5 tips to help you calm the crazy during photo/video shoots

5 tips to help you calm the crazy during photo/video shoots


A big shoot is coming up, and you’re getting prepared for the fast-paced, rapid-fire action. If you haven’t read our blog on everything that comes before the shoot, go check it out now to make sure all your bases are covered. Shoot days are always sprinkled with a bit of mania since time is limited and there likely isn’t a second chance to get it right. This guide is here to help you make the most of your day, keep the cast and crew efficient, and minimize the guesswork involved when calling the shots.

Bring your bible.

You’ll live by your shotlist on the day of the shoot. It serves as the rough itinerary of your day, and has all the information that anyone involved with the shoot would need to know:

  • The contact information for the crew, client, talent and venue
  • Shoot schedule
  • Concept overview
  • Storyboard and moodboard
  • Keywords and messaging
  • Script
  • Model release forms.

Bring one for yourself, and bring a few extras for key members of the shoot.

The purpose of a shot list is to tell you precisely what you need to capture and how. It minimizes the time spent hemming and hawing over how to get the right angle, or whether you should do certain shots now or later. Of course, there will always be some in-the-moment decision making, and you’ll have to be flexible if the shot you planned isn’t executing the way you hoped. But the keywords here are “it minimizes time.” Often, you get one go-round at a big shoot. Do-overs are impractical and expensive, so pre-planning as much as possible helps you when you start rolling.

Scout. 

It’s a tale as old as catfishing: online pictures are not always faithful to the IRL experience. If you’ve only been able to see the shooting location online, make sure you take some time before cameras, cast and crew all show up to scope out the scene for yourself. Maybe things have moved, buildings aren’t as attractive as they once were or it’s much, much smaller than you had envisioned. Give yourself the chance to prepare for these new circumstances, or plan alternatives to make things easier. Doing this in advance saves some time. 

Hot tips: 

  • Google street view. It’s not like being there in person, but if you only have architecture shots from five years ago to go off of, the street view gives a more faithful day-to-day representation for outdoor settings. 
  • FaceTime. If you have someone on the ground you can call, have them give you a quick, virtual walkabout. 
  • Have a plan B. Even before you go scouting, do a little research on what other nearby areas could serve the same purpose if you need to make a last-minute switcheroo.

Get there early. 

We cannot emphasize this enough. Whatever you think is early, show up half an hour earlier than that. Murphy’s Law seems to apply in double doses for shoot days. Having a little extra time at the beginning to get your mind right, smooth the rough edges, make sure everyone is adequately caffeinated, relocate people who are sitting in a spot you have to set up, help crew with any questions, run over your shot list, etc. etc. etc. will help the whole process. 

What to do when people don’t show. 

Welp. It was bound to happen sooner or later. But now’s no time to panic: you brought those extra model release forms, right? Okay, great. Look around you. Are there people walking by who would be able to fill those roles? Approach them politely and ask them if they want to be in a movie. We’re entirely serious. This is one of those times where you just gotta roll with the punches and do the best you can with what you got, and sometimes who you’ve got is a kind stranger off the street.

Keep an open mind.

Having a flexible approach is your biggest strength. Be ready for anything (and we mean anything) and stay light enough on your feet to make quick decisions. If you see the potential for a better shot than the one you had planned, be willing to take that calculated risk. This is a creative activity, after all. Trust your crew and talent to do what they do best. Know when you’re needed to manage a situation, and otherwise, take a step back and let it flow.

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