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If you’re about to embark on your first international fashion photoshoot and have visions of an ace team collaborating and developing amazing imagery for campaign, content and to grow your experience and network. We absolutely encourage you to do it! It’s heaps of fun, you’ll get unique content and a heightened chance of being featured in your target publicity and will expand your industry contacts.

As romantic as these visions sound – it’s no honeymoon! In fact, it’s damn hard work that will test your resilience and push your boundaries. – comfort zone is not an option! Comparably – It’s much like a local shoot but the stakes are higher and so are the expenses. After all, this is an unknown territory and you’re not a local, so if all you have to rely on is instagram’s hype reel, scarce industry contacts and whatever else you can see online. Then you’ll be entering unknown territory. It can be a different story when you plant your feet on the ground and set about discovering a unique location off the beaten track that hasn’t already been spammed online. – So how do you go about planning an international photoshoot blind?

With all good intentions, you source a great location, develop a unique concept and assemble you’re “A” team – including photographer, production manager, hair and make-up artist(s) and model(s) and potentially a stylist… for starters.  Your budget is going to determine what you can and can’t do – but don’t forget, talented creatives can make the most basic rock look like a sparkling diamond with the right lighting and angles.

Expenses can quickly get out of control, so this is something you really need to be aware of at all times. Determine your budget for the entire shoot, and make sure you stick to it. There are some elements of a photoshoot that you should have an element of flexibility with. This isn’t one of them

This will prove to be a costly process if you include the organizational time invested, travel, accommodation, transport on the ground. Then there are the hidden costs that you may not be aware of:

Taxes – be aware of any additional taxes so you don’t blow out your budget.

Cash – Keeping flush with funds is imperative. Having access to funds with marginal fees in a variety of currencies gave us the opportunity to transfer and pay our OS team without scurrying around for an ATM – Check out TravelWise

Tipping – 15 to 20% for services like your hair and makeup person, photographer, and stylist if shooting in the USA. – Fact check this?

Tolls – are you traveling to a location that requires toll roads? Think about getting a toll key for your rental car so you can set and forget. (or pay for it at the end of your rental if you’re unsure)

Travel fees – if the people in your crew have to travel more than half an hour you can expect to pay around $50US for travel.

Insurance – it’s wise to take out insurance like Public Liability, equipment if essential crew (eg model, hmua or photographer) are not from an agency, then definitely get a no-show clause for the cancelation of your shoot in your insurance policy.

A duty of care – sounds simple but think about your team’s safety and wellbeing. Before you request that a model on a tree branch- make sure it’s stable, or if you’re asking a photographer to shoot a dangerous angle ask yourself “is that safe”

Catering – a way to your team’s heart is good catering with non-bloating foods. Keep everyone well fed and watered with light snacks and handheld cocktail size food. Pro tip – green tea is an anti-inflammatory, peppermint tea helps wake you up if you’re feeling flat and popcorn wakes the entire space up and can be eaten on the run easily.

What are the main options for the location? 

1 – A studio hire by the hour
If you’re in a metro area, consider renting a production studio when in the US we used Peer Space – they have themed rooms and warehouse spaces when you can rent by the hour. Be sure to look and abide by the rules. Leasers run a tight ship and there’s no room for error when it comes to strictly adhere to your booking times. If you run out of time, then you can finish the shoot with street style imagery – research landmarks close by, just in case.

2- Head to a location outdoors
When booking your shoot – check up on the climate and standard conditions. What time is sunrise and sunset and how will the light impact on photography. Are there permits you need to acquire? Do you need permission to shoot there? Is it a public or religious holiday that will bring a crowd to your location? – don’t forget about where will the model change and restroom access, how will you cater on location (Esky / Cooler, water) how will you get electrical power to the location? Is there somewhere for the clothes to hang and where will you Hair/Makeup stylist set up?

If you don’t have a budget to secure a location, it’s easy enough to find one where you can photograph for free. All you need to do is find out who to ask for permission prior to the shoot. Be ready to detail timings, equipment that will be used and the concept of the shoot so those in charge can make an informed decision.

3- Rent a suitable Airbnb
If you’re considering accommodation at the same time as a styles studio or location – consider renting an upmarket Airbnb with views or on a large property so that you’re unrestricted when it comes to both location, weather and catering logistics. The workflow will be fast and you won’t need to transport garments, drag esky’s, worry about a power source and a restroom is easy to access. Also, there’s no pressure for the pack down timing and if your team is staying with you, them home is just down the hall! – When we stayed in Yucca Valley California we had Joshua Tree National Park and Palm Springs at our doorstep plus a fabulous garden to accompany a beautiful property (you check it out the result via Skuel Work shoot and Death Valley Store product shots.

