How to get the most out of a planned photoshoot as a Charity


You’ve got the buy in and the budget, you’ve booked the photographer, and you’re hoping for masses of great photos to promote an exciting campaign! Or perhaps this shoot is to boost your imagery stores for that photo-eating thing we call Social Media. Either way, here’s a few tips for getting the most out of your shoot.

1. Write a thorough brief for your photographer

The brief is a key tool for conveying to your photographer what you’re looking for out of your time together, and ideally you want to get it to them a few days in advance of your shoot to give them time to digest it.

Here’s a few things to think about when briefing them:

  • What platform will these photos be used on? If they’re for social media, do you have a cohesive visual style that the photographer will need to bear in mind? (Hopefully you’ve already chosen this specific photographer because they’ve created similar work in the past and their portfolio speaks to your organisation’s style). If they’re for your website do you have any tricky dimensions they’ll need to think about when composing shots? Plenty of the websites I’ve managed over the years had specific landscape sizing for the image blocks, which meant the subject of images either needed to be at a specific side of the frame or taken from a particular distance away to ensure the full subject fitted in the block – if this is important to you too, your photographer is going to want to know this to ensure they’re giving you usable images.
  • What are you trying to evoke through the images? Is it a celebration of a culminated project? Joy? Frustration? Calmness and expertise of your staff? Give them not just a list of shots you have thought up already, but a list of emotions you’re trying to evoke, so that they can get creative for you.
  • What is the ideal turnaround time for the shots? (Ideally this is something to discuss with the photographer in advance, so that they can advise you if their current workload will allow for the turnaround time you’d ideally like).
  • Are you missing contextual shots in your photo library? Often when we turn to stock imagery sites it’s because we’re missing different ‘contextual’ shots that can be used to illustrate evergreen messaging. Is there a recurring post that you are struggling to find new ways of illustrating? (Such as promoting a helpline or sign-ups for fundraising events?). Put it in the brief and ask your photographer to consider how they might be achieved, so they can bear it in mind for the day’s shoot.
  • How will you brief them on getting consent? We already chatted about Informed Consent, what it means (and when you need it) in the last email, so if you missed it, here’s a link to the blog post. But as a brief reminder: if models or case studies are involved in this shoot, be prepared for getting informed consent from anyone whose faces will be identifiable in the final photos.

2. Think about the time of day and lighting

If you have any control over this, this is a great thing to think about and will really help out your photographer, especially if your photos are to be taken outside.

Light changes throughout the day and the most difficult of all is the intense, bright sunlight that appears around midday. This sort of light may seem great to the untrained eye, but a photographer knows it’s a bit of a mare for creating harsh shadows on the face. If you’re outside, your photographer is going to want to find a little shade to help mitigate the effects of this light, or ideally work in the early morning or mid-to-late afternoon.

If you’re indoors, conversely, afternoon light can often be quite weak (especially in the winter), and the peak time to use natural light in indoor shots is the morning.

3. Bring multiple props to the shoot, and ask models to bring a change of clothes.

Staged shoots are great for getting shots of your actual team doing their actual work, but to help you in the future you’re going to need your ‘models’ (i.e. willing colleagues) bring at least one, if not two or three, changes of clothes. Even if they’re in different positions, doing different work in the staged scenes, your photos will start to look quite similar very quickly, if the same people are wearing the same clothes in each shot. Think seasonally too – jumpers for winter promotions, lighter tops for spring & summer.

I once worked with a colleague who wore their favourite jacket to events, and would often be stood in front of the branded backdrop while giving talks, so it always looked like we were using the same photo of them even though they were taken at different events! So give your photos from a single shoot a bit more longevity by changing up the outfits and the props your models are holding.

4. Try to change up the background where possible

As a Digital Manager I worked with quite a few cancer charities, and we would often end up using the same shots of researchers and medical professionals to illustrate any new news about their work we funded. If you’ve scheduled a shoot with an external ‘team’ member like this, your time with them is often short, and they’re probably running to a very tight schedule – so do a little scouting around their building before you get to them, and try to pinpoint at least 3 easily-reached areas where you can take their portrait that isn’t just in their office. You’ll be grateful for it in the future when you have the choice of shots for their big news.

5. Interpreters
If you’re out in the field, a key member of the shoot team is the interpreter. Not only are they necessary for getting signed consent forms from case studies, but they’re going to be invaluable to your photographer if they cannot communicate fluently with the subject. Even when all parties speak the same language, sometimes having an intermediary who the subject knows well can help relax them and ease them into the shoot.

If you’re organizing an international shoot, ask if your local team members will be too busy doing their jobs to help interpret for the photographer if necessary. If the answer is ‘yes’, then ask them for recommendations for an external interpreter to accompany them on the field trip.

6. Key shot lists and the ‘feelings’ brainstorm

Often as a comms person we have an innate sense of what it is we’re wanting to convey. We may even have some great ideas of key shots we can get to illustrate this – if so, fantastic! But to give yourselves an even better chance at getting a wide range of usable shots, here’s something you can do prior to organizing a shoot to ensure you get the most out of it:

1) Bring in key colleagues for a ‘feelings’ brainstorm. Bribe them with Haribo, Tunnocks, and tea, and get people around a whiteboard to throw out all the potential ‘feelings’ your charity’s work (or the specific project at hand) evokes. Remember, don’t just take the first words for this – the best ones often come after the easiest to think of!

2) Identify the ones that are most relevant to the shoot you’re organizing. Now get your team to throw out all the visual things they can think of that convey that feeling to them.

3) Curate the most relevant and add them to a shot list, along with the key emotive words for your photographer to keep in mind while working.

Phew! That’s a lot of stuff to think of, but if you have the chance to think about these things before your photographer gets to the shoot, you’ll have a much better chance at getting the shots you really want. At the end of the day though, be prepared to go with the flow – a shoot may go in a completely different direction than you had originally planned, and sometimes you’ll end up with the best version of the story that way!

What do you think? Anything I’ve missed off the list that really helped you relay to a photographer what you ideally wanted from a shoot? Let me know below.

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