Behind every glamorous Instagram photo is a well thought plan, so knowing how to prepare for a content shoot is important for small businesses.

In this post, I will show you how to prepare for a content shoot for a successful production any business can take to create better content.

When thinking of how to prepare for a content shoot, there are specific steps taken to give me peace of mind. The process goes from a simple thought to full-blown, multi-sectioned excel sheet, some word docs and possibly a keynote that results in beautifully curated images. 

If you’re a small business owner or new blogger, you may not have any kind of process when it comes to shooting content. It might sound like a daunting task or waste of time to create documents for a shoot, but the end result is SO worth it.

Pre-Planning, Planning

Before pen can hit paper, it’s best to browse and formulate ideas or inspirations from others that can be applied to your messaging. This usually looks like a Pinterest board or Instagram browse for me. But this step really doesn’t have many rules.

Depending on the brand, pre-planning could be done in a magazine, a trip to the museum, or even on competitor websites. But the main objective is to get your mind in the mood of creating for your message.

When planning, take into consideration the following: 

  • Colors
  • Textures
  • Camera Angles 
  • Aperture / Focus
  • Lighting
  • Location  
  • Props
  • Cast

This will come in handy when you start building out your shot list (keep reading and I’ll explain).

Setting The Mood (Board)

Once you have a rough plan in your head, start taking images that you want to replicate and put together a direction for your content. 

This is where Pinterest comes in handy. Create a new board for your shoot and start dumping photos you think you want to shoot. As it develops, revisit the full board and remove any images that don’t match your desired aesthetic. 

If I need to present a concept to a client, I go as far as making a Keynote presentation with my mood board images. In the process of creating your pitch, you’re also making a mood board without any extra work.

Shot List – IN DETAIL


Once you’ve collected your photo inspiration, it’s time to dissect your vision into rows and columns. You need to dissect the how to of preparing for a content shoot to maximize your time and effort.

Look at the images with a focus on those key factors you considered while building your mood board. If you aren’t familiar with camera lingo, describe the look you’re going for best you can and have your photographer fill in the blanks. 

What you’ll end up with is a clean, easy to read spread of the images you want to create. I like to drop my mood board images into a column for quick reference. Links are also good to include if there are videos, animations or GIFs you’re wanting to shoot.

Depending on your shoot setting, you may want to print out a copy (ie. you’re moving often or shooting outdoors), but usually I like to keep things digital if WiFi is available.

Gather Supplies & Schedule Your Cast


When your shot list is complete, you will be able to see exactly what props are needed for what shots, as well as if any models are needed. 

Knowing what items you need beforehand saves a ton of time on set (and with photographers on hourly, it will end up saving you $$$$ too!) If you’re shooting for someone else, make sure they have everything you need prior to shoot day. Even the smallest, seemingly-insignificant props should be accounted for. 

As for models, don’t ever assume that someone from the production team can pop in for a photo while shooting. You also want to consider diversity in shots and avoid using the same person for everything, even if it’s just to hand model. Mix it up so your content doesn’t fall flat!

Typically, I group my photos with humans into a one-hour session of a shoot and try to get as many as possible with different variations. If you’re prepared to execute shot after shot, it shouldn’t take much longer than that anyways. 

In some cases, like clothing shoots with people in every shot, you’ll want to time out your models instead of having them all arrive at the same time (and wait around for their turn). Plan what model is shooting what outfits and capture them all consecutively before moving on to the next. You’ll be able to space them out comfortably in the content scheduling stage. 

Click here a post with my thoroughly-vetted content planning apps.

Conduct Your Production Timeline


Based on the images you are wanting to take, try to determine which location each shot will take place in and approximately how long they will take. 

I’ve found it’s best to group things into categories. I call out the different types of media being executed to prepare the production team and list any items that require preparation, such as food features. These lists get distributed prior to the shoot so all parties are prepared.

Prepare For The Best Content On Shoot Day


 Once you have both of these documents ready and all parties know what to expect, it’s shoot day! My biggest pet peeve is when people are stressed on set. Stress is contagious, and completely unnecessary if you’ve taken the steps to prepare. 

When on set, I find things run best when people have their timelines and shot lists in hand, either digitally or physically. But make it easy on them! Not everyone needs to know the whole process, just their part.

To continue on with my restaurant example, I’ll text the chef what food items we are shooting and the timeframe we want to shoot them in, even though it’s already been emailed days ago. That way it’s fresh, direct, and easily accessible when needed. 

My production team will already have shot lists and timelines in their inbox, but I still pull it up and run through things while getting set up. This is the best time to identify any roadblocks or issues to be resolved before we’re already deep into shooting. 

Lastly, I check in with myself and address my own expectations. There will always be things that don’t go as planned, don’t get shot, or just don’t work out like I had envisioned. Reminding myself of this and knowing that I have planned accordingly helps keep me calm, and that translates to the people I am working with. 

And that’s how to prepare for a great content shoot! Take these steps to plan accordingly and I promise your content will improve! It’s a lot of work, but if you have a vision and don’t stress over what you can’t control, you’ll end up having a lot more fun with it. 

And a good attitude makes the best shots. (:

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