Dade Freeman
Photographer & Trainer


Dade Freeman's blog page for all the latest photographic news.

Habit forming for photographers

Rather than producing a 'what's in my bag' post which seem quite popular - but often lead to GAS (Gear Acquisition Syndrome), as you drool over the kit you wish you had - I thought I would share ten top tips to prepare you for your photoshoots. From experience, the better prepared you are, the smoother the day will run, as you will have preempted most eventualities. 

Rapeseed Field

Remember things may vary slightly depending on the kind of shoot you are doing, but as a general guide:

Ensure you have a fully charged battery and a spare. I typically charge my batteries the night before, to ensure they are ready to go. IMPORTANT - don't forget to put them back in your camera and store the spare somewhere accessible in case of emergencies. 

No matter which kind of cards you use - SD, CF etc, ensure you are using a newly formatted card. I usually use a card larger than I think I need, because you never know! Some people like shooting on smaller cards in case they become corrupted, I advocate shooting on a larger card (32gig) as there is less chance of losing it, compared to 4 x 8 gigs. Buying branded cards should make the issue of corruption less likely. Also, try to get the fastest cards you can afford, as the camera won't buffer as much when snapping a series of shots. As well as having cards stored in my bag, I always carry a spare in my pocket when I am on important shoots.

No matter how careful I am, I find myself having to clean my sensor and lenses all the time. If you shoot wide open (F2.8) you may not see the dust, but stopping down to something like F11 - F16 you will! To save yourself hours in Photoshop cloning out dust spots, before a big shoot give your sensor a good cleaning, and don't forget to clean your lenses too. 
Speaking of lenses, I tend to consider the kind of shots I want/need to take beforehand. Thus ensuring I am not lugging around gear pointlessly. As DSLR lenses aren't light, pack only what you need. Don't forget your lens hood and lens cloth, these are always useful.

When on shoots I carry a Crumpler Muffin top, which gives me fast access to my gear and is large enough to hold the lenses I typically need on a job. My main camera bag is Crumpler's - Brian's Hot Tub, which holds all my gear. Rarely would I take all my gear out with me on a job. I normally pack my bag the night before a shoot (as I am rubbish in the morning) and I double check everything! As well as my bag I use the BlackRapid strap on my camera. Its form and function works brilliantly and gives my neck a rest from the weighty camera gear.

Communication is key. Keep everyone informed and up-to-date with things as the shoot draws nearer. Ensure you speak to the models, makeup artists, stylist, hair designers and assistants before the day of the shoot. This will help ensure they all know where the location is, that no issues have cropped up and that they all know the brief and timeframes. Working with a professional team should offer peace of mind.

Sites like Pinterest are a great resource to put together ideas, so your team will know what direction you are heading in on your shoot. They could also help should you have a moment of photographer's block and not know what other poses to use. Pause, take a breath, check your notes and boards for ideas and inspiration, after all that is why you made them. 

Ensure you have breakfast before leaving, there is nothing worse than being hungry and unable to concentrate, or your belly rumbling all the way through a shoot. If it is just you, take water, fruit or chocolate, whatever you need as a quick energy release for those dips. If you are working for a longer period of time on location or in a studio with a team, then ensure they too are fed and watered. You will get more out of a happy team.  

Plan B
We all hope for the best, but what happens when things don't go according to plan, such as bad weather, models failing to show or denied access to a location. I would advise you to consider an alternative location / model / setup. Sometimes even the best laid plans come to nothing, but can also reap rewards of their own. 

While on the set everyone is buzzing, but once back home and you go through the hundreds of shots, reality starts to kick in, life gets in the way and it is easy to forget to send those promised shots off to the MUA's, Models, Agencies etc. But that is part of your role and most likely your agreement. So don't keep models waiting six months for their shots, as it only frustrates them and makes it harder for other photographers next time they wish to use them. Even if things are going to print and can't be officially released, the MUA's and models still love to see the shots, so share them privately and trust in them as they trusted in you.

Don't be afraid of making mistakes, it is how we learn and grow. Listen to ideas on set. After the shoot get feedback from the team - what worked and what didn't? How could it be improved? Examine your shots and look for issues that you can correct next time. Consider what would make your work even stronger, so on the next photoshoot you will do even better.

A simple mantra to work by is - Proper Preparation Prevents Poor Performance.