The Proposal.

Not that kind of proposal.

The photoshoot proposal is highly underrated and receives far less attention than it deserves. I will say without a doubt and any hesitation that the pre-planning stages of any pictures are far more important than taking the actual pictures or the post-processing that follows.  It's quite simple, if you have no clue why you're taking pictures or how you're taking them, why would you ever think that you'll do a good job if you've got no clue how you're going to get it?

So what goes into the planning?  A lot. Let's break it down into parts.

Part One. 

Part one is the obvious that no one ever seems to ask themselves and it's often this reason that their photos lack that magic, that oomph, that Hasselhoff effect, or maybe more relevant to today, the Jared Leto effect. The first step is a two parter; you need to ask and answer these simultaneously. What do I want to take pictures of, and why am I taking these pictures? Everyone knows what they want to take pictures of, but few people know why. If I asked you right now, what would your answer be? If you said because it's cool, I'll ask again why it's cool. If you said just because I want to, that's not a good enough reason and maybe you need to rethink this concept. Now here's where it gets interesting. If you answered, "It's for my portfolio, website, marketing, etc." I would ask you how. How is this going to help your portfolio, your style, your public image?

Part one is about changing your mindset from creating interesting work, to creating meaningful work. 

Part Two. 

Part two is the technical, the nitty gritty, the game plan. It's how we're going to accomplish part one, and it should be a lot of researching on your end. Always keep part one in mind and use it to lead your decisions here.

Camera and lens selection. How will x focal length affect the story I'm trying to tell. Is the environment as equally important as the subject? Do I need the environment at all to tell my story in one single frame? Do I want my subject isolated from everything else in the world? These are questions that should be asked with each scenario you're planning.

The lighting. Do I shoot natural light or do I use artificial light. Yes, artificial light can make an image "pop", but I'll let you in on a secret. Monolights, speedlites, transceivers, umbrellas, softboxes, beauty dishes, etc. are widely available and everyone but your grandmother owns one. Artificial light does not make you a better photographer, nor does it make your photos better. In fact, if you don't know what you're doing it'll probably do more harm than good. When you're picking the lighting you need to ask yourself, will it look correct? If the sun is setting behind her and I've got this big light in front of me casting a large shadow opposite of the sun, does this make sense on the beach in the middle of nowhere? Would I expect to this type of lighting and shadows here? Do what makes sense for the photos. 

Part Three.

Now that you know what you're going to shoot and what you're going to use to accomplish your photo set, how will you interact with your subject? Are you going to use static poses with slight adjustments, or are you going to direct and interact with each other? Part one should answer this question. In my opinion, there are very few occasions in which static poses should be done; those are headshots, portraits, beauty, and fashion. If there should be any life in your subject at all, you should be directing them instead and giving them the freedom to move around and be. The reason for this is quite simple. If you try to pose someone to smile or laugh, you probably won't get a genuine laugh or smile. But the solution is quite simple; make them laugh or smile. You can't make a genuine smile look non-genuine. It's that simple. This applies for any actions like waxing a surfboard, riding a bike, flying a kite, or whatever you want to do. If you just have them sit there and fake it, of course it's going to be hard to make it look real. Just let them do it and have a good time.

You can instantly tell it's a real smile or laugh.

You can instantly tell it's a real smile or laugh.

While its a nice image, you can tell the smile isn't completely genuine.

While its a nice image, you can tell the smile isn't completely genuine.

But there's an exception to every rule. If you just shot a zombie in the head and wanted to take a photo to warn the world of the imminent zombie apocalypse, forgo the natural smile. Snap the shot and run.

Wrapping It Up. 

Now you should know have a better idea of what you need to do to set up a successful shoot. You can take this whole thing and propose it to someone that you'd like to work with. In my experience, it's a lot harder for them to say no when they see how much effort you've put into it.

Just remember that using that new camera lens, that new light or modifier, or even the simple desire to make something awesome should never take priority over making a sound image. A strong image isn't one that has crazy lighting or a crazy blurry background. It's simply one that someone can connect to.