All of us photo enthusiasts are great at getting out and taking photos, But are we exercising just to maintain status quo or training for a triathlon? What I mean by this, is are we just out snapping the shutter at will, numerous times, hoping we get a great capture, or are we planning a shot from start to final post-processed image in a cognitive, organized and pre-meditated manner?
I admit I have been on many shoots where I am throwing what I like to call the proverbial photo grenade at my subject, taking way too many shots. Riding that shutter button faster than I can think, breath or blink. I think this is where we all start as we take those first few wobbly steps on our photographic journey. However, it gets old fast, sifting through 400 captures of the same subject just at slightly different angles or focal lengths hoping you have a winner. Instead, I urge you to start working on evolving through this primitive photo stage and enter into photo puberty if you will. Get out there and before you go into the chaotic frenzy of continuous capture bliss, take a few minutes and review your composition. Take a look at the way the light falls on your subject. Look for a few compositional elements to incorporate and most of all pre-visualize what you want the end result to look like after post-processing. This tiny bit of preparation will guide you through the shot and allow you to take fewer captures, decrease your initial image culling time, and give you a planned and directed approach to post-processing so you can achieve what you pictured as that final image.
The shot above involves and old and gnarled tree that is slowly decaying which I have driven by on my way to and from work for over the past 5+ years. Numerous times I have thought to myself, “What a great place to shoot!” I liked the texture of the old wood as it is rotting in the field and thought it would make a nice contrast to something soft, young and beautiful. Thus, I already had the idea for a portrait shoot as a beginning concept with a young pretty model in front of the old decrepit tree.
I could have just left it at that and gone out to shoot, but I decided to take my planning one step further and incorporate some compositional flair. If you read my last post, you could see that my style is rapidly evolving to include a distinct central focus, simple, clean background and look, and some elements of color. So I figured I would try and incorporate these elements into the photo. I already new that the model would be my central focus and that I would use the tree with some leading lines to frame and direct the viewers eye towards the model. I also knew I wanted the models outfit to be a brighter more solid color to allow her to stand out from the tree. Finally, I love the interplay of warm and cold colors so I thought I would use some external flash with a CTO gel applied and set my camera’s WB to incandescent. This allows the color on my subject from the flash to be properly balanced, while everything outside of the range of the flash will become more blue or colder in color (More on this technique in future posts). Perfect, now I had a full concept in place.
I hired a model and set up the shot. All time included, I think I was out shooting for about an hour and half including set-up and clean-up and took a total of 40 captures. I played around with some poses and framing of the subject and then had a serendipitous moment. I saw the sun rising behind and above the model. Immediately, a vision hit me. I wanted just a touch of sun flair coming in over the tree like a spot light on the model just to give a little pizazz to the shot. I took an additional 10 captures and knew I had what I wanted. The final image above was only possible because I had finally given myself some direction on my journey and decided to stop wandering around only throwing photo grenades. So get out there and start taking your photography by the reigns and take a little extra planning time prior to that next shot.