[for photographers] Getting the perfect shot EVERY time

I sat myself down for a good, honest talk a few days ago.  I needed to reflect.

Do you ever feel kind of nervous after a photo shoot because you are just not sure that you got the shots you wanted?  Where the thought of downloading the files can give you a mini panic attack?  (Please tell me I am not alone here!)

That feeling makes me sick to my stomach.  Seriously sick.  I-am-never-ever-going-to-be-good-enough-so-I-should-just-quit-now sick.

So, I sat myself down and had a little chat with myself.  Basically, I kicked my own butt to high heaven.  I needed to know how I could avoid this, and how I could make sure that I realized my vision for each shoot every time I had a shoot.

Here’s what I came up with:

1. Study, study, study posing and lighting (and then study some more!)

Analyze the catalogs that show up in the mail, stalk your favorite photographers, and never miss an episode of America’s Next Top Model.

We need to study our craft and build up an arsenal of poses that work.  This can come through for you big time when your mind goes blank in the middle of a shoot.

I like to keep all of these images in a notebook.  I cut out inspiring photos and make my own little photography textbook.  I page through it whenever I feel a little dry creatively and whenever I am preparing for a portrait session.

(Yes, we can discuss the ultra fine line of being inspired by other photographers and copying other photographers ad nauseum, but that is for another post at another time.)

2. Make a list of the shots you want (Write it down!)

I am kicking myself for not thinking of this earlier!  I have been doing step #1 for a while now, but I still often felt ill prepared during a shoot.  I needed to add this little gem to the mix.

Once you have booked a client or model and once you have found your location, start writing down a list of the exact shots that you want.  Visualize the final product.  Picture the pose, picture the perfect spot at your location, and picture the lighting it will need.


You can add to the shot list over time and memorize it before the shoot.  I would also suggest putting that special piece of paper in your pocket on the day of the shoot.  It will give you a nice safety net if your brain short circuits while you are out shooting.

3. Practice at the location (before the shoot!)

Don’t just find a location, seriously scout out a location!  That means getting out of the car, walking around, looking at the light, and practicing different poses at the location.

That’s right, physically try out the poses you want your client to do.

A couple of days before the photo shoot, go to the location and practice  all of the different poses that you can think of.  Bring the list from point #2 and practice.

This gives you all of the time in the world to feel out which poses work and which ones don’t, and you can do it all without the pressure of having the client there with you.  If you are extra awesome, bring a friend to photograph you as you practice.  This will give you an even better feeling for what will work when it is time for the actual shoot.


If you are going to walk away from this post with anything, walk away with this:  OVER PREPARE!

Creativity may take hold as soon as you show up at the shoot, and you may find out that you didn’t even need your book of poses or your list of ideas, but what if it doesn’t?

Do you think you will ever be sorry that you showed up to a shoot with a loaded arsenal and an extra bag of tricks up your sleeve?

Let me know your thoughts.

How do you prepare?  Does any of this work for you?  Am I just a compulsive control freak that stresses out way too much?


Happy weekend, my friends.