Creating a Plan To Curate Artwork For Your Next Shoot

Creating a Plan To Curate Artwork For Your Next Shoot with David Byrd


“Okay, so I’ve got the new camera or the new lens. I know how to use it (mostly) and I’m ready to work.  Wait, I’ve got that new light too and that new modifier that I’m sort of sure that I don’t know how to use, but how hard can it be, right? Plus, that new clothing piece that I found at the thrift store would be so cool to use in a shoot. Not sure what kind of shoot—maybe fashion, maybe boudoir, maybe just, well, whatever—I want to use it in a shoot. Oh, there was that tutorial I saw on YouTube from some middle-aged white guy that talked about storytelling—yeah, I want to do that too! But I need to remember to shoot for the IPS session, so I can make all the money. Did I ever get that sample ordered from H&H Photo Lab? Did I pay my taxes yet? Well, whatever, I’m here at the location for the shoot, time to set up and get to snappin’!”

And then my favorite part: “Okay, so, um, model/subject, um you know—just do your thing and look cool and I’ll take some pictures!” How many of us are very familiar with this typical scene in our photography travels? We spend the time before the session thinking of all the “stuff” we can shove into the shoot. We greet the client and while they suit up we adjust the lights and the camera for that new lighting pattern we want to do. We spend valuable, crucial, creative time focusing on the technical, giving no care to the art. Then it’s time to create the art and we fall back on basic poses and other tropes that get the shoot moving but really don’t innovate the experience or add a new layer to what you offer your clients. 

I know that sometimes this “auto-pilot” feels necessary, depending on how much time you have for the shoot or how busy your studio is at the time. However, this is where a philosophy comes into play that we often reject and for understandable reasons. Do you value quantity over quality? We all intellectually think we value quality, for sure. But when we are standing in the photography bay, subject waiting and all that technical garbage is running through our brain, suddenly quantity becomes the driving force to the shoot—for at least the first half. Then suddenly we remember we are artists and quality is key to our IPS session/brand experience and we suddenly reinvent the wheel. If that effort is successful, then rad. And I bet some of the images you sell are from that quality part of the shoot. If it isn’t successful, we finish the shoot and get frustrated because we had all these plans and they all were tossed out without realizing it.

Speaking of plans, that’s how I got past that issue in my work—most of the time.  


When I approach most of my sessions, I begin the plan with Microsoft OneNote. It’s a wonderful resource to use for all types of note-keeping and planning. I love it because it syncs to all of my devices and is always at my fingertips when some random idea runs through my mind.

I start a page labeled as the session/client name and immediately write down three emotions that I want to capture with this subject. Now for my upcoming boudoir line, part of this decision will be focused on what type of style the client has selected. If they want natural light and soft, simple lingerie, then chances are we aren’t going to explore the more intense emotions. If the client wants strobes and dramatic style, then one of the three emotions I choose can be in that arena.

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