6 Steps to Prep for a Professional Photo Shoot

6 Steps to Prep for a Professional Photo Shoot

Until I did my first professional photo shoot, I didn’t truly understand its value. I mean, I have friends who can take great pictures. And with an iphone, the photo quality can be fabulous. So why spend the money on a professional photographer?

Because having a professional business photographer take photos for your business matters. 

Yes, hiring a photographer is an investment, but one that will make a huge difference in the quality of your images and in the way you show up online.

After doing my first professional photo shoot, I now see how having the right photos can be a game changer for a business. Your overall presence and credibility are instantly heightened. Your products are visually enhanced and your services are elevated in quality. This is the message that comes across to your potential customers when you have professional photos representing you and what you do.

But not all photographers are created equal. Some have an expertise in branding photos that you can use on social media and on your website. Others are product photographers and can make your products look four dimensional – like your prospective customers could just reach out and grab them. And others? Well, they may be better suited to your personal family photographs – not necessarily your business.

Here are the steps you should take to make the most of your investment in a professional photographer. Keep in mind, the overall goal is to drive more business (dollars) into your company. Here’s where you begin. 

Before You Start

Before you get started, determine in advance how you will use the photos. Here are some options:

  • On your new or updated website – home page, product pages, “about you” pages
  • In sales and promotional brochures – trade shows, mailings
  • Incorporated in the product itself – labels, courses, books, instruction manuals
  • For an important business announcement – new product launch, new store location
  • For your social media platforms – Facebook, Instagram, Pinterst, LinkedIn

This is a big list and I’m not suggesting you cover all of this in one session. What I am saying is to think of the one or two areas you’ll want to focus on for a specific goal.

Ok you’re in … so what’s next? Follow these six steps so you get the most out of this investment as possible.

1. Choose your photographer

  • Look at the social media accounts and websites of some of your favorite fellow business owners to see what type and style of images you like, then ask around for recommendations. Ask who shot your favorite images and ask your business friends about their experiences with the photographer. You can also check in with your local Chamber of Commerce or other organizations for references. 
  • When you have a short list, interview the photographer. Describe your vision to see if the photographer can create the photos you want. You also want to get a “feel” for whether you’ll work well together and that they understand the direction your photos should take.
  • Don’t forget to talk about timing and costs. Know when the photographer is available, how long the shoot is, how long it takes for the photographer to send you images and the cost for different package sizes.

2. Determine your photo shoot sites

Figure out in advance where you should take photos to best represent your message. This may be at your office, a customer’s location, or even the local coffee shop (if that’s a place where you conduct business.) Wherever you go, it should truly represent what you do. Being authentic is key.

Often, a local photographer will have recommendations based on lighting and timing and sometimes they may even have relationships with specific locations.

  • Think about how various locations match your branding and color schemes so you can choose a location with the right vibe.
  • Visit the site in advance to get an idea of photo scenes.
  • Obviously you’ll ask permission if you’re going to be at a customer’s place of business, but even in a coffee shop or some other public place, make sure the owner is aware of your intent. You don’t want any issues to arise the day of the shoot. Time is money and any miscommunications can throw your schedule totally off kilter.

3. Put together outfits

This is part of the fun of having a professional photo shoot. Look to your brand colors and the overall vibe and tone that you want to help guide you through your wardrobe selections. Also consider how each outfit will look in the actual shoot location.

  • Choose clothes, shoes and accessories that make you feel good — you probably have them right in your own closet. It’s not necessary to spend money on a new wardrobe.
  • Match colors and styles to your brand (see Rookie Mistakes) but be careful not to choose clothes that are too busy or distracting.
  • Plan which outfit you will wear at each location. I’ve gone so far as to take photos of each one.
  • Consider various outfits for photos in “different seasons” (see Rookie Mistakes).

4. Create a timeline for the day of the shoot.

As you’re planning out the day of your shoot, remember that your photographer is an expert at this. She likely will have a list of shots, a schedule and other tips for you so reach out to her for support and guidance.

  • Schedule the whole day including prep time, travel to locations and lunch.
  • Determine the order of locations and how much time you’ll spend at each stop. It is also polite to inform the owner of a location of approximately when you’ll be arriving. No matter how courteous you are, a photo shoot is disruptive to their business. (A nice added touch would be to take some photos of their products and shop to give later as a thank you.)
  • If you’re changing outfits, have all your jewelry and accessories individually organized as sets so the switch goes quickly and you’re actually wearing the complete outfits you planned.

5. Decide in advance what shots you need at each location

Again, if your photographer knows what types of shots you’re looking for, she will be able to guide and support you through this. A good photographer will meet with you well in advance and plan this out for you.

