I am extra.
Only sometimes. But that’s not news to people who know me. One of the ways my “extraness” manifests is in planning and executing photoshoots in various destinations of the world. Today, I am sharing a step-by-step guide to get you started with being the star of your own destination photoshoots.
1. Start with a vision
The vision for your photoshoot can be inspired by a multitude of things but you should have an idea of how you want to look and what you want your pictures to look like.
My Santorini photoshoot was inspired by the location itself. I knew I wanted to be in a long flowing dress against the white and blue of the island. For other photoshoots, I have been inspired by poems, specific memories in that city/town, and so on.
2. Create a mood board
Now it’s time to take the vision that exists in your head and put it on paper. Well, not actually paper but create a visible representation of your vision that you can use to quickly communicate what you want to others.
Find images that capture some part of your vision and create a mood board. My favourite tools for this include Canva, Pinterest, Adobe Spark and Instagram Collections. I typically find images I like on Pinterest and Instagram. Here’s a mood board I created for my photoshoots with my cousin in Nairobi:
This mood board captured two different themes – traditional and modern and so my cousin and I ended up creating two new mood boards on Pinterest with this mood board as a guide. One advantage of Pinterest is that you can include more images in each board but I love how Canva forces you to communicate your vision in one collage.
3. Find your photographer
You have to find “your” photographer and not just “a” photographer. You want to enjoy the experience and a lot of that depends on the photographer. You also want to make sure that their photography style matches the vision you have. A portrait photographer would likely not have worked for my Santorini photoshoot, for example.
Instagram is my go-to place to find a photographer. I search for the location/city and photographer/photography/photoshoot (e.g. #baltimorephotographer, #nairobiphotoshoot) to see images by different photographers. I also search for the city on Instagram to see pictures from that location, which hopefully include pictures by professional photographers.
It’s also a good idea to ask friends in the area for some recommendations, if you can. If you don’t have friends in the area but happen to follow some models from or in that city, you can send them a message asking for recommendations too. Models are great people to ask because they work with different types of photographers.
Travel blogs and travel bloggers on Instagram can also help you find a photographer. Also, consider doing a photoshoot through an Airbnb experience. I did that in LA (even though it wasn’t a formal photoshoot) and I had a blast, made some new friends and got some beautiful pictures too!
It might take a while to find the right photographer so I’ll suggest starting the process well before your trip.
4. Find location(s)
My process for finding a location is similar to the one for finding a photographer. I do the same Instagram searches I described above. I sometimes also do a basic Google search for photography spots in that city. The suggestions I get from Google also feed into my Instagram search sometimes. For example, instead of just doing a location search for “Baltimore, MD,” I can do a more specific search for “Patterson Park Pagoda.”
Another thing I ALWAYS do is ask the photographer for suggestions. The photographer is a great resource because s/he knows the city and can suggest a location that matches the vision you’ve communicated.
5. Plan your outfit and accessories
Let your mood board guide you to choose the right style for your shoot. Decide if you want a stylist and/or make-up artist for your shoot. If you decide to go with a stylist or make-up artist, lean on your photographer for help and recommendations because they work with so many of them.
A stylist may also be more affordable than you think. I am very thankful that my cousin and I decided to go with a stylist for our Nairobi photoshoots. She made the photoshoot experience stress-free and helped us execute our vision flawlessly. She had a bunch of accessories that we were able to use and helped us get the right outfits made.
Also, know that you don’t have to buy all outfits you need. You can sometimes rent what you need at your destination. So look into that.
6. Be fabulous
Practice some poses in the mirror before your shoot, listen to the direction of your photographer (even for the things that seem awkward), and, above all, HAVE FUN and let the world see your fabulous self!