Hard at work at a photo shoot: Me at the center in the fishing hat, holding the scrim alongside North Beach Creative creative director Gary Goldsmith. CREDIT: Nicole Muller, Westminster Communities of Florida.

11 Do's and Don'ts of Photo Shoots

Thursday, April 20, 2017

It’s the time of year for marketing photo shoots in a lot of the country right now. I work for Westminster Communities of Florida, a family of active senior living communities based in Orlando. We just wrapped up a three-day shoot in St. Petersburg, Fla., where we were filming at Westminster Palms, Westminster Shores and Westminster Suncoast, with one of our agencies, North Beach Creative of St. Augustine. Above, you can see me alongside several resident models from Westminster Palms and our two fantastic photographers, creative director Gary and star photographer Rocky.

Over three days we probably shot nearly 5,000 photos of raw footage, with a final edited take in the hundreds.

My team at Westminster Communities of Florida has done nearly seven weeks of photo and video shoots in the time that I’ve been here, so we’ve done a lot of good work — and made a lot of mistakes! We have a saying, “Only make new mistakes,” so I say, learn from mine and make a few of your own along the way.

Here’s my 11 do’s and don’ts for photo shoots:

  1. Don’t: Turn into a lobster! Bring sunblock and a big hat. I burn so fast, one of our photographers said that it looked like I was going to burst into flames. You will be standing in the same spot for a long time. Don’t let yourself be like me.

  2. Do: Remember staging! Does your house look like you live in it, with photos of you and your happy family at Disney World? Right? Well, your model apartments should, too. You need picture frames, coffee cups, and all the accoutrements of regular life to make a model apartment look lived-in. Use houseplants — fake are cheaper and last longer — to add a little color to a table. Bigger plants can help fill in an unexpected blank spot on a wall or add color to a drab corner.

  3. Don’t: Ask the same people to be in every photo! You’re going to want to run these photos side-by-side, right? Have variety and schedule your resident models with diversity and look for opportunities to work different people in.

  4. Do: Arrange tons of residents to be available as your models on shoot days. You don’t want every single photo to have that one guy, right? Have as many people as you can find, for varying blocks of schedule. For one day we might use 15, 20, 25 people in a whole variety of different setups.

  5. Don’t: Take the wrong shot just to have it! Are you faced with a situation where you “have” to get a photo of the backs of people’s heads in a dining room, to make it look full? Ask yourself why you’re shooting it. At the same time, don’t pre-judge a shot. If the composition or staging is an issue, find a way to make your idea work.

  6. Do: Bring the right people to the right shot! Would you ever go biking in a suit, or work out in a Sunday dress? If you don’t fish, would you want someone taking a photo of you holding a rod incorrectly? (Yes, this has happened to me.) I think not! It’s not only about chemistry, but chemistry does matter

  7. Don’t: Forget to bring a stack of release forms. That photo you love might be unusable if you didn’t obtain a release. Don’t let yourself get sued because you used someone’s likeness without obtaining their consent. With a stack of releases, you can be spontaneous if the perfect shot presents itself.

  8. Do: Bring and use walkie-talkies. Direction is a lot easier to give at a distance without shouting. And you might not hear your phone ring, but you’ll usually hear the squawking at your hip or in your pocket.

  9. Don’t: Dry out. I love raisins, but I don’t love being one. Bring bottled water everywhere you go. As many as you can get your hands on. In the history of the world, no one has ever said, “Man, we had too much bottled water today.

  10. Do: Be flexible. Don’t say, "I need to stick to the schedule." If a great idea presents itself while you’re working or you see something that’ll look good, find a way to shoot it.

  11. Lastly, Do: Have fun! Turn that frown upside down and enjoy the fact that you’re in the great outdoors instead of sitting at your desk.

What do you do when you’re out on a photo shoot? I’d love to hear more about your experiences, too.