What Is the Recommended Time for a Photo Shoot in Order to Be Effective and Productive?

When I started out doing my first couple of photo shoots, time was not an issue. The longer the photo shoots the more I enjoyed it, since I had more time to experiment and practice. But looking back, I came to realize that most of the time, the longer the session, the less productive it turned out to be. So I asked myself, what would be the ideal time for a photo shoot?

Short Photo Shoots

If a photo shoot is done within an hour the chances are that you will finish up with only a couple of useable photos. There are two particular reasons for this.

The first being that more often than not, in the first few minutes of the session the model will be warming up and getting focused on the actual shoot. As a guideline, particularly if the model is still a novice, it takes a couple of minutes before the model is relaxed and starts feeling at ease.

Secondly, in an hour or so, the amounts of different outfits that can be worn by the model are very limited. It is practically impossible to wear more than two outfits. One must keep in mind that the hair style, make up re-touches, nails, and accessories must complement the new outfit.

Long Photo Shoots

The advantages of longer shoots are that more outfits can be worn and more posing styles can be included. Since the model is not rushed in, in an intensive and hasty session, the chances are that the photo shoot is carried out more meticulously.

On the other hand, sessions that take longer than 3 hours tend to be tiring both for the photographer and the model. The margin of errors and mistakes tends to increase as time goes by and exhaustion sets in.

The Ideal Length of a Photo Shoot

From experience I can advocate that the ideal time for a photo shoot would be something in the region of 2 to 2.5 hours. If the shoot is carried out within this time frame, you will strike a balance between being creative and productive while still being focused and energetic. I am sure that after such a session, you will be satisfied with both the amount and the quality of the photos that you will manage to achieve.

In order to be efficient and make the most of the time available for the photo shoot, it is imperative that you know how to direct and pose a model.

How To Get In Shape For A Fitness Photo Shoot

Six weeks from my fitness photo shoot, I was 178.5 lbs., around 12% body fat, and in decent shape, although not camera ready. By following a few steps outlined below, I was able to get those numbers down to 169.5 lbs. and 7.5% body fat.

Hire A Fitness Coach

Even if you are an experienced fitness coach, like myself, I highly recommend you consider hiring another coach or trainer with experience in fitness modeling or fitness photo shoots to help you train and prepare if this is your first time. I consider myself to be a pretty well versed coach, but I’ve never done a photo shoot. I recognized that this was not my area of expertise, so I hired someone that I knew had extensive knowledge with this to help me. I read as much as I could about how to prepare, and I asked other coaches and trainers that I knew had done photo shoots to give me whatever tips or advice they had. So if you’re a coach or trainer, set your ego aside and get the right help, it’s well worth it. If you’re not, that’s even more reason to hire a coach.

Cut Out Alcohol

If you are serious about getting into the best shape possible, cut out alcohol. There is really no benefit of any kind you will get from consuming these empty calories and carbs in the weeks leading up to the shoot. Plus, hangovers equal bad food choices and crappy workouts or none at all.

Make The Necessary Changes To Your Diet

Aside from cutting out alcohol, there are probably some big changes that will need to be made to your diet. This will be different for everyone so I can’t layout a specific diet plan here. Generally speaking, you will want to eat a diet high in lean meats and vegetables, have a certain amount of healthy fats and carbs at specific times of the day, while keeping sugar, starches, and sodium low. Eat your carbs for breakfast, pre and post-workout only. Eat your healthy fats such as nuts and avocado, sugars such as fruits, and starches if any, during the day, not in the evening. Do not eat carbs and fats in the same meal as you risk storing body fat. Keep them separate. The constant throughout should be protein and vegetables. Dinner should be lean meat or fish and lots of high fiber vegetables. Use Mrs. Dash and natural spices to flavor up your meats and vegetables to avoid sodium. Prepare food ahead of time and keep it in Tupperware and Ziplock bags for easy access throughout the day and when at work.

Train With Intensity

While this seems obvious, it is so important. A lot of times, we get complacent with our workout routines, even us coaches and trainers. Your body is smart and it will learn how to adapt and adjust to whatever stresses you put on it frequently. If you do the same exercises, same weights, and the same amount of reps all the time, then you can expect the same mediocre results. It’s clichĂ© but most of you know that doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results is the definition of insanity. You need to get out of your comfort zone, change it up, and challenge yourself. Stop taking 5-minute breaks between sets to flip through your phone. This is one of the reason’s why I hired a great fitness coach. I knew that no matter how tired I was that day, I was going to get my butt kicked, he was going to make me uncomfortable, not let me rest, and push me beyond what I am capable of doing alone. The intensity with which you train will make all of the difference. I recommend in addition to your strength training days, you incorporate two days a week of HIIT (high intensity interval training) such as treadmill sprints and Strongman workouts (sled push, box jumps, battle rope, medicine ball slams, jump rope, kettlebells, jug carries, etc.) into your routine for fat burning. Do this in the morning in a fasted state for maximum results.

