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Pre-Shoot Planning

Lesson 2 from: Compositing for Commercial Photography

Lisa Carney

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Lesson Info

2. Pre-Shoot Planning

Lesson Info

Pre-Shoot Planning

Call Christina Peters up and we're gonna go through our shoot planning, so come on up, girlfriend, and let's go over this. (audience clapping) Hey, everyone! So why don't you come on over here, darling. Okay. I often knock over all the sets, lights, and stuff so I'm gonna try to move very little. So welcome aboard, darling. Thanks for joining us. Thank you very much. Great and so what we're gonna talk about now is how this often works on a job. So what my experience is is Christina will call me up and say Woo-hoo, I got a job, I'm bidding. I got a job, I'm bidding. Can we talk about it and let's go over what they need and we'll have a list that we'll give you but how many shots, what kinds of variations are we getting? So for example, if we look here at our set, we've got a soda water with a bottle. We kept it very generic and it's got citrus flavors. Well, pomegranate's in right now, are they gonna need this shot with pomegranate? And she will tell you often, I'm not wrong...

I don't think, that they changed their mind. Don't they? More often times, they'll actually ask us to sort fruit that is not in season and so they'll make that contingent on getting the job. That we have to source something that actually we can't get. So whenever I get a shot list that it actually has a very seasonal item, then I'll go through that, I'll call the food stylist and be like hey, can we get pomegranates right now? No. Alright, so I have to let them know. Do you really have to have this flavor of profile in this shot because we can't get real pomegranates for you. We can have them fabricated for a much, you know, higher cost so then the discussion will be okay, we can't actually shoot that product because it's a pomegranate drink. That, that's happened a lot. And then, yes. And then that's when the stock might come into play. Where you have to actually use the stock but you wanna know what the stock shot is before you do the product shoot. Because let's say she gets a perfect pomegranate, that is so good, pomegranate, this happens all the time. And it's angling this way, then you build the set around that instead. And the lighting. You'd be amazed how much, how often this happens. We shoot for catalog work, we shoot winter product, winter seasonal stuff in August. Right. Yeah. You imagine having to wear a fur coat during, its, yeah. We're always the season, at least one season behind and I think now, it used to be in days of film, we were like six months out. Now we're like three or four months out. Yeah. But still for certain food product, we're out of season with it. No one ever considers this. Or has just passed. This is, it's such a big mess. Yeah. Cool, then there's gonna be timing concerns and when I say timing concerns, it's great from the moment this is shot, they get a product in their hand that can go in the magazine. Now I'll show you with the advent digital, she'll tell you the same thing. My goodness, people think you can have it in 35 seconds. Right. Oh, I'll have that done tonight, right? No, no, there's some work involved here. Yeah. I'm often getting, I kid you not, same day terms. Same day turnarounds. No, or you pay for it. I mean there are definitely times where when I get a job I have to estimate a large job, meaning maybe 50 shots or 75 shots and then they tell me on a Monday, but we need these by Friday. Do you want me to have retouching in that? Well, yeah. Okay, we have to do the math on that. 50 shots, you know, two hours per shot, how, look, we don't even have time to do that. Yeah, so this is all part of that business thing that again, thank you Create Live for letting us talk about it because it's kind of the unsung secret about what tanks about a person and why you don't do well in business. So in addition to that background concerns and we're gonna show you a background switch, and then we're gonna talk about props, then we're gonna talk about that in a minute, not just yet. Backup props, and what I mean by props is anything here is a prop, even the main product is considered a prop. The tabletop is a prop, the background is considered a prop, so we'll talk about that. And we'll talk about the shoot list. The bible, I say, shoot list that you live and die by the shoot list. And I can't tell you how many times as a retoucher I come on set and there's no shoot list. And do you see how exciting it is and we're talking about stuff and we're going this happens on a real photo shoot and you get excited and oh, the lime and okay, oh, and then you strike the set, you realize oh my goodness, we forgot four shots. I mean, literally, you have to idiot proof it and have a thing you check off. Yeah, I'll even have a shot list. I will tape it to my computer and then we get all wrapped up oh, it's so beautiful, look at this, look at that, and then we're like good, and then everybody knows like, hold on, don't strike anything yet. Let me go look at the shot list and sure enough, we forgot something. You know, we have to do it horizontal as well as vertical for social medium stuff so there are so many... Because it's digital, we have so many options that we can shoot, the client gets used to that, and so they're like oh, well, hey, yeah, we need a vertical version, we need a horizontal version, oh, we need this out, we need that out. Okay, shot list, okay, add it to the shot list. Or a lot of times, I'll realize they might need some uses they didn't tell me about if it's an unlimited use job, right, so that's where I'm limited usage, they're not dictating to me exactly how they're gonna use it so then on the shoot day, they'll mention, I'll hear something like oh, yeah, they're gonna do like Facebook, something or the other, and I'm like what, hold on. Facebook is like 1200 by 632 or 628, right? We don't have enough surface for that so I'm gonna have to give you a background plate so they'll look at me a little freaked out, you're adding shots, and they think I'm gonna charge them for that, I'm like no, hold on. Right. I'm just gonna make sure I cover you. So we're gonna just do a background plate. It's easy, it's fast, we're gonna do it, it's the last thing we do, we're gonna strike everything. Background plate, additional shot. You might never need it, but man, you're gonna be happy, retoucher's gonna be happy if we have it. And one of the