  • Headshots – A must! Present yourself in the most professional way! You only need a couple. This should not take a major portion of your time.
  • Product shots – What do you sell and how is it used?
  • Action shots – What do you do and how do you do it? BUT not just your face…
    • Take shots of your hands using the tools you use to create your product.
    • As a business owner, how about shots of your hands on your laptop, phone or a book?
    • Social Media photos are not as obvious and what most people miss. Here are some ideas for pictures that are perfect for text overlays:
      • Photos of tools you use throughout your day. Your laptop, a stack of books,a baking pan, gemstones, gift basket ribbon…
      • Photos with you off-center so that the photo can be used with thought bubbles or other text. Perhaps you’re holding your hand to the side or pointing up or down. Check out Facebook and Twitter for good examples of this concept.
    • Consider photos of and with your employees. Who else is answering the phone, making your product, etc.
    • Now’s the time for a group photo of your entire staff for the About Us page on your website.

6. Photo shoot day – time to pretty up!

Show off your true and most professional self. Keep in mind that you will look different through the camera lens, so enhance and make sure you look your best. Get your hair and makeup professionally done, get a manicure, do what you need to do to feel and look your best (while still being you. Go ahead – I give you permission to be self-indulgent!

Rookie Mistakes

Newer business owners or those who work with photographers who don’t have a lot of branding and professional photo experience tend to make very similar mistakes. Avoid these to have the best experience possible and so you’ll be wildly happy with your end result.

  • Wear colors and styles that align with your brand. If your brand colors are black , yellow and white, then photos of you wearing pink or lilac don’t work. If your business style is formal, then sloppy jeans may not make sense. You get the point.
  • Stage photos that can work in different seasons. Your photo shoot may be in the fall, but get some winter, spring and summer photos to use throughout the year. Your outfits and props can help to create seasonality. Alternatively, wear outfits that work for all seasons.
  • When selecting your locations, consider reflections and lighting. Too many mirrors or chandelier crystals are bad for the camera. Too many or too few windows can cause light or dark spots and shadows.
  • Make sure you like the pictures that you’re getting. Check with the photographer as you go so you know you’re getting what you need. Do not move on until you are satisfied that there will be good photos for you to use. We are so fortunate that, with technology today, this can be done in seconds.

My Take

A professional photo shoot can be a lot of fun but it is also exhausting! If you follow these steps you’ll have a much smoother time and your day will result in photos that you’ll be able to use for at least a year…and many much longer.

Bonus Tip!

My photographer is Cyrissa Carlson of Immerse Photography. I was fortunate to get her on my podcast where she explains tricks you can use to ensure you look great in your photos. Take a listen here.

Hopefully I’ve convinced you that a professional business photo shoot would make sense for your business. Now is the time to go do it! You know how to prepare. You know the photos you need. And you know the mistakes not to make.

Smile … it’s your turn on camera!

I’ve made you a Professional Business Photo Shoot Guide Sheet so you can keep track as you plan and move forward with your own photo shoot. It goes through all the steps and is a much nicer version of exactly what I use. Pick up yours here.

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For more free business support consider listening to my podcast Gift Biz Unwrapped where I interview gifters-bakers-crafters-makers who share how they started and built their businesses. Want to talk with me directly? I’m only an email away. I’d love to hear about you, your business and what you’re working on right now. sue@suemonhait.com

About the author, Sue

With over 30 years of business development and marketing experience, I've been fortunate to work with hundreds of companies of all sizes. Their needs range from start-up guidelines to advanced business building strategies. As current founder and owner of The Ribbon Print Company, we continue to recognize the need for these services ... not just for our customers but for the gifting industry as a whole. That's where the inspiration began for the Gift Biz Unwrapped Podcast and Blog.


  1. Anita Housman on November 26, 2016 at 8:08 pm

    Great article! Having sat with Cyrissa myself, I know the importance of picking a quality photographer to get the maximum benefit. These tips are so valuable to get the most out of your session. Looking forward to doing a second shoot sometime soon! Can’t recommend Cyrissa @ Immerse Photography enough!

    • Cyrissa on November 28, 2016 at 2:30 pm

      sue and anita, you ladies are just the sweetest!!! these are FABULOUS tips and i’m going to share them with my audience right now!!!!

  2. Anita Housman (The Ribbon Barista) on November 26, 2016 at 8:09 pm

    Great article! Having sat with Cyrissa myself, I know the importance of picking a quality photographer to get the maximum benefit. These tips are so valuable to get the most out of your session. Looking forward to doing a second shoot sometime soon! Can’t recommend Cyrissa @ Immerse Photography enough!

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