1. Don't panic! Remember that the more you prepare in advance the smoother your shoot will go. Unfortunately that's only in theory - things can always go wrong regardless of how much you prepare. But you make your life easier by not winging a shoot and your chances of killin' it certainly increase.
2. Make sure you know in advance what your purpose is - what exactly are you intending to create and WHY? Once that's figured out, every aspect of the creating process becomes much easier. By reminding yourself what you're setting out to do, you can become an active decision-maker and conscious photographer. Photography is not just clicking a button, after all.
3. Now that you know your purpose - do your research. Make sure what you are creating is as believable as possible. I find that pinterest boards help in organizing my research, thoughts, ideas, and inspiration.
4. If you're as senile as I am, you're going to need to make a checklist of equipment-related items you bring with you on every shoot. My problem is that I sometimes forget to check the checklist, but that's a different story!
The following is my basic checklist. It doesn't include gear rentals, or lighting equipment. This works for my basic fine art portraiture sessions, where I'm not using much lighting equipment if at all. It works for me and hopefully might help you too!
- Nikon D700
- Tripod and tripod head
- 35 mm lens
- 50 mm lens
- 1 - 2 reflectors/diffusers
- charged batteries
- 1-3 empty memory cards
- Safety pins
- Cell phone charger
- possibly 1-3 speedlights
- Wardrobe & props
- Snacks for everyone
- Towels (in case the scenario involves water, mud, etc)
- Contact information of everyone involved in the photoshoot (models, MUA, assistant, etc)
Remember that there are also shoot-specific lists of things to bring. For example, when shooting underwater I have a very different list of gear and items that I bring!
5. Contracts are incredibly important and when you're just starting out, they can be very overwhelming. I completely understand but I assure you that they can cover your ass. You can believe that you are being as clear as possible but later on down the road your clients, models, or coworkers might disagree. And that's when you may run into problems. "Oh I wish I never made them sign a contract" said NO ONE EVER. Take the time to write contracts/release forms. Expect your contract files to stay in the editing process for a while. Review them with a lawyer. It takes time. But once they're done, they're done and you will never regret taking that step.
6. Ultimately, the whole point of this post comes down to one thing: taking yourself seriously. The best advice I can give anyone who is considering doing photography professionally is this: The goal is always to take your craft seriously, because if you don't why should anyone else? You might not feel like a "professional" in this moment. You might not believe you deserve that level of respect. In which case I'd say that taking the steps to fixing that IS taking your craft seriously. Preparing for your photoshoots ahead of time, being ready for any situation that you may face - these are small steps you can take to taking yourself more seriously and improving your craft. Always try to improve! :)
**All the photos in this post are behind the scenes of shoots I've done over the last couple of years**