It seems to me, based on all of the feedback I get from photographers around the world, that there is more attention placed on the post production segment of the production process than the pre-production preparation for the photo shoot.
I can appreciate the importance of the post production, as so much of what has been done gets realized in the digital retouching phase. However, what I have found, is that if as much of what can be realized for the shoot is done in pre-production, the outcome of the product will not only look and feel more convincing, but it will cost a lot less than the time spent in post production. Of course there are times when getting a real B-52 bomber on to the set may be problematic, but if the prop stylist can prepare a real life model, that is shot in similar lighting conditions, that will be more convincing.
Pre-Production, more than just props and effects
It is getting the right team for the job and making sure they are well briefed for it. It is also the preparation of the complete storyboard of how you are going to choreograph each shot. It is knowing what the final look is going to be before you enter the studio. Of course, as things are never carved in stone, leaving room for the “Grand Mistake”. When you are on a tight schedule, planning each image is key to the success of your photo shoot.
Often, deciding on the final images before commencing can be problematic, especially if you don’t know the exact clothing the stylist has chosen for the shoot. However, it is important to have a general understanding of what it is you will be attempting to accomplish for the outcome. Using storyboard can help, but even that is often too obtuse. I suggest going to the set or location that you will be shooting at and start taking notes regarding where you will shoot and what scenario is associated with that illustration. If shooting in the studio, you may also look in to how you will light and crop your images as to give your story some sense of dynamism and fluidity in how you imagine the layout. You do have a say in this, especially if you are cropping significantly during the actual photo shoot. Knowing the format of the magazine or catalog is also an important consideration and wll have an effect on how you crop your images. These are all part of the pre-production considerations.
Make sure the whole team have been briefed regarding the look of the hair the make-up and manicure that will be used. If using a prop stylist make sure that you share with them what it is you are seeking in the flow of the images, so that you are all on the same page. Of course the leader of the pack will be the fashion stylist followed by the prop stylist. Without great styling or the set design if that is what you are needing, you might as well take the day off and to the movies. Attention to detail and planning for the unexpected will save you from most disasters. Providing each crew member with a detailed list of all that is expected from him/her will not only demonstrate your desire for 100% from that crew member, but it should also make for a smoother production.
And finally, on the day of the shoot and while setting up, you may find that none of what you prepared will work. It is here where the rubber hits the road and you must shine by being able to think on your feet. But, you will feel secure in the knowledge that you did your best to put all of the loose ends in to a tight little bow before commencing.