Portrait Photography for beginners – Tips for your first shoot on location
Sharing my tips for your first shoot on location shoot has been at the top of my list. After months of practicing with friends and family, I was excited to schedule my first natural light TFP shoot with a model and make-up artist. I remember being really nervous and not really knowing what to expect. I met the team on a local Facebook group and we set a date and time at a public location near downtown Dallas.
I remember wondering to myself how I was going to pull off this shoot, and making sure I delivered the best images possible. This shoot was almost 8 months ago, but I’ll always remember it like it was yesterday. Here are a few tips I learned from my first shoot, that I hope helps and inspires you to take that first step in collaborating with other professionals.
Tips for your first shoot
What to pack
Camera and extra batteries are a must. Everyone carries different equipment for on location shoots. I was packing light because I knew I was doing a natural light shoot with no assistant. In my backpack I had my camera equipment, phone and external USB charger. A bottle of water, small towel, business cards, and M&Ms. Yes, I said M&Ms. I always like to have a snack just in case the shoot goes longer then expected.
No matter what you bring, just make sure you keep yourself mobile. You will be walking and moving around a lot, so keep that in mind when you pack. I tend to still pack the same things for every shoot, but I have now added a notepad and pen for notes right after the shoot. I like to document my ideas if possible.
Public Location Scouting
I always recommend scouting locations or being familiar with the location before you attend the shoot. Of course, this is not always possible, so I actually learned a quick trick. Google maps and utilizing street view. It will not work all the time, but pop in an address and drill-down to street view. This should give you a pretty good idea of the area. If you can swing by the location a few days early, this will help with ideas and mapping out specific backgrounds, and areas you might want to shoot.
Don’t be late to the shoot
This is for the people that love showing up fashionably late. Don’t be late. As a courtesy, I always try to show up at least 15-20 mins early. This will give you time to setup your camera, do a little scouting of the location and get ready to shoot.
If you are going to be running late, I would message the other people attending the shoot to give them a heads up. This will reassure them that you are on your way.
Communication on concept before you start shooting
Before getting started on the shoot, I like to talk with the model and MUA to see what kind of shots they have in mind. Since my first shoot was a TFP (trade for photos) session, I wanted to make sure to capture angles and shots that the MUA and model specifically wanted for their portfolio.
Set some rules and expectations on the time-frame of the shoot. If you say it will last an hour, try to make it last an hour. If you are all having a great time, then keep the shoot going but make sure to check with everyone on time.
Setting expectations on images
Taking a few test shots and showing the model and MUA/Stylist can help set expectations. This is more of a visual reassurance that you are all on the same page, and you are getting the images everyone expects. Explain that SOOC (straight out of camera) shots will be edited in case you tend to shot under or over exposed.
I shoot with a Sony mirrorless camera, so I tend to move a few images via wifi to my phone so it is easy to view versus the back of the camera. Whatever process you follow, this tends to be a big step in helping keep a shoot moving smoothly.
Making a connection with the team
When you meet models and other creative professionals, I believe it is important to make a connection from the start. If you tend to be a shy or an introvert like me, don’t talk about the shoot just yet when you first meet. Ask some general questions just to get the conversation going.
Then, ease into some of the details of the shoot, and start asking questions that may have come to mind. Being prepared can make other people feel more confident in your skills and your work.
Sharing images as you shoot
I love to take behind the scene shots with my phone. I regularly post snaps on Instagram or a quick pic on Facebook. Not everyone is comfortable doing this, but I find it is a great way to engage with my social networks, and let people see what it is like to work with you.
During longer shoots where you know you will have wardrobe changes, keep in time in mind. Making sure you are aware of your timeframe (especially with natural light shoots during the evening) can allow you to get all the shots you are looking to achieve.
When you have a model change a style, make sure to take a few test shots again and share with the team. This will let everyone make tweaks if necessary like makeup or hair.
Make sure to have fun
Above all, you want to make sure you make this a great experience. Not every shoot will go smoothly, but you have to remember you can’t please everyone.
Checking out new Gear
If your interested in starting your own photography journey, I recommend checking out some of these great resources and gear!
Great Sony Full-Frame Cameras for Portrait Photography:
My Sony A7riii Mirrorless Camera – High resolution Sony Mirrorless Camera
The Sony A7rii – High resolution Sony Mirrorless Camera (2nd Generation)
Sony a7iii Mirrorless Camera – 3rd Generation Sony Mirrorless Camera
Sony a7ii Mirrorless Camera w/IBIS – 2nd Generation Sony Mirrorless Camera
The Sony A7 Mirrorless Camera – Great full-frame starter camera for beginners
Sony Full-Frame Lenses for Portraits: (e-mount)
Sony 85mm f1.4 G-Master – Best 85mm portrait lens
Batis 85mm f1.8 – Lightweight 85mm portrait lens
Sony 85mm f1.8 – Smallest 85mm portrait lens
Sony Zeiss 55mm f1.8 – Small, sharp, lightweight portrait lens (my favorite lens)
The Sony 50mm f1.8 – Cheap starter nifty fifty
The Sony Zeiss 35mm f1.4 – Great wide option for portraits and lifestyle images
Sony 24-70 G-Master f2.8 – Sharp and versatile zoom lens
Sony 24-105 G Lens f4.0 – One of the best zooms for Sony
Wide Angle 16-35mm F2.8 – G-Master wide angle lens
The Sony 70-200 G-Master Lens f2.8 – Long range telephoto zoom
Great Sony Starter Cameras for Portraits: (crop-sensor)
Sony a6400 Mirrorless Camera – Amazing eye auto-focus detection
Sony a6300 Mirrorless Camera – Sony mirrorless camera (2nd generation)
The Sony a6000 Mirrorless Camera – Great affordable interchangeable lens camera
Sony a6500 Mirrorless Camera w/IBIS – Amazing photography and video camera
Affordable Crop Sensor Lenses for Portraits: (e-mount)
Sigma 30mm f1.4 – Great for blurry backgrounds
Sony 50mm f1.8 OSS – Made for crop sensors and shallow depth of field
Sigma 16mm f1.4 – Amazing lens for Vloggers and video
Sony 35mm f1.8 – Super walk around lens for travel
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My name is Jason, and welcome to my photography blog. I’m a Sony Portrait Photographer located in the Dallas area. Make sure to check out my site, and thanks for stopping by.