by photoshoot

What exactly is a photo shoot?

If you’re interested in becoming a professional photographer in 2021, it is imperative to understand what a professional photo shoot truly entails, and how best to approach the first photo shoot of your career.

Sure, you’ve heard the term photo shoot in films, seen it in magazines, or even from a prospective client. However there are many granular details one ought to understand and practice before booking their first photo shoot.

Okay, so how does one define a photo shoot?

Photo shoot is the term that is used in professional photography to describe any specific event with the intention of producing photographic images. While working in a studio, on a set, or on any location as a photographer, you are engaging in some version of a photo shoot.

Wait, is there is a difference between 'photo shoot' vs 'photoshoot'?

Not really! While there has been some recent debate between the two spellings, there really is no difference. Although technically ‘photo shoot’ is the correct spelling in 2021, both versions work. If you are including it in a contract or talking to a client, stick to ‘photo shoot’ to embrace professionalism.

Can anyone run a professional photo shoot?

Absolutely! Anyone with a camera or smartphone has the ability to run their own photo shoot. There are, however, some limitations that may happen when running a photo shoot. For example, you may run into issues with weather, clients, models, technology, etc. Despite these aspects, all one truly needs is a functional smart phone (with a camera) as the bare minimum to conduct a ‘photo shoot’.

Photo by Raju Miha on Unsplash

There is a professional, almost corporate atmosphere to running a photo shoot.

While a photo shoot with a friend or a model you hire is fine, you need to make sure you have a certain level of professionalism when it comes to photo shoots you are being paid for. As such, here are a few important steps in prepping your first shoot:

How to prep your first photo shoot:

1. Prep for a shoot with a model

Make sure you are on the same page with the model in terms of the types of images that you are going to be taking, as well as wardrobe, make-up, & hair. It is important that the model feels comfortable; as such, communication is key. Make sure to ask questions, talk poses, and even ask for feedback: an experienced model often times will have the best photography tips for your shoot.

female model photo shoot photo'
Ilona Panych
street photo shoot female model
Moses Vega

2. Props such as a piece of art, a building, instrument, etc

If shooting on location or in nature, take the time to scout the location before the shot, and take notes to plan specific images, ideas, or compositions. When using props that you do not own, make sure you have legal permission to both use them in your photo shoot and then distribute the images down the road.

3. Maintain a vision for your photos

If you don’t have a vision to start off with, you’re going to have a harder time actually creating the photographs that tell the story your photo shoot is trying to tell. Using inspiration, mood boards, previous photographs, life experiences, you can get into the mindset of your photo shoot and begin envisioning the final photographs.

Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

4. Photo shoot gear is paramount.

You need a fresh memory card, batteries, and the lenses, filters, and other accessories that you will need for the shoot. Make sure that your gear is ready to go so that it doesn’t keep your subject waiting.

Reminder: the shoot won’t go 100% as planned

I like the motto “Hope for the best, prepare for the worst”, and you should apply that to your live photography work. Anticipate what could go wrong, and prepare for that. You want to be able to get something out of every session even if it doesn’t go as planned. Research photography hashtags to better understand the niche to prepare you for all possible outcomes.


Additional, essential pointers for your first photo shoot:

The essentials for a professional photo shoot are your subject, your camera equipment, and of course you!

It is important to bring a good attitude and be ready to connect to people that you may be working with. Even professional models may tense up with a camera pointed at them, especially if it is boudoir photography, and establishing a connection can lower the amount of stress that a camera brings, making for better shots. Emotion is captured by a camera, and it is easy to see when someone is uncomfortable in a photograph. 


If working with people, make sure to obtain a release.

The reason you need a model release is that, if you are going to profit from an image, license it, or use it outside of a specific case, you need one. A model release is necessary for any person whose likeness appears in a photograph used for business or fashion and advertising use. Even if you are not planning on using an image for that case, you may find yourself wanting to sell the image in the future, so try to get a release. In certain genres like aerial photography or drone photography, this would be truly difficult.

3 Quick Tips on how to make a photo shoot look professional:

1. Want professional photos? Practice, practice, practice. 

The legendary street photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson once said “Your first 10,000 photographs are your worst.” In the age of digital photography, it is likely that this would change to “Your first 10,000 unique photographs are your worst.” Either way, it is clear that, to improve to a professional level, you need to take a lot of photos, become comfortable with every aspect of photography, and learn from yourself.


2. The camera probably doesn’t matter

Some of the best photos ever were taken a century ago. This is not to say one cannot do incredible things with an expensive Canon. However, the story behind a picture goes further than the pixel quality. Additional, there is no shortage of photo editing apps to spruce up your image quality after the fact.

3. Focus on knowledge & learning

A professional photo shoot is predicated on two aspects: 1) Technical perfection: how technically perfect an image you take will be depends on how much time and effort you have put into learning how to create technically perfect images with your camera. 2) Creativity: while creativity cannot be taught, it can be accomplished through experience and inspiration. Look at other famous shoots, think about your life story, or just start snapping and see if any interesting themes can develop. With enough knowledge and patience, creativity can shine through.


Professionalism is key

The greatest photo shoots occur when both model and photographer are at ease. The more professional the shoot, the better the pictures will be. Check out the 10 most famous photo shoots in history here


When working with clients or models, a level of confidence in how a photographer works stimulates a better reciprocation of that confidence from the model. While you may be a timid or shy person, when you are working as a photographer, you need to behave in a confident manner that assures those you are working with that you know exactly what you are doing. Even when working with inanimate subjects, confidence allows you to become a more creative photographer and pursue more inspirational photographs.

What are you waiting for?

Now that you have a pretty good idea on how to run your first photo shoot, pick up your camera and start snapping pics! Your first professional photo shoot awaits you!