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Photography: Setting the Stage

Posted on February 19, 2013 | Read time: 3 minutes

We all know the old adage, “A picture is worth a thousand words,” but in order to get the photo to evoke the right one thousand words, several key factors must be considered before that shutter is released.

1. Shotlist – Organize. Organize. Organize. The more organized you are before a photoshoot, the easier it will be the day of. Create a shot list that breaks out the details: the shot, the location, the scene, which models are used, what’s the wardrobe, which props are needed, what is expected of the client. Review the shot list with EVERYONE. The photographer, the talent, the client, even the maintenance department! (Hey, you never know when you are going to need a ladder STAT!) Having everyone on the same page is critical to a stress-free shoot.

2. Sun – Just like the planets, everything on your shotlist revolves around the sun. Know when and where the sun will rise and set. Organize a shot list around the sun. Save the “magic hours” for signature shots, ie: golf, beach, marina, views, etc. Spend the high sun hours inside shooting interiors. Besides, if you are shooting outside in south Florida during the middle of the day, the first thing that will need to be retouched is the perspiration.

3. Lighting – Taking the time to light the shot is essential. Balancing the interior light with the natural exterior light can be very tricky. Colored films are used to soften the bulb’s flash and remotes are used to ensure all the lights flash simultaneously with the shudder.

4. Preview – Back in the good ole’ days we used these great little things called “Polaroids.” Polaroids were time and money suckers. Then along came the digital revolution! Hallelujah! Now we can capture the perfect shot. (Well as perfect as mother nature will allow.) By previewing your shot, you can look at every single detail. Are the pillows aligned? How is the furniture arrangement? Are there any light stands in frame? Pay special attention to the windows, doors and plants. Just because the room is decorated perfectly, doesn’t mean that it will be perfect in frame. The lens has a tendency to distort. Reminder: objects in mirror may be closer than they appear.

5. Props – A prop collection is a must have for a photoshoot. Here are a few simple things to always have on hand:

  • Faux ice – Let’s face it. Ice melts.
  • Cola – Use this to make ice tea or even white wine.
  • Glassware – From martini glasses to coffee mugs.
  • Hair Accessories – A simple up-do can drastically change the look of an outfit.
  • Color – Towels, books, bowls, hats- anything to add a splash of color.
  • Clips – Binder clips, clamps, clothespins, zip-ties, twist ties, etc. There’s always that one pesky drape that won’t stay open!

In today’s world it is so easy to say, “Just photoshop it.” But we all know how well that worked out for Beyonce. By setting the stage before the photo is taken, the more authentic and perfect the photo can be. The last thing that you want is for a prospect to fall in love with an image they saw on your website or in your ad and you can’t deliver.  Paying more attention to the details upfront, results in a trustworthy end-result.


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