What makes a successful creative lifestyle family photo session with a vintage bus?
Planning, planning and planning. There is nothing more important than planning ahead what you are shooting, where you are shooting and who you are shooting.
Let me go back a bit and say why "Creative Lifestyle Bus Family Shoot".
There are countless number of amazing photographers out there that create beautiful images and they can be found easily on social media. That makes people more aware about their work and eventually, as everything else, becomes more "normal" and the spark starts to fade out.
We, artists, need to constantly find ways to do something different, something that pulls our imagination and creativity to a different level.
The only thing is that not everyone is ready or wants that. Some families look for the traditional type of session and some others like and want the unique and creative approach. So how do know if your idea will be a perfect fit for the family?
The answer is knowing and asking questions to the family you are planning for the creative session. Communication is crucial and it is better to know before spending your energy and time preparing the session for a family that is not the right fit.
For example, in the session above with the family on the beach and the surfing bus, I knew that I needed to find a family that enjoys surfing, California, The beach lifestyle and have kids that have the surfing stereotype.
Note that not all your clients will fit in your Creative Session. Make sure you select wisely.
Ok, you found the right family for your idea, now what?
First I suggest figuring out what costs would be involved. Sometimes the family adds ideas and props and locations and that might add costs and permits.
I will give the same example of the California bus so we keep all the steps in the same concept.
In order to make the California Bus Shoot happen, I knew that I had to have the bus, of course, a few props like a guitar, skateboard, surfboards, old cameras and a location where I could have the bus on the beach.
From the list above, the most difficult part was finding a bus. You might have the luck to know someone that has a crazy and vintage car or have access to a unique location. All that helps your idea comes to life.
In my case, I didn't know anyone that had such a bus. I found a few online places to rent but it wasn't the way I wanted.
I know that would be a tough task to find a bus the way I wanted, very hipster and California vibe. So I ended up searching on Craigslist. From there I found this amazing person that is a car collector and had a bus for sale. I ended up reaching out saying about my idea and that I was not interested in buying the bus but taking pictures of a family in it. From there we exchange a few emails and from there I realized that there are great people in this world. He accepted providing the bus for the shoot and didn't want me to pay
anything. He said that he was glad to help. Less and fewer people in the world have this attitude, so when that happens to you, be honored and appreciate that.
Cool, so I found the bus and now the next challenge was to find a date when both family and the bus owner were available to do the shoot.
Going back a bit on having the bus for free, it is always a bit scary to make sure people will commit to something for free. That is why I usually like to pay and have an agreement so I can know for almost 100% that the person will show up.
So, for me, till the day of the shoot when the bus owner text me he was on the way I was still worried about if the bus would ever show up. Fortunately, he was there at the place and time we agreed. That is when I met him in person for the first time.
I strongly suggest that you have an agreement and compensation to whoever you are trusting for your photo session. I was really lucky to find this person but it can be very easy for someone else to make new plans for the day and bail on you. I believe that when there is compensation, it makes something more professional and people would take it more seriously. However, that still doesn't guarantee that the person won't bail on you. So, be careful and plan ahead.
After finding a date that was mutually good for everyone, the next step was to discuss wardrobe/styling with the client and let them know what to expect.
I always like to be the underdog. I don't make promises that the shoot will be amazing and it will be viral. You can plan as much as you can but if the family does not give you the poses and emotions you are going for, your shoot can turn easily into a nightmare and all the effort you put in the location, props etc can sink with you.
It is very important to make the family very comfortable during the shoot. Well, if you found the right family (a family that loves the beach and surfing) you already have great chance that they will be cool and enjoy the shoot. However, it is on you to also make them feel comfortable and have fun.
Play with the kids, bring music, and tell jokes. Anything that can break the ice. Most shoots have the 10 first minutes of awkwardness and it is our job to turn the table.
Back to wardrobe and styling, make sure what you suggest fits your idea. The shoot could be a total disaster if the mom came in a party dress or the dad in working clothes. Share your ideas visually with your clients so they can understand the look you are going for.
Perfect, so now you have the bus, the family, the styling and the wardrobe picked and now you need to figure out the location.
Oh boy, locations can be the most time consuming part of pre-shoot. Depending on the complexity level of your shoot, location can burn you out.
In my case, I knew that having the bus on the beach was crucial to my vision, however, not many beaches allow you to drive or park your car on it. If you don't check that in advance, you can get in a lot of trouble and eventually city fees.
Luckily for me, there are a few spots in San Diego where you can do that without having a permit and all the complexity of a location that sometimes requires, law enforcement on site, city approvals, etc.
Now that you have your bus, your location, your family, your wardrobe/accessories and props you think that is gold for the success of your shoot. Well, not quite. Another VERY important thing is setting the time for the shoot.
Here in San Diego, we have all four seasons and time/light changes drastically depending on each season you are. The best time of the day to shoot family photo sessions are either at sunrise or sunset. For families with small children I usually like to do sunset.
In the fall and winter, the sun can set at 4:30-6:00 pm whereas during spring and summer it can set from 6:30-8:30 pm. Make sure you schedule your session around the sunset time for each season.
I like to scout the location at sunset before the shoot so I can see how the light hits the area, what position I need to bus to be, where the sun will set etc. In the photo above you see that the sun was setting behind the bus. That was intentional so we could grab amazing backlight on the family.
Another important thing to do is to check with the city and parks if there is no event happening in the location you are planning to do your shoot.
I had one shoot once that the client wanted to do on the top of rocks in La Jolla Cove, so we could capture some waves splashing in the background. On the day of the shoot, when I arrived there and I saw the place empty, I thought that we would score since there were no people to avoid in the background. However it was empty because staring on that specific day, they were closing the access to the rocks for the sea lions season avoiding close interaction with people. I had to think fast and luckily a few blocks down, the rocks were open.
I am assure you, if you plan and plan, your chances to make a successful bus session will be high.
Remember to always be transparent with your client, explain your vision and what to expect.
I would love to hear your thoughts and your story about your creative shoot.