos for e-commerce, or large scale commercial projects.
Now that we’ve discussed why we require clients to have us assist them in location sourcing, let’s talk about the Three Things to Look for in a Photoshoot Location.
One of the biggest advantages to have on your side as a photographer is shooting in a location that has great natural light. Yes, we know how to set up lighting and shoot no matter what scenario we’re thrown into, but especially when shooting on location for personal brands where variety is the key to success, setting up and tearing down lighting can cost valuable shoot time. Instead, we look for locations with plenty of windows and wide open spaces that allow the natural light to flood in!
One of the first things we do when we walk into a location is open it up! We turn off overhead lighting, open up window blinds and let that light in! Be sure to keep an eye out for where natural light is coming from when you select a location. For example, if you are shooting a client in the kitchen, but the only windows are behind them, it won’t make for an ideal naturally lit photograph. Instead, look for a location where the light is able to flood the kitchen from a nearby living room and land on their face instead of beaming in behind them.
Another key element we search for in locations is how well the space lends itself to creating variety. It’s one reason we love shooting personal and lifestyle brands in Airbnb’s. If the goal of a particular shoot is to create variety, you want a space that allows you to create it freely!
One of the worst hang-ups can be shooting in a space that’s themed too heavily or that is only centered around one concept. It’s also one reason why shooting personal brands in a studio, outside of headshots, isn’t our usual go-to. We want a space that is well put together, styled in a way that supports the brand aesthetic we are shooting for, and a space with plenty of options for the messaging we need to communicate.
The final thing we look for in a location is the neutrality of the space. No two brands are identical and because of that, we search for custom locations for each brand we work with. We want the space to work with the brand aesthetic, but not steal from it. In our experience, a space with too heavy of a design or unique bent to it can steal the show from the brand…NOT something we want to happen for our clients!
We aim for selecting spaces with an overall mood and color palette that support our clients brand, but are otherwise nothing particularly noteworthy. We want out client and their brand to stand out, not the designer or architect of the space we’re shooting in!
Finally, finding a neutral space also means finding a space without clutter. Again, it’s a reason we love Airbnb’s for personal and lifestyle brands. They allow us to come into a thoughtfully designed space that’s not full of clutter and personal belongings. They act as a blank canvas for us to work within and allow us to customize the space to our client with ease by bringing in on-brand items like greenery, throw pillows, and blankets.
So now you know the scoop on why we work with our clients to source locations and the things we look for in a great location. Which was the most insightful for you!? Join us next week as we unpack everything about creating a successful shot list.