How I Plan My Photoshoots

A picture is worth a thousand words” is an English language-idiom. It comes from the Chinese saying “一字值千金” It refers to the notion that a complex idea can be conveyed with just a single still image or that an image of a subject conveys its meaning or essence more effectively than a description does. – Wikipedia

Whether you believe it or not, each photograph you take or you model for says something. A single push of a button captures a singular moment of time, freezing it forever. The question we must ask then, as a photographer or a model, is what does that moment mean? What is the story behind this image?

For many beginners, the idea of taking a photograph is about composition, lighting, and subject matter. Unfortunately, the ideas of subject matter seem to get lost in translation. We think of it as a person, a scene of nature, or an animal. Then we look at how we want to frame the image and what will make the best lighting. You’ve got the right elements, but where is the story?

Image 21 Small.jpgThis photograph is from over the summer. I was working on a new model and wanted to do something sport themed. Once the general concept was laid out with the model and a location was set, I spent the next few days to the shoot thinking about what it is I wanted to say with my image.

As you can see in the image, I took the time to frame the subject and use good lighting, but what makes the image good is the location and the action. A female putting her hair up is a normal activity that is done multiple times a day, but the location says that she’s doing this now for a reason. Her clothing tells you she isn’t going to a business meeting either.

I hope you got that this image is telling you that she is getting ready to workout or more likely to go running.

How to tell a story


If you’re still reading, then I will now give you my simple secrets to take an image of a girl standing against a wall and make it so much more dynamic.

Step 1: Know what you want to shoot

Sounds redundant, but it’s how we all start. With every assignment or art project, we have to know what we want to shoot first. So, for an example, we want to go out and shoot with a new model. Her goal is to be a sports model.

Step 2: Consider your equipment, locations and times

You should know what you can and cannot accomplish. If you have a massive budget, then good, but most don’t. Do you plan to be outside or in a gym for this shoot? Will you do this early in the day or late at night?

For our scenario, we decide to go outside and in the morning. Along with our camera, we’ll bring two strobes and an umbrella.

Step 3: What is the emotion?

How do you want people to feel when they look at the image? It can be determination, humor, sadness, curiosity, anger, happiness, or any range of emotions. While we may not be able to present it to all of our viewers, we can at least try leading them down that path.

So, our model is going to convey a more determined or happy feeling to the images.

Step 4: Go Shoot

Things change when you go out and do it, so be prepared to change what you do or how you do it. Communicate with your model if you’re using one. Remember to have fun.

Sample 1 Small

The Final Product

As you see, our model gives you the feeling of happiness, all the while making a unique story for each person. For me, I see a girl relaxing, either getting ready or finishing with a run outside. Others may see something else, but the major points of the story are there.


This or That: Which will they choose?

I was shopping online for a jacket the other day, which is a simple task you would think. After a few hours or searching, I was stuck between two different jackets that met the specs I needed it for. They came from two different online stores and brands. Pricing was about the same and specs almost the alike. It came down to which one looked better.

The hard thing about selling products online is how you present them visually. Whether it is a few simple images or a video, it will impact how people see your product. If you have one image that says it all, that’s fantastic, but most times it takes a few images and some good details to sell a product; this includes if the product comes in multiple colors.

Product A on the website had 3 images of the jacket. It was just the jacket on a flat white backdrop. First image was the front, showing the way it’d look. The second image was of the inside lining and the third of one of the special features of the jacket. It was simple but impressive.

Product B though took it a step further. The jacket had images the same way and then they tested it outside in the environment, not only showing the look of it, but how it would look when you wore it out and about. Needless to say, I picked product B.

Both jackets were great and I later saw the other at a sporting store locally. I would have been just as happy with it as I am mine now. The thing is, how product B presented itself made it stand out as the better of the two.

We all must make these kinds of buying choice sometimes; this or that. How we choose is how it makes us feel or think about the product on hand.  Product A would have made me just as happy, but how Product B presented itself really shone.

Question: Do you think the way you show your product is help or hindering your sales? How do you think you could improve this?

Why Your Photos/Video Matter To Sell

Whether you are a big name brand or a local shop making some simple object, the photos that you present to you consumers will ultimately affect the outcome of the purchase. Research has shown that a high resolution website with professional looking images will make customer feel the product or service is more reliable. Design imbues confidence in the consumer.

