5 Practical Tips – Preparing for Location Headshots

I love location headshot jobs because of how much I can accomplish in one day. Typically these clients really value time efficiency which means you often only have one afternoon or a just a few hours to load in, setup, shoot the entire office and load out.  Typically I run into a few similar challenges over and over- so here are some tips that I have come to rely on.

Packed uppacked

Essentially my entire studio brought on location. Packed and unpacked.

1.) Make a gear checklist

This seems obvious but it’s really so critical. Forgetting even a single critical item can be a show stopper on a shoot so I do everything I can to make sure that doesn’t happen! My list has 32 items on it. Not every job requires every item but having everything down in a checklist ensures that nothing is forgotten. I use a simple checklist app on my iphone- Checklist+.

2.)Pack your gear property

When I started doing corporate headshots on location in Washington DC I didn’t really have the proper gear to transport my studio. Most of my work was in my studio but I didn’t want to turn down location requests so I essentially packed my lights and softboxes into two suitcases and wrapped everything in blankets! Needless to say this solution is less than ideal and let’s be honest- not safe for your gear and doesn’t give a ‘professional’ vibe. I now use a pelican case for my strobes, a Lightware Rolling Stand Bag case that holds my foldable softboxes, light stands, and reflectors and Lowepro Pro Runner 450 AW DSLR Backpack bag for my camera, and lenses. With these cases I can bring all of my equipment up to the ofice myself in two trips. I’m currently looking for a nice folding cart to cut that down to one trip.

Bags on location

These three bags safely hold the majority of what needs to come with me on location.

3.)Bring Backup Gear

Bring backups of ANY critical component. When shooting on location you only have one chance to get it right and if anything fails you need to have a plan b. I always bring a backup camera bodie, additional strobe, multiple lenses, modifiers, additional CF cards, cables, batteries and power cords.

4.)Prepare for less than ideal contingencies

Limited space

I require an unobstructed space of at least 10×20 feet but sometimes the clients either don’t really measure the space, or the meeting room slated for headshots becomes occupied and we have to use a smaller room.  Have a wider lens in your bag for cases like this- you might not have the shooting distance you would ideally like.  The other lifesavers in this situation is the Paul Buff Shovel Reflector. I always bring it but generally only use it when space is tight. This reflector allows you to get a decent gradient or white backdrop with just a few feet of space.

Bad outlet location

Don’t count on abundant outlet locations. I always bring an extension cord and power strip so I can plug into a central location if needed. I also always bring masking tape to tape down any power cables that might be in the path of a client. You definitely don’t want any clients tripping or lights getting pulled to the ground!

5.)Parking and load in

This is important- a bad parking strategy will make you late for the job and cause much unneeded stress! This is especially true in urban areas. In Washington DC it’s common for office buildings to have underground parking. Inquire ahead of time and see what the parking situations is, often you can call the garage directly(google maps is your friend here). Do you need a pass? Is there a service elevator, or elevator that will take you to the floor you need to go to? Is there a loading dock area you need to use? My priority is convenient load in. I want a spot in the most convenient parking lot nearest to the elevator that will take me directly to the floor I’m going to.  As a general rule I don’t park on the street(asking for trouble!) and I don’t charge the client for my parking cost(it’s nickle and dimey and slows down the contracting process)- it’s worth it for me to pay to be as close as possible to ensure a fast load in.