What goes into Making Great Quality Photography

A great quality image is made up of several components all working in harmony to compliment and contrast with each other. The way these elements are used together is what creates the sum-total of the imagery that you see.

So, how do image makers go about creating the perfect imagery for your brand or business? Great images can be captured off the cuff, or with little to no-planning – but they are by no means guaranteed. Here, i am going to run through how to get guaranteed great imagery from every shoot.

Photography Moodboard & Concept

The first step to creating a great cohesive set of imagery is a step that a lot of people skip over – or don’t explore for long enough. Moodboarding and creating concepts is imperative for creating imagery which fulfils a purpose and is creatively striking. It is not enough to just find one image and copy it. or to copy he creative for another brand just because you like it. An analysis needs to occur around the products you are showcasing, their unique selling points, your brand identity and how you want to be perceived by the public. These elements all pulled together and explored properly through sketches, visuals, colour swatches and scrapbooking allows a concept to evolve into something new and groundbreaking. Allowing this time off the bat before anything is actually created can allow you to create genuinely original content.

Little anecdote – i was once doing a creative for a running shoe. The client / brand manager wanted to straight-up copy a nike campaign featuring models running in the desert. There was LITERALLY no other reasoning considered… just that they “liked” the nike campaign. Except, we couldn’t go to the desert so we had to do a composite job – not a problem. So we do a footwear creative for this shoe in the desert (i might add this was for an Autumn Winter campaign… go figure). Once we’ve started the brand guys realise the shoe is called a “charge” shoe so they want to get that in there somewhere. So we add dust clouds and lightning to the back of the shoe like its revving up to set off using some sort of kinetic electricity in the desert. All is good, right? It ALMOST makes sense (except the desert bit… but whatever), its looks great with a stormy concept and the muted sand colours. Then the client realises that the product they’ve picked will be out of stock before the creative runs so they ask us to swap out the shoe for a different shoe. A different shoe which is NOT called “charge” and is BRIGHT BLUE. So now, with no time left to do a new creative concept, and the client absolutely set on this creative, we have an unnamed bright blue shoe, in the desert (for no reason), with lightening firing off from it (for no reason); In summation, a creative so thrown together it was visual salad.

So THIS is why it is important to fully explore the concept before you end up on a wild ride that leads you somewhere mad.

Building a Photographic Creative Team

Your photographic team, and the calibre of talent that you employ can be the difference between a super productive, fun and creative shoot that leaves everyone buzzing, or a trudging slog through shots desperately trying to get through all the products before everyone can go home. Do not allow it to be the latter. There are so many amazing creatives and each creative field adds another leg with with to prop your project up to heights you hadn’t dreamt of.

Hair and Make Up

Hair and Make Up; Sometimes made up of a team of people, sometimes all rolled into one fantastically talented individual. This person creates the model looks that embody your brand. Are you have eyeliner and messy curls? Minimalistic natural make up and slicked hair? or 50s glam and pin curls? The hair and make up artist is a wizard that creates the finessed looks you see.

Wardrobe Stylist

I would always recommend having a wardrobe stylist for all fashion shoots. A wardrobe stylist is one (Or five) steps ahead of the fashion curve. They live with their heads in between the pages of vogue, and they can relay the latest catwalk looks of the top of their head. They know how to pin, pick and prioritise and they know whether the socks should be rolled up, rolled down or worn on the hands. This person is indefinitely and timelessly “Cool” and can stop the shoot slipping into cliches. If you want your products to look the absolutely best they can, whilst still looking fresh and fashionable, then you need a stylist.


The movement specialist. Your videographer will have their eye on how to best capture your behind the scenes, or fashion film for the (silver?) screen. Everyone is consuming content so rapidly now, and video is a surefire way to increase engagement. This person will have their hands on all the latest tech from cameras, steadicams, to drones. Your videographer will know how to work with models to get the best out of them for your video work. Videographers also tend to be painfully cool…. annoying i know.

Production Manager

Dont want to send your time running budgets, creating call sheets and making sure everyone is where they’re supposed to be? Then your production manager will be your best friend. The king/queen of organisation, your production manager will speak spreadsheet, control people and make sure everything gets done – On time – On Budget – En Pointe.

Art Director

When you have a lot of creatives all in one place, it can get a little wild. Creatives tend to be naturally a bit free-thinking, prone to wandering off from briefs and creatively pin balling around the place. Which is why you have an art director. Your Art Director will steer the creative ship towards your destination of design, keeping all your creatives on track and making sure your project is finessed.


Runners are the unsung heroes of any medium/large production. They are the coffee makers, pop to the shop-pers, and “can you grab that” -ers. A multi disciplined person with no firm role on-set who allows everyone else to focus on their tasks, they invariably facilitate a smooth production by being the indispensable middle man. Need to pick a model up from the train station? Runner. Put a battery on charge? Runner. Discovered the make up artist is vegan and need to amend the catering order? Runner.

