Photography Tips  to Make Your Photo Shoot a Success | ODEA

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Photography Tips to Make Your Photo Shoot a Success

This week’s Brain Lava podcast is a special one. ODEA’s very own birthday twins, Megan Zidek, ODEA Project Manager, and Stephanie Cosgrove, ODEA Graphic Designer, sit down to talk about photography tips they’ve picked up over the years.

Creating a shot list, organizing a “pre-pro” call, deciding on additional vendors you may need… there’s a lot of things to check off your list but ODEA is here to help. Whether you’re preparing to work with a photographer or you’re going the DIY route, Megan and Stephanie have a few tips to prepare you for whatever comes your way.

Have some photography tips of your own? We would love to hear about them at [email protected].

P.S. Send cake and puppies.

Prefer to read instead of listen? We’ve got you covered. Keep scrolling for a transcript of this episode.


Megan: Welcome to Brain Lava a marketing and tech podcast for curious minds, I’m Megan. Today’s Brain Lava topic is photography tips and I am joined by my birthday twin, Stephanie.

Stephanie: I’m Stephanie I’m a graphic designer here at ODEA and we both have mothers who are beautiful and birthed us today, an undisclosed amount of years ago. So yes, photography we’re talking about that today. It’s an exciting, and maybe sometimes, scary time to decide “hey, we actually need to invest in a full-on photography shoot for our brand and what we need to do?”. We’ve got some tips to help you think through what it is you’re going to need to do in order to make that really worthwhile and a success.

The first thing you really need to think about is what are these images for; what are you going to be using them for, what platforms will you be needing them in, are they print or are they online? A lot of times, what we’re using a lot of these photos for is web. Websites that we design for people and then we think “well are most of these images horizontal and are they going to be very high or a very thin, do we need room to place copy on them or not.” Those are very important things to think through and communicate with your photographer.

M: The other thing I think when figuring out what you’re trying to do, is staying focused on the immediate task at hand. If it is a website, determining what images you need for your website. Not getting distracted with a campaign that’s way too unrelated because, depending on when your photo shoot is and how much time you’re dedicating to it, you don’t have forever to get every photo that you want. You might need to do multiple photo shoots or break it out throughout the year, kind of depends on the situation. Point is not to try and do it all in one shoot and focus on getting the most important images in the amount of times that you have.

S: Right, exactly. That brings me to my next point: prioritization. Let’s say, your first priority is launching your new website and a secondary priority is that you have a trade show coming up next year. Being able to make that full list of things that you want to capture and bringing the ones that are most time-sensitive to the top. Clustering which images that you might be able to take together. If you have a full 20 products that you want to photograph, but five of them should be in this kind of scenario and five in this and five in this, making sure that they’re clumped to be the most efficient for when you’re taking them.

A big one will be communicating with your photographer. Different photographers have different styles. Some photographers we worked with have been very relaxed, go with the flow shoot from the hip and that has worked for us to be able to get a really wide breadth of images to choose from. Other photographers that I’ve worked with have been very attention to detail and fastidious. For instance, one of my previous photo shoot’s clients was for a beverage, so we would concoct these very specific scenes that then we need to focus in on this cocktail with. There was a much different setup than it would be if we’re going through a warehouse or a production facility, where we just need to capture different segments or different people working on things. Really communicating with your photographer; what the photos that you are looking for are, what their style is, how much they think they’ll be able to get through in a day, so that they can feel comfortable in what they’re bringing professionally to the table.

M: So have to remember that your photographer has a lot of experience maybe in your industry maybe in others, but it’s all going to carry over. Collaborating with them on your shot list and agenda and just thinking through any questions/ideas you might have with them prior to the shoot. You might be surprised the ideas that you come up with together and shared experiences that they might have that will make your plan and your photo shoot itself stronger. I think that’s important to remember that they’re professional and this is what they do and they have lots to offer to your specific photoshoot.

S: That’s another really great thing to make sure that you do before your photo shoot day is to have a pre-production call or a prepro call. It’s what we in the industry call it and that’s the phone call that you want to have with all of the key players; everyone on your team on the client side/ a team on the agency side/ the vendors (photographer, stylist, hair and makeup etc.) that you’re working with to make sure you’re on the same page and have a good baseline for your day.

M: On those calls there’s information that you will probably want passed on to people who aren’t on the call but are participating. If you do have models or if you’re shooting in your facility people working that you’re trying to capture naturally, there might be information, they need to know. The information can include; what to wear or how they might need to change their work day, that you would want to give them as much notice as possible. Thinking through all of those details that you might forget ahead of time, so that’s why it’s important to have those conversations early, so that you can be as prepared as possible.

S: The next thing you’ll want to do is make sure you’ve got your shot list and your schedule that you can outline before your pre-pro call and then adjust it as needed. Your shot list will be what you want to shoot and, in the order, that you want to shoot it. Your schedule will coincide with that as far as how the day is planned out and the things that you want to make sure you don’t forget to schedule in. There is scouting, whether the photographer scouts the location before the shoot day or on the shoot day, make sure that time is scheduled in there. You’ll also want to schedule setup and breakdown time if you do have any props that need to get set up or if your photographer has a lighting kit that they’re going to use that’s going to take time to set up and take down or move around. Last but not least, make sure you schedule breaks. I remember one of the first video shoots I went on, we were just so excited and gung-ho to do everything we forgot to schedule a lunch break and our videographer said “um, excuse me, I need a break please.” So definitely don’t forget to give yourself some time, I know it’s a very exciting full day. You need to keep your energy for yourself and your whole team.