Imagine what you are selling. Think off all the ways your service or product/s will help the people you are selling to. Now how do you want to show this to the consumers you are trying to reach and how you would feel if you saw if for the first time.

Are the images you show portray what you want your public to see? If you looked online and found your site (whether a webpage or social media page), would you stay there long and look through the photos? Will they convey a story to your clients of  you and what you are selling?

Sometimes having a professional come in to beef up those images might help sell more of what you got. You don’t have to spend a lot, but you might want to think about at least reviewing your images and maybe how they might better show off how awesome your product is.

For those who have some good images on there site, remember that it doesn’t stop there. We should always strive to make our business more than a simple shop. Those “mom & pop shops” had history behind them and that is what drove america and still does. You need to give your public a story and make people continue to flock to you for this as well as how amazing your products and services are.

An example of this is a job I did recently. I was hired to photograph the interior and exterior of an old multi-office complex that was put up for sale. The thing is, it just won’t sell. I looked it up online and saw the previous images and material. It had one good image of the front entrance, years ago. Then there were a few images of interior that made the place look dark and unpleasant.

As you can see, these properly portray the location that is for sale, but the do not do justice to the property and lack any kind of appeal to a consumer.

These are the updated images I photographed during my time. I accentuated the grand entrance and lobby with how bright it is during the day. Then I showed the floor pattern of one of the offices available for rent. For this project, I also decided to put together a 360 degree video for them to show on an auction website, where it is currently being bid on.

For real estate, a few professional images might do the trick to bring in some clients to some basic homes and help the realize that it was their dream home all along. A 360 video might make them fall in love before they even drive up the property.

For everyone else, A few photos of you and your product or services might brighten up the mood for your sales. If you’re selling kayaks, just a shot of the after might be good, but maybe a few you and the pre-production might make the consumer feel more attached to you and your products. This might be the difference between your kayak and the one the you get somewhere else.

If you one a yoga shop, maybe some photo and video of a class might show your customers how fun and relaxing it can be. Maybe you show them they won’t be alone in the learning experience or that the classes are small for their comfort.

The major points to remember for you are:

  • Your images and videos are key to drawing in customers
  • Tell a story with you visuals
  • You want people to see your product/service the way you see them


360 Degree Video and Commercial Usage

360 degree video can be done in a few different ways, but the most common requires 2 or more wide angle cameras and a special stitching software to allow you to put the images together seamlessly. Currently, the software isn’t perfect, but when you have someone who is good with their equipment, they can make up for where the software lacks.
With that being said, the use of 360 degree video or photograph already has some fantastic use out there and so many more to explore. You’ll find much of the films to involve action sports or wilderness/safari video. Others have used it to create short films. These are great, if the person who is filming is either not around when the action is happening, or the person making the film is IN the film. Still some quirks to workout with these cameras, since you can’t truly hide in the film.

For commercial usage, you might see one or two uses, but nothing to the wider extent than is possible. In the future, I will bet you’ll find a few different businesses using 360 degree video for their work. A Short list would include, but no limited to:

  • Crossfit, yoga, and other sporting facilities
  • Real estate and commercial properties
  • Hunting and fishing
  • Office training videos
  • Civil service (Fire, EMS, police, etc) training
  • Events/shows

The list is endless, but when you think about all the possibilities that can be used for filming all around a scene, you get a new view on things. Imagine, promoting your yoga studio by simply showing what a normal class size is, how the instructors interact with the students. Same thing can be said for CrossFit or other sporting facilities.
Imagine presenting a 360 degree tour to your customers of the property you are trying to sell them, opening their eyes to the entire house. They’d probably ask to see fewer houses and would fall in love with it before they even talk to you about it.
For firefighters, showing them how a team moves through a housefire is key and though hands on training is best, newbies still might not know what that means. EMS scene safety videos for training might help.
Imagine now a concert, an equestrian show, or any other kind of event, making the views feel like there are there. Whether you are doing this live or promotion for the next event to come to an area. What must it feel like to be in that crowd? How amazing would it be to stand on stage with the artist or out in the field with the athletes?
Here is only the tip of the iceberg for creation of 360 video and the more you think about it, the more you will find to be true with it. Comment what you’ve experienced with 360 video or what you’d love to see in the future.