Hotels / Local Businesses / Buildings
If your heart is set on a local business or hotel, getting in contact with them at the earliest stage possible is essential. They may have a protocol to follow or requests may take time to filter through to the right people for approval. Some hotels have PR departments that you’ll need to coordinate with. Don’t be put off if your application is rejected immediately: some venues don’t accommodate such activity because it can be too disruptive to their paying customers. Your best bet is to leave enough time to coordinate all the details and always, always, have a Plan B.

What happens if the wheels fall off?
Despite planning everything down to the dollar and minute…. Just like a wedding – things don’t always go to plan, So what can you do?

The Model Cancels
It might be all fine on home soil but when planning an international shoot – Don’t risk it in the name of “collaboration” – sure collaboration sounds wonderful and giving, but it only works if everyone has something to gain and if everyone is 100% reliable. Don’t fall into the “model has a great look for the brand and they’re “cheap or free”– go deeper, ask who they have modeled for and get a reference. Are they reliable? What happens if they call up sick an hour before the shoot? – all that time and money spent formulating your vision goes up in a puff of smoke!

Instead, talk to an agency and have a budget of $1000US a day for 1 model, maybe see if you can negotiate with the agency to bring on 2 models in development for that rate – that way if one calls in sick, you still have 1 and not all is lost. (don’t forget to include taxes and associated agent costs) – if you’re heading to LA – we love working with IMG Models. In Australia we use the right.fit

If you are looking to collaborate with an influencer as your model, make sure you have an MOU or contract in place. Still looking for your influencer and don’t know where to start? – check out this article we put together about owning a lust-worthy brand when it comes to brand alignment and finding someone who’s the right fit.

The weather is terrible?
A little cloud and scattered rain is ok – but don’t forget about your photographer’s gear and the hair and makeup application or the care of the garments. Book somewhere that has an indoor option if all else fails; make it a wet look shoot or book into a space that has great natural lighting through the middle of the day.

The Garments are damaged in the shoot?

I can’t stress enough about insurance, but at the very least have a needle and thread on hand, familiarise yourself with a local alterations company. – Tip – If you are handling delicate silky fabrics, use the steamer and or iron on a low setting.

Don’t expect the models dress themself– otherwise, you’ll end up with a heel through your gowns and make sure you have a scarf on hand to place over the model’s face and they put on and remove items that go over the head.

Take photo’s of each garment when received and another after the shoot – just in case you’re questioned about a mark, stain or rip. – at least you’ll have time-stamped evidence when or if it happened on your set.

Photoshoot essentials:

  • Call sheet
  • Model fitting – if possible
  • Shot list with space for photoshop notes
  • Pull sheet (stock that you’ll be using for each look)
  • Concept Moodboards to tell the story of the campaign
  • Location imagery
  • Pose boards
  • Contingency plan for all the risks mentioned above. (back up shoot date, back up model, back up location.)
  • MOU for influencer and collaborators
  • Photographic stocktake of garments, accessories, and props.
  • Photography kit (large bulldog clamps, pins, Hollywood tape, nude underwear, stockings, bobby pins, masking tape, comb, hairspray, baby wipes, chewing gum, antistatic spray, first aid kit)

(Subscribe to our mail list to get a free download of template essentials for your next photo shoot.)

themselfNailing your photo shoot can bring great rewards, and it’s advised to not skimp on the quality of the team and preparation to execute it properly. This is an opportunity to invest in your label and team and if it goes south then everyone has something to lose. Plan it months in advance, have a respectable budget (budgeting no less than $1000USD an hour incorporating your team and model rates only) – that means minimum $8000 and above for an 8 hour day. + catering + location expenses + hidden costs mentioned above.

Check out our latest overseas shoot (below) that we had in LA. Full disclosure – we intended on shooting in Palm Springs. 1 model canceled a day before and our back up model canceled an hour before the shoot! Leaving us to revert to our back up plan to shoot in LA on a couple of days later. Thank goodness for plan B and photoshoot insurance!

Need a rock-solid photoshoot checklist?

Our photographer Ashley Conway has put together a whopper photoshoot checklist for you.  Download it here for your next photo shoot.

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