What Goes Into Planning a Shoot?
While some people might know what goes into planning and setting up a photo shoot, others might be surprised at how much it can take to pull off. A lot of times, planning and setting up the shoot can be more work for the photographer than the actual shoot itself. This is largely why I charge a retainer fee, and don't refund it if the client is responsible for a session cancellation (there's also a possibility that I missed out on another shoot).
The first thing that happens with every shoot is contact is established by me or the client. This can be done by phone, email, or face-to-face. Unless contact is established face-to-face, this step can be followed up with meeting the client in person. The shoot can usually be set up without meeting in person though, which is why I didn't include it as a separate step. When contact is established, the client will usually tell me what they're looking for, what day they're looking to book, and at what time. A typical email from a client will go something like, "I'm looking for photos of X, how much would that be?"
The next step is taking into consideration what the client wants done, and creating a package for them. Sometimes this is a single price point, while other times there are multiple price points the client can choose from. When creating a package, I take into consideration how long the shoot will take, and how many photos the client should probably receive. Once I've figured these details out, I calculate the price. Sometimes, the client will know one or more of these details, which will make this step easier. Usually, the client won't know any of these though, and it can take a number of emails to get all of the details I need until I can figure out a package.
After I've created a package, I'll send the details to the client. The client will then either send an email back in agreement or disagreement. If the client sends an email in disagreement, it's either because of the price, or the number of photos. If the client doesn't like the price or number of photos, then the process is either over at this point, or the client and I can work something out. This step can take anywhere from a few minutes to a couple of weeks to complete.
The next step, choosing a location, can either happen when contact is established, while I'm figuring out a package, or after. I'd say it's a pretty even split between the client knowing where they want the photos done, and me having to find a location. If the client knows where the photos are happening, then this step is done, and not really a step at all. If the client doesn't know where they want the photos done and I'm familiar with the area, I'll take into consideration what they're looking for and what setting makes sense. I'll then send them a list of different locations with some details and let them choose. This can take anywhere from a day to a week to complete, and largely depends on how quickly the client responds. If I'm not familiar with the area, I'll ask anyone I know familiar with the area for recommendations, or use Google Maps. I'll make a list of locations, and then send that list to the client.
Once a location has been chosen, I have enough information to fill in the contract. Once the contract has been filled in, I email the contract and invoice for the retainer to the client. I don't put shoots in my schedule until the retainer has been paid, so there's not much I do until then but wait. Usually, retainers are paid within a day or so. The only time the retainer isn't paid in under a week is if the shoot isn't for a few months, but even then, the retainer is still usually paid pretty quickly.
Once I've received the retainer, I begin planning how I'm going to shoot the photos, and get an idea of what I want the photos to look like. Depending on the shoot, I'll use this time to think of poses (unless I don't need them), what equipment I'll need, the best way to get the photo, find an additional photographer or assistant if I need to, and come up with a backup idea or two in case something out of my control happens while on the shoot. This is the most time-consuming step for me, and I'll usually do a little planning every day from the time I receive the retainer until the day of the shoot.
Another part of the planning step is figuring out transportation and lodging if necessary. Normally this step only involves figuring out how long it'll take me to get to the location and when I need to leave. Sometimes, this step will involve purchasing plane tickets and/or figuring out lodging if the shoot is far enough away.
How large the project can also have a huge effect on how much planning is required. The amount of planning for a single headshot or a handful of photos won't be nearly as much as the amount of planning needed for a shoot that's going to last many, many hours.
After all of these steps, it can take anywhere from a few hours to a few weeks to set a session up, with most only taking a day or two to figure out all of the details. Although this process can be somewhat time-consuming for both the client and myself, it's necessary in order to make sure the shoot goes as smoothly as possible, and that when all is said and done, the client is satisfied.
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Dan Pomykalski (PAWM-I-KALS-kee) is a portrait photographer based in Madison, WI. Dan works with both individual clients and larger organizations, such as the Wisconsin Alumni Foundation, the Janesville Jets, the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, and the University of Wisconsin-Rock County. Dan was also the photo editor for the student-run newspaper at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, the Royal Purple, for the 2013 Spring and 2013 Fall semesters. Although Dan's clients are mostly from the Dane County area, he is more than happy to travel wherever necessary.
Although Dan is primarily a portrait photographer, he has ample amounts of experience in other types of photography such as weddings, events, product photography, real estate, and sport photography.
In 2016, expertise.com ranked Dan Pomykalski Photography the 2nd best portrait photographer in Madison, WI out of 204 others in the area.
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