Know what their expectations are, make a plan, and re-set expectations as needed… before the shoot.
One morning, I was packing up gear for a kid shoot. When I started packing, I suddenly realized that I had no idea what kind of pictures they wanted. Should I take my DSLR and my strobes with light stands and umbrellas? My lightweight Fuji for running around after kids? Guess I should take it all, just in case. For some reason, when planning the shoot, it simply didn’t occur to me to ask how many kids there would be, what their ages were, or ask what kind of pictures they were hoping for. A lot of stupid things to forget.
We ended up having a pretty good time. We did some portraits, then candids as the kids ran around the playground.
I brought some lighting gear, but it wasn’t enough for the number of kids I had. I ended up wasting time trying to make it work, only to abandon it. I should have either brought more or just left it all behind. I also wish I had brought a second shooter/kid wrangler/distractor.
Since I didn’t ask ahead of time what kind of shots they had in mind, I didn’t have a clear agenda for the session. This opened me up to a lot of back-seat shooting. I often go into a shoot with a seat-of-the-pants, anything-goes attitude, but I’m really starting to see that it works better for all involved that you have a clearer idea of what you’re going for, and that your client sees and agrees with that plan ahead of time. Not to say that I’ll reject other ideas on-site, but it’s so much more efficient with a predefined agenda.