Take Me To The River: How To Plan A Concept Photoshoot

Last week I shared the images from a concept photoshoot I planned and shot, titled Take Me To The River. If you haven't seen the entire gallery yet, you can view it HERE.

Over the next few weeks I'll be breaking down my entire process of planning, shooting, and editing this concept shoot. This week I'm specifically discussing the pre-planning stages including:

  • where I drew my inspiration from
  • the wardrobe choices and how they helped convey the mood
  • constructing a helpful shot list

At the end of the series, I'll be doing a live Q&A on instagram  to answer any questions that come up over the course of the series.

If you have any questions for me, be sure to leave a comment below! I will collect these comments and discuss them during the live Q&A. 

Week 1: Inspiration & Pre-planning
Week 2: Location & Posing
Week 3: Watch Me Edit
Week 4: Live Q&A - August 17

The Inspiration

Inspiration can come from anywhere: a book you're reading, a mood you've been feeling lately, a tv show you're watching - literally, anywhere. For me, it came from a song.


Inspiration can come from anywhere.


I was watching the popular HBO series Big Little Lies when I heard a song, and I instantly was drawn to it. I caught a few of the lyrics and immediately googled to find out what the song was and that was what led me to Leon Bridges' "River".

I immediately downloaded the song, and found myself playing it on repeat the next day both on my way to work and on my way home from work.The more I listened to it the more an idea for a concept photoshoot came to me.

Oh, I wanna come near and give ya
Every part of me
But there is blood on my hands
And my lips aren’t clean
— Leon Bridges

Listening to the lyrics, I couldn't get the image of a woman in a flowy dress floating in water out of my mind.

As I listened to the song on repeat I just kept envisioning a woman in a flowy dress floating in the water. So that was what I planned my entire concept off of. 

Choosing the Wardrobe

Listening to the song and reading the lyrics told me what the mood of the shoot should be. The singer's voice is very soulful, and I wanted my images to reflect that.

I wanted the photos to be both moody and strong, but still feminine. I began searching for a dress that could embody all of these words.


I chose the dress I did for several reasons:

  • The off-the-shoulder provided that touch of femininity I wanted.
  • The dress had a lot of texture to add visual interest to the photos.
  • The dress' pink color also added to the femininity and was a complimentary color to the greenery of the location.
  • The material of the dress would flow easily in the water and add drama to the images.

These are the decisions that led me to choose the dress for this shoot.

Keep in mind, every choice you make ultimately affects how your viewers feel when looking at your images. 

When you're planning a concept photoshoot, every detail must be considered because it all needs to come together to convey your message.

Creating a shot list

Whenever there's a specific message you want to express with a photoshoot, coming up  with a shot list can be extremely helpful.


Usually when I'm shooting a session I tend to let the light and my surroundings, along with my subjects, all work together to inspire me. But with this shoot I realized having a general shot list would be important.

Some of the shots included on my list were:

  • dipping hands into water
  • on dock by water (sitting and laying)
  • full body floating in water

Did I stick directly to the list and capture every shot on it? No. But creating the shot list and having it in the back of my mind as I shot helped make sure I stayed on the course of capturing the individual bits I needed to tell the entire story.

Creating a shot list helped me to envision the shoot beforehand and how all the puzzle pieces would fit together in the end to create the final picture.


Your goal is to capture all of the separate puzzle pieces to fit together properly in the end.

While shooting I always kept the end goal in mind. This helped me capture all of the separate puzzle pieces to fit together properly in the end.


In the pre-planning stages, here are five questions you should ask yourself to help you envision what how your final collection will come together to convey your message:

Five Questions To Ask Yourself During Pre-planning

  1. What is my inspiration?
  2. What mood am I conveying?
  3. What colors will help me convey this mood properly? How can I incorporate these colors? 
  4. What other details in the wardrobe can aid in creating this mood?
  5. What types of shots do I need to complete this collection? (i.e. wide angle, close-up, macro, etc.)

Once you've answered these questions, you're ready to head out to location and start shooting! Next week I'll be discussing the location I chose, posing my subject, and using light to help tell the story. 

Have questions about finding inspiration, choosing wardrobe, or how to create a shot list? Leave a comment below and I'll be sure to discuss it during my live Q&A on instagram!

Take Your Photography Up A Level!

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• Use a variety of natural light

• Gain confidence directing your subject

• Maximize your location to add variety

• Edit your photos to increase their impact

Find out more details about my Shoot With Me Workshop if you're ready to

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