Creative Direction 101: Planning

One of my dreams in life is to one day be a creative director on big-name, high fashion, editorial photo shoots. To give direction over everything from styling to set design is so enticing to me and would be nothing short of a dream come true. You know how people say “if you love your work, it doesn’t feel like work”? Well, that’s how creative direction would be for me.

I didn’t fully realize that I was already pursuing this passion until a follower commented on an Instagram post where I talked about my dream to creative direct saying: “You technically are a creative director already.” I read the comment, took a step back, and realized she was right.

When it comes to photo shoots for Absolutely Olivia, I do the planning, the styling, the location choosing, the modeling, and the post-processing. In a nutshell, this is creative direction. With the wonderful revelation that I was my own creative director, came an exciting idea for a new blog series…Creative Direction 101.

In this series, I will walk you through the step-by-step process of one of my more “editorial” shoots and give tips on how to do so yourself. For the first installment, today I’m going to be sharing my planning process for the majority of my bigger, more artistic shoots. Ready to learn how to bring your creative vision to life? Keep reading!

*PAUSE! Want to get the Creative Direction 101 series sent straight to your inbox BEFORE it hits the blog? Subscribe to Absolutely Olivia with your email! If you’re on a phone, scroll to the bottom of the site to subscribe and if you’re on a laptop, subscribe in the sidebar. You’re in for a treat!*


The first step for creative direction is just like any other first step in a project: brainstorm. For me, this is as simple as pulling unused ideas from the back of my brain to asking myself questions like: What has inspired me lately? What piece of clothing am I dying to shoot? What mood am I in and how can I portray that through fashion photography?

After I have the beginnings of a photo shoot concept in my head, I start to actually plan everything out.


Occasionally photo shoot ideas will come to me out of nowhere and become a very start-from-scratch type of ordeal. However, they normally don’t just come from nowhere, but from inspiration I have found elsewhere. My first stop for shoot inspiration is always Pinterest. I turn to this app for everything from outfits to locations to poses to makeup; Pinterest has it all! First, I start by searching key words like “field photo shoot” or “high fashion poses.” Then once I find photos that are similar to what I’m trying to bring to life, I will start pinning them all to a private board. This way all my inspiration photos are in one place and easy to access and refer back to.

Another way I like to get inspiration for my own shoots is through, of course, Instagram. I scroll through my previously saved photos, editorial accounts I love, and my explore page to find photos. Then, just like on Pinterest, I save the photos to one collection on Instagram.

Other times, inspiration comes from the lyrics of songs, books I’m reading, movies I watch, or just from walking around downtown.

While searching for inspiration, I always keep the concept and mood in mind that I’m trying to achieve in the shoot. For example, if I want more mystical shots I’ll use key words and save photos that go with that. If I want edgier shots I’ll use key words and save photos to go with that vibe and so on. By being specific with my searches and saves, the process of collecting inspiration becomes more efficient and easy to do.


Something I just started doing when it comes to planning shoots is to write out the official timeline and plan of the shoot.

On the timeline, I write out the dates for when the styling, the shoot, and the post-processing need to be done by as well as goal posting dates. Then, underneath each date I write a break down of what is going on. Under styling, I list certain pieces I want to use in the looks. Under the shoot date, I list locations, number of looks, pose ideas, and props. Under the post-processing date, I list the mood I want for my edits and funky ways to spice up the photo after it is taken.

Writing out the plan for the photo shoot is beneficial when it comes to time management and getting a solid grasp on the entirety of the shoot from start to finish.


The most important thing to do when planning a photo shoot is to always keep in mind that this is YOUR creative vision. It’s not another influencer’s vision, another photographer’s vision, or another model’s vision; it is yours and yours alone. Take charge and make this shoot your own. Ask yourself: how can I make this shoot more unique to me? More unique to my page? More unique to the world?

In the end, you want the shoot to not only speak to those engaging with the photos, but you also want the shoot to speak to you.

All in all, my planning process for photo shoots is fairly simple. Some days the whole process takes about 10 minutes as I’m driving in the car with my camera by my side ready to shoot. However, the majority of the time my more editorial shoots are planned in advance. I hope this post gave you the insight you were hoping to find when it comes to setting up shoots. Thanks for reading!

💜Love, Olivia

17 thoughts on “Creative Direction 101: Planning

  1. The post was so helpful! I struggle so much with confidence so i’m not normally comfortable with being in front of the camera but I really want to get out of this and start taking more pics. Thank you so much for this 🍃

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This is so interesting to read. Also, sis, congratulations to you for living your dreams in your teens!
    I usually have very unplanned shoots that I do with my friend around the neighborhood, but because I don’t know how to edit pictures with proper software myself I haven’t really posted them. I’d like to, though! I’me keen to see what you have to say in your next Creative Direction post! xx

    Liked by 1 person

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