Eye Captain!

As the photographer in a shoot, I am ultimately responsible for everything that happens.  I might go a little over the top by paying for parking tickets, and being the one who talks to the authorities, and over all being the captain of this temporary ship, but this is important to me.  Everyone in the shoot is counting on me to give them wonderful images in the end.  That's a lot of pressure, or it used to be before I understood I had to be the one in charge.  At the end of the day, those images are going to be uploaded and it's up to ME to start cranking out a few, hopefully, amazing shots.

This is not to say everyone doesn't do their part.  Actually, the captains job is the easiest, or appears that way.  The model needs to bring their skills to the shoot as well as the makeup and hair and fashion providers.  If I have a stylist it's a little easier as my attention can be more focused on the final shots.

Now, I said the captain has the easiest job.  Actually, not true.  I did say 'appears'.  Here is a rough list of what stages I go through in my thinking leading up to, including, and after a shoot.

  • Before a shoot I'm considering the lighting available at a location at that time, or what lighting I'll have available in the studio.  I go over my inspirational images (about 3,000 at any given time - artists call these 'references')  I have to consider the comfort level of the model, full nude, implied, or are we doing head shots?  There is a certain amount of creative energy being wound up like a spring before a shoot.  Interesting note here.  If a shoot gets canceled last minute, I usually hit the computer and start retouching from past shoots to take advantage of that tightly wound creative spring.
  • During the shoot it's important to guide the others to the shot ideas you have in your head.  The inspirational images I've chosen help give them an idea of what I have in mind.  Very important.  But taking my time and taking a LOT of deep breaths to give myself time to think is THE most important thing I can pass along here.  I have a place to set my camera down in the studio and on location I have a strap that lets it hang by my side.  I will take 10-20 shots and typically put the camera away for a moment.  This gives me time to think.  Sometimes I'll just stand there and stare at what I have in front of me.  I'll be thinking of how I can change the light to better show some feature on the model, or give it a more artistic slant.  Take this time.  It's VERY important to the end results. 
  • Post shoot is the results of all previous efforts.  And it's just me and the images I've captured.  And if they suck...well, it was probably my fault.  At that point, if nothing really worked, it's my fault and it has wasted everyone's time and effort.  Sometimes the chemistry just didn't work.  Very rare, but it happens.

Early on I ran into this a few times and it taught me everything I mentioned above.  The responsibility of the results is mine, so I need to be the director and take charge to make it all work.  That's my job.

An example of seeing the end results in your head and taking the shot to help you create it.  Take the time to think and be creative.

An example of seeing the end results in your head and taking the shot to help you create it.  Take the time to think and be creative.

Back to the 'thinking' between sets.  Closing your eyes to envision an image, or looking over the selected inspiration shots to juice up your creativity, whatever you find it takes, take the time and get creative.

After a few years of doing this you'll start to see things that aren't there.  Okay, that sounds crazy.  Here's an example.  I took this shot of Lance in the forest.  I even broke some rules and lit him up very contrary to the sun coming through the trees.  It looks odd, but odd works in art.

Lance Jones at Bonita Creek, AZ

Lance Jones at Bonita Creek, AZ

This isn't what I saw when I took the shot.  I knew I could change the light after the fact and I continued to play and place him different ways.  I think I only took maybe 20 shots.  And when I locked in on the one I thought was the best, I started forming it into that shot I saw when I took it.  Here you go!

The light is still a little strange but that adds to the mystery and story the image is telling.

So, start looking at what you have around you and what you can create from it by lighting it up to make your vision come to life.  At first the models will scratch their heads because the images they see aren't very inspiring.  After a while they will learn your style and trust you no matter what you ask them to do.  Because they know you know what you are doing.  And once you get to that stage it's easier to take charge and run with your ideas.  Everyone will run with you.

Think.  Shoot.  Think more.  Breath.  Create.  Take the time it takes to be great at it.