The Commercial Photo Shoot Start to Finish

Posted on March 28, 2016 | Updated on June 28, 2022

Commercial photo shoots can take your business to the next level. However, putting together a commercial photo shoot requires some specific steps if you want it to be successful and everything to run smoothly.


Your first step in preparing for a commercial photoshoot is to cast the people or objects that you’ll be photographing. Keep in mind that clients don’t want the setting to look like ordinary, everyday activities. Everything must be perfect. From the hair to the way the table is set out, to the sheen of any food in the photo.

You’ll need to cast models who have some charisma so that they add interest to the photos and help you create highly defined pieces.

Mood Boards

Before you put all the players and props in place, take the time to create mood boards for your commercial photo shoot. A mood board simply lets you visualize your ideas more easily. For example, if your commercial photo shoot is of a family having a picnic, then you might collect images of outdoor furniture, red-checked tablecloths, delicious looking food and how families gather around the table.

Gather Your Team

Before you even set the day for your photo shoot, you should gather your dream team together to help with production. This includes assistants, makeup artists, hair stylists, clothing stylists, etc. It is wisest to try to use people you’ve worked with in the past. You already know how they work and vice versa.

Secure Your Space

You’ll need to figure out the best location to shoot your commercial photos. If you plan to rent indoor studio space, you won’t be limited by daylight hours. On the other hand, if you plan to shoot outdoors, you’ll have to carefully consider the lighting at different times of day and when you’ll get the best light for the mood you have in mind. A softer light can be found in the early morning and late afternoon hours just after dawn and just before dusk.

Plan for Emergencies

You never know what might go wrong and when you’re paying experts to help you with the shoot, the last thing you want to do is waste precious time. Even worse, if you have to delay the photo shoot, you may have to delay the finished product to your client, which can make you appear unprofessional. Instead, plan ahead for contingencies such as stormy weather or the venue you originally booked not being available. You’ll also want to plan for wardrobe malfunctions and even issues with equipment.

You’ll also want to set a schedule for everything that will happen the day of the shoot and create a call sheet that lists what time each person needs to be there and what happens when.

Rent and Check Equipment

If there is any equipment you don’t already own, go ahead and look into renting what you need. You may also be able to borrow equipment from another design company or a local photographer, but keep in mind that they will likely want you to return the favor at some point and loan out your equipment to them.

You may also need to purchase tables, shooting tents, chairs and other props. Be sure that you coordinate everything with each rental company. Check and recheck that everything is scheduled properly. You don’t want to be delayed because something doesn’t show up on time. What is your backup plan if a rental company flakes out on you? Check their reputation carefully before scheduling a rental.

Day of the Shoot

Test your lighting and make any necessary adjustments. Lighting can be one of the trickiest aspects of a photo shoot, so be sure to practice as much as necessary beforehand or to even have an expert in lighting on hand to help.

Make sure you arrive at the location early on the day of the shoot. You should have notes about what is arriving when and who is arriving when. You’re essentially the conductor of the entire photo shoot. You are responsible for seeing that things run smoothly. It is your job to make sure everything is to the letter the way the client wants it to look.


Once the photo shoot is over, pull your photography and design team together to go over the photos that were taken and make any necessary edits. You’ll want to choose the very best photos to present to the client and set aside those that don’t represent your vision as well. You can do a lot with photo editing software to fix minor lighting issues or other small flaws.

Putting together a commercial photo shoot is challenging and exciting at the same time. You’ll need to be highly organized and pay attention to detail in order to pull off a professional finished product.

About The Author

Eleanor Hecks is the Editor-in-Chief of Designerly Magazine, an online publication dedicated to providing in-depth content from the design and marketing industries. When she's not designing or writing code, you can find her exploring the outdoors with her husband and dog in their RV, burning calories at a local Zumba class, or curled up with a good book with her cats Gem and Cali.

You can find more of Eleanor's work at

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