Creating remarkable photos is more than just snapping a picture. I observe this happening frequently especially in our smartphone driven photo world. My favorite is watching people who drive up to a scenic view just off the highway. They jump out of the car, trot to the guard rail or edge of the look out, and take a picture. My question is this: why don’t they just experience the place with their own two eyes and buy a postcard at the nearest souvenir shop?
THE THOUGHT PROCESS BEFORE THE PHOTO SHOOT
Rather than taking pictures, I make pictures. This is process driven. Prior to every photo shoot, whether it’s for an architecture client or a business portrait, I take time to think about the photos I’m going to make. Some of this involves researching the project or the client.
In the case of architectural photography and landscape projects, I review the location using several apps including Google Maps. I also use an app made for photographers that determines the sun position and angle for any location, on any day, for any time. This part of the process helps me optimize shooting days as well as the perfect time of day to shoot avoiding harsh glare and finding the sweet spot in a twilight shot. Moreover, I talk to the architects, designers, and clients while reviewing drawings and pre-shots to find the best shots. Much of this involves mentally pre-visualizing the photos which is an important part of the thought process.
When I make portraits of people in business, I review the client’s specifications prior to the photo shoot. I always try to speak to the client on the phone to find out more about them and get an idea of their objectives for the photo shoot. Since I serve numerous clients in the professional services sectors, I’ll review photos taken for them in the past. I serve law firms, accounting firms, engineers, banks, architects, as well as firms engaged in commercial construction and construction management. I also constantly scour the web for new and compelling photos. Pinterest is a good source of ideas. I maintain several portrait related boards and reference them frequently for ideas.
CREATING OUTSIDE THE BOX PHOTOS DURING THE SHOOT
When I’m on location for an architectural project, the very first thing I do is walk the project with the client and/or my assistant. We make notes about what we see and want to shoot. All the while I’ll be thinking about how we’ll create the images and what they will communicate. Frequently, I’ll separate myself from the group and just think. Even during the photo shoot, I’ll pause, take a breath, walk away from the camera, and look at the scene from a different vantage point. In the back of my mind, I’m asking myself: “What will it take to take this image or this project from normal to outside the box?”
Many people will be surprised to find out that less than one half of the time in a business portrait session involves actually shooting pictures. When I meet a subject to be photographed, I spend a few minutes just talking to them. We’ll talk about work, family, weather, sports…whatever. This initial banter helps the subject relax and allows me to observe them in a non posing manner. And…of course, I’m thinking.
Once the photo session begins, I’ll pause a few times. Both photographer and subject have the opportunity to take a breath. And then…perhaps a magic moment might happen. One of my photo mentors constantly admonishes me to slow down.
When people hire a photographer, their checklist of qualifications will include tangibles such as experience, equipment, reputation, technical expertise, and, obviously price. It’s harder to check the “thinking” and "process" boxes. If the photos they receive in the end are outside the box, they’ll know they received something remarkable!