things I wanna mention since I'm a re-toucher, I'm concerned about that, so she's talking about shots and extra shots. That's extra retouching time. And that means we planned it. 100%. So, cool. So I'm gonna move on a little. So I'm gonna talk about layout, horizontal versus vertical. What is the media buy? What is the plan? There is a media buy. Company's have an idea. They don't do these kinda shoots without having a plan. Get the media buy. Ask for it. What could change. What could change means hey, what else were ya'll talking that would get it's name that might rear it's head again. For example, this shoot, let's say we're doing a spring. Maybe someone was talking about a winter shoot. But it got ixnaid. You wanna see if you can find out about that because it might come back. And information is power. Information is power. And then you look like a hero. Yes. Because you have thought about that and it's, if you have some time, well, we could shoot that, and then you sort of negotiate usage and things like that. It's a way for you to sort of upsell things if it happens down the road that they might need that and then you look like a hero. Yes, so she just said something really important. Upselling, upselling, get the client more prod, of your product, and I don't think photographers think about upselling enough. Retouchers don't and we should. Hey, you know, for an extra 100 bucks, I could put the winter scene in, it'll take me an hour. That's $125, would you like that? I'd be happy to do that for you. So, upselling, cool. Camera height, very important, we're gonna talk about that and level and why we're gonna talk about that is when you look at a set, you know, creative directors and art directors aren't here. They're looking at the board, everything looks great as you're standing here, you need to actually put it in the layout, because the ellipse, for example, might be too compact and you need a wider ellipse and you can't tell when you're standing when you're standing here, you can't tell when you're looking at a board. You need to drop it in the layout. So we're gonna talk about that as well. So I'm gonna move along here. Comping for shoot. So often times what we get is a deck. And we'll get a illustration of what the jobs gonna be. This is how they sold it internally so you'll see a sketch and it's great. This is our layout. Hopefully, you see a sketch. Sometimes you don't really know what it is. Yes, you get the pencil scrawl pretty extraordinarily bad. This just happened to me on a job and so if you notice on the comp that I'm showing you, there's no type. So I just did a job for scouts, it came out really cool, great photographer out of New York. Beautiful canoeing down a lake, gorgeous, I wanna big, puffy clouds, sky, and it was a sketch. Alright, we did it, loved it that came back from the designer, huge white type. You know how that huge white type over images is really popular right now, you know, kind of hand painted? How do you read white type over blue sky and puffy clouds? You don't. But I never had a type layout. And the photographer never asked for a type layout. So, in our sample we have no type, I just need, I feel like it's my responsibility to say where's the type? So, that's a warning on that. And do you see on the sample we have shown here we have different kinds of magazine pages and layouts. That'll be on the sheet for you because it's just supposed to cue you in. Are you doing any half page ads? Are you doing any Instagram ads? And so that's just to remind you and it's pretty significant if you guys look at a vertical versus long horizontal or square or tall horizontal. That's a lot of different buildings. If you can see by the table top we have here, there's not that long bit. Uh-uh, ain't gonna happen. So I know that as a retoucher, if I'm privileged enough to be on set or the preshoot, I will tell her don't worry about it, you don't wanna be in a studio with a set this big. That's impractical, isn't it? But I'll build in time for the panel. If I build in time for the panel, I have to know how to do that. You guys having fun? Whoo, it's a lot of information right now. Alright, the most important part to me, let's talk money. So what I mean by that is who's the job for, who do you answer to. Now this is very important for me as a retoucher. I answer to her. She hired me, I answer to her. She answers to her client. Now I need to be aware of the client but I'm not in that shoot. I'm not in that channel. I don't get to go to the client. So that's very important for billing. It means I need to be more proactive when I talk to her about estimating. Destination, what I mean by destination is this on web? And you doing a magazine ad? Are you doing a billboard? Do you think you might do a billboard? Might, just even considering it because that all affects which camera you're gonna shoot the job with and I find people are timid, don't you? Like folks don't want the job, they don't wanna seem like a pain in the hiney so they don't wanna ask too many questions and it's your job to ask questions. That's service, you're providing a service to your client. Oh, absolutely, when I'm talking to a client, I actually have some questions that I call qualifying questions to actually see if they, sort of how much experience they have in sort of understanding this language, especially with retouching. Because sometimes they'll mention something they want in the project but they're using the wrong word. And so I have to sort of decipher that. That's why, sort of, the way the communication flows is I'm talking to the client, I interpret what they want as best I can, and then I tell Lisa and then she might ask me more questions and I go back and forth. And then throughout this process, the client will change their mind or add things, very regularly, and then this communication still happens. Sometimes the client will ask to speak to the retoucher directly and then I always say to the retoucher, so this is what we have agreed to formally on the estimate. Really important. And if they start asking for anything else, please let me know immediately and tell them you have to talk to me about it. Don't say no but just say oh, I wasn't aware of that, let me just talk to Christina about that. It's a money thing. Because I estimated to her and if I have to charge more, she has to charge more and that is gonna negotiated.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Compositing Companion Handout
Delivery Worksheet
Estimating Shoot Worksheet
Retouch Checklist 1
Retouch Checklist 2
Solar-Curves Action

