Preparing for a Photo: Everything You Need to Know Before You Go

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Whether you’re looking to venture into the world of professional photography, or just getting some practice – being able to hold an effective photoshoot can be a handy skill to have.

Much of the starts ahead of time, before you even arrive at the location. While prep work may feel like a waste of time, in the end it can save you from a world of hassle, and help you to arrive prepared, and with the gear and know-how that you need to capture some stunning shots.

Camera Settings

Be sure to reset your camera settings before heading out. This will save you from accidentally taking photos in the wrong setting.

You should use whichever camera mode you feel comfortable with, but many photographers find that aperture priority mode is ideal for portraits. Aperture priority gives you direct control over the depth of field, allowing you to easily adjust how much of the image is in focus – especially good for portraits. Opt for a wide aperture, or use a fast prime lens – like a 50mm f/1.4, for beautifully blurred backgrounds. If the lighting is right, you’ll even get some bokeh.

Preparations for the Photo

Here’s a few general tips you should always remember before going out the door to a photo.

  • Check the Weather

    Checking the weather can help you to plan for lighting conditions and give you a better idea about what equipment to bring. It can also warn you about rain!

  • Arrive Early

    Arrive on-location early so you have time to scout out the area and find some ideal spots. Who knows? You may even find some hidden gems tucked out of the way.

  • Visualize

    Before you start your photo, try to envision at least a few shots that you hope to get. This will give you some focus and direction while, and can also help if you get stuck.

  • Look Up Some Poses

    More than likely, your subjects won’t know how to pose – it’s your job to help them! Look up some poses online ahead of time, and find a few that you want to have them try so that you can guide them in the right direction.

  • Amp Yourself Up

    Finally, on your way to the – get yourself mentally ready. Drink some coffee or listen to music that’s appropriate for the occasion – and get excited about the! You may also want to bring some water and snacks along to help everyone keep their energy up.

Tips for Portraits

If you’re going to be photographing portraits especially, there’s a few things to keep in mind.

  • Focus on the Eyes

    For most portraits, the eyes are the main focal point – so make sure they’re in-focus. When using a wide aperture, it’s especially important to ensure that the eyes are clear since the narrow depth of field will throw much of the image out of focus.

  • Include Some Context

    Including some of the surrounding area in your portraits can help to set the context, and add life and interest to your photos. Look for things to include as props in the images – an old fence, some artwork on a building, or an interesting bench can all add an extra dimension to your photos.

  • Watch the Light

    With outdoor portraits, it’s important to pay attention to the direction of light. This will help you to know which way to to minimize shadows and make the most of available lighting. Try with the sun to your side during morning and evening and with the sun to your back during midday to help reduce shadows.

  • Photoin RAW

    In RAW will give you the most flexibility post processing. This will allow you to adjust the white balance to compensate for any exposures that may be off. You can also deliberately over-expose some photos to add a lighter and ‘softer’ look to an image.

  • Use Burst Mode

    When photographing children or taking a group photo, burst mode can come in handy. This will help you to capture fleeting expressions – and maybe even get a photo where everyone has their eyes open!

  • Start Slow

    It always takes some time to warm up with photo shoots, so save the best shots for last. Don’t worry if the first photos turn out a bit staged – once everyone warms up and starts having fun, the photos will have a more natural, relaxed look.

  • Have Fun

    Finally, and most importantly: have fun! Help everyone to have a good time. One tip is to think up a fun scenario, and have the subjects act it out for you. This helps to break the ice and can result in some fun and dramatic photos. They best photos are often candid, taken when people are relaxed and enjoying themselves, so look for ways to lighten the mood and save the close-up shots and the tricky poses for later in the session.

Sometimes it can be helpful to lay everything out the night before, so you can see what you have – and then pack the bag the day of the shoot. This can save you from the hassle of having to shuffle things around in the bag last minute because you can’t remember if you packed something.

If you do arrive on-location and realize that you forgot something – don’t panic! It happens – even to professionals. Being able to improvise is a key part of photography, in the event that something is forgotten or doesn’t go according to plan.