YOUR PHOTO SHOOT
So - you’ve got a great idea for a photoshoot, your outfit is ready, the styling is sorted and all there’s left to do is book the photographer who will help bring your vision to reality. You’re so excited and you can’t wait!
They’re just one small problem - you don’t know any photographers!
Finding a photographer to work with can be a tricky thing especially when you’re new to the scene and have yet to build up a personal registry of photographers you have collaborated with, feel comfortable in front of and trust to realise your visions and ideas.
Here’s a little guide to help you make the right choices when working with a photographer, either for the first time or to make your next shoot a better experience than your last one - written by the internationally admired and adored burlesque photographer, Angel Leggas of 3 Fates Media. This handy guide will help you make the most of your photoshoot experience and should also serve as a guide on how you should treat your photographer. Read more about Angel at the end of this article.
PART 1 - Initial Contact
In this current technological ‘Wonder Age’, advances in camera technology, and in particular Digital Camera technology, have led to a huge increase in the number of people presenting themselves as 'professional photographers' (sometimes simply based on the fact that they have dropped a few hundred dollars on a snazzy new camera with all the bells and whistles and a kick arse auto point & shoot setting). These cameras have been specifically designed to produce wonderful images regardless of the user’s experience and expertise and as such have led to an over-saturation of photography businesses and so-called photography pros popping up all over the place.
So how do you settle on someone who will deliver what you need amongst this overwhelming, seemingly endless choice of photographers, all chomping at the bit for your business and attention?
It very common these days for you to be approached by a person claiming to be a professional photographer wanting to work with you. A most likely scenario is that the photographer has either seen a previous image of yours (social media, online or print publication) or has seen you in person,
live in a pageant, competition, performance or other event (cosplay, convention etc). Regardless of where they’ve seen you before, it can be both a flattering thing being approached as well as a little disconcerting.
So how do you go about dealing with the uncertainty of possibly working with a photographer who you’ve never met or worked with before and who has approached you out of the blue?
If the photographer approaches you online or via a message/email etc, the first thing you must do, or rather ‘not’ do, is commit to anything. Acknowledge their interest in working with you and ask them for the following info:
Ask their name and/or the Business Name they work under
If at any stage during this initial contact the photographer becomes impatient, evasive or is unable to provide you with clear-cut examples of their work, or if the type of shoot they’re after is not what you’re interested in doing, consider that a red flag, thank them for their interest and inform them that you’re not available or interested.
If you are approached in person rather than via a message, all of the above questions are still very much relevant, however you can also ask the person approaching you for a business card - it’s a handy thing to have as it will make your job a little easier when doing some further research.
So, let’s assume that photographer contacting/approaching you has happily answered all of your questions and you are happy to explore the possibility of working with them. The most important thing to remember is this is still not the time to commit to anything.
You now need to give yourself a little time to check things out eg:
• Google the photographers name or business
• Check out their Social Media pages/Website
• Ask your friends and colleagues if they know or have worked with this photographer
• Ask more than one person
• Look at samples of their work - is it good, is it what you’re after, is it their work?
With just a little bit of due diligence on your part, you can in many cases very quickly ascertain if this photographer is either legitimate, accomplished and/or someone you might be interested in working with. If, however after doing your research things check out but you still feel any doubt whatsoever, follow your intuition and - WALK AWAY
PART 2 - Before the shoot
Okay, so everything checks out and you’re keen to work with this photographer - what do you do next?
This is the time to ask specific questions about the shoot. This can be done via message or in person if you feel comfortable doing that however if you are still unsure as to weather you want to shoot with this photographer, do not meet them face to face at this stage.
Questions that may be asked are as follows:
Will the shoot be indoors in a studio, or outdoors?
What type of lighting will we be using?
What type of setup will we be shooting (buildings, props, objects etc) - do I need to bring props?
What are we looking at in terms of hair, makeup and outfit - do I need to do/arrange my own or will it be provided?
What is the idea/concept/feel of the shoot
Is this a paid shoot? Will the photographer be paying you a fee or you them? Or is this a TFP* shoot?
*A TFP shoot (Time For Prints) is most commonly an arrangement between you and the photographer whereby the photographer agrees to provide you with an agreed number of digital images from the shoot, in return for your modelling services i.e. there is no monetary fee paid to either party.
Once these questions have been asked and answered and both you and the photographer are in agreement, you will be ready to make arrangements for the actual shoot. It’s great to get an agreement in writing if possible. This can simply be a summary of what has been agreed to in the form of written correspondence between you and the photographer, or a more formal contract requested by either party.
Please keep in mind that if either you or the photographer are not comfortable with a formal contract of service, you can both still decide to walk away at this stage. There are many relevant and excellent articles online about how to navigate and negotiate formal photography contracts, so please check them out if that is the way you’d like to proceed.
