Be Prepared – It Will Make A Difference

by BreAna L. Cannon This article is about something most photographers know and understand, but do not always practice. That something, is BEING PREPARED on a photoshoot. Living in the […]

by BreAna L. Cannon

This article is about something most photographers know and understand, but do not always practice. That something, is BEING PREPARED on a photoshoot. Living in the “rush, rush” society that we do, it is so easy to get caught up in that mind set. We often forget to do things which we need to, because we just take it for granted, it is already done. I am going to tell you of two actual real life incidents in which being unprepared, to say the least, made for a couple of very LOOOOONG photo sessions.

First, was a session that a good friend and fellow photographer had that could have been a total disaster. I am using this example with the permission and blessing from my friend. (For the purpose of anonymity, I will only refer to this photographer from here on, as “Sam”.) Sam is hoping, sharing this story will help at least one person learn from the mistakes made and do not make the same ones.

Sam had volunteered along with some other photographers to photograph portraits for a charity benefit. It was for a great cause and Sam was feeling very good about the session. On the day of the benefit, the equipment (camera, lights, tripod etc) was packed into the car and Sam was off to the event.

Sam first started to set up the background stand with no luck. It would not go together. Nothing worked. After spending too much time trying to set up the stand, it was time to improvise. Sam was able to duct tape the background to the wall for a temporary fix. It was later found, part of the stands cross bar was not in the bag.

be prepared

If this wasn’t bad enough, after Sam (who uses a constant light set-up), set up the light stands and was ready to put the bulbs in, it was discovered, THERE WERE NO BULBS! On a previous session, Sam had help packing up and the person who broke down the lights, did not place the bulbs in the right bag. OK, now we have a makeshift backdrop and no artificial lights

What else could go wrong, you ask? OK, I’ll tell you. Next, there was trouble with the tripod head. The camera did not fit. Come to find out, the wrong quick release plate was on the camera. The tripod was unusable. After making sure there were enough photographers to do the portraits, Sam took the initiative and started taking hand held candid shots of the event, which came out very nice, and the event organizer was very happy with the results.

I gave this example to stress these points:

1 – ALWAYS check and double check all of your equipment before leaving for a session. Trust no one to care for your gear the way you would. I am not suggesting to never let anyone assist you in handling your gear, but always double check it and then check it again prior to leaving for the next session. Never take it for granted that everything is where it should be until you see it for yourself.


2 – Know your gear.

  1. a) You should be able to check a gear bag and know without a doubt, everything is in it that should be in it.
  2. b) For those who keep a quick release plate attached to your camera or lens, if you know you will be using a tripod (and own multiple), while you are checking the card and batteries in your camera, make sure you have the right plate in place for the tripod you will be using.
  3. c) Keep a bag with a few odds and ends in your vehicle, such as duct tape, scissors, extra extension cords etc. just in case you need to improvise.


The next Story is of a booking I had. In this example, the end result turned out good, but the steps leading up to it, well… let me say, were very stressful.

I was contacted to photograph a couple for their holiday greeting cards. We agreed on a location, date and time. I arrived about 45 minutes early to set up, check the lighting and take a few shots to have my camera settings correct.


About 10 minutes later, the couple arrived. They were very nice and the husband inquired if I would like some help setting up. I told him, “that’s OK, I will take care of it”. They sat there and watched me as I was setting everything up and I admit, I did get a bit flustered and felt rushed. Next it was time to set my exposure. Because I didn’t have a light meter at that time, I knew it would take me a few shots to get it right. The ambient lighting in the room was a combination of florescent (which I was unable to turn off) from above and natural light coming in from both sides of the room through a series of windows, mixed with harsh shadows.


I was not mentally prepared for the couple to be early and watching me set up. It took me a lot longer than normal to get the camera settings right for a correct exposure. I tried, with the husband to block the light coming in from the windows, but it was a lost cause. I was obviously frustrated, and on the inside embarrassed. I finally got everything right and was ready to shoot before the scheduled session time. My clients were very happy with the photos and had their cards made.


I have told some of my friends this story and have had responses such as, “Why do you feel like you weren’t prepared? They came in early and you were still ready at the scheduled time” or “Well, they should have come at the scheduled time”. What they didn’t understand is, I was not MENTALLY prepared for them to arrive so early. Because they were sitting there, I felt rushed and frustrated. If I had been mentally prepared, their presence would not have affected me and I would have handled things differently. I know now, in photography, you should be prepared for almost anything. Preparation is not only physical, but also mental. Train yourself to understand, anything can happen and often will. How you handle a situation is one way you will be viewed by your clients. If you are at ease, it will help them be at ease.


I have given two completely different scenarios to illustrate how being unprepared can make your life difficult as a photographer. I hope by reading this, it will help you avoid making the same type of mistakes. So remember no matter what you do, preparation is the start to any result. The way you prepare can and will determine the outcome. (Fortunately in both of these examples, the clients were satisfied with the end result.)


I will close leaving you with this quote by Benjamin Franklin, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”


Until next time,



BreAna L Cannon


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