Monday, July 18, 2011

Photoshoot Do's

So Kristen, bless her, has asked for a post on the Do’s and Don’t’s of Photoshooting. I’m happy to oblige. There’s lots of fun stuff to say, so I’ll do this topic in two posts.

In this one I’ll give you a list of my Photoshoot Do’s. Next post I’ll give you the Don’ts.

I wanted a photoshoot to get pictures I could use for my book cover, in my book video trailer and on my website. Since I’m marketing and selling the book only online, both my trailer and my website are extremely important. I wanted to find models to represent my characters and film them doing things from scenes in the book. I was very blessed to find models for six of my characters among my friends and family. Many of them not only looked like the characters in my head, they also had personalities to match. It was serendipitously/miraculously fun to find them, and they were delightful to work with. So here’s how it went.

First, a warning: In these posts I might talk like I’m a Photoshoot expert. I’m not. I’m a rank amateur who’s too unpublished and too poor to merit the services of a professional. I’m just having fun here, spouting off about my own experience as an amateur.

Remember that.

If you’re an author with a backer, this post will do you no good. In fact, it might even do you some harm. It might harm everyone, for that matter, but if you’re an amateur, you won’t figure that out so it won’t hurt too much.

Having now been warned, you are welcome to read about my photoshooting experience if you like.

If you are going to do your own photoshoot,


1. Plan, plan, plan. Every idea you have for a picture should be listed on an excel sheet, with side columns entitled, Photo #, Shoot Time, Models, Setting, Description of Scene, and Props. All the boxes in those columns should be filled in with details, details, details. Then the whole sheet should be re-organized and re-worked until you have the most efficient plan. You will run off a copy of this excel sheet for every person involved in the shoot, so everyone will know what’s happening, when and how.

2. Be considerate of your models. The shooting should be timed for their convenience, and/or for ease of movement from one setting to another. I scheduled all shots of my main character alone at the beginning. Next came shots of him with one other character. Then came shots I needed of those two with a third, etc. I estimated how long each shot would take, and set specific times when each of my models needed to be present. That way they didn’t have to hang around long before their shoot time. Most came for the whole day, just for fun, but I wanted to give them that option.

3. Pay attention to transportation demands. If your shots require several different settings, plan to do all shots in one place at the same time if your model schedule allows. We were able to do all the shots within walking distance of my main character’s house, so this was not a huge problem. We had some shots on his front lawn, some in the city park behind his house, and the ones that needed to be taken against a plain backdrop, so the backgrounds could be easily removed for photoshopping, we took against the concrete wall of the tennis court next door.

4. Make the event fun for everyone. Your mindset and attitude is key for this one. We all agreed beforehand to approach the whole project as an experimental adventure. If a photo worked, that was great. But “the world as we know it” was not going to end if the whole project bombed, so we were able to relax and enjoy the process. The creative juices flowed freely, and so did the laughter. The only downside was that I couldn’t get pictures of my characters scolding each other, because they liked each other and were having too much fun to glare. I kept saying, “This is not funny. He is going to kill you. You have to look at least a little bit upset.” After the shoot was over, Zinovy took us all to lunch at a local restaurant. A good time was had by all.

5. Make provision for contingencies. Especially if the shoot is outdoors. It poured rain the week before our photoshoot, in a month that was supposed to be full of summer sun, and the forecast was for solid rain the day of the shoot. I prayed off and on all night. It poured until 4:00am, when the rain suddenly stopped. By 6:30 it had not started again, and, though the sky was full of threatening clouds, we decided to go for it. We had a beautiful morning. The overcast skies pleased the photographer, who didn’t want to deal with sun glare, and it only began raining again toward the end of the shoot, which we finished with an umbrella over the camera and a total disregard of the wet by everyone else involved. Our camp followers—a motley crew of friends and family members—carried jackets and kept the dog from running in front of the camera as much as possible. Everything worked out just fine.

6. Take a series of action shots for action scenes. This was one of the most important specific decisions we made. Because the director (moi) was an amateur, and we were not working with trained actors, we knew it would be hard to get natural or realistic poses. So I asked the cameraman (also an amateur, though a very talented one), to take a series of shots of the models in each of the action scenes. Then we could pick the best photo from each series. We ended up with so many frames of some of the shots that we could have made a video out of them, and I had lots of choices when I selected the stills. Most of the shots looked very natural, unless the characters were supposed to be mad at each other.

So that’s all I can think of at the moment. I’m sure there are other ideas I could share, but it’s 3:00 am, I’m brain dead, and I have an appointment with my web designer eight hours from now. In any case, I’m pretty sure if you follow these suggestions, you’ll have a great time and everything will work out well.

Not@hng caaan g#o rong.


Kristen said...

Thanks for sharing your experience--sounds like you all had a lot of fun!

Faith Imagined said...

You seem like a professional to me!!!