Prepare a Photo Session

How to Prepare a Photo Session

Regardless of your preferred photographic genre, whether the subject is posing for you or you rely on candid snapshots, you need to prepare your photo sessions. Some sessions may be more complex than others and require more planning, but even the most straightforward and casual photo sessions require some thought. So here is how to prepare a photo session efficiently.

Think of the Narrative

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Even when you take your camera out for a walk, it helps to have a narrative in mind. For example, today I’m going to photograph people’s lifestyles on a workday, people’s reactions to rain, or life on a famous street or in a notorious neighborhood.

In the case of studio photo sessions, knowing the narrative beforehand is crucial. You can’t keep the model forever trying to figure out the best story angle. You can’t arrange backgrounds and lighting for every possible creative idea. You need to stay on point, and for that, you need to know the point.

A narrative can be exact (e.g., a fashion editorial about sustainable jewelry) or very wide (e.g., spring in nature). It may also have a timeline (e.g., from raw materials to jewelry), a color palette line (e.g., from white spring flowers to purple ones), or a particular rhythm (e.g., contrasting bare trees with blossomed ones, before and after shots, etc.).

Create a Shot List

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A shot list is a list of compositions you want to complete during the photo session. For example, for a family photo session, you may want to take environmental shots of people interacting candidly, close-up portraits of individual family members, group portraits, etc. You may also think of more creative perspectives, such as photographing from above or from ground level.

While you can come up with fresh ideas while you are shooting, taking the time to make a shot list in a quiet moment before the session will boost your inspiration and morale. It will also make the photo shoot more efficient, which is especially helpful when it involves people.

Make a habit of creating shot lists for multiple creative ideas simultaneously. It helps you understand your sweet points and diversify your portfolio.

Choose a Setting

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Choosing a setting refers to backgrounds and lights in the case of a studio photo session and a location and time of the day in the case of an outdoor photo session. Planning the setting helps you transform your creative ideas into reality and complete the shot list. For example, if you want a long exposure shot, you will need the dimmed light for it and a moving subject that slows down beautifully (e.g., a sunset, a waterfall, a moving car, etc.).

For a studio photo session, having everything ready or at least at hand when the subject enters the room saves you time and creates an excellent impression. Your spring background may be already in place. Props may be at hand. Light may be already adjusted and tested.

Organize Your Gear

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Organize your gear like you organize your clothes: in categories. You won’t need all your gear at the same time. For example, keep items for bad weather in one place and those you can use in good weather in another. Group filters, memory cards, and batteries together. Organize lenses based on purpose (e.g., macro, all-purpose, portrait, etc.) and focal length (e.g., ultra-wide, wide, telephoto, zoom). Last but not least, keep things you use regularly at hand. For example, a camera with an all-purpose 50mm lens fitted with a UV filter and an all-terrain tripod.


Thinking about a photo session begins long before pressing the shutter release. Be organized and inspired, and don’t forget to create visual stories rather than just beautiful pictures.

Cover photo by aisvri on Unsplash

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