Over the past few months, I’ve written blog posts on different ways to improve your photography skills. Whether it is different types of lighting, ways to think about composition, or important gear to have on a photo shoot, there are always new ways to improve how we approach the subject of photography. However, instead of thinking of each of these parts separately, today I want to think of them as a whole. Instead of working on each area of photography individually, how can we bring all these separate areas together to improve the quality of our images? Before you step into any photo shoot, whether your own personal project or a shoot for a client, you need to ask yourself questions about the photo and setup. Prior to my photo shoots around Roanoke and Raleigh, I like to ask myself the following questions in preparation. Walking through this procedure will help you to organize your thoughts, effectively communicate with any others involved, and understand what your end result should be.
What is my subject I'm photographing?
Sometimes the answer to this question is simple. If you are shooting a wide landscape, then it is the scene in front of you. If you are shooting a portrait, then it is the person you are working with. Often however, you will need to think harder than that. Ask yourself what you are wanting to capture in this scene. What element of the image are you wanting to highlight the most? In a portrait shoot, maybe you are most focused on one feature, such as the eyes of your subject. Know what you are shooting before you starting taking pictures.
How do I emphasize the subject?
This question includes things like lighting, composition, angles, adding reflectors, and many other aspects. Knowing the answer to this question will help you decide how to set up your shoot.
Are there any distractions?
Look around your scene for any elements that are distracting from the main subject. Make sure there isn't anything behind or in front of your subject that could potentiallyruin a great photo. Also look for elements that are more attention grabbing than your subject. If there are brighter objects, your eye may be drawn to those objects instead of your subject.
How is my lighting?
Check the lighting thoroughly to make sure your picture is correctly exposed before you take the shot. Is there any area of the subject that needs more light? Does the lighting portray the mood you are intending? Is natural light enough or do you need reflectors or additional lights? Would your image look better lit differently? Make sure you ask these questions as you are setting up your scene.
Am I standing in the best place?
Often, finding the best place comes through lots of moving around and trying new angles. Don't settle for one angle if you can find a better one. Subtle changes in your position can make dramatic changes in your image. Check your framing, adjust your alignment, and correct any composition to correctly portray your image. Are you too close or too far away from your subject?
Is this the best weather?
If you are shooting outside, take into consideration any weather conditions that could affect your images. Does the weather set the mood you want in your photo? If not, is there a better time of day to shoot your pictures?
Are my camera settings correctly set?
Hopefully by now you have an understanding of how you want your image to look. Double check to make sure your camera settings are correctly adjusted. Is your exposure accurate? How is your white balance? Are you on the correct shooting mode? Make sure you make any necessary adjustments before you start shooting!
Who is this picture for?
Going deeper than lighting and composition, it is important to understand who you are taking your pictures for. If the photo shoot is a personal project, then you are free to create and alter your images to your personal preferences. If it is a shoot for a client, however, you need to be aware of their needs and what they are expecting from the photo shoot. When you talk to your client ahead of time, make sure they effectively communicate their interests and what they expect as an end result.
What am I trying to say through this picture?
This question ties into the previous question, but is still very important to consider. If you jump into a shoot without having an end result in mind, you might not create the images your client wants. If you are shooting for a company, understand that company's mission and the style or mood they want to convey. Ask yourself how you can alter the photo shoot to best fit the images they are looking for. The same goes for a personal photo shoot. Having an end goal in mind will save you time and help you get started creating the images you want.
I know that these are a lot of questions, but take the time to think through each of them as you start a photo shoot. Although this won't guarantee perfect pictures, it will help you collect your thoughts and approach a photo shoot in an organized way!