Creative Direction 101: The Photo Shoot

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.

Read Creative Direction 101: Planning

Read Creative Direction 101: Styling

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 third installment, today I’m going to be sharing the photo shoot 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!*

For this shot, my mom (my photographer) held up a sprig of grass in front of the limbs to create the cool shadow-y affect.

All images in this post are the raw, unedited ones from the shoot this series revolves around. Stay tuned for the next installment where I reveal the final, edited shots!


When getting ready pre-shoot focus on the beauty aspects first, then move on to the props and accessories. Hair and makeup are essential to any editorial shoot and can make or break the mood of the shots. If your creative vision is edgier, braid one side of your hair or rock a messy pony. If your creative vision is softer, go for a loose braid or natural waves. The same goes for makeup, always match it to the mood you’re going for.

For the photo shoot this series is centered around, I wanted a whimsical, Sound of Music type of vibe and the outfit is fresh, feminine, and heavily influenced by Renaissance style. With this in mind, I kept the makeup with very natural with only mascara, brows, and highlight to create a dewy look. For the hair, I kept in my messy braids from the night before to create a hurried, yet elegant look.

After the makeup and hair is finished, it’s time for last minute add-ons like accessories and props. Occasionally, I will plan these items when I first style the outfit, but normally I add them on the day of the shoot. Just like for the beauty portion, it’s important to choose accessories that fit the creative vision you are trying to bring to life. For props, ask yourself what could make these photos more enticing to look at? What props could I pose with that fit the theme?

For my look, I went with a straw basket purse as it fit with the creative vision I had in mind.


After I have finished getting ready for the photo shoot and before I walk out the door, I always refer back to the inspiration images for the shoot that I saved to my Pinterest and Instagram boards. This is important as it allows you to keep your creative vision and goal in the forefront of your mind as you head out to shoot.


This goes hand-in-hand with referring back to your inspiration before the shoot. Knowing what the photos you want beforehand entails knowing the angles, poses, action shots, locations, etc. that you want to shoot. This makes the photo shoot itself less stressful for you and for your photographer because there will be less time spent setting up for a shot and more time will be spent actually shooting.

Do you want low angle shots with you framed by the sky? Do you want running or jumping shots? Do you want wide angle shots that show more landscape? Do you want close-up portraits? Do you want detail shots that showcase the styling without your face in them?

The above questions are all good starter ones to ask before shooting, but deeper ones like what are unique poses I can try and how do I want my photographer to be positioned are just as important to ask as well. You can’t think outside-of-the-box without asking questions that are outside-of-the-box.


Once in the moment at the photo shoot, you have to be able to not only give direction, but take it as well. Since it is your creative vision, it is up to you to make sure it all comes together within the shoot itself. Don’t be afraid to let your photographer know the shots you want and your end goal. Also, trust in your photographer to be able to being your vision to life and know whether or not the shots you are getting align with your vision.

Give and get ideas throughout the photo shoot, and make sure to go through the photos every so often to make sure you are getting the right shots. If not, adjust and try again!


Not every photo shoot is going to be perfect and not every shoot is going to turn out how you want it to. During the shoot for this series, I had a small breakdown about 20 shots in due to the fact that I felt like the photos weren’t turning out right, even though I’m not behind the camera seeing the shots being taken. I had to take a 2-minute breather and calm myself down before going back to shooting because the stress and frustration was beginning to show in my face as I was posing. Since I am the model in the majority of the shoots I creative direct, it can be hard to relinquish control over every little thing throughout the shoot.

Letting go of control and trusting your photographer or model and your creative direction as a whole is vital to the shoot process. Not every shot is going to be the money shot, especially if you’re like me and a) not working with a professional model and b) not working with a professional photographer. Even when you are working with professionals, perfection is never guaranteed. A quick fix for this is to just take a lot of shots, while always keeping in mind your creative vision. Play around and try new things, you’ll never know if something great is going to come of it if you don’t try it.

All in all, the photo shoot process is fairly simple, but is the biggest part of bringing your own creative vision to life. 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 styled 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 and don’t forget to read the last installment, Creative Direction 101: Styling!

💜Love, Olivia


3 thoughts on “Creative Direction 101: The Photo Shoot

  1. Pingback: Creative Direction 101: Editing! | Absolutely Olivia

  2. One thing I really struggle with when taking photos of myself for my blog is where to look. Do you have a trick for not looking directly in the camera, but not looking too far away either? and how do you always look so fierce!?

    Liked by 1 person

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