Track Everything

If you’re not assessing, you’re just guessing. You will need a starting point in order to know whether or not you are moving in the right direction. Record your starting weight, body fat percentage, and measurements. Come back to these frequently. Your fitness coach should have the tools and equipment to track these things for you. I know it is tedious, but if you can, keep a food log or record your meals with an app or a device like Fitbit. If you can’t do this, you should know generally how much of each macro you are consuming daily just by eyeballing your portions.

Drink Plenty Of Water

You’ve heard it a million times. Here is a million and one. Drink water! Drink a lot of it throughout the day. Keep your muscles hydrated. They are made up of approximately 75% water.

Get Proper Rest & Recovery

You do not get stronger during your workout, you get stronger as your muscles recover. If you are constantly in overdrive, breaking down the same muscle groups day after day, you are wasting your time. This is counterproductive. Get enough sleep and take the necessary days off to let your muscles build back up.

Consider These Vitamins & Supplements

There are a few vitamins and supplements that I highly recommend. A multivitamin with your first meal of the day, 6000 to 9000 mg of fish oil daily, a BCAA (branched-chain amino acid) supplement first thing in the morning and pre-workout, whey protein post-workout, and in the 4 to 5 days leading up to the shoot, I recommend green tea extract. The caffeine contained within green tea extract increases the amount of urine your body expels, acting as a diuretic, making you produce more urine, and helping you to shed excess water weight. It also helps to give you more energy for your workouts, it boosts your metabolism, and it helps to burn body fat. I personally take and recommend Poliquin Group supplements to all of my clients.


If you are fair-skinned, I don’t recommend tanning beds for health reasons but I do recommend spray tanning or using some sort of bronzer to give your skin a darker appearance. It is no secret that tanned skin photographs better than pale skin under brighter lighting conditions and will provide more definition. Also, depending on what kind of look you are going for, consider rubbing on a little baby oil prior to the shoot for a shinier appearance.

Final Prep

48 hours before the shoot, start to cut way down on carbs and water. 24 hours before the shoot, cut carbs and water out completely. Only drink water very minimally if needed. If your mouth gets dry, swish some water around, sip a tiny bit and spit the rest out. The goal is to shed all excess water weight so that your skin is tight and your muscles are well defined under the lights. The night before the shoot you will want to carb up as your muscles will be looking for carbs and most of what you consume will go straight to them. People vary here on what they carb up with. I chose 100% brown rice and quinoa. For breakfast, which should be your only meal until after the shoot is over, have some protein such as chicken or steak along with a small amount of complex carbs such as 100% brown rice or baked sweet potato. Do not eat to more then 80% full and do this at least 90 minutes before the shoot. You do not want to be bloated or have a full stomach once the cameras are on. Complete a final high rep, low weight workout 30 minutes before the shoot. Pre-workout, drink a glass of water with either sugar or honey in it. Do this again post workout. This will raise your glycogen levels and have your muscles filled out for the start of the shoot.

During The Photo Shoot

If the shoot is a long one, keeping a few light weight dumbbells or resistance bands and some 100% brown rice cakes on the side is a good idea so that you can pump up between breaks if you are feeling flat. No water, no fiber, no fat.

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are my own, and these are the methods that have worked for me. Everyone’s body is different and your body may respond differently than mine to different things. For example, some people prefer to carb up the night before with something like a cheeseburger or cheesecake. I chose not to on my first shoot, but maybe I’ll try it the next time. There is no one right way so try different methods and techniques. Find what works best for you.

I hope this article has been helpful to some of you prepping for your own fitness photo shoots. Have some favorite photo shoot prepping methods of your own? Share them below! The more we know, the more we grow. If you found this article useful or know someone who would, please share it!

