I will preface this by saying the models were absolutely wonderful and had great attitudes about everything. If not for their patience and happy dispositions, this post would not be written. Not happily, anyways.
HEY-O! Long time no blog! Today’s topic will touch on a frequent occurrence which affects all creatives. Not just photographers.
I get a lot of ideas for shoots. Like, a lot. Many of which are just “oh, that’d be neat”. But there are those few that become an obsession, where everything is planned: location, outfits, model, lighting, poses, time availability. All of it. Every last thing. And it sure is a great feeling to start lining it all up. But we all know reality usually has an opinion….
In the past year I’ve had three shoots that relied on natural lighting. The first was on a beach and not only ended up being overcast but cold, very windy, and intermittently wet. Sucks that we planned for a sunny, breezy sundress shoot… It caught us off guard, added more risk to gear, made the area much more difficult to interact with (you can’t un-do a wet butt), and overall just crushed the anticipation. Despite conditions, we checked out the area, talked it over, then decided to persevere. It turned out to be a great learning experience for both of us: how to handle wind from every direction, reserving poses that result in permanent changes (back to that wet butt), recognizing when the model needs to hide behind a wall to warm up, and -most importantly- how to accept that some of the new ideas/poses just won’t work. Didn’t get as many usable shots as desired, but after that mess we were happy to get anything!
The second plan was supposed to be a weekend, indoor, underwear fashion shoot next to a VERY large, single panel window with lots of lighting. The location fell through and the time didn’t work out. We ended up re-scheduling late on a weeknight and moved to the home studio. Winging it has always been one of the most personally terrifying options. Completely giving up being the only worse option.
I already spoke extensively with the model getting to know her personality, background, likes, dislikes, etc. Dance is her forte. She was a cheerleader for some time and has danced various styles for years. Perfect! We switched to a backdrop, switched underwear to sportswear, went from lots of light to only one strobe, and fashion to… I dunno, beauty? Whatever. I’ve never photographed ballet, so she showed me several ballet positions, we broke them down, took a few shots, really dug the results, then just wung it from there. (“wung” is the official past tense of “wing”, FYI) That was an amazing experience with many great results. The saviour of that shoot was our lengthy conversation. It may not have recovered if not for all the information she provided. Creativity was altered but not lost, everybody was happy, and it helped to overcome the fear that pairs with having utterly lost a concrete plan/idea.
Example #3 was a huge test. Shoot an unseen outfit at an unseen location while ONLY using a reflector if possible. I just wanted indoor, sunlight, and a dress. This idea was less artistic and more to combat my normal desire for dark, contrasted, backdrop shoots as well as my want for too much gear when there’s a perfectly good sun out there. WELL GUESS WHAT? After many days of sunlight, our scheduled day JUST SO HAPPENED to be overcast. Awesome. Time and place were still a go, so go we did.
With the exception of a large painting chilling on the floor in the dining room, the area was mostly empty. Instead of the bright, empty space, I accepted the shadows and used the painting for background noise. Switched from beauty/fashion to moody, which worked flawlessly.
After some time the sun popped out. At her suggestion she switched to jeans and a snazzy shirt, opened all of the blinds, moved into the living room, and I broke out that aforementioned reflector. The mood became a lot more fun and active, giving us a totally different vibe. We captured a LOT of usable material, I accomplished my goals, and even gained a theme of light and dark! Win/win right there.
Sometimes plans change. It’s not you, it’s not the model, it’s nothing that can be controlled. Accept whatever mental repercussions arise, then move on to the art. Art cannot always be controlled, and a little chaos never killed anyone. It doesn’t inherently seek or desire control. That’s where we have the opportunity to fail or create a previously unseen success. In many scenarios, everything you need is STILL in front of you just waiting to become part of an idea you’ve never thought to have.
In the end, stick with the schedule and make any damn thing happen. Even if you’re salty, seek to create and you’ll find that happiness. Don’t lose composure ESPECIALLY when your model is standing there, ready and willing to be used in whatever creative manner you devise.
So that’s the end.
Do good. Don’t suck.