Getting ready for your first styled shoot? Needing some tips and tricks from someone who’s done it?
I’m a budding photographer, new to the game, and I think it pays to be vulnerable! I see no reason to pretend I’m the best and I don’t make mistakes – because I do. Mistakes are how we learn and improve so there is nothing to be ashamed of in admitted that I now know something new about styled shoots!
In March 2020, I had the greatest opportunity to go on a three day styled shoot with talent from all over the U.S. The things I learned from the other photographers alone helped me to improve my photo game. We spent one day in the thick of the Umpqua National Forest, dipping our toes into hot springs and walking across the icy surface of a frozen lake; one day on the windy, exfoliating surfaces of the Oregon Sand Dunes; and one day running across the sands of Cannon Beach, with Haystock Rock looming over our heads all the while.
Here’s what I learned from my first styled shoot:
Look at this photo. Beautiful, right? Seemingly perfect – until you notice the little black specks that dot the image’s upper center and left corners. What are those annoying little black specks? It’s like having a floater in your eye.
It’s dust on the camera’s sensor! (Even worse, in the lower right corner of the photo, you can see a hair on the sensor. It’s so small, you wouldn’t even notice it with your naked eye, but the camera sensor captures it!) Oh, I knew it was important to have a clean sensor. Of course, I had heard it. But until I had to spend hours in photoshop, cloning and erasing every little dust speck, I didn’t know the importance of it.
Take it from me! Save yourself the workload and get your camera professionally cleaned every now and then.
The worst happened to me while I slogged through the 5000 pictures I had taken over the three days – I dropped the portable hard disk drive that all the photos were on and lost all of the original images.
I was lucky that Lightroom CC uploaded smaller files to the cloud, so I didn’t completely lose all my work, but the RAW’s (that is, the original high-quality files) were gone, so if anyone wanted a high-resolution photo to enlarge for their wall, I would not have been able to provide it. Thank the lawd this was not for a client!
This was a hard lesson to learn. I shed a tear. But I am, of course, wildly grateful that I only lost the photos to the styled shoot and not the photos from a wedding for which I charged thousands of dollars!
The tops of the Oregon Sand Dunes was cold – and I mean really cold. Our models were shivering and pink in the cheeks from the harsh wind that battered them. Halfway through the styled shoot, my camera decided that it didn’t recognize my lens and wouldn’t change the aperature.
I panicked. This was my favorite lens and the only one I owned that was worth more than my camera body. I couldn’t lose it! I spent the rest of that night on Google in what was ultimately the equivalent of a hypochondriac webMD downward spiral, trying to figure out what went wrong.
In the morning, everything was fine. My camera and lens decided they wanted to be friends after all and went back to normal. It was then that I discovered that cameras will stop functioning normally in the bitter cold and will cause that dreaded ERR flashing on the LED until they are, once again, warmed to their heart’s content. Cue giant sigh of relief.
I made what I consider to be a truly rookie mistake and spent too much time with some models and not enough with others. I missed the opportunity to really diversify my portfolio and have lots of photos of everyone.
They come from places usually fairly far away from the styled shoot location and submit to little or no pay to stand in a filmy dress in the freezing cold hopefully so that they have some decent shots to add to their portfolio. I wish that I had cast them more appreciation and spent more time with each and every one of them so that I could give them a greater choice of images when I sent over the album.
Furthermore, models do all the work for you. Unlike a normal couple, who a photographer must be able to coax and relax in poses and prompts, models already know their best angles and faces and hand positions and all I had to do was snap my camera and lose myself in the flow of creativity.
So, thank you models! Your work is tougher than anyone gives you credit for!
Impostor syndrome came in heavily. “My gosh, I only have one camera body and I don’t know how to use flash and I’m only just starting my business and I’ve only done two weddings and I don’t think I even look like a real photographer, I got this backpack from Best Buy for god’s sake, and I don’t have hiking boots, I clearly don’t do elopements, and these people are from New Orleans and California and they’re probably so cultured – “
Literally, these were some of the thoughts that assailed me when the styled shoot began. Their gear looked more expensive and they had more of it. Their portfolios were fuller and they had more experience. Little ol’ me, armed with three secondhand lenses and one used camera body, felt like an outsider.
But only for a moment.
Everyone – and I mean, everyone – was so welcoming and kind. I mean, hey, we were all coming together on this styled shoot in something we were all passionate about. No one was looking down on me in the slightest. I received so much advice and tips on how to grow my business, encouragement, and mentorship from the more experienced photographers and finally got my sea legs under me and started to enjoy the process, realizing – though my experience, business, and gear may not have been as developed as others there – that my creative process was just as commendable. The flow of creativity doesn’t come from experience. Once I relaxed, I had the best time and the three days of this shoot became one of my fondest memories I will always get to carry with me.
If you’re a budding photographer and you get the chance to take part in a styled shoot – GO! It’s intimidating but a million YouTube videos will never be able to take the place of actual hands-on learning with more experienced purveyors of the craft. Take advantage and give it your best…wait for it…shot!