Preparing for a brand photo shoot isn’t just about the what, it’s also about the when.
Sure, you need to make decisions like what to wear for your photoshoot and you’ll want to line up essential details like client models and your shoot location.
But even more importantly, you need to make sure you’re focusing on the right tasks at the right time!
One of the most common mistakes I see creative business owners make when it comes to brand photography prep is they don’t budget enough time to get everything ready!
Waiting until the last minute can backfire and may leave you scrambling to get your “ducks in a row” ahead of shoot day.
Luckily, with a bit of planning, this handy step-by-step timeline, and my decades of professional experience guiding creative entrepreneurs through this exact process you can feel confident come shoot day without feeling stressed out or second-guessing yourself.
Your Photo Shoot Prep Timeline
Believe it or not, there is so much more to prepping for your brand photo shoot than just booking a photographer and showing up on shoot day.
In fact, I suggest all creative business owners start this prep process at least 3 months ahead of their target photo shoot date (i.e. if you want to take photos in April, start this process in February).
Carving out this time will help you find the right photographer for you (and make sure they’re available!), get your materials and space ready, and reserve plenty of time to check those pre-shoot tasks off your to-do list without the hassle!
Let’s explore what to focus on and when ahead of your brand photo shoot. This month-by-month guide will help you stay on track, reduce the overwhelm, and keep you organized from start to finish!
3+ Months Ahead Of Your Photo Shoot
Don’t wait until a few weeks before you need your photos to start your brand photo shoot preparations! The more time you can gift yourself upfront, the better your entire experience will be!
The most important thing you can start to do 3 months before your ideal brand photo shoot date is research brand photographers.
How To Research Brand Photographers
First things first– you need to find your person! A photographer that you gel with. Someone who gets you and your creative business. This person should also make you feel comfortable, confident, and at ease.
But that doesn’t always happen on the first try. That’s why I encourage all creative business owners to start researching photographers as early as possible (3 months out is usually the sweet spot).
This will give you ample time to explore your options, ask questions, and reach out when you’re ready to move forward with the process.
I highly suggest you start here:
- Do a good old-fashioned Google search for local Brand Photographers. Remember, not all professional photographers are created equal! Some may offer brand photos but make sure this is something they are truly experienced in. Check out this guide for more info on how to find the right brand photographer for your creative business.
- Ask for referrals. Often the best way to connect with a brand photographer is through your own personal and/or professional network! You can also reach out to local businesses with branding you admire to find out who they hired to capture their brand imagery.
Quick Tip: Keep in mind, you should start researching photographers 3 months out from when you hope to schedule your photo shoot. You’ll also want to account for editing time after the shoot. If you need your images sooner rather than later, this process may even start earlier than 3 months out to ensure you’ll have your photos in time for your business needs.
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2-3 Months Before Your Brand Photo Shoot
Once you’ve started to research brand photographers, the next step is to start interviewing candidates through a Discovery Call. Before you hop on that call, get clear on your goals and what you hope to get out of your brand photoshoot, and decide how you will use these images for your creative business.
Schedule A Discovery Call
Before you commit to working with a photographer, it’s important to get to know them and make sure your vision and their expertise align. Most brand photographers will insist on scheduling a call before you book their services.
What is a Discovery Call?
So, you might be wondering,
“What exactly is a Discovery Call anyways?”
They often go by different names, but simply put, a Discovery Call is a complimentary (aka free), no-obligation phone call or video chat. During this call you and the brand photographer get to chat about your goals, what you have in mind, their experience and expertise, and ways to work together.
Often you’ll have the opportunity to ask about project turnaround time, scheduling, pricing, and brand photography package options so you can make sure the project is within your budget and scope of your branding needs.
Outside of exchanging this kind of basic information, it can be helpful to come prepared with some specific questions and a clear understanding of your needs. A strong brand photographer will help you clarify your ideas even further and work with you to bring it all to life!
Here are the 2 most important things you should define BEFORE your brand photography Discovery Call:
#1 Identify Your Brand Photography Goals
So, you’ve got your Discovery Call (or even a few) scheduled.
Before talking to the photographer, you’ll want to get clear on a few things for yourself so you can get the most out of your time together. You’ll hop on this call with so much more confidence once you understand your expectations, needs, and what really matters to you.
Maybe your goal is to…
- Stop DIYing your photos so you can save time on your visual marketing efforts
- FINALLY upload your products to your online shop
- Capture lifestyle portraits you feel confident sharing with the world
- Increase sales
- Curate cohesive, professional branding across platforms
The sky’s the limit! Once you’ve defined your goals, be sure to share these with the photographer so that they can set clear objectives for your shoot time.
#2 Decide How You Plan to Use Your Brand Photos
Next, you need to decide where these photos will live in your business.
Simply put: how will you use brand imagery?
Your photographer may even suggest additional ways that you can use your imagery to inspire marketing campaigns, and promotions, but you likely already know what’s motivating you to get these photos taken in the first place!
Are you hoping to use these images for…
- your business website
- an online shop
- social media
- a book
- an online course
- a magazine
- training documentation
- workshop documents
- or print marketing
You can choose several, but the way your photographer approaches the shoot and the types of images they capture (i.e. horizontal vs. vertical or lifestyle portraits vs. product images) may change depending on how you intend to use the photos.
All of these pieces will be addressed during your strategy meeting (more on that in a moment), but it’s helpful to have an idea of your needs in advance!
Book Your Shoot
Next, you’ll book your shoot! Once you feel confident that you’ve found the right brand photographer for you and your creative business, you’ll set a date, sign a contract, and put down a deposit for the photoshoot ahead of any Strategy Meeting. They’ll explain the next steps and get your strategy meeting scheduled.
