How to conduct a photoshoot (warning: no answers provided)

A few weeks ago I attended several lectures on the subject of photography. The evening lectures were interesting and diverse and got me thinking about ways to conduct oneself and how to express your personality within the way you decide to work on a photoshoot. Some people like to plan out a shoot in every detail and won’t take a single image before everything is just right, where others just shoot and capture what they need in the first few minutes. Both good solid ways to work – as was apparent from the end results shown.

A few years ago, I was much more active in organizing my own photo shoots. I went on Model Mayhem to search for suitable talent, I searched for inspirational looks or poses, as well as scout for a location. If I had the time. Sometimes I would just agree to meet someone and we’d see what we would walk away with. Now I have come to the point where I am actively trying to find my own style, and some consistency in planning my shoots would not hurt especially since the slow process of wet-plating won’t allow for much of that ad hoc nonsense….. The trouble with me, is that I love the idea (and results) of a very organized, detailed plan but cannot go without the element of surprise. A contradictio in terminis. Or is it?

There are ofcourse several ways to create an element of surprise for yourself, one being letting go of creative control. Think of working with an experienced model that has a wide array of poses and expressions – someone that is sensible and sensitive enough to understand your concept and will be able to execute it. Working with a creative team will most certainly add value to the experience and final product – especially when hair and make-up is done to a very high standard, within the theme, but not to a brief. Wardrobe certainly has a large influence on the image – unless you shoot nudes – and discussions on clothing and accessories can be avoided by having a stylist on board.

‘That all being good and well’ you think, but a photographer would need to own the shoot, be the vision holder, know what they are doing. Do they? Do they really? Can they not just set the precipice for an amazing shot to ‘just happen’? Create several moments or unrealistic fantasy for them to capture, like a private little stage of ‘real life’? Can we not just think of a theme and then throw some thing together like we were making a cocktail of sorts? Maybe we can when working with models, or a team – but the problem posed get a little trickier when trying to create a still-life. A team can just as well be employed ofcourse, but I think it is fair to say that most of us will take some objects, food or flowers and ‘see how we get on’.

Which brings us to another point. We can take a model, or objects or a scene and look at it from various angles and decide which one would be best and shoot accordingly. But is that really the best shot that is there? Would the aid of a lighting expert, or a make-up artist or a food stylist bring out something else, something better, an additional layer? Is it needed for your intent and purposes? The question is: Is Your Best Shot Good Enough?

Like many other creatives, I sometimes struggle with bouts of near crippling perfectionism – if I know in my heart of hearts it will not live up to my own personal standards, is it worth bothering with it? Even when I know this completely and utterly wrong, doing myself a greater disservice than any other critic in the world could. If I do not create, how will I learn? If I do not create, how will I find my style? If I do not create, I will not grow!

Apart from that, my taste in photography keeps changing – as it should – and I would hope that my preferred images of today are a bit more refined to what they used to be. Still, that should not take away from the immense joy I experienced when looking online at the latest additions on Facebook or Model Mayhem, or digging up little personal treasures via Google image search. Those images, even though not as highly valued by myself today, have shaped me into the photographer I am today and I would do well to remember that from time to time.

Well, that’s enough of my rant – how do you conduct your photo shoots? Do you plan everything out to the last detail or do you like to leave it a blank slate until it’s showtime? What do you think of images you loved 5 years ago? Do they still look equally good to you today?



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