HALES PHOTO
Atlanta Commercial Photographer

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How to Self Produce a Photoshoot from Start to Finish

We believe it is super important for photographers, producers, and all creatives to self produce projects. If you’re interested in reading why they are important to us check out this blog post, but we want to get into the nitty gritty on how we approach these projects. 


It’s really simple, but takes time, patience, and confidence!

This is our 10 step process to self-producing a photoshoot: 

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1- Create a concept 

First things first, create a concept! Have you been wanting to change your focus as a photographer? This is a great opportunity to do that. Or maybe you just want to play with lighting. The first step when approaching a self produced project is to come up with a concept that will benefit your business and challenge you creatively.

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2- Create a style board

Before you start reaching out to artists and creatives that you want to collaborate with, make sure you have a clear idea of what you want to get out of the project. We create a style board that includes the different looks or characters we want to photograph, an idea for the set, lighting ideas, inspiration images, photographers that inspired the project, and other sketches or inspiration. We usually turn to pinterest or instagram for inspo images, but a good ole google search will do as well. It’s important to see what other artists have created so that you can be competitive.

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3- Create a budget

This is a very important step in the project. We like to save money for our self produced projects because we value these shoots. If you don’t have a budget for the project that’s ok, but you need to communicate that to collaborators and also keep that in mind when you are planning the photoshoot. You might have an awesome idea, but if you don’t have the budget to make it happen, then you’ll end up disappointed and discouraged. So do the research ahead of time before getting others on board about when you can financially make happen. Sometimes collaborators are willing to contribute financially, but be prepared for them to offer their time and not their resources or money.

When approaching a budget, think about making a new recipe for dinner. What are the ingredients or all the elements needed for the photoshoot? How much will they cost? How many courses do you want or how many images do you want in the end? Do I have all the utensils to make this meal or all the equipment to create what I want for this shoot or will I need to rent equipment? All of these questions are necessary in determining how much money it will cost.

4- Reach out to collaborators

When self producing a photoshoot we refer to it as a “test shoot” to other creatives. We keep a running list of people we want to work with in the future so we pull from this list. That list contains photo assistant, hair and makeup artists, wardrobe stylists, prop stylists, location scouts, art directors, set designers, and more. We usually already have a date in mind and send them an email with our style board attached. We explain that the shoot is a test shoot and we are not getting paid. We let them know that we have a small budget for expendables and they will be able to use the images in their own portfolio and they will be credited on all platforms. Be prepared for people to say no. If they do say no, it’s probably because they already have another project booked that day, or they don't feel like the project will benefit them. If it doesn’t fall within their interests or brand, then don’t take it personally. 

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5- Book talent, location, and other rentals

Once you have crew on board, time to find a location, book talent, and other rentals you might need the day of the shoot. This is where you consider your budget and find a location that you can afford. Sometimes locations are willing to give you a discount if you let them know it is a test shoot. If they do this for you, be sure to tag and credit them wherever you use the images. Next you need to find talent. We usually go to local modeling agency and tell them we are looking for talent for a test shoot. They will send us a link with talent to choose from and decide who think will be the best fit for the role. A lot of times if you reach out to a talent agency, they will send you models with limited experience. The agency wants to get images of this model so they can use them in their portfolio and the models want experience on set. So it’s a win win for everyone. Lastly, if you need to rent equipment, props, or anything else be sure to make a list and source this well in advance. 

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6- Schedule the day

We like to make a schedule so that we have a plan for the day. We consider the amount of images we would like to take, how many models we will have on set, the number of wardrobe changes, and the time it will take to get the hair and makeup look we want. This helps up determine the amount of time we should book a location, but it also helps us schedule talent. If we have multiple models that are not going to be in all the shots together, then we will stagger their call time. We also want to consider what time lunch will be so we can plan for that ahead of time, and we want to have a set end time so that we are not keeping our crew longer than the time they have dedicated to giving us. We value our crew members time because we are not usually paying them on a self produced shoot so we don’t want to keep them longer than planned. 

Pro Tip: When booking an outside shoot, look up the weather first. Shooting in the rain isn’t always the best, unless thats a part of your concept? But have a backup plan in case something like happens, and be prepared for your schedule to change the day of.

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7- Make sure everyone is on the same page

One thing we like to do either the day before the photoshoot or a few days before is set up a phone call with the crew. Usually this is the hair and makeup artists, wardrobe stylists, prop stylists, and maybe the location contact. We go over all the details of the shoot and make sure that everyone has what they need from us to feel confident about their role on set. We go over the shot list and make sure that we are all on the same page. 

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8- Coordinate food and snacks for the day

FEED your crew! If you’re working on a half day project, you might not have to worry about this. But if you are producing a full day project, you should have some snacks, water, and lunch. You want everyone to be on their A game so do everything you can to keep the team’s energy high on set. If you don’t have the budget for this, let your collaborators know ahead of time so they can determine if they are able to cover their own cost of food. On most productions your crew is hired on, they will be fed so they may expect that this is covered if you reach out to them. 

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9- SHOOT (& edit) 

And finally, start some fires and get creative on set! All your work will come together and you’ll have tons of fun on set. Be prepared for things to change, your schedule to shift, and maybe have a backup plan in case people fall through. 

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10- Share images, ALWAYS CREDIT COLLABORATORS, & Celebrate!

Once your images are edited, send them to the team and give them a list of all the people on set and the proper way to tag them on all platforms. You may need to make a list of everyone’s instagram handles the day of the photoshoot. But remember to credit creatives on a self produced photoshoot. Since they were not paid for the shoot and they are offering their time, they are usually getting involved for the same reasons you self produced the project to grow as creatives, build their portfolio, and work with new people (aka: networking). This all leads to exposure and hopefully paid work.

Lastly, celebrate! Jump up and down, you did it. We’re proud of you.

If you liked this blog post, you may want to read this one!