Hey, how’s it going? I’m Andy Jones, and this is episode 146 of the Photography Side Hustle podcast.

This week, we have a new audio message from Charlie in Great Britain. It’s pretty obvious he’s disguised his voice, so let’s play it now …

… Well, it sounds like he’s been on the helium again. Anyway, thanks for the question, Your Highness.

Okay, I’m going to give you some ideas on how to improve your photo shoots. Not only to take better photos but also to make the whole experience run smoothly. A little bit of work in advance of the session will take a lot of the stress out of it.

The first thing is …
Client Communication
If you don’t ask your customers what they want from the session, how can you give them what they want?

When you and the customer are on the same page, the session will run smoothly.

For weddings, I put a shot list together with the couple. You could easily do the same thing for any type of session. A shot list is just a list of all the photos they want and who is in it. Just a heads up, if you are shooting a wedding, get the couple to choose one of the wedding party to round up the family members and friends for each photo. You don’t have time to call out people’s names, but the best man or maid of honor will know a lot of the guests and can put the groups together as you shoot.

You also need to work out a timeline for the shoot and sign a contract listing all the customer’s expectations and your needs. Like what time the customer needs to be at the location or how long the session is. Whatever you can think of, you need to discuss it with the customer and get them to sign a contract.

If the booking is for a wedding, this is super important. You need to sit down with the couple and plan the timeline for the big day.

You need to know when and where you need to start. I always started with the guys getting ready. Then, over to the bride and bridesmaids for them to get ready.

Then you need to get to the ceremony early and get more pics of the guys looking nervous. At this point, you should already know where you are going to capture the ceremony from. If I hadn’t done a wedding at that church before, I always tried to visit it with the bride and groom a few weeks before the wedding. If it’s a church with big windows, try to be there at the same time that the wedding will take place. That way, you will see where the light is coming from. Shooting into sunlight coming through stained glass windows isn’t good.

So, work out your timeline, whether it’s for a wedding or a one-hour portrait session.

That brings me to the next thing you need to do …

Location Scouting
For weddings, most of the brides know where they want their photos taken, but that doesn’t mean it’s suitable. The same goes for any type of portrait shoot. Don’t trust that the location the customer chooses is going to work.

You are the expert, and you need to have control of this. So you need to check out the locations that the customer has suggested beforehand. A lot of times, I would mention that their choice might not work, but we’ll give it a try. Before the shoot, I would find a location close by that would work.

When you are checking out a location, visit it at the same time of day the shoot is booked for. This will allow you to see what kind of light you’re going to be working in and make a plan.

Your next consideration is …

Weather Contingencies
So you have found the perfect outdoor location, but what happens if it rains?

You need to have a backup location that you can use if the weather turns nasty. If it’s a portrait session, you can rebook it, but a wedding needs a backup.

Equipment Preparation
Once you know your location or locations, you can make sure you have all the equipment needed for the shoot.

If you are new to photography, this is where you might realize you need a reflector or a flash. Or your 50mm lens isn’t wide enough, and you need to buy a 24 or 35mm lens for this job.

Clean all your equipment and pack it ready for the shoot the night before. If you have a lot of equipment, make a list and tick off everything you need to take with you. You want to avoid a last-minute rush that will add unwanted stress.

Having all the equipment you need is great, but what happens if something fails?

Backup Equipment
Having a backup camera body, extra lenses, memory cards, and batteries in your bag gives you a safety net.

Now, your backup body and lens don’t need to be the same lens mount as your main body. You could opt to buy an ultra-cheap used body and a used 50mm lens. As long as you can pull a backup out of your bag and complete the session, that’s all that matters.

Having a backup body that takes the same lenses as your main body is ideal. For lenses, you need a couple of lenses that would allow you to keep shooting if one of them dies. Like a 50mm and a 35mm, or a 50mm and a 24-70mm zoom.

For batteries and memory cards, you just need to buy twice as many as you need. You will, at some point, not have enough time to fully charge your batteries before the next shoot or you might forget to charge them altogether. So, if you have another set of batteries already charged, you can still shoot the next session.

The same goes for memory cards. If you don’t have enough time to upload the photos from a card, you can just use one of your extra cards and reduce your stress levels.

Okay, next is …

Permits and Permissions
This is something you need to figure out way before the shoot.

Do you have to get a permit or ask for permission to do a photo shoot in a local park or on the steps of a local government building?

As the photographer, it’s your job to know the answer. Even if it’s the grounds of a local hotel, give them a call and get permission.

You don’t want to put yourself and your customer in an awkward position mid-photo session.

Last on my list of things that will improve your photo shoots is …
Example Poses
This is something that happens to all photographers the first time they go to take a portrait.

How do I pose them?

I remember thinking, … Now, what do I do?

So, I did a search for “Portrait Poses,” then downloaded 20 of my favorites and printed them on a single sheet of paper.

That sheet of paper really helped me breeze through photo sessions.

Then, when I decided to shoot weddings, I did the same thing. I did a web search for “Wedding Portraits,” then printed as many as I could on a couple of sheets of paper.

Eventually, you will have your own versions of each pose and have examples to show the couple on the big day so they can choose the next pose.

It really does make your job way easier. Give it a try. If your next session is with a couple, do a search for “couple portrait poses” and print a sheet out.

Your job is to make your subject look great, and the more options you have going into a shoot, the easier that job will be. So prepare for success at every photo shoot.

And remember, all the top photographers were once in exactly the same position you are in right now.

Right, that is “How to improve your photo shoots.”

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There is a link to the transcript for this episode in the show notes and over at

And while you are there, you can support the show and buy me a coffee.

I’ll be back next week, and I’ll talk to you soon. Bye.