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3 Top Tips to Prepare Yourself, Your Business, and Your Client for a Shoot

You’re a professional photographer, and that means that the experience of having a shoot with you is about more than just the fabulous images your clients will enjoy at the end – it’s also about the experience of the shoot day itself. Everything needs to be smooth, polished, and easy – and that takes preparation.

Today, we’ll be discussing the three absolutely essential tips for making sure everyone is prepared for shoot day. Ready? Let’s do this!

Tip #1: Make sure you’ve got the need-to-knows covered

Surprises can be brilliant, but there’s a time and a place for them – and that time and place isn’t on shoot day! Instead, you want to make sure you know all the key variables and info ahead of time, and that you’ve double-checked them all, too.

Start with the real basics – do you know the address of the yard, the phone number of the client, any access codes, and all the navigational information you’ll need to get to your shoot destination? Yards are often tucked away in mobile signal dead zones, and they’re not always obviously signposted, so make sure you know exactly where you’re going.

Arriving late to a shoot isn’t a great first impression, and you’ll probably feel flustered and off your game as a result. Instead, leave 15 to 20 minutes earlier than you need to in case you run into traffic, road closures, or you have a navigational snafu.

While you’re sorting the need-to-knows, double-check your need-to-packs, too. That means you should go through your kit bag, making sure everything is clean, charged, working, and ready to go. It’s best practice to reformat your cards and tend to you kit directly after each shoot so it’s ready for next time, but you should always check again for piece of mind.

Learn from our mistakes – both Emily and I have made the colossal error of turning up for a shoot without a memory card or a camera battery, and it’s NOT a situation you want to find yourself in! Always pack spares, too, in case of a hiccup.

Our unmissable little extras? Polos, horse treats, and bottles of water. The first two are pretty obvious – they can help you coerce your model into cooperating. And the latter? Well, staying hydrated is crucial to staying on your game – and your client will be really impressed if you’re able to look after them, too, while you’re shooting.

Tip #2: Beef up your business

Okay, so your business is already prepared for clients, right? Well, hold on a second – you’d be amazed by how many people get the bare bones up and running and then find themselves stumbling over the little details once they’ve got a client booked in, especially if it’s their first one.

There are several details you need to have decided upon and made clear before you get the ball rolling, and the best way to cover all bases is to look at it from a client’s point of view. Try to think of all the questions you’d ask if you were booking a shoot, and make sure you know the answers. For example…

  • How does payment work? Is there an online payment system, or do they need to do a BACS or PayPal transfer, or can they make their payment over the phone? When’s the payment deadline?
  • How do they book their date in? Do you have a web-based appointment system, or do they need to contact you directly?
  • What happens if the weather forecast isn’t playing ball?
  • Are you fully insured?
  • Is your website and social media easy to find and does it answer their questions?
  • Are your contact details easily accessible?

The more questions you can think of and answer, the better prepared you’ll be – we recommend writing up an FAQ page on your website to make it as easy as possible for potential clients to commit to working with you. Many potential clients will walk away if they find the whole process confusing before they’ve even booked.

Professionalism and polish makes people feel safe – after all, they’re handing over their hard-earned money, and they won’t do so to a business that looks shoddy or noncommittal. Covering the bases and providing plenty of information will make them feel cared for and supported from the get-go.

Our best bit of advice? Invest in a CRM – that is, Customer Relationshop Management software. This all-in-one tool organises all the information about your leads, your current and past clients, your invoicing, your workflows, contact details, and so much more, all in one spot. It really takes the heavy lifting out of admin, and there are plenty of options you can use that will remind you of your next step with each client.

Tip #3: Preparing your client for the big day

It’s important to assume that your clients know nothing about how a shoot works – because they probably don’t! All the little bits and pieces that seem really obvious to us as photographers are likely entirely foreign to your clients, so don’t be afraid to hold their hands a bit (figuratively, of course – we don’t tend to get that cosy on shoots!).

It might seem like a given that the horse should be sparkling clean and the client should have some great outfits picked out, but you’d be amazed by how many people drag their muddy horses in from the field as the photographer arrives. Put together a pre-shoot prep list for your client, with advice on…

  • Styling: Suggest outfit changes, ideas for styles, and offer advice on hair and makeup. Encourage them to express their personal style and choose outfits they feel fabulous in – there’s no uniform!
  • The morning routine: Give them tips on how to prepare their horse. Routines should stay the same as much as possible to minimise stress and aggravation, but recommend a bath the day before and a rug overnight if the horse lives out.
  • Grooming: Let them know that the horse should be in, groomed, and ready to go for the shoot time – otherwise, they’ll lose valuable time in front of the camera.
  • Tack: Make sure they know that any tack should be well-cleaned and show-ready – smudgy, dirty tack and crusty bits look terrible in photos.
  • Timings: Tell them when you’ll turn up, how long the shoot will last, and what each stage will consist of – location scouting, actual shooting time, and so on.
  • Helpers: If you need an extra person on hand – for example, for loose shots of a horse or to be in charge of getting ears forward – find out if they’ll have someone on hand for the shoot, or if you’ll be bringing an assistant, let them know.

The golden rule? Assume nothing, double-check everything. We like to do a pre-shoot courtesy call with our clients, which gives us a chance to go over all the details, make sure they’re feeling confident and prepared, and to help build excitement for the big day. Your clients will be ready to shine if they feel like they’ve had the full experience.

Final thoughts…

If you try to rush the process and miss the major steps, you’re going to feel like you’re playing catch-up with yourself the whole time – and that feeling will pass onto your client, who will ultimately lose confidence in the process. But if you’re able to trust that you’ve dotted the i’s and crossed the t’s, you’ll reassure them that they’re in safe and capable hands throughout!


It is super vital to get these elements nailed before any shoot. Still feel like you aren’t prepared? Let Emily and Hannah walk you through their detailed step by step guide to nailing every photo shoot on their business of equine photography LIVE 6 part online series!