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Pro Tips and Tools for Planning a Photo Shoot

April 18 2018

by Joel Matuszczak, Photographer and Matador Brand Ambassador


Where do I start? Let’s talk about an ordinary day of shooting with me. What I do to keep motivating and challenging myself in photography. What you see from my work, about 90% of the photos are from my backyard. My life is pretty packed. I make do with the time I’m able to have with what I have around me. I rarely travel afar and most of my available free time is in the morning. With such a limited amount of time, it’s hard to really take the time to explore the surroundings. That’s when I research and figure out a game plan before I go out to shoot.


In our world today we have infinite resources well within the palm of our hands. Whether it’s the public library, the internet, your friends/families or simply running into a location that catches your eye, they’re all out there. The world is a giant playground - play it with a sense of destiny.

When it comes to planning a shoot, I rely heavily on the weather. The weather is what can make or break a landscape. It can turn the most boring landscape into something otherworldly. Here are a few resources I use to do my research for shooting.



- Weather apps (I don’t just rely on one, but multiple apps to get a justification of what kind of weather we’re about to see.) One of my favorite apps is Yr.no. Highly detailed information on weather, temperature, wind and pressure. Definitely a must-have. Other recommendations I have are AccuWeather, Wunderground and Magic Hour.

- Google Maps. I tend to switch to 3D mode to scour the landscape and see which vantage point is unique. This is rather useful for locations that you don’t know very well.


-The Photographer’s Ephemeris and PhotoPills are incredible and useful apps to use. The specialty of Photographer’s Ephemeris (TPE) app is that you can pick any location on the planet, put a pin on it on an actual map and see how the sun and the moon will move on that location on any given date. It is especially useful for travel photographers who are out on a long trip and want to maximize their photographic experience in the places they are going.

- The PhotoPills app doesn’t just tell you the location of the sun and the moon on any given date over a location, but can also tell you where you can best spot the Milky Way. It uses something called augmented reality to make those predictions. Initially using this app can prove to be a bit difficult, but over time you will get the hang of it. Meant to be a one stop shop for photography planning and location scouting. Where the sunlight is going to rise or fall. Whether it will create interesting light and shadows in certain parts of the landscape.

Once you find a location that you’d like to shoot, then it’s time to plan the trip. Creating an itinerary is recommended as arriving at the location with ample amount of time is a must. Be on the lookout for unique moments that can happen anywhere at anytime during the golden hour. Whether it’s wildlife that suddenly appeared or a change in the atmosphere (fog, haze, rainbow). Once you arrive at the location, don’t immediately start setting up your gear. Take a deep breath, close your eyes and appreciate the moment. Stay frosty. A clear and calm mind will help get the shots you want. Once you’ve composed and taken the shot you wanted, now would be the time to relocate and explore. See what else you can find while you’re there.

More often than you realize, after all the planning and arriving upon location, the weather decides not to cooperate. And all you’re left with is bland and boring flat light. Don’t pack and give up! Go explore, have fun with what you have, make use of it. There are a million different perspectives from where you stand. Play and experiment with your camera, try new settings, develop a bond, get familiar with your tools. After all is said and done, try again another time and hope the weather will cooperate. If you are persistent, something will turn up well for you.



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