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Project Planning

The key to an excellent photoshoot is proper planning. Here are some best practices for you to do before, during and after the shoot.

When organizing a photography project at McMaster University, the following steps can help ensure success:

  1. Identify the objective of the project – what is the story you aim to tell, and what elements need inclusion to do so effectively?
  2. Select a suitable location. This might be a studio for a headshot, an event locale, a student club, a classroom or a lab for showcasing research activities. Choose a place with natural light if possible. When that is not possible, ensure adequate indoor light is available. The chosen space should authentically represent McMaster University. The location should also be accessible, safe and comfortable for the individual being photographed. Ask the individual if the proposed location is okay for them. If it is not, work with them to find a suitable location. 
  3. Before shooting, inform the people about what they will be doing and wearing during the session. 
  4. During the shoot, particularly in a lab, medical, or construction environment, ensure every safety protocol is followed, including the use of required PPE. 
  5. Try to capture a variety of images, bearing in mind the brand style of shallow depth of field. 

Expandable List

  • Location scouting: Before you start your shoot, it’s important to scout the location at the same time of day that you’ll be shooting. Be sure to pay attention to lighting conditions, obstacles, construction, barriers to accessibility or other factors that could affect the shoot.  
  • Have a game plan: Come prepared with a specific shot list. This can go a long way to creating a seamless, efficient photoshoot. 
  • Brand it: If possible, plan to incorporate McMaster’s Heritage Maroon colour or logos into your shots in a way that feels authentic to the environment. 
  • Prepare the people: To maintain an authentic feel, people should be dressed appropriately. Neutral tones and well-fitted clothing work best, so we suggest avoiding excessively patterned, all-white or all-black clothing, as well as clothing that is ripped, torn or wrinkled.
  • Gain approval: Remember to obtain signed consent from everyone in the photo or video when conducting the shoot. If anyone involved in your shoot is under 18, they must have their parent or guardian’s permission. You can find the necessary forms here.  
  • Event photography: If you’re shooting a large campus event, you must post signs notifying attendees that they may be included in your photos or videos. An example of such a sign can be found here. To ensure accessibility, inform attendees ahead of time on websites or event tickets, or have the moderator of the event announce it.
  • Have fun!: The more fun you have on set, the more comfortable people will be on camera, helping you achieve that authentic, candid feeling we’re going for.  
  • Diversity: As you work through your shot list, ensure each image thoughtfully represents individuality and avoids stereotypes. Ensure that photography practices are sensitive to the cultural, physical and personal attributes of the subjects, and seek their input on how they wish to be depicted.
  • Privacy: Ensure privacy and enhance physical accessibility by providing designated spaces for outfit changes and touch-ups, along with restroom facilities that are accessible to individuals of all genders and are designed to accommodate a wide range of physical needs.
  • Easy access: Once your shoot is over, the best practice is to use a platform like Adobe Lightroom for keywording and properly archiving your files. 
  • Keep it true to the people: Ensure your editing involves proper colour balancing and accurate representation of skin tones. Retouching can be a helpful tool for making your image easier to interpret, but it’s important not to make any changes that distort an image’s true representation of a person.


  • Take photos from various angles and viewpoints: This technique can go a long way to capturing dynamic, varied images.  
  • Use different lenses for the same event: This choice helps produce a variety of shots for you to choose from later.  
  • Capture moments of actions: These types of photos make the viewer feel involved and goes a long way to achieving the authenticity we’re looking for.


  • Take unflattering photos: Photos of people eating or building shot in high-contrast times of the day are some examples to avoid. 
  • Go off-brand: Overly angled images, isolated people, overly stylized photographs or abstract imagery aren’t considered on-brand and should be avoided where possible. 

Freelancers creating brand elements for McMaster University should adhere to these guidelines. Reach out to for any questions about photography elements and adherence to safety procedures.

Filming and photography on campus
Preparing a shot list and securing permissions for specific locations is crucial. For instance, shooting inside a lab requires permission from the lab manager and researcher, while outdoor campus shoots may require security clearance. Should you require the use of a drone on campus, please ensure to reach out to the CMPA Visual Team at prior to commissioning a freelancer.