Photoshoot Locations and Recces

The location used for your production is what sets the scene for your imagery. Choosing a location which not only embodies your brand / concept, but also facilitates smooth logistics AND is available for the Date and budget of your shoot is not as easy as it may seem.

Having a photographer or production team that can appropriately source your location/s is imperative.

It is also very important to have a team that understand the different kinds of locations and the necessary requirements for booking these. Whether it is a private property which can be booked through an agency, or independently, or if it is a public pathway which requires council permits for shooting.

As discussed at the very beginning of the blog, you CAN shoot in a lot of places by just turning up and doing your thing – which is appropriate if budget is your biggest concern… However, if you want to guarantee that your shots all have a consistent location, especially if the location is key to the shots, then you want to ensure that your production doesn’t get moved on to somewhere else by officials.

The next step after sourcing potential locations is to do a recce, which involves visiting the location with the key production players (Photographer, art director and videographer would be most interested in this) Each person will be checking that the location meets the criteria for both the artistic elements and the logistical elements. The size and configuration of the space, colour palette, lighting and key areas to shoot in, but also the availability of power, prep areas, storage, parking and public transport links are all thing which can be checked out on a recce.

Also… Google maps is a godsend for this! Street view has minimised the need to actually visit potential outdoor locations.

Pre-production Planning

Pre-production planning involves many of the elements that i have already mentioned, along with a whole host of other jobs and necessities such as:

Model sourcing and booking


Equipment Prep and packing.

Call Sheets

If you have a large production with an art director and production manager then they will look after the following elements:

Moodboard / concepts



Call sheets and logistics


Shot list

However, if you’re looking to keep costs down and run a small production then this is all up to the photographer to look after.

Photoshoot Day

If you have all your ducks in a row before the shoot day then everything should run very smoothly and in accordance to the call sheet and shot list. In which case, all that needs to happen on the shoot day is that everyone just performs their tasks in an efficient and professional manner and gets to go home on time.

Unfortunately, even the best laid plans can go awry with a rogue weather incident, a model delayed by public transport or a health and safety incident. What is most important on shoot day is that you have a team of professionals who will power through no matter what, have the experience and confidence in their abilities to think on their feet and make it work no matter what happens.

The unknowable is just that, unknowable. However, once you have been doing this 10 years like i have, you can pretty much anticipate ANYTHING.

My colleagues have always been amazed at how unflappable i am in the face of potential drama, but i always have the following motto in mind (i take out the god bit because i’m a heathen):

grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, Courage to change the things I can, And wisdom to know the difference.”

Image Selection

If you have had a studio shoot, or a large production which wasn’t a “mobile crew” then you have likely been able to view the images to a certain extent on set. Whether that is on the back of the camera, or as a tethered shoot to laptop. Even if you haven’t been able to view all the images, you will have been working to a brief, shot list and/or concept, so none of the images should be a surprise to you.

Post-Shoot image selection is a very personal process. Different stories for different folks and all that. Clients will have a very different idea of what looks good.

I tend to do a “pre-selection’ whereby i remove anything which i believe to be absolute rubbish before sending over a contact sheet.

I would always advise on having a group of people view your selection before you get to the retouching stage. Its a good idea to get lots of eyes from different perspectives who may or may not agree with your choices and can offer constructive feedback on your selection.

If you are not in a position to have a critical feedback discussion with a group then ask your photographer for their input and they will give you a 3rd party overview on what works best creatively.

Lightroom / Capture One Presets

This step actually comes into play before the selection is made, but makes up part of the retouching process so i have wiggled the timeline around a bit. Images straight from the camera are run through a RAW convertor software such as Capture One or Lightroom (others are available but these are the most well known).

This process allows the photographer or retoucher to make more generalised adjustments to the overall images, such as:

Contrast, brightness

Saturation and vibrance

Clarity, texture and sharpness

Colour and tonality

This is often referred to as colour grading, which is a term somewhat stolen from video work, but it applies quite well to modern day photographic development.

Photoshop Retouching

The last step before outputting the project at the desired formatting specifics. The Photoshop retouching is the element of this process that takes an image from ” ah that’s nice” to “holy f*cking wow , that amazing”.

Photoshop retouching is a whole process which could fill about 5 blood posts, so i’m not going to go into too much detail, but i’ll give you some bullet point:

Clean up

Object removal

Blemish removal

skin perfecting

wrinkle removal (products and people)


colours and grading work

Check out this blog post on why the quality of the retouching makes a difference to your imagery.

Image Formatting

Whether you require images for web, social or for instore printing, brochures and postcards, you image formatting requirements will be different.

Exporting imagery at the correct specification for use will ensure that resolutions, colour correctness and tonality is optimised for the end purpose meaning you get the absolute best out of your imagery.

This is essentially the last step and then you are GOOD TO GO!

So that is it, the whole, long and complicated process of absolutely ensuring guaranteed AMAZING imagery every time.

If you have an questions then pop a comment or drop an email on the contact page.

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