Do you ever just get STUCK on a photo shoot? You know just what you want, but not sure how to get there? Trust me, it happens to all of us. I thought I'd take this labor day to discuss one of the many challenges we face as photographers. If you are like me, when you have the vision of what you want in your head, you fixate. We photographers can be stubborn. We forget that photography is not a math equation. It is not "Light + Pose = Solution". There is not one right answer that we MUST figure out. When I know a particular look, effect or style that I want to capture I sometimes feel like I MUST make it happen. This, however, is an approach that can get you into a lot of trouble especially when you are working on a major project (major project = Lots can go array!). One of my greatest assets as a professional photographer, I feel, is my ability to adapt and be flexible. Just as important, I realize when flexibility is essential to getting the job done and getting it done right. When I am working with a client and they change their mind (which they often do), I cannot fixate on my original solution. I must adapt. Or what if something breaks on set and there is no time (or way) to fix what broke. Maybe you have limited time, limited money, or limited resources. Sometimes your original idea JUST isn't working. My first piece of advice to you:
Let go of your death grip on that original solution, and find a new one. There is more than one right solution to the challenge in front of you. Sometimes this 'new solution' allows you to push your creative boundaries and you may surprise yourself with a new, and even better solution.
Let me quickly tell you a few problems and solutions I've devised on recent shoots. Its great when things go smoothly. You prepare as much as possible to make it go smoothly. When they don't, you adapt. These are ACTUAL thing that have happened to me, and how I've adapted. - Problem: Model shows up, and she looks awful (bad skin, nothing like her photo). Solution: I shoot mostly full-length shots and use shadowy lighting that conceals most of her face. The end result was very dramatic and edgy! - Problem: Wardrobe stylist didn't show up for shoot. Solution: I turn the editorial into a beauty and incorporated nudity into the concept to make it edgy. I actually loved how this shoot turned out. See "Ice Queen" editorial from years ago! - Problem: Assistant drops my wider lens down a cliff on the day of the shoot. Solution: I use a different lens, and back up when I need to go wide. Using just one lens actually gave more consistency to the shoot. - Problem: I'm doing a bathing suit shoot a the model REFUSES to put her 'nether regions' in the water. Solution: I find poses that allow her to stand around or just above the water. It wasn't my favorite shoot, but it got the job done. - Problem: The concept was movement but the wardrobe stylist didn't bring any clothes that flow or work with the concept. Solution: I found another way to introduce movement by doing long exposures and compositing shots. This introduced me to a technique that I've used in several shoots since! - Problem: I wanted to try some levitation shots inspired by my friend Brooke Shaden, but for the model and the location it just wasn't working. Solution: I completely changed my concept and found a new location that was graphic and striking. I created images that much better fit my style! See "Man of Structure" editorial. - Problem: Hair stylist mysteriously doesn't show up and never answers her phone. Solution: Decided instead of finding a backup to buy some cool wigs at the wig shop down the road. The hair looked great because it had very nice rigid lines. - Problem: The concept I had in mind used a tilt-shift lens, but the images and effects were just falling completely flat. Solution: I pulled out a crystal to obscure the lens and got stunning unusual effects. One of my favorite recent shoots to date! When "Creme Dream" comes out, you'll see the results! Will be in Zink Magazine this fall! I could go on and on about the problem's I've dealt with... many just dealing with light and weather and the things we cannot control as photographers! My second piece of advice to you:
"Practice makes perfect" is completely true in photography. Experiment. Practice. Set up tests. Don't be afraid to make mistakes, but do so when it 'doesn't count'. Try out new techniques and effects before a major client shoot. You never know what new techniques you will discover that may completely change your photography!
Last year I was inspired by a director, Bruno Avellian, who often had his shots composed to appear voyeuristic. I gave myself the task of figuring out this technique, and it has morphed into my 'lensflare' tools and the blurred effect I use throughout my images on recent shoots. I have used this for many clients, but it all started with a test/experiment! Often in my fashion editorials my ideas evolve. I start out with a basic concept and inspiration images, yet when I have the entire creative team in front of me, the shoot often changes. I do my best to make the most effective images out of the model, hair, makeup and wardrobe at hand. In fact, because many of my tests and editorials are unrehearsed this allows my creative juices to flow. I try new things, explore new concepts, and frequently get better images than I even had imagined!
So remember, don't fixate on one solution. Experiment and try new things. Fill your arsenal with MANY solutions to choose from on the day of your big shoot. Be flexible... there is more than one right solution to your problem.