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Tips for your first shoot on location: Portrait Photography for beginners

Sharing my tips for your first shoot on location shoot has been at the top of my list. After months of practicing with friends and family, I was excited to schedule my first natural light TFP shoot with a model and make-up artist. I remember being really nervous and not really knowing what to expect. I met the team on a local Facebook group and we set a date and time at a public location near downtown Dallas.

I remember wondering to myself how I was going to pull off this shoot, and making sure I delivered the best images possible. This shoot was almost 8 months ago, but I’ll always remember it like it was yesterday. Here are a few tips I learned from my first shoot, that I hope helps and inspires you to take that first step in collaborating with other professionals.

Tips for your first shoot on location

Simple Tips for your first photoshoot on location

Tips for your first shoot on location

What to pack

Camera and extra batteries are a must. Everyone carries different equipment for on location shoots. I was packing light  because I knew I was doing a natural light shoot with no assistant.

In my backpack I had my camera equipment, phone and external USB charger. A bottle of water, small towel, business cards, and M&Ms. Yes, I said M&Ms. I always like to have a snack just in case the shoot goes longer then expected.

No matter what you bring, just make sure you keep yourself mobile. You will be walking and moving around a lot, so keep that in mind when you pack. I tend to still pack the same things for every shoot, but I have now added a notepad and pen for notes right after the shoot. I like to document my ideas if possible.

Tips for your first shoot on location

Location Scouting

I always recommend scouting locations or being familiar with the location before you attend the shoot. Of course, this is not always possible, so I actually learned a quick trick. Google maps and utilizing street view.

It will not work all the time, but pop in an address and drill-down to street view. This should give you a pretty good idea of the area. If you can swing by the location a few days early, this will help with ideas and mapping out specific backgrounds, and areas you might want to shoot.

Tips for your first shoot on location

Don’t be late to the shoot

This is for the people that love showing up fashionably late. Don’t be late. As a courtesy, I always try to show up at least 15-20 mins early. This will give you time to setup your camera, do a little scouting of the location and get ready to shoot.

If you are going to be running late, I would message the other people attending the shoot to give them a heads up. This will reassure them that you are on your way.

Communication on concept before you start shooting

Before getting started on the shoot, I like to talk with the model and MUA to see what kind of shots they have in mind. Since my first shoot was a TFP (trade for photos) session, I wanted to make sure to capture angles and shots that the MUA and model specifically wanted for their portfolio.

Set some rules and expectations on the time-frame of the shoot. If you say it will last an hour, try to make it last an hour. If you are all having a great time, then keep the shoot going but make sure to check with everyone on time.

Setting expectations on images

Taking a few test shots and showing the model and MUA/Stylist can help set expectations. This is more of a visual reassurance that you are all on the same page, and you are getting the images everyone expects. Explain that SOOC (straight out of camera) shots will be edited in case you tend to shot under or over exposed.

I shoot with a Sony mirrorless camera, so I tend to move a few images via wifi to my phone so it is easy to view versus the back of the camera. Whatever process you follow, this tends to be a big step in helping keep a shoot moving smoothly.

Making a connection with the team

When you meet models and other creative professionals, I believe it is important to make a connection from the start. If you tend to be a shy or an introvert like me, don’t talk about the shoot just yet when you first meet. Ask some general questions just to get the conversation going.

Then, ease into some of the details of the shoot, and start asking questions that may have come to mind. Being prepared can make other people feel more confident in your skills and your work.

Sharing images as you shoot

I love to take behind the scene shots with my phone. I regularly post snaps on Instagram or a quick pic on Facebook. Not everyone is comfortable doing this, but I find it is a great way to engage with my social networks, and let people see what it is like to work with you.

Wardrobe changes

During longer shoots where you know you will have wardrobe changes, keep in time in mind. Making sure you are aware of your timeframe (especially with natural light shoots during the evening) can allow you to get all the shots you are looking to achieve.

When you have a model change a style, make sure to take a few test shots again and share with the team. This will let everyone make tweaks if necessary like makeup or hair.

Make sure to have fun

Above all, you want to make sure you make this a great experience. Not every shoot will go smoothly, but you have to remember you can’t please everyone.


Jason Dallas Portraits Model Test ShootsJason The Creative – Dallas Portrait Photographer

Photography just decided to grow on me and I never looked back. I am a portrait photographer growing and specializing in model test shoots. Every one starts somewhere and this is my story.

What’s in my camera bag

My Portrait Photography Gear for Model Test Shoots

Sony a7riii Mirrorless Camera
High Resolution Studio Camera
Sony a7iii Mirrorless Camera
Great Photo & Video Camera
Sony 85mm f1.4 GMaster
Best Portrait Lens
Sony 35mm F1.8
Great wide lens for lifestyle shoots
Sony Zeiss 55mm f1.8
First lens I purchased – Amazing and light
Sony 24-70mm F2.8 GMaster
Best all-in-one Portrait Zoom Lens
Sony 24-105 f4.0 G Lens
Best all around walk-around lens

Secondary Portrait Photography Camera and Lens

Sony a6400 Mirrorless Camera (crop-sensor)
Small & amazing quality
Sony 16-55mm f2.8 G Lens
Super sharp and versatile

Sony Mirrorless Bodies You Should See

Sony a7rii
High Quality Studio Camera
Sony a7ii
Great General Purpose Camera
Sony a7sii
High Quality Video Camera
Sony a6600
Photo and Video Camera
Sony a6500
Crop Sensor Video Camera
Sony a6300
Amazing Budget Starter Camera

Full-Frame Lenses You Should Check Out

Tamron 28-75mm F2.8 Lens
Great budget option zoom lens
Sony 70-200 F2.8 Lens
Amazing Quality Zoom Lens
Sony 16-35mm f2.8 Lens
Superb wide-angle Lens
Sony 85mm F1.8 Lens
Great Budget Portrait Lens
Sony 24mm F1.4 Lens
Sharp Wide Prime Lens

Crop-Sensor Lenses You Just Might Need

Tamron 28-75mm F2.8 Lens
Great budget option zoom lens
Sony 18-105 F4.0 Lens
Awesome Video Lens
Sigma 16mm F1.4
Great YouTube Lens
Sigma 30mm F1.4
Sharp & Light Weight Lens
Sigma 56mm F1.4
Go-To Portrait Lens

My Current Off Camera Studio Flash Lighting / Location Kits

Profoto Air Remote TTL-S
Remote Trigger
Profoto B2 250 AirTTL Location Kit
Portable light strobes
Profoto OCF 2×3 Softbox
Portable soft light modifier
Profoto OCF Softbox 2ft Octa
Small direct soft box
Profoto 41in Deep Medium Umbrella
Main studio modifier
Profoto OCF Speedring
Modifier connector

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