Quick Tip: If you’re considering hiring a brand photographer and they DON’T offer a strategy meeting (or something comparable), you may want to explore other options. Click here to learn more about why I think strategy meetings are essential ahead of any creative brand photoshoot.
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2 Months Before Photo Shoot Day
You have already provided your photographer with a solid foundation for your branding session during the Discovery Call. They know where the images are going to be used and their purpose.
Now the fun begins:
Crafting a custom photo shoot session around your unique business.
So what do you need to prepare ahead of your Strategy Meeting?
While it was helpful to prep a bit for your Discovery Call, the Strategy Meeting is where you allow your photographer to do their thing!
When working with clients, I start the brainstorming process before the meeting based on our Discovery Call conversation and some industry-specific research. During the Strategy Meeting, I will present my ideas as a jumping-off point as we collaborate to bring their vision to life!
The only thing I suggest my clients do ahead of the Strategy Meeting is collect any inspiring brand imagery that speaks to them! I invite them to email me a list (or share a Pinterest board) in advance so that I can get a feel of what types of photos they gravitate towards. Often, these images will spark ideas for clothing colors, location vibes, perspective, and more!
While this can be helpful, I do like to stress to my clients that being a creative entrepreneur already involves wearing so many hats! Outsourcing a brand photographer is meant to take things OFF your plate, not add more to your never-ending to-do list. So, sending these
inspirational photos is a “nice to have ” ahead of our Strategy Meeting, not a “must-have” by any means!
It’s my job as your brand photographer to take the lead on the creative direction of the shoot. This means that during the Strategy Meeting, my clients have the space, structure, and support they need to be active participants in the process while getting excited about their upcoming photoshoot!
1 Month Before
Your scheduled brand photoshoot is just one month away! Anticipation is probably starting to set in which makes it a perfect time to prep your photoshoot space.
Whether you plan to shoot in your workshop, studio, office, or shop, you can work with your photographer to optimize your space and highlight the creative work you do.
If you decide to take photos off-site, outdoors, at an Airbnb, or in a photography studio, your photographer may go on a scouting trip to the space and report back to you so you can decide if it’s the right location for you. At this point, your brand photographer should have the date and time reserved for your shoot day!
If you want to take photos in a space of your own but feel like your space isn’t quite photoshoot-ready, ask your photographer for advice. You can send them photos or even FaceTime during your Strategy Meeting. You may not think it’s photoshoot ready, but a photographer’s eye can see a space in a totally different way. So, before you turn your space inside out and upside down, reach out to your photographer. They can help you prioritize and likely save you a ton of unnecessary time and energy.
Quick Tip: Keep in mind you may only need to use a specific section of the space. Find out before you go crazy organizing or cleaning the entire space!
1-2 Months (Optional Things To Consider)
In the last month or two before your photoshoot, there are some optional things you may want to line up in advance. Your brand photographer will help walk you through your options to you can decide what you value or what feels unnecessary
Here are some services and items you may want to book if needed:
Many creative entrepreneurs will opt to hire the pros for their hair, makeup, or nails so they feel polished and ready on shoot day!
Many people choose to do their own hair and makeup, but it’s really about what makes you feel most comfortable and confident! Your photographer can likely recommend trusted service professionals if you need referrals.
Nails may not seem important, but if you are a product-based business or plan to take any close-up photos of your hands for detail images, getting your nails done may become a priority!
New Clothing, Props, or Supplies
Need to buy props, new materials, or clothes for the shoot? Start buying now to ensure you have the items in time.
Props & Supplies
Your photographer may already have some generic props handy for you to use, however you may decide you need something more niche-specific.
In addition, it’s helpful to have plenty of the supplies you use on a regular basis to showcase your process in your brand imagery.
If you’re a pottery artist, make sure you have plenty of clay ready to display (there’s nothing worse than running out and realizing it at the last minute!). Now’s the time to stock up!
If you’re a floral designer, have plenty of fresh blooms ready that showcase the quality of your flowers (it should go without saying, faux flowers or grocery store bouquets aren’t going to cut it).
It’s all about being authentic and letting you and your unique process shine through!
Finally, you’ll want to figure out your wardrobe ahead of time. Many times business owners feel that this is a great opportunity to update their wardrobe! This may involve shopping for new outfits, shoes, or accessories.
Be sure to work with your brand photographer so that you know which colors, materials, patterns, and types of clothing items will work best for your branding needs.
Quick Tip: Not sure what to wear? I break it all down for you in this FREE What To Wear Guide!
Many times mock clients or customers will be needed for a brand photo shoot. You’ll want to reach out to a few people and schedule them for photoshoot day.
Often the best people to ask include:
- Past clients
- Ideal future clients
- Current clients
As a thank you (and a gentle incentive) my clients have offered complementary services or products in exchange for this help during the photoshoot.
While you will want to be in lots of your brand photos, mock clients offer variety and open up opportunities for you to capture imagery of you working with clients or showing a customer how to use your product! Content is proven to be more powerful when real people are represented in your imagery!
Quick Tip: Be sure to set clear expectations with your mock clients ahead of the shoot so they know what to expect! Confirm things like location, time, clothing, and any other relevant info so that you can all optimize your time together!
Start Prepping For YOUR Brand Photo Shoot
At this point, you have all the info you need to prepare for your creative business’ brand photoshoot from start to finish! Not only do you know what to do, but you have a clear, simple timeline that will help you prioritize your tasks and stay focused on what matters most!
Wish you had a cheat sheet to keep this all organized in your brain?
I’m one step ahead!
Click here to download the FREE Brand Photography Shoot Prep Timeline. I created it specifically for busy creative business owners like YOU to take the guesswork out of getting ready for your brand photos.
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