How to create a staged photograph

I started creating staged photographs when I was a student.
Imagining the story, sketching it, directing the models, taking the final photo…it was so exciting! It quickly became my favourite type of photography.
When I visit exhibitions, I often notice that staged photography isn’t as widespread, and, perhaps not as appreciated as photojournalism, portrait photography, and street photography.
Yet, I assure you that it’s possible to enjoy seeing and creating staged photographs. It’s fascinating to interpret these images, and it’s also delightful to entirely make them. That’s why I’ve decided to write this “guide” so that you too can create staged photographs.

1. What’s the story you want to tell?

Pauline Le Pichon, Dialogues & Interstices #1, 2015

2. The means

- First, think about the models: will there be any? How many and who will they be? What will they wear? What will they have to do? Where will they have to be?
Once you’ve answered these questions, contact your models and clearly explain to them the image you want to create. Let them see your sketch and read your notes! And don’t forget the different contracts.

- The setting / location: will your photo take place indoors or outdoors? Where exactly will it take place? What will be the relevant elements of the setting (furniture, cars…) and where will they be?
If the place is easily accessible, don’t hesitate to go there and take photos.
This will give you a better idea of what you could do there.

- Your position / the tripod position (You should definitely have a tripod if you want to make staged photographs)

- The lighting: will it be natural? artificial (flash, indoor lighting..)?
Where will it be placed?

- The editing. When I have an idea for a photograph, I also often think about the editing. But it also happens very often that I change my mind during the editing process and do something a bit different from what was planned. Remember, it’s your work, so you can do whatever you want with it (unless it’s a commission).

3. The photoshoot preparation

Pauline Le Pichon, Sketch & Asymétrie #3, 2020

4. The photoshoot


I really hope you’ve enjoyed this guide and that you find it useful.
Feel free to contact me if you have any questions.
And if you want to create a whole series of staged photographs, just repeat this exercise over and over again.

French visual artist