Tech Talk – Studio Schedules, Be Prepared

Trial run on Mermaid Shoot
Trial run on Mermaid Shoot

Someone asked me a few months ago, if I ever take a bad picture? (I’m sure it was in jest………..of course I do, don’t we all from time to time?), I just usually choose to delete them, rather than parading them around. I am sure almost ALL photographers are the same. Especially portrait photographers who want repeat business or referrals, you don’t get that with bad images. However good preparation is a great way to prevent taking a bad photo in the first place. In a studio situation you can prepare to your hearts content; and I ALWAYS DO! So as this week is extremely busy for me, with lots of shoots I thought I might impart my schedule system for the studio.

  1. I ask a few question about the type of shoot that is required, sometimes people think they want a formal shoot, but it just isn’t ‘them’. Other people think they want something really cutesie, again just not ‘them’. So establishing the shoot is a must. If I am doing a fantasy shoot I have certain requirements and I discuss this with the client.
  2. I then ask if they are bringing any particular color clothing, with babies I usually ask if they have a color preference. Not everyone wants to see their little girl in pink or their boy in blue………there are so many beautiful bright, pastel and/ or natural colors out there. Guide them to color schemes you may already have to save money ie; white or cream is great for both sexes. I usually shoot babies naked, and have colored muslin wraps and blankets, I have a few different colors.
  3. If it is a more complicated shoot, I then write a shooting list, including sample images for ideas, or to help explain a certain shot. I start with the most difficult to set up and finish with the easiest in terms of props, back drops and accessories. make sure same colored back drops are run near each other. Don’t plan too many different staged shots, and leave enough time to reset between each, especially if there is a clothing change. Unless you plan on taking a really long time for a session. I find 1 hour is usually enough.
  4. If possible the day/ night before a shoot, or at least a few hours prior I set up the studio. Quick sweep and clean if necessary, put away all items from previous shoots, so there is no mess. it’s good to start with a clean slate.
  5. Starting from the last shoot, on my list (ie the quick and easy) I set up my backdrops on the rig, and place all props and accessories in the shot, get a feel for it, make sure it works. Sometimes I take a test photo. I then put any chairs, stools etc to the side, and put everything on my set up table (leaving backdrop where it is), all within easy reach, this is essential for baby shoots. I then place the next backdrop over the last on the rig and get out all accessories and props for that shot, and repeat until I get to the very first shot, which is usually the most complicated to set up, most accessories, props, lighting etc. I will set this up, take a few test shots, test lighting, make sure everything is still neat and tidy. I then power everything down and leave it ready for the shoot. Yes, of course there are some shoots that are really simple and there are no real props, just a couple of different colored backdrops and a stool or chair, but I still set up the same way, it’s just real quick and easy 🙂
  6. About 30 mins prior to client arriving, I turn on lights, heaters (if required), go through my shooting schedule again in my head. Once the client arrives, I am relaxed and ready to go, I will usually run through my shooting schedule with them, I don’t send it to them prior, as I find if there is too much time to think, the clients tend to complicate everything (especially with babies & kids shoots). The only exception is probably Weddings, but that is an entirely different scenario! I then grab my camera and we start to shoot.
  7. Once it’s a wrap I will inform them of when they can expect final edits, confirm all details (email, contact etc, double check it’s OK or not to use images on Social Media, Website & Blog……..I should probably write up like a release or something?). I guess everyone is different on this, some only print images, some issue prints & CDs or USBs, I usually give drop box and/or then USB, on certain packages I offer a few free prints.

Shooting to a schedule doesn’t mean I don’t have sudden spurts of inspiration, I often do, but as I am already so organized I can usually work something extra in, without too much fuss. Just don’t get too carried away. If it is something you have never tried before, try to casually throw it in the mix, don’t make a big thing about it (in case its a flop). Also listen to the client, occasionally they have great ideas………especially the kids!


This is just how I work, everyone needs to find their own method, some may think this is too controlled, but I find if I set up this way, things run very smoothly during the shoot, I don’t run overtime and I don’t get panicked. If I am relaxed and having fun, the clients will be too, in fact I have had a few clients say that my shoots have been the easiest and most enjoyable they have ever done. Don’t forget if working with newborns, make sure it is nice and warm, and be prepared for incidents and accidents with babies and newborns, especially if they are nude! Have paper towel and wipes on hand, as well as spare cloths, blankets and backdrops if at all possible.

P.S. This maybe just me, but I find using Queens or King Sized bed sheets great as backdrops, if they get dirty just through them in the washer and drier, and they come in a variety of colors, and remember baby poop stains…… remember to soak and bleach white clothes………….just saying 🙂

– Julz

P.S. I use the ladder to get some above shots, I’m quite short 🙂