Be Well,

Brian Donovan

Owner & NASM-CPT

Brian Donovan Fitness, LLC

Top 5 Tips to ‘Break the Ice’ During a Photo Shoot – Part 2

I have been approached by quite a few photographers and models expressing their concern about feeling nervous, edgy or uncomfortable during a photo shoot. The reasons for this might vary from one person to another, still, there are some practical things that would help if implemented in order for a photo shoot to run smoothly, be productive and why not, be more fun.

I would like to share with you these five helpful guides that I have found very practical during my work.


In order for both of you to feel at ease, it would be ideal if you set a meeting before the actual shoot. The meeting can be formal such as discussing the photo shoot with the model at your studio. If you do not have such facilities, you can always opt for an informal meeting such as discussing the photo shoot at a café. In so doing, this meeting would help to break the ice in order for you and the model to be more at ease with each other, towards a more effective photo shoot. Such meetings should be conducted in a professional way i.e. being polite, cordial and focused.


A good way to start a photo shoot would be to put on some music in the background. This can be done both for outdoor or studio shooting. Ask the model beforehand what style of music she likes or any particular tracks that are her favourites. Many models find it much easier to pose with music in the background. As a photographer you can ask the model to dance if she feels more confident in doing so. That way you can shoot without having to direct poses for the first few minutes of the photo shoot. Some of my best photos have actually originated from these first few moments.


It would be a good idea to have some refreshments, coffee or tea and sweets available. These can turn out to be very helpful in those particular moments, when the model gets stuck or tensed up, especially during a long challenging session.

Cheerful Attitude

Needless to say having a couple of jokes up your sleeve to through around while you are shooting would definitely help and be much appreciated. Please do not over do it and make sure that the jokes are of good taste!


It is important that you compliment your model all through the session. You should use words that enforce the good work that is being done from her side. Words such as ‘great’, ‘wonderful’, ‘fantastic’, ‘brilliant’ and ‘awesome’ would give the model more confidence and perform better. You should use general terms and at no time, should your comments be sexist or racist.

Together with my above tips you can invent other original ways and means towards creating a calm and relaxing environment for your photo shoot. It should be your primary target to break those barriers that inhibit both you, as a photographer, and the model from giving the best during a photo session.

Are you still finding it difficult to direct your models? It is imperative that you keep abreast and update your posing repertory so that you never get stuck behind a camera.

Photo Shoot Location As Well As The Importance Of Organization

Organization is definitely the real key whenever planning for a professional photo shoot. Before you take the first picture, lots of important elements must be available. When searching for a photo shoot location, try to locate a place that offers loads of natural light. Studio light is not hard to control, but it is truly not as great as natural light. Natural light adds a special extra factor to your photography, giving it depth as well as character.

In addition, you’ll need to have a flexible space that has plenty of room to work. If possible, select a place which has several rooms, which can help for the preparation. Renting a loft is an excellent idea as a large urban loft might fit all your requirements. Find a studio that has lots of windows to let in that natural light. Also, a loft most likely provides kitchen space and changing or bathroom areas that happen to be very important to a full-day or multi-day task. Try to find a loft that includes wi-fi internet, good power distribution and an elevator big enough to accommodate all of your equipment. If the loft building has a freight elevator, that’s ideal.

Knowing the measurement and configuration of the area in advance will greatly improve your ability to come ready to your photo shoot. Therefore be sure to visit the loft, take pictures of the space and get specs on the rooms. This can help you determine what types of props or home furniture can be used. It also might provide some inspiration. You may have had one idea in your mind before going to the loft, and after seeing it, become inspired by a completely new set of ideas.

Before going to the shoot, make a list with all of the equipment and props you need to bring. Label everything clearly so that your assistants can easily organize and find equipment. Bring a back-up laptop full of photo editing software just in case your computer fails during the shoot. Being prepared is the best way to ensure a great photo shoot.

It’s noteworthy that photo shoot location, as well as models in the photos, is essential to a fantastic photo shoot. While the significance of such photo shoot location hasn’t ever been doubted, usually the setting is simply the backdrop. As with any movie, commercial or stills shoot, both the exterior and interior of a location is important.

If you take into account say for instance a residential location house for a photo shoot location, the client will see whether the exterior is as essential as its interior and here depends the new growth of modern locations. While it all sounds excellent; it isn’t the easiest job to search for these kinds of modern house locations that suit the requirement of the shoot. The home should not only be beautiful but also integrate easily with the script of the shoot as also come together with the other outdoor locations which have been recently used or are being plotted to be utilized. These along with other technicalities make it sure that one can’t go on oneself searching for photo shoot location and the help of an expert becomes imperative in these conditions.