HOW TO ORGANISE A SMALL LOCATION PHOTOSHOOT

If you're starting a fashion blog, but haven't taken part in a professional location photoshoot before, it can be a pretty daunting prospect. There's lots to organise beforehand and it's really important that if you're the one that's being photographed that you look relaxed on the day.

When I worked as Head of Design at a clothing company I got really involved in some campaign shoots for websites and lookbooks, so have experience of putting together moodboards, casting models and styling. This experience was invaluable when I set up my first blog photoshoot, so I've put together a bit of a Q&A here that should help things go smoothly for you too.

What is a moodboard and do I really need one?
Putting together a Pinterest moodboard before a photoshoot is a great way to visually communicate to your photographer and hair / make up artist what end product you want to achieve. This is what I put together for my recent shoot. It led on to discussions about finding the right location and also made me realise that to get the mood I wanted then we needed to work in the late afternoon on a sunny day when the light was low.
We also used the moodboard on the day to reference shot ideas.

  See my board here on    Pinterest    for photographer credits

See my board here on Pinterest for photographer credits

How do I find a photographer?
I find word of mouth to be the best way. Ask on twitter, or have a look at who is credited in photos you like on Instagram. Understand that each photographer has a style and so it's always best to work with the style that comes naturally to them. I liked the mixture of movement and stillness in Remco's shots and so felt confident that on the day he'd be able to capture photos like the one below. I also liked the fact he had worked with lots of non-models, so I knew he'd be able to direct me rather than expecting me to know how to pose. I was incredibly nervous at the start of the shoot so Remco used his long range paparazzi camera at first so I could just wander around and not feel under scrutiny. By the end of the shoot I was much more relaxed and more confident looking directly at the camera.

  Me wearing Boden Icons    Celeste Dress

Me wearing Boden Icons Celeste Dress

  Remco Merbis  - Photographer

Remco Merbis - Photographer

How do I find a location?
Unless you have budget to pay for a location you'll need to find somewhere that allows you to photograph there for free. We shot at the beautiful Ashton Court which is owned by Bristol council, but I know that National Trust homes, for example, won't let you do a shoot at their properties. So find somewhere you like, and just ask permission beforehand. 
You need to consider if the place will be busy and it that could interfere with your shots. Also think about where you will get changed (we took a changing tent to our shoot but in the end I just got changed behind trees, much to the amusement of the local dog walkers and teenagers playing football).
Go to the venue before the shoot to work out areas that are good for photos, otherwise you'll just be wandering around. Remember you are paying for people's time so make it work for you! Try to go at the same time of day as when you're planning the shoot so that you can see where the light falls then.

  I did a reccy of the location the day before, noting where the sun / shadows were at that time of day

I did a reccy of the location the day before, noting where the sun / shadows were at that time of day

How many outfits should I plan?
Ask your photographer how many outfits they can cover in the time you've booked them for. We worked on 4 outfits over 3 hours and got some extra shots of accessories etc too. Remember changing, moving locations, changing cameras etc all takes time. Don't expect to shoot a different outfit every 15 minutes unless you aren't fussy about the shot. In total I received approx 80 edited photos as a result of this photoshoot.

Do I need to plan the outfits beforehand or is it best to just play it by ear?
I plan the outfits beforehand, including underwear, jewellery and shoes. Don't underestimate how long this takes - it's part of the creative process.
I then work out the order / shot list of these outfits for the day and write a card for each outfit with things like "change in to white bra!" in large letters above drawings of the garments and notes about the shots I want, "get a great shot of sleeve" etc.
Take all tags out of the clothes if possible beforehand, iron everything and hang them in garment bags.  

  I hung all outfits up until the last moment to reduce the amount of creasing

I hung all outfits up until the last moment to reduce the amount of creasing

Do you buy things and take them back? What about shoes?
Yes, sometimes I buy and return. So make sure tags are kept safe and clothes are kept clean.
If you're outside then you won't be able to take shoes back so make sure you budget for that. Also earrings can't be returned. It's a great idea to take a scarf with you to protect clothes from your make up too.

What is a MUA and what is a stylist and do I need them?
A MUA is a make up artist, some of them also do hair too, though on large shoots you are likely to have both. I decided to book Portia Channell for my first shoot, who I'd worked with before. I knew that if I did things properly I'd feel more confident on the day. So Portia came to me a couple of hours before we were due at the venue, she did my hair and then my make up. She made sure my face and neck were the same colour (my face is quite tanned and my neck is so white!) and knew how much make up to put on for me to look natural in the shots. She does a fair amount of bridal make up too so is a pro at this. 
Then when the shoot was underway she would step in with some powder or a hairbrush if needed. 

 MUA  Portia Channell  changing my lip colour during the shoot

MUA Portia Channell changing my lip colour during the shoot

A stylist's role can change from shoot to shoot. Sometimes they will art direct the shoot but other times they can take more of a back step.
On shoots I've worked on, the stylist has pulled together the outfits before the day and is then on hand to dress the model, tuck in labels, roll up trousers and check they are happy with look and feel of the images. Luckily for me, Portia was on hand to help with this. So, she covered up my bra strap, helped me get changed and made creative suggestions along the way eg "it looked nice when you were tucking your hair behind your ear then" etc.
If you're on a location shoot and are moving around it's really hard if it's just you and the photographer, a third person is a necessity I think. There's lots of stuff to carry and lots to look out for.

How much does it cost?
Photographers are professionals, they have paid out thousands for the right equipment and it's taken time to perfect their craft, so please do not approach them to work for free. Even if they are recent graduates you still need to find budget to pay them. Their fee includes discussing the project beforehand, taking the images on the day, editing the images afterwards and sending them on to you. 
If you don't have budget for a photographer then perhaps consider working with your own camera and a tripod.
I think it's best to contact someone and ask what their fee is for a half day, and if you can't afford it ask if they would consider just doing 2 hours etc. Either way, expect to pay £300-£600 plus VAT for a half day.
A MUA will charge a day fee but might do a half day. Expect to pay £125-250 for a half day. Again they have undergone training and have had to pay out hundreds of pounds for their equipment.
As you're the one running the shoot I would suggest bringing water and snacks for everyone, and if it's a full day shoot really you should cover lunch.
When you look after people well then you can expect them to deliver exactly what you are looking for. My initial shoot cost hundreds of pounds but it has resulted in images I'm really thrilled with, and really strong and professional content to approach brands with. 

I hope you found this useful, any questions then please comment below, drop me an email or send me a tweet. Many thanks,
Niki

mango-frill-top

Want to know more about why I've started a fashion blog? Head here to read all about it.

Trousers / River Island, Top / Mango,  Scarf / Oliver Bonas. Photo by Remco Merbis.