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How to Build Your Own Shoot Team

A shoot team is a group of people who come together to work on photoshoot situations. They are normally creatives from each walk of the photoshoot spectrum: a photographer, a make up artist, a stylist, a hair stylist, and perhaps some models as well. They work on test shoots together or on paid work as required. They may be an informal team who enjoy working together, or a more formalised group working under one name.

It all sounds pretty great, doesn’t it? You get the chance to work with people you like, and never need to worry about getting the people together who can help you achieve your vision. But how do you go about creating your shoot team? There are a few methods, some more effective than others, which we can discuss here.


Method #1: Trial and Error

This is the most effective method to build a strong and creative shoot team, although it is also the most time consuming. Simply put, you start out by working with a few people here and there and seeing how well you get along. You can find individuals to work with via a few routes:

  • On social media (eg Facebook groups)
  • On photography and modelling sites
  • Through looking at other photographers in the local area and who they have credited
  • Local adverts
  • Agencies

Growing a team organically leads to a much stronger bond between all of the members of the team. You have worked together, potentially more than once, before agreeing to become a team. You know that you like each other and that your work will come out well. You can grow and add more team members as you go, without any particular need to plan. Inviting other members to join the team need not be a formal thing – you can simply ask them to come along and take part in every shoot that you do.

This kind of shoot team is often a group of very good friends, who are likely to spend time with one another outside of their photoshoots as well. They have a good rapport and can therefore create images and ideas almost organically. It’s great fun to be part of this team, but you may spend years finding the right members, and you may lose people along the way due to other commitments.


Method #2: By Open Casting

A quicker way to bring a team together is to post an open casting. You can do this in a number of places:

  • On modelling and photography sites
  • In Facebook groups
  • On your own social media pages

State in the casting that you are looking for people to join a shoot team; what kind of work you will be doing; where you will be working; what kind of creatives you need; and any other details that might be relevant. Ask people to apply with their portfolio and any relevant experience.

When you have enough members of your team assembled, taken from the most promising applications, it’s time to try out how you work together. Set up a shoot just for the purposes of trying out the team – it’s a little risky to start right away with work for a paid client.

If everything works well, you can carry on as a team. Or, you can run another trial with the other applicants if you don’t find that you like working with the people you had selected. You will have to build up your rapport and team spirit as you go, but hopefully this will give you a great team right from the start.


Method #3: Hire candidates

If you are putting together a professional team for paid work only, then you may want to consider actually hiring candidates through a job advert. This is a much more formal method and will involve contracting the members of the team to work with you. You can post an advert in several places:

  • Job sites
  • Local papers
  • National papers
  • Photography sites
  • On Facebook
  • Local interest sites

After you have received applications, you should hold interviews, which may also incorporate a trial. For example, you might ask a make up artist to demonstrate their skills on a model, or give a stylist a theme and ask them to come dressed for it.

Once you have decided on the candidates that are right for your team, you will want to put together a contract. This will state how much they will be paid for the work; how often and for how long they are expected to work; who retains the copyright on the final images produced; and any other legal matters that you need to tie up. You will also want to discuss a notice period, i.e. how much time you or they need to give if they wish to leave the team.

Hiring your own team members is a risky option if you do not have a guaranteed income from each shoot. You may end up significantly out of pocket from a shoot that ends up not paying. It’s also a very formal arrangement which may not allow the team room to grow and change if you need it to.

You should also consider writing a trial period into the contracts, at the end of which you can assess whether or not each member is right for the team. You would be able to fire them and choose someone else without having to leave notice at this stage. This can be useful, but try not to be too hasty in any decisions.


Final word: Why bother?

Of course, you may feel that all this sounds like a lot of work. It will take either time or money to get your shoot team together, and even then you may well lose members at any time. So why would you bother to create a shoot team?

First of all, your possibilities as a professional photographer will increase. When you can offer your clients a pre-made package which has demonstrable abilities, they will be much more likely to book you. Being able to give them the price for a full team in one go is also a really big advantage, as you can save them some money by putting it all together. With the reach from all members of the team promoting it, too, you might find more bookings coming your way.

Secondly, it is bound to make photoshoots more enjoyable. You do not have to worry about the stress of someone not turning up on the day, or not being as talented as you expected. You will simply be meeting up with some good friends in order to get the job done.

Finally, your shoot processes will also become much smoother. When everyone is able to work together comfortably, knowing what to expect from one another, you can save time and also move more easily through the shoot. This will result in a higher quality of work produced at the end, which is always a great thing. You will in essence become a super-photographer, supported not just by your own abilities but by those of your team as well!


Are you part of a shoot team? We’d love to hear about your experiences. Let us know how you got together, and how it’s working out, in the comments.

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