M: People still need food and bathroom breaks and rest. Also, I think related to that, is providing food that makes sense. We just did a photo shoot last month with a client that had children there, so we made sure to have plenty of snacks, juice boxes and stuff that they could eat. Had we not thought of that ahead of time we would have had some crabby kids that needed some fuel, or would be scrambling in our bags to feed them.

S: Something that you may want to talk to your photographer about or talk with your whole team about is whether or not you may want to add other vendors to your photo shoot. Depending on the photo shoot and what your photographing, it might make sense to add on. Your photographer might have an assistant to help them with their equipment and/or lighting or a second shooter to get b-roll footage or kind of behind the scenes things. We’ve had cases where it’s been very worthwhile to have a hair and makeup person on set to make sure everyone is really presenting their best foot forward.

M: Yeah, I think when people hear hair and makeup, they think that they’re going to be all dolled up and not looking like themselves, especially for headshots that you want to look natural. You’d be surprised once you’re working with the hair and makeup artists how they can make you look natural and give you enough lip color or enough foundation that your skin isn’t shiny. They’ll adjust your hair while you’re getting photographs and make sure that there’s nothing out of place. While those things may sound like too much or unnecessary or frivolous, it’s actually very critical. You’ll appreciate having that on hand.

S: It will really give your photos an added polish that, if you are making the investment to take them, make that extra investment into making them really polished is really worth it. With that too, depending on the type of photo shoot a stylist might be appropriate whether that’s a clothing stylist for dressing the kids on the shoot that you guys did. Or, I’ve worked on something like that beverage shoot that I did, we hired a stylist to come with a bunch of different prop options. We had this great glassware to choose from and little spoons and mixers and placemats that really gave a variety of textures into that shoot and gave it a lot more depth and richness than we could have had without one definitely.

M: Last, but not least, when the day of your photo shoot comes up you’re going to feel very prepared with your agenda and your shot lists and your team’s going to be prepped and ready to go but, as with anything, make sure that you’re feeling flexible and expecting the unexpected whether it’s good or bad. Just because you have a shot list doesn’t mean you’re going to get everything on that shot list accomplished. It also means that there could be opportunity to photograph things that you weren’t anticipating ahead of time but, is a good opportunity to photograph it when it’s there. Just be open to changing your agenda because that will probably happen whether it’s a positive or negative thing just anticipate that.

S: Right, it’s always nice to have some extra items as you make that priority list of what it is you want to capture to have a good ballpark of what you think you can accomplish. Then if you have some extra time in a day that you can scoot in a few more, if there are a few things that you can’t get to you won’t be heartbroken.

M: Yeah, I think we’ve probably both experienced both sides of that! Times where we don’t make it through our whole shot list at all and then times where we end early by some miracle and then have other things, we can get to because of that.

S: After all that, if you have been considering a photo shoot, but you maybe feel like you’re not quite ready to commit, we also have a few tips on if you are planning to DIY photography for your marketing use. I would say that there are two major things to keep in mind. Lighting is one of them. I think lighting can really make or break the photos that you take and natural sunlight is really your best friend. You don’t really want to shoot something at high noon when the sun is blasting you in the face but, if you have a window or some way to get some diffused sunlight even coming in that’s really going to put a really natural warm beautiful glow on everything. Whereas, fluorescent lighting can get a bit harsh and create strange shadows or strange colors that wouldn’t normally be there. The other thing to think about is composition. A lot of times you might hear of people talking about depth of field in your image that’s when you actually have more going on in the background. A lot of people’s first reaction when doing headshots of new employees is to have them stand in front of a blank white or cream wall. While it’s nice to make sure that the background is not too busy, what you’re actually doing is just creating a very flat and uninspired uninteresting image. If you can put people in a place where there a hallway or if you can get outside, an interesting line of trees trailing off into the distance that can really just bring so much more depth and interest to your photo without getting too overly busy.

That is our list of tips that we can share with you today.

M: One more tip; don’t forget to have fun. It can be a really exciting time and we’ve seen that it builds a lot of excitement and companies especially because they feel special to celebrate what’s going on and get new headshots or whatever it is, so enjoy it!

S: Sometimes people get really nervous to be on camera, if you can just build excitement and joy and playfulness around it can really break down those barriers of nerves or any reasons people are getting in their head. Have fun, that’s a good one! We’ll put that at the top of the list of to dos. I would say that’s it for our January 8th recording of the Brain Lava podcast. As a reminder it is Megan and my birthday today, so you can send any gifts to our ODEA office at 53 West Jackson, Suite 1523 that’s in Chicago Illinois 60604 care of Stephanie Cosgrove and Megan Zidek. Preferably Visa or Amazon gift cards or cakes. We always enjoy cakes.

M: Puppies.

S: I’m going to forego the puppy all right, but you can have my puppy.  Thank you thank you for listening everybody, and tune in next time on Brain Lava.