Find out how I prepared for my first photo shoot. My 10 tips will help you plan and strategize for that big day so that you can have a creative and fun shoot and get the results you want.

How I Prepared For My First Photo Shoot + Tips For First-Timers

Find out how I prepared for my first photo shoot. My 10 tips will help you plan and strategize for that big day so that you can have a creative and fun shoot and get the results you want.


The last I saw of my locs in December 2016, they were lying like limp ropes on the floor of my barber’s shop. What followed was the lowest my hair has ever been – the tiniest of teeny-weeny Afros and a fade.

Then my hair sprouted like weeds and my go-to professional photo started getting on my last nerve with its “Girl, you need to update me. ASAP.”

Usually, I would’ve headed to my go-to local photo studio to sit in front of a plain backdrop and put on my best smile for the camera, but something nudged me to shake things up.

Do a photo shoot, said the voice in my head.

I think I kissed my teeth.

At that time, I had never done one before. And I had always been petrified of being in front of a camera, awkward black woman that I am.

But a seed had been planted in my mind.

And I knew who to go to for help.

How I Prepared For My First Photo Shoot + Tips For First-Timers

Find out how I prepared for my first photo shoot. My 10 tips will help you plan and strategize for that big day so that you can have a creative and fun shoot and get the results you want.

Photo Credit: Rochelle Marshall

I’ve been following Tamara Sykes, the creative mind behind Baydian Girl, since 2015. I featured her in my Breast Cancer post, Think Pink, last year. She provides personal style tips for multicultural women. Her Instagram feed is colourful, stylish, and creative. This is a woman who is at ease in her own skin in front of the camera. It loves her. She’s also experienced in her field. Harper’s Bazaar featured her and her scarf line was in the spotlight at Fashion Week Columbus 2015. So I knew she would be an able guide.

I contacted Tamara about two months before I did my photo shoot in late November. She gave me a free consultation and we spoke face-to-face via Facebook. Her tips covered theme, location, outfits and accessories. By the time our session was over, I felt more empowered.

Which leads me to my first tip.

1. Identify Your Guide

Identify someone who knows the ropes. It helps if he or she is someone with whom you have a rapport. If you can’t find someone among your family or friends, head on over to your social media contacts or fellow bloggers.

2. Get Advice Early

Once you have identified your guide and know when you want to do the shoot, don’t wait until the last minute to contact him or her. Bear in mind that this person isn’t working on your schedule.

3. Preparation is the Name of the Game

You got your advice and are raring to go. What’s next?

Maybe you’re not like me and can throw something together and it will come off smoothly. Great! I have no such luck, so I need to have loads of time to plan. A new year was coming up and I also wanted to firm up my plans for my website. That’s why I decided to kill two birds with one stone and do a creative shoot. Plus, I realised that the voice in my head was helping me to break out of my comfort zone.

I knew that I wanted to do the photo shoot before the end of 2017. December would be out of the question because that’s a hella busy period for just about everyone. I was also monitoring the weather because the Caribbean region had an active, awful hurricane season. Although Jamaica had been spared, heavy rains still lashed the island. So I knew that I had to get the shoot done by the end of November.

But I had to prepare for things, such as the photographer, location, theme, what I would wear, and my budget.

4. Plan Your Theme

My preparation included collating all the concepts I liked for the bookish theme I had chosen. If you’re stumped for ideas, ask yourself why you’re doing the shoot. That question will guide the direction of your theme, or if you’re even using one.

5. Who’s Your Photographer?

I noticed that Tamara has a photographer with whom she does most of her shoots. I had no one. So I asked around. And the Universe answered.

Out of the blue, Christopher Smith, a former colleague, reconnected with me on Twitter. From there, I noticed his fashion shots, which led me to ask him about the photographers. When he recommended Rochelle Marshall, with whom we have a mutual work connection, I was elated. I contacted her, got her rates and boom! Just like that, it was on!

Do your research, if you’re in a position like I was. Also, don’t blow a hole in your budget just because you want someone like Annie Leibovitz. You can have a great shoot and get the results you want from someone who knows his or her way around a DSLR.

6. Location is Key

Remember what I said about the weather? Well, it was wet and soggy leading up to the day of the shoot. Initially, we were going to have it in a public setting. But the rains, plus extra costs associated with a public venue, led me to do some brainstorming. The result was that one of my dear friends allowed me to do the shoot at her lovely home.

In hindsight, I saw how this was the best decision. If it rained, which it did in the morning, but cleared up by noon, Rochelle and I could shift to an indoor shoot. Most importantly, we were comfortable in a quiet environment.

Consider the logistics and your needs when planning your location. Which would work best for you – an indoor or outdoor shoot? What extra costs would affect your budget? If you choose a public venue, work out the mode of transportation and the ease of carrying and moving props.

7. It’s the Little Things that Count

Rochelle and I were on the same page. I got to my friend’s home way before the scheduled start time to set up the area and change into the outfit I would wear. Without us arranging it, she arrived not long after I did, because she wanted to do her checks. In my book, that’s a huge plus. I value punctuality and someone who’s proactive.

8. Be Open to Suggestions + Trust is Key

Once Rochelle and I had an agreement, I e-mailed her those concepts I had collated. This gave her a sense of what she would be working with. It also made the day of the shoot flow smoothly.

What I liked was that, although I had my own ideas of how I wanted things to go, Rochelle suggested that I make the concepts my own. All her recommendations were respectful and helpful.

You don’t want a yes-man or woman. Let them express their professional opinions and make their recommendations. Trust is key. If you trust your photographer, then you’ll know that he or she wants to portray you in the best possible light. And if their suggestions work for you, in the end, it’s a win-win.

9. Enjoy Your Photo Shoot

This is obvious, right? But what if you’re a ball of nerves?

Deep breathing works wonders. Visualisation exercises also help. See yourself having a great time. Practise your poses and your smiles in a mirror to see if they look natural.

It helped that I knew Rochelle from before, so my previously ingrained terror of the camera vanished without my realising it. As such, we had a blast. She’s easygoing and was fun to work with. We had lots of funny moments, like when she stood on a plastic bench for an overhead shot, and we looked unsure about its sturdiness, and I had one eye on her, just in case it wobbled and pitched her into one of the urns behind me. Or the time she went down into an almost-full split so she could take a shot. The benefits of being a yogini. I, on the other hand, was trying not to tumble over while walking in the grass. I told you I’m awkward.

Have fun. Plus, laughing will ease any tension you may feel.

10. Finish at the Agreed Time

Stick to the agreement. If your shoot is for an hour, don’t extend it because you came up with some new ideas on the fly. Respect the photographer’s time. Use the alarm on your phone as a reminder. And if you’re doing the shoot at someone’s home, even if he or she is your friend, respect their time as well.


As for my old professional photo, it was like, Girl, YASSS!


I hope that those of you who are first-timers will find my tips helpful. And when you do, have a great first photo shoot.


You can contact Rochelle Marshall at and connect with her on Twitter and Instagram.


If you’ve done a photo shoot before, what was your first experience like?

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