PART 3 - The Shoot
Okay so you’ve made contact and have sorted out all the details and are ready, willing and excited to shoot with your chosen photographer. The day is fast approaching - what do you do now?
If this is your first ever shoot or if you have shot before but need a bit of personal support on the day of your shoot, you can ask your photographer if it’s okay to bring someone along i.e. a friend or chaperone etc.
There are both positives and negatives in having a support person at the shoot. You may feel more comfortable having a friend/chaperone with you but it can interfere with the process, especially if your friend/chaperone is having an active input during the shoot by commenting or directing both you and/or the photographer. A good compromise is to ask the photographer if it’s okay to bring someone along but to assure the photographer that they will not interfere in any way. Some photographers may agree only if the support person is out of the room or away from your line of sight so as to ensure no distractions. Some photographers may refuse all together.
WARNING - This can be a sign that the photographer may not be 100% legit but your pre-shoot research/reference checks should assist you in making the right call here. However, please bear in mind that there are many very well known, legitimate photographers who are incredible to work with but insist on one to one work, so you should not automatically assume that there is something strange going on if they insist on privacy during a shoot. Again, let your intuition and gut feeling be your guide on this one if you’re not 100% comfortable with the situation.
The day is here and you have arrived, ready for the shoot. It is at this point that there should be no surprises! Everything that has been discussed and agreed on is what should be actioned. There should be no drastic changes of plans insofar as the concept and styling of the shoot is concerned. Of course, things can happen during a shoot i.e. equipment malfunctions, hair & makeup malfunctions, environmental changes etc but barring unforeseen circumstances, things should go as planned and as agreed upon.
WARNING - If your photographer suddenly suggests turning a clothed shoot into a nude/semi-nude shoot and this has not been discussed as an option by you previously, don't be afraid to walk away.
Okay so now the shoot is under way and is going as planned. What sort of interaction/direction can you expect from your photographer?
Firstly, physical contact is unnecessary in 99.999999999999999% of shoots, but if it is required CONSENT PLEASE!
Secondly, you should always be offered a private place to change or get ready. If no such place is available, a photographer should by default always turn away or leave the room/area if possible. You may feel comfortable getting changed or disrobing in front of your photographer but that must always remain your choice, never theirs.
The precepts of Dignity, Respect & Consent should be observed at all times and by all parties when engaged in a photoshoot. A photographer should never:
• Inappropriately comment on your appearance
• Make lewd or dirty remarks/jokes
• Ask for personal information/delve into your private life during a shoot (or at any time for that matter)
• Invade your personal space
• Get angry, aggressive or frustrated
• Pressure you to do anything that makes you feel uncomfortable
• Rush you
A professional, respectful photographer will always:
• Treat you with dignity and respect
• Ask permission
• Keep you informed
• Make you feel comfortable and in control
• Suggest ideas and direct you in a way that positively motivates you
• Be patient, understanding and friendly
• Inspire you and be inspired by you
• Be organized and punctual and prepared for anything
• Do everything they can to make the shoot enjoyable and rewarding
• Give their absolute best
• Give you ample opportunities to rest and recharge during the shoot
There are many more things that contribute to a successful photoshoot such as quality of the styling (hair/makeup/clothing), technical expertise, quality of equipment, post shoot editing etc but in so many cases, getting the basics right as discussed in this article is a great foundation on which
to build a successful portfolio of images as well as building great relationships with professional photographers that you respect and enjoy collaborating with.
Best of luck with your future photoshoots - can’t wait to see your pics!
And if you have a fabulous photo you'd like featured on the website please get in contact.
About the Author
Angel has worked in the Melbourne professional & independent arts scene for over twenty years as
an actor, writer, director, producer, photographer and videographer. He founded his own
production company – 3 Fates Media in 2011 and has since produced numerous theatre works
including the sold-out season of ‘Triage! A Nursing Cabaret’ as part of the 2013 Melbourne Cabaret
Festival, the silent comedy ‘Last Mime Standing’ for the 2014 Melbourne International Comedy
Festival, the Box Office smash and 2013 Green Room Nominated Cabaret – ‘The Yummy Burlesque
Hour’ and in 2018 produced the sell-out season of ‘Subtle’ written & performed by Susan-ann
Walker and Sally Bourne.
In 2014, Angel wrote, directed, produced and filmed 2 advertising campaigns for AFL Victoria as well
as producing another sell out season of ‘The Yummy Burlesque Hour’ at Melbourne’s iconic Butterfly
2015 saw Angel’s production company – 3 Fates Media, providing multimedia services for the
acclaimed, sell out season of ‘The Living Museum of Erotic Women – Written and Directed by Willow
J Conway and produced by Bernzerk Productions and in 2016 and 2017, Angel was listed in the
prestigious 21st Century Burlesque Top 10 Most influential non-burlesque performer charts for his