Ratings and Reviews


Super Lisa is the best teacher. She makes learning Photoshop fun. Great course. Lisa has a great teaching style. She mixes in a great speech cadence, great voice up and down and pausing, jokes, and is extremely knowledgeable and fun to watch. Awesome course. Learned a lot from the course.

Anne Dougherty

I love Lisa Carney’s classes! She is casual yet precise, and she thinks like I do! The workflow logic of her process is brilliant. Really brilliant. I started working in PS version 1.something, as the publisher I worked for was just computerizing their department, and I was a total novice. But right from our first day working digitally, we had to create images and files that our novice printers could successfully print from. Lisa’s logic/approach is so familiar! Making things work on a deadline is an incredible way to learn time-saving techniques, and I wish I’d had Lisa crunching solutions with me. I am new to the newest PSCC, but all off her process made sense to me. She moves fast, so it might be a little tough for a total beginner, but she stops and explains things very clearly once she’s gone through it a time or two on a file, so, hopefully everyone can get things solidified for themselves. Now that I am retired and doing my photo work just for myself, her compositing techniques are helping me get to my end results much more quickly. I wish I had a Lisa sitting alongside me, with a glass of wine, while I’m experimenting with my creative composited work. Thank you so much for having her as a CreativeLive instructor/mentor.


I took advantage of Photoshop Week and caught this class live - and loved it! I own other CreativeLive food photography courses, but I really liked the way Lisa and Christina taught the image shoot segment in this one. They show us a little glimpse of how the retoucher and photographer work together, in real time, on the set and I like that. Lisa and Christina are also very giving with their knowledge of how things work behind the scenes as well. Though, the main reason I bought this course was for the info Lisa shared about file naming and file version organization. There are a lot of video's on how to perform functions in Photoshop, but almost none about correctly naming, and organizing your versions. Now, I've got a real base to start from. Thanks :)

Student Work