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Tools for Shoot Planning

By Laughing Orc, written 1437734527.

Not everyone likes to plan shoots to the nth degree, and some people survive solely by a process of what those of us in the know call ‘winging it.’ But sometimes, it does pay to plan your shoot in advance.

These are some of the useful tools, websites, and techniques that you can use to plan your shoot more effectively and get the most out of the time you have.

Carry a notepad or use a note-taking app

Inspiration can strike at any moment, normally an inopportune one. When it does, you’re probably on a short timer to write it down before you forget it for good.

To combat this, you can try a couple of things. First, you can use the traditional notepad - small pocket notepads are still readily available and will fit in, well, your pocket.

If you want to be a bit more modern, you could use a note-taking app on your phone - Evernote, OneNote, and Google Keep are some of the best known multiplatform offerings, but whatever you pick try to go for one that has online storage so that you can access your notes wherever you go.

Use Pinterest to catalogue your ideas and share them

Everyone has their own way of storing their ideas and inspiration, but for my money, Pinterest simply cannot be beaten. For the uninitiated, Pinterest is a virtual scrapbooking tool - it allows you to take snippets from all over the web and ‘pin’ them to different boards, and is a very visual and user-friendly way to collect and share ideas.

It’s the sharing tools that give Pinterest its strengths when it comes to shoot planning, though. You can share boards of ideas with other people just by sending them a link, but if you really want to collaborate on ideas, it's easy to add your co-conspirators as authors, giving them the ability to add pins of their own to the board.

What’s more, you can then ‘like’ and ‘comment’ on pins in the board - leaving notes to say what you love and don’t love about any pictures either of you find.

Whether you want to use it for outfit planning, pose inspiration, lighting ideas or whole set brainstorming, you can get a good feel for what each person involved is thinking about and make sure you’re all singing from the same proverbial hymn sheet.

Discuss Specifics

Don’t make assumptions. Some models / photographers will be perfectly fine making it up as you go along, but it doesn’t hurt to set out some specifics before you shoot. You don’t need to go to extremes, but it’s helpful to clarify a few things so you both know where you stand. Most of these are common sense, but confirming them in writing before you shoot can save everyone a lot of hassle later.

  1. Be clear on compensation. If you’re doing a paid shoot, make sure you’ve agreed the amount and what you’re getting. If you’re shooting for trade, be sure that all parties are happy with what they’re getting out of it - how many images the model / stylist / mua will receive, for example.

  1. Who is providing what? If the model is expected to bring her own outfit / costume, make sure she knows this. Also worth thinking about: Who’s getting the refreshments in? Does everyone like jaffa cakes?

  2. Set boundaries. Be sure you know what levels and styles you’re planning on working to before the shoot.

You'll want to be keeping these communications on PurplePort as well, for your own protection just in case anything doesn't work out.

Research locations

There’s nothing worse than turning up to a location shoot only to find that you can’t get in. Sometimes this can’t be avoided no matter how much research you do, but wherever possible, try to check out the location you’re going to use before the day of the shoot. This is especially important if you’re doing a spot of urbex.

If you don’t know of a location, there are a few ways to find one. The most widely known is http://www.shothotspot.com which does a decent job of plotting potential shoot locations on an interactive map. It’s not an infallible resource; images and locations can often be out-of-date, but it's a good way to get a few ideas together.

Another option - which I normally use in conjunction with shothotspot - is Google Maps. Go to the area you’re thinking of shooting in and turn on the ‘explore’ view (from the tab at the bottom of the screen). This will show you geotagged images that users have uploaded to panoramio, together with the exact location tagged when the image was taken. It’s a great way of spotting sights that you might have missed. You can then use the Satellite and Street View functions to further scout possible locations without having to leave your desk. Other options include various urbex forums scattered throughout the web.

This is no substitute for actual physical reconnaissance, however - you’re going to have to go out there and have a look for yourself if you really want to know if a location is suitable.

Also, if you’re serious about location photography, you might want to give The Photographer’s Ephemeris a look, which can help you plan shoot times around sunrise / sunset times and such. The app is available for iOS, Android, and Desktop. There are some free alternatives, though they aren’t generally as well featured.

Use a Shoot Plan

Okay, you don’t actually need to draw up a shoot plan. But depending on how you work (and how forgetful you are) drawing up a plan might make the difference between getting lots of shots you like and nailing that one shot you wanted.

A shoot plan can be as simple or as complex as you like - it can be a very simple list of ideas, or a detailed description of shots, poses, and lighting setups you want to capture.

It could be as simple as:

 Or as complex as:

 

 Do you have any tips or tools that you think I've missed? Drop me a message!

 

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