Tonje Lilleås

Planning a photoshoot – Getting the image part 1

You’ve seen images that inspire you and maybe thought “I want to shoot like that”. However the images doesn’t turn out the way you want them to. In this short series I want to give you some tips on how to get the image you envision. The first part; planning a photoshoot!

If you are interested in family photography, please check out my post on how to document your family adventures.

The project

I think the best way to share my tips on getting the image through a planned photoshoot is showing you how I work. Therefore I am going to actually go through all the steps of planning a photoshoot, actually shooting the images, edit them and share the final product.

Planning a photoshoot – Research is key

I often find myself with vague ideas of what I want to shoot. It might be that I want to capture a certain mood or feeling. Sometimes I’ve seen a movie or read an article in a magazine that has inspired me. When turning the vague idea or inspiration to create into an actual plan of creating, I find that researching is the place to begin.

For this project I want to capture the positive spin on isolation. To me that has always been solitude. I want to create a series of 3-4 images that are peaceful and moody, and that tells the story of a person in solitude. When I look at the way I describe my idea, I find a few keywords that I wish to use to do a bit of research; solitude, peaceful and moody.

I start by searching for images that matches those keywords in Google, Instagram and Pinterest. This usually leaves me with a lot of images to find inspiration from. However if I don’t get the results I’m looking for, I try to ad more keywords to pin down my idea more. It’s important to note that I’m not looking for images to copy in this research, I’m looking for colors, moods or details that aligns with the image I have in my mind. After having found 6-10 images that matches my idea well, I make a moodboard.

Here’s my moodboard for this project:

Time to analyze

Making a moodboard is important, however what I find even more important is to analyze the images I have chosen for my moodboard. In this step I ask myself:

  • What is it about this image that attracts me?
  • How did the photographer shoot the image to get the result?
  • What choices has the photographer made in the post processing?

For the images in my moodboard, I find there are a few similarities. First of all they are mostly a bit desaturated and in very earthy tones. The composition is clean, and they have a clear focus. I find that the images have a variety of focal lengths and angles, but tell a story of solitude. The mood is essentially what attracts me.

However I do se that all the images are the kind that a lot of people shoot these days. And I really want to make sure that the images I come up with don’t become copies of someone else’s works. Therefore I think of some choices I want to make to make sure the images have my signature as well.

For post processing I want to go along with the desaturated tones, however focusing on enhancing the deep greens a bit. Keeping to the deeper tones, and a peaceful earthy palette in the images.

Sketching ideas

Having analyzed the moodboard I like to move on to sketch a few ideas. Now I don’t draw very well, but I still like to include this in my planning process. It helps me get a clearer idea of what I’m looking for, and makes the next few steps of the planning process way easier.

For this project I sketched six different ideas that I’d like to move on with. I’m not sure I will shoot all of them, however I do know that they all will be suitable for the series of images I want to make in this project.

In my sketches I try to include thoughts about focal lengths, angles, light and posing of the subject. That way I help myself both finding a suitable location, time to shoot and how to work once at location.

Deciding on a location

A big part of planning a photoshoot to me is deciding on a location. I usually do this after I have sketched my ideas. I start with looking at a map for the kind of landscape I’m after. Moving on I check how the light moves in the locations I’m curious about. This I find works best by using the app “The Photographers Ephemeris”. Once singling out a few interesting locations, I go location scouting.

For this project I have decided to explore four concrete areas I’m interested in. I’m searching for very defined scenes in each location. Even so I’m not sure that any of the locations will work until I’ve actually been there to scout out angles etc. To get the images I need to be sure that there’s foliage on the trees, that the ground is covered with anemones to cover all the mess of the forest floor or that the light will fall in the right direction to hit the river. Details I can’t control, but still has to be right to get the images I’m trying to capture. Therefore deciding on a location is a big part of planning a photoshoot to me.

Finding a model

I don’t work with models (the broad definition) a lot, but actually thought about doing that for this shoot. However the whole COVID-19 situation made me decide not to. I’m going to do the project as a self portrait project to make sure I can do it within the rules of social distancing etc.

For other projects however I do think that finding the right model is really important. First and foremost you’d like to work with a model that is comfortable with being in front of the camera and taking directions from you. It doesn’t have to be someone modeling professionally, but they have to be interested in getting good images and working with you to make the project you’ve envisioned a reality. As a start ask your friends and family if they will be your models or if they know anyone who might be interested.

Styling and props

This is an area that is quite new to me, as I do mostly shoot more candid images. But thinking about what people in your images wear is really important. For this concrete project I want the clothes to enhance the peaceful and moody feeling, so no bright colors or visible prints or logos. I want to keep with the natural and earthy tones for the styling as well. This way the styling will be in tune with the overall feeling I want the image to give the viewer.

As I mentioned in my post on my latest photoshoot with my boys in the forest, props can be a really good idea for interesting images when used right. I want to use my grandfathers old camera in some way in this project, as well as maybe incorporating a blanket and a backpack I think suits the theme of Isolation/Solitude.

Props should be used with consideration. The best way to use them are if they seem like a natural part of the image. If a prop is the first thing you see in an image, and you have to ask yourself why it is there, then the prop probably shouldn’t be there. Unless you’re going for “Find what doesn’t fit in” as your theme. Then you can leave it in there, but try to make it a bit less obvious?

Planning a photoshoot – What’s in your camera bag?

Once the plans of what, where, who and looking like what are decided, the last thing I have to figure out is what gear I need to bring to shoot the images. I ask myself the following questions:

  • what focal lengths do I need?
  • what depth of field do I want to achieve?
  • how much light do I have available?
  • will I need a tripod?
  • how about a reflector?
  • remote?
  • filters?

For this shoot I’m going with my 6D mark II and three lenses; the 50mm f1.4, 24-105 f4 and the 70-200 f4. I know I’m shooting two images where the 50 isn’t wide enough, therefore I’m bringing the 24-105. I also know I’m shooting one detail image in quite low light, that’s why I want the 50mm. The 70-200 is by far my favorite portrait lens and will be used for the mid range shots. I have to say though that I probably would be able to shoot all the images with the 24-105 if that’s all I had available.

Since I’m shooting self portraits I will need both a tripod and a remote. No filters needed, but I’ll bring the reflector just in case I find a way to set it up without me holding it. And I’m bringing a small LED-light for some additional light to the available light in one of the images.

Ready to shoot

That’s it; I’m ready for the shoot. I hope you found some tips as to how you can plan a photoshoot in this post. Make sure to stay tuned for the next post in this series where I give you some BTS on the actual photoshoot. That post will be up in two weeks on the 24th of May. Make sure to subscribe so you don’t miss out! Also please consider checking out my images on Instagram. Stay safe and get outside to shoot and explore locally!



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