How to produce your own creative shoot, plus, stellar photo shoot ideas

Bettina Bogar is a Toronto-based photographer and creative director from Europe. She began her career in Budapest, before moving to Canada to further her creative goals. She specializes in commercial photography and has shot for brands like Lululemon, Airbnb, and Tim Hortons. In this post, in collaboration with the 500px Blog, she shares her insights into producing your own photo shoot.

Whether you’re just starting out or years into your career, creating new, original photos should always be a top priority for photographers. Here’s why:

1. It keeps your portfolio fresh, your creativity sharp, and will push you outside your comfort zone. Art directors are always on the lookout for unique concepts, and who knows what kind of dream job you could land based on a single photo?

2. People shop your feed/portfolio just like an e-commerce store. Unfortunately, in most cases, it doesn’t matter that you know how to shoot certain things if you don’t show it. Because most people don’t think outside the box, you have to create content around subjects that will be attractive to shoot in the future. People will hire you based on those images, and likely, will ask you to replicate them for their own brand.

Charmaine by Bettina Bogar on

Bringing your vision to life is always so much fun, but there are certain steps you have to take to make it really successful. With spring and summer upon us, it’s actually a great time to start planning creative photo shoots.

This process has helped me over the years, and I’m confident it will help you too!

1. Pick a goal for your photo shoot

Coming up with a creative idea is something that scares most people, but it doesn’t have to be that difficult. I always suggest picking a goal for these images first. Are they going to live on your website? Are you going to sell them on 500px? Are you going to submit them to a magazine? Picking a goal will help you keep focused.

Ice Cream Truck by Bettina Bogar on

2. Create a concept for your photo shoot

Once you have a goal, it’s time to figure out the concept. I always suggest something simple, instead of something complex. Pick a single theme, and the rest will flow together. Based on your theme, create a mood board, which will be the base plan for your photo shoot. Browse images on 500px, Pinterest, Instagram, or go through photography magazines that you like. Remember, this is a very important part, so spend some time building out your own unique concept. Look for use of light, poses, expressions, locations, outfits, makeup—basically decide on every little detail before you even reach out to people.

Oshiis x Puerto Viejo by BettinaBogar by Bettina Bogar on

3. Produce your shoot

The devil is in the details. Once you have your final mood board and theme, you can put on your producer hat. Since you’ve already spent a good chunk of time creating this concept, you may as well get the best people and location for your work.

Figure out the location and dates—are you shooting in a studio or on location? If on location, do you need a permit? What’s the forecast for that day? How busy will the place be at the time of the shoot? It’s always worth it to do a little scouting beforehand.
Equipment: do you need any special gear? Lights? Stands? Modifiers? Backdrops?

Charmaine by Bettina Bogar on

Hire your crew:

Model(s): Go pro here. Local model agencies and scouts are always looking to get fresh photos of their talent. Reach out, send over a little intro about yourself, your portfolio, your dates, concept, and mood board, and if they like what you’re up to, you’re likely going to have a few faces from which to choose.
Makeup & hair: It’s essential to have a really talented makeup artist and hair stylist on your team, especially if you want your work to look stunning, as well as to save yourself tons of time retouching. Be sure to schedule time and a place for makeup and hair before the shoot, and ask the artists to stay with you during the shoot for touch-ups.
Wardrobe stylist: There are so many talented freelance wardrobe stylists out there; try to get in touch with a few: you will be blown away by how much a great wardrobe piece can add to your images.
Assistant: It’s the best thing ever to have someone assist you on a shoot. There are so many moving parts, and it’s always super nice to have an extra set of hands on-set.

Once you have all of these things organized, you’re good to go. Be sure to circulate a call sheet before the shoot day so everyone is well-informed.

Beach Lulu by Bettina Bogar on

Have fun

Last, but certainly not least: have fun creating. Turn your cell phone off, keep your mood board in your back pocket, your goals in mind, and just enjoy your time creating your own art!

To help you get the inspiration flowing, here are some very simple concepts I’ve done in the past:

Car theme




Malibu theme



Western theme



Joshua Tree theme


Tropical fruit theme

bikini - fruits - beach - model photography

bikini - fruits - beach - model photography

What’s your favorite photo shoot you’ve done? Let us know in the comments below!

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