Get the most from your shoots

A few days ago I did a shoot to get some images for my stock photo composites and it occurred to me that it might be worthwhile to share some of the little things I do to try and get the most from my shoots. The idea came to me when I was scrambling to fix mistakes that would not have happened if I followed my own guidelines!

Book an Extra Model
If you are working with models and paying them very little, book an extra one! I had four models scheduled at $30.00 each with a two-hour guaranteed minimum for each. Two of them actually showed up. More than once, when doing “budget” shoots in which the models are not making very much money, I have had no shows. When one considers the potential income from a stock shoot, and the effort and time that goes into putting a shoot together, hiring an extra model can have huge benefits. Also, I have my assistants bring appropriate wardrobe, and have a change on hand for them, so that they can fill in as well.

Ask the Model
Ask the model if she or he has a girlfriend or boyfriend who would like to model…or a friend, parent or sibling. That can be a gold mind for finding new talent…and it can be great to have models that already know each other and can quickly get to a comfort zone in the shoot. In the above photo I asked the woman model if she had a family and if they might like to to a shoot…and ended up with a wonderful stock image of families facing adversity.

Have More Shots
Have more shots on your shot list then you can possibly do. That way, when a giving shot isn’t working out for whatever reason you have plenty more to go on to. I type up my shot lists with a check box in front of the idea…that way I can check them off as I go and be far less likely to miss an important opportunity.

Go With The Flow
Today I was shoot the model with a specific composite in mind when I realized that what I was seeing through the viewfinder was a great beauty shot…so I went with it for a few minutes and got some great material that was not on my shot list.

Prioritize the Model Release
Get the release signed first thing…it is easy to forget about it in the chaos and often party-like atmosphere at the end of a shoot. And don’t forget to read the release! How often have I found myself cursing when entering model release information and finding some of the handwriting illegible or various pieces of information, like birthdates or ethnicity, missing.

Extra Wardrobe
The models will tell you they have the right clothes: Don’t believe them! Think of it as a bonus if they do come with the necessary wardrobe. I make a quick trip to the thrift store or Ross before my shoots just to make sure I have at least one good wardrobe change for each model…and don’t forget the shoes!

Make A Print
If you do compositing like I do, and you have a background your planning on stripping your model into, or composite parts you will need to work in to the shoot, make prints you can refer to at the time of shooting. That way you can be sure of details like angles, elevations and lighting. Better safe than sorry!

Take a Break, And Check Your Files
Somehow, yesterday, at the end of the shoot I started to open some of my files to bask in the glow of a job well done. Uhhh, what! Two-thirds of the way through the shoot somehow, I don’t know how (and it has only happened once before to me), my camera got switched from RAW to jpeg. Geez!

About the author

John Lund  has been shooting professionally for over 30 years.  John was an early adopter of Photoshop, first using version 1.0 in 1990.  He began using digital capture in 1994.  John has been active in the stock photography world as a founding member of BLEND IMAGES, and long time contributor to Getty Images, Corbis, and, more recently SuperStock.

John has lectured on digital imaging and stock photography, has been a columnist for PICTURE and DIGITAL IMAGING magazines, and written ADOBE MASTER CLASS, PHOTOSHOP COMPOSITING WITH JOHN LUND.  John has been a frequent speaker at Photo Plus and other venues and has taught workshops at Palm Beach Workshops and Santa Fe Workshops.  His work can be seen at

Marco | Editor

Editor at large and founder of a bunch of stockphoto businesses

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