It wasn’t until I shot the Business photo pack for the fourth time that it occurred to me that I needed to plan shoots a little better. This is ironic for me; I was once a digital project manager, ensuring that I squeezed all possible productivity out of each minute.
My next pack, Workshop, involved creating images at RetroFit, a borrowed space. I wouldn’t have the flexibility of reshooting. It was imperative to 1) not waste the owner’s time, and 2) not make an ass out of myself. To circumvent these possibilities I decided to plan. (Imagine that.)
Scout the Location
I hadn’t seen the location before and didn’t have time to visit, so I scoured Instagram and other social outlets for some perspective. I focused on windows and light fixtures for lighting needs and nooks, crannies, walls, and tools for imagery ideas. I was able to gain enough location information to move to the next step.
Seek Industry Insight
The social imagery gave me an idea of ambiance in the workshop. But I still didn’t understand any specifics of woodworking. So I reached out to an acquaintance who is an accomplished woodworker and also photographer, Jesse Schutt. He turned me on to some sensitivities that I should respect, tools that I could photograph, and images to illustrate his points. Granted, not every pack will need this level of research. But when photographing others within industries in which I’m not well versed, this extra step helps in identifying the ducks that need lining up.
“About two hours of pre-planning goes into each pack. If the planning is thorough, an average shoot takes less than two hours. Otherwise, it’s a cluster that will take three times longer.”
Shape the Shot List
From previous shoots, I realized that if I go in all “willy nilly,” I get stressed out pretty quickly. I get all clammy knowing that I have to create 15 different images but not having an idea of what they are going to be like. I literally start shutting down and get overwhelmed.
Going into a shoot, if I want to keep my head, I need to have a shot list. I use info gained from the previous steps and confer with my teammates to jot down at least 17 concepts to try. The two extra ideas are for buffer in case of incorrect assumptions or expectations. (Hi. My name is Alicja and I’m a Type A. Thanks for letting me share.)
I’ve found that the list isn’t binding but, rather, freeing. Knowing that I have a backup if my creativity protests, I’m able to explore spontaneous opportunities. With the “Woodworking” pack, I planned for 16 but came away with 30ish.
Sketch the Shots
Sometimes sketches are the shot list. When I create still life imagery instead of lifestyle photography, compositions, textures, and juxtapositions are king. Illustrating ideas helps explore avenues, much like logo or UI concepting. It helps with thinking of props and backgrounds to buy, and with planning lighting setups. Don’t worry about your drawing skillz. The good news is no one will ever see your sketches.
About two hours of pre-planning goes into each pack. If the planning is thorough, an average shoot takes less than two hours. Otherwise, it’s a cluster that will take three times longer.