Question From A Reader: What Is Your Set Up When Scouting Locations and Preparing For Shoots?

Q: How do you go about preparing for your shoots? What about scouting locations?

Such a good question – and the fun part here is that you can gain inspiration and ideas from other photographers to find what works best for you. So I’m happy to share what I’ve done over the years.

A: Online client organization system, scheduling a drive-by and setting up ideal timing, and communicating my vision for the shoot with my clients.

Let’s break those answers down a bit ;)

First, the online client organization system.  I started using 17 Hats (not soon enough), and it completely upped my game in way of organization, staying on top of bookkeeping and things like  contracts, notes from the clients, etc.  If you haven’t tried this out before, I highly recommend it simply for the fact that it keeps all of your information in one place.  Have any of you done the desktop folder for every client method? I did… and it was awful :)  While it isn’t free, if you’re dealing with clients on a regular basis, I can’t recommend it enough.   It also ups your professional game by a long shot. So when preparing for a shoot, I’ll go through each client’s folder on 17 Hats, read any notes that I may have put in there (if they’ll be bringing their dog or any props, for example) I’ll also make sure that all invoices are up to date, and that the final balance invoice (which for portraits I require same day, before we begin shooting) has been sent out to them.  Generally I take care of this 48 hours before the shoot.

Second, scheduling a drive by and setting up appropriate timing.  Generally I follow the sunrise/sunset calendar when I’m scheduling a shoot, but unfortunately due to meshing two schedules (mine and theirs), at times I have to be flexible and shoot in the middle of the day. If I haven’t photographed at the chosen location before, I’ll schedule a drive by for the exact time of the shoot just to see how the light is hitting the area.  This allows my brain to start start brainstorming and gives me some time to get my creative juices flowing and ensure this shoot stands apart from others that I’ve either done before, or that I’ve seen done at this location.  This is usually done a week prior to the shoot. Reason being, if the lighting is just awful that time of day or say, construction just started in the background, there’s still ample amount of time to either figure out a plan B for timing, or choose an entirely different location without causing any hiccups.

Lastly (and in my opinion – most importantly), the communication with my clients about the session.  My preference is to let the clients know exactly what I’m envisioning. Sometimes you’ll get clients who really like the way you edit, but they’re hoping for staged photographs – in which case I have to be abrupt (with love of course!) and let them know that it’s just not how I create. My brain doesn’t work that way, and while I could certainly ensure that they had a photographer who could do that for them, it’s just not something that I offer.  I prepare them for spontaneous dance parties, PDA (if it’s a couple’s session), letting their kids get dirty and loud, and making sure that what they wear is a true reflection of who they are, while still staying within the realms of what looks best on camera.  I suggest creating a Pinterest board for your ideal client style, so that when they book you, you can send that link along to them for inspiration.  This is the #1 asked question that I get from clients, and it’s saved me a lot of time and emailing just being able to send along that link ;)

So there you have it – my 3 answers to a really solid question.  If you’re just starting out, I highly encourage you to create a pre-shoot routine that’s thorough so everyone has peace of mind leading up to the shoot day. If you’ve been shooting for a while but just feel a bit frazzled and un-organized, start with these 3 steps come your next session and see how they work for you.  I’ll also be sharing my email templates with all of you, and will be offering them for purchase and immediate download – so stay tuned if that’s something you think you might be interested in!

If you have any other questions, as always, please feel free to email me at, or fill out the contact form on this site!  You can also find me over on Instagram and send me a direct message :) x