Your First Client Photo Shoot: The Best Beginner's Guide

By Kyle Wilson

Your first client photo shoot as a photographer is a thrilling milestone. It's the moment your passion meets opportunity, and someone is willing to pay for your artistic vision. However, with this exciting step comes a myriad of responsibilities and preparations. 

From client communication to the final delivery of images, each aspect plays a crucial role in the success of your shoot and your client’s satisfaction. This comprehensive guide walks you through the essential steps to ensure you’re fully prepared for your first client photo shoot and on your way to a thriving photography career.

1. Efficient and Professional Communication 

The journey begins with an inquiry – your first potential client! Professional and prompt communication leads to a higher booking success rate.

  • Set up a dedicated business email and calendar to keep your professional communications separate and organized
  • Respond within 24 hours. If you delay, you’ll likely lose the client to someone else
  • Be clear and concise in your communication. Make it easy for them to understand what you offer
  • If you don’t have a price guide, now’s the time to create one
  • If you’re unavailable, refer them to 2 or 3 other photographers - the professional touch will be appreciated

2. Scheduling and Meetings 

Remember, in the world of professional photography, first impressions are everything. Take the lead in setting the next steps.

  • Be proactive in scheduling meetings with potential clients
  • Take the initiative to suggest meeting times and places
  • Note it in your work calendar  - missing a call or meeting can be detrimental to your reputation

3. Contracts Are a Must-Have 

Always have a contract, even if you’re working with friends or family. This document is mutually beneficial - it protects both you and the client. 

  • A great free online resource is You’ill find contract templates specifically for photographers
  • Consider consulting a local attorney - while free online contracts are a start, they may not cover everything relating specifically to your business
  • Reach out to your network for recommendations on contract drafting. If a lot of people use the same person, they’re likely a good choice
  • Make a list of everything you want covered. Include things like harassment, witnessing illegal activities, COVID stipulations, and what both the client and you can do with the photos

4. Handling Finances 

How do you accept money? Don’t leave this decision to the last minute, and do not use your personal bank account.

  • Set up a business bank account. This appears professional and makes it easier to manage your finances and taxes
  • Ensure you’re legally operating within your state and country's regulations
  • Decide how you'll accept payments – options like Stripe, Venmo, or PayPal are popular, but be aware of transaction fees and the law about surcharges to cover those fees  in your area

5. Planning the Shoot 

Guide your clients through the process. Many may be new to professional photoshoots, so be their proverbial flashlight in the dark. 

  • Consult with the client to understand their preferences and expectations so you can deliver the best experience
  • Prepare a guide with information about the shoot, including location suggestions, how long the shoot will be, clothing recommendations, and logistics for travel
  • Check the legality of your chosen location and obtain the necessary permits
  • Scout the location beforehand to familiarize yourself with the environment and lighting conditions
  • Have a specific plan ahead of time - where you’ll park, map out your walk, and where they’ll get changed etc.
  • Set backup dates in case of weather issues

6. Prepare for the Shoot 

“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” - Benjamin Franklin

  • Ensure your gear is clean and organized. If it’s new or rented, thoroughly familiarize yourself with it in advance
  • Have a backup camera body and memory cards. Always
  • Carry extra resources like a sewing kit, Band-aids, and other emergency supplies
  • Leave early so you have time to get your creative brain in gear before the client arrives
  • Maintain your health by eating well and staying hydrated - and wear comfortable shoes!

7. Robust Data Backup and Security 

Data backup is crucial for safeguarding the precious images you’ve captured. This protects your professional work and provides peace of mind to your clients - and you - knowing their memories are securely stored.

  • Keep memory cards on your person - not in a bag or in the car
  • Check out our guide to creating a secure photography backup workflow prior to your first client photo shoot, ensuring your work is safe from accidental loss or hardware failure
  • When you get home, execute your data backup process before anything else

8. Time to Cull and Edit 

After the excitement of the shoot, it’s time to dive into the culling and editing process. This is where you select the best shots and bring them to life through post-processing. 

  • Using efficient AI-assisted software like Narrative Select can significantly streamline this process
  • Narrative Select helps quickly identify the best shots, cutting down on the hours usually spent in sorting and selecting
  • Consistency and style are key. Maintain a cohesive look across all your images, ensuring your artistic vision is clearly communicated through your work
  • Only use the best images. Less is more - a few subpar images can dilute an entire gallery

9. Deliver the Images

After the shoot, thank the client and give them a timeframe for delivery of their images. Always stick to your timeframe. (Best to under-promise and over-deliver: tell them it’ll take longer than it actually will. That way, they’ll be pleasantly surprised when you’re “early.”)

  • Sit with the images for a few days before delivering. This makes sure you’ve done a thorough job but also gives the client the impression you dedicated significant time to it
  • Read expert advice on delivering photos with online galleries to control the client’s experience and ensure it aligns with your brand
  • Let the client know how long you’ill keep their backed-up photo
  • Offer additional services like albums and prints to increase income
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for referrals in exchange for free prints

10. Leveraging Social Media and Online Platforms 

An online presence is indispensable for a photographer. Here’s how you can utilize your images to get future work:

  • Regularly update social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook to feature your work and build your brand
  • A photography blog provides a platform to tell your story while strategically using SEO to draw traffic to your website. Narrative Publish offers an easy way to create SEO-friendly blog posts in minutes using your images, which you can quickly turn into social media posts
  • Submit your photos to other blogs like WeddingWire

11. Continuous Learning and Skill Development 

The more you work, the faster your skills and style will grow. Lean on the photography community to keep improving.

  • Seek feedback from your network
  • Attend workshops and online courses, and engage with other photographers to enhance your skills and network
  • Stay current on technological advancements
  • In short, always be learning!

Embracing the Journey 

As you navigate your first client photo shoot, remember each step is part of a learning journey. From efficient client communication to post-shoot processing, every aspect helps you grow as a photographer and establish your reputation. 

Use these tips to embark on your photography journey with confidence, knowing that every challenge is a stepping stone to becoming a more accomplished photographer. 

Discover how Narrative Select and Narrative Publish can transform your editing and publishing process - try them for free today to enhance your first shoot.