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How To Have A Successful Photo Shoot – Nick Burrett

Making sure you are properly prepared for each photoshoot that you do is essential to ensure that you get the best results possible. After all, organising a photoshoot can be an expensive endeavour. If you don’t prepare properly it can be a wasted endeavour, not just for you, but for everyone else involved.

So, with that in mind I would like to offer a small guide to ensure your shoots run as smoothly as possible.

Decide on a theme

Browse lots of photos looking for inspiration, or find inspiration in the things around you. It’s always easier to have a target in mind for want you would like to achieve instead of just winging it at the shoot, and then everyone involved knows what is expected of them. You can use some photos of previous shoots as a guide, but don’t do an exact copy as it wouldn’t then be inspiration.

Find a model that fits the theme

All models have their own skill sets, and some models are more suited to certain styles than others. So it’s important to find the right kind of model for the shoot you wish to do. You can use a model portfolio website like Model Mayhem to browse models and pick the best for the concept in mind. Remember, the better the model, the better the images will be. There is certainly something to be said for hiring a professional model as she will be very experienced and will not require much direction, if any, to achieve the look you are after.

Hire a Make-up Artist and Hair Stylist

A professional make-up artist is invaluable! Your goal is to create the best photos possible, and a professional make-up artist will make this goal so much easier. A model will be good at doing her own make-up, but she is not an expert, whereas a make-up artist has often spent years studying and learning how to do make-up specifically for photography and film which is different than make-up for a Friday night out. A hair stylist is often an overlooked person, but she is so essential. Hair styling should be a big part of any fashion shoot as bad hair is easily one of the most distracting things of any photo, it can either make or break a photo.

Decide on a location

Where you will be shooting will play a large part in logistics and the time of day for shooting. A studio is the easiest choice, as everything in the studio can be controlled, from the lights, to the backgrounds, and even a wind maker. Shooting outside though, often offers more variety, an endless amount of backgrounds and settings. The biggest factor with shooting outside will be the weather. It’s important to know what the weather prediction will be on your shooting date. Have the correct equipment with you to ensure than you can work with whatever conditions arise. 

Arrange the date and confirm with everyone involved

Once you have decided where to shoot, and with which model and make-up artist, now is the time to try to arrange a convenient date for everyone involved. This can sometimes be quiet challenging as everyone is usually very busy with other projects and finding a time when everyone is available is often easier said than done. You can also share the details of the make-up artist and model with each other, the make-up artist will like to know which model she is working with to get an idea of what make-up and hair to do.

Source outfits

If you are not using a dedicated fashion stylist you will need to source the outfits for the shoot yourself. Do not rely on the model to bring outfits! 9 times out of 10 they think they have what you are looking for somewhere in the bottom of their wardrobe, but when they bring it to the shoot it is nothing like what you were expecting or told them to bring. To guarantee that you have the look you want it is best to source the outfits yourself or use a fashion stylist. Invice the model to bring heels, however be prepared for them to arrive in a less than pristine condition.

The day before the shoot

The day before the shoot you should be checking all your equipment. Double check your batteries, memory cards and flashes. Ensure that there is an empty memory card in your camera (a spare memory card is also always handy).

You should also confirm again with the make-up artist and model and anyone else involved about the exact meeting time and location. Give them a meeting time 30 minutes before the real meeting time to ensure that they turn up on time. For test shoots, a model will not always get paid. Be prepared for various excuses for a cancellation. Some popular stories include that there was a death in the family. Its surprising how “unlucky” models can be right around the time of a shoot. This is often the case when you don’t use professional models.

The day of the shoot

So everyone has arrived at the location and the make-up artist is getting to work making your model look gorgeous. Now is a good time to build some rapport with the model, there is nothing worse than doing a shoot with a model when she is feeling uncomfortable with the photographer. But don’t try to flirt with the model, she is working, not at a bar.

You should also be setting up your lighting, making sure it’s working again and when the model is ready you can jump straight to shooting.

Directing the model

Whilst you are shooting the model it’s important to give her feedback on what’s working and what isn’t. However, try not to be negative, as no one likes negativity, instead reassure her as to what’s looking good and get her to do more of those instead. You can also suggest poses, but keep it natural. Allow the model to move freely during the shoot. Static images always look unnatural and will result in images with no feeling that just look too posed. 

Take lots of photos!

Never have fear of taking plenty of images. That is the benefit of digital cameras, you can take as many photos as you want and don’t have to worry about the cost of developing them. Shoot lots of photos, but don’t fire away on rapid fire. Check that the images are in focused and composed well. This is a good way to ensure that the image will look good and you won’t have to unnecessarily crop the images in post-production losing valuable pixels.

If you plan on printing the images later, the more pixel you have the better the print quality will be. Don’t forget to check the photos on the back of the camera screen when shooting, sometimes what looks good through the viewfinder doesn’t always look as good on the back of the camera, so make sure you keep checking to ensure you get the results you are after.

After the shoot

Now you can chill, hopefully everything went smoothly and you have some amazing photos to review. When reviewing the photos, it can be tempting to edit and publish every image. Don’t. Keep a tight edit, only pick the very best photos to edit and publish, it’s better to have fewer photos that are amazing than many photos that are average. This is why you rarely see more than a few images ever published of a single shoot in a magazine.

Don’t forget to show me your edited photos, I would love to see how it all turned out.

I hope this was a useful guide, and gave you something to think about. For more information you can reach me at

Nick Burrett is a professional fashion photographer based in London.