February 2014 — Plan your Shooting

INT FRANCE PARIS 12-2013 RX100II 34027.jpg

I recently spent a few days walking around Paris looking for unique "frames" to use, as I was working on  a section of an upcoming book that needed some additional illustrations for points I wanted to make. You might think this month's teaching point would be about frames, but it isn't ;~). 

Why was I in Paris? 

Simple: it's a city I'm familiar with and I already knew that there were plentiful unique framing opportunities there from which I could use to illustrate certain points with interesting photos. No doubt there are dozens of cities in Europe I could have gone to in order to do the same thing, but I'm not nearly as familiar with them as I am with Paris, especially certain areas within Paris I've been to multiple times. Although I hadn't before encountered the location in the picture above, I remembered a half dozen other places I could use for my illustrations. 

Photographers do this all the time. We have "go to" locations that we're familiar with and return to with some regularity. When we need certain types of images, we can draw from our "inventory" of known locations and perhaps find one that will suffice for what we need. Wedding photographers do this all the time. When someone comes to them for an engagement photo and wants something more outdoorsy, the good wedding photographer already has a stable of locations they know will work for them and suggests them. 

Indeed, most pros go further than that. Even though we have that inventory of locations that we're familiar with, the good photographers are always looking for additional ones they can add. Image styles, backgrounds, and techniques get stale over time, and so do photographers that always shoot in the same place for the same type of image. So we try to extend what we know and where we go. That's what I was doing when I encountered the situation that generated this month's shot. Since I was looking for "frames," this one pretty much hit me over the head with a bat. "Stop you fool; unique frame!"

But there's more to my planning message this month than "go where you know" and "scout for more." Did you notice anything in the shot? Those are Christmas decorations hanging on the two sides, and there are some additional ones down near the VII that clutter up the shot. This isn't necessarily the best shot I could have taken here, though it was nice that the weather outside was starting to clear a bit and gave me better light (one reason why I was wandering inside things was because it was raining). 

I now have another "to do" in my extensive list of things I need to accomplish: I need to return to this place at different times of the year (and day) to see what that does to the interior decorations and inside/outside balance. There are likely simpler and more complex shots that can be accomplished from the same position, but I don't yet know what they are. Thus, my planning now includes trying to figure that out. 

Landscape photographers do this all the time. We want to see what the different seasons, times of day, weather conditions, and more does to a particular location we like. We wander around and often far off the beaten path. We don't just look at a landmark from the front or the position that it's most photographed from. We try all sides, all angles, and even, if possible and allowed, get onto the landmark itself. Yes, we have a camera with us when we do that, and yes we often take pictures and sometimes those turn out to be great ones, but what we're really doing is planning. 

Sometimes it's short term planning ("hmm, the sun will set over there and accentuate this…") and sometimes it's long term planning ("the ground is a distraction, but I'll bet a layer of fresh snow would simplify that and contrast the subject…"). 

Last month I told you to "take the shot." That's what I did here. But I was also starting to plan a future shot. Great photographers live in both the present and future. Make sure you do both. 

© Thom Hogan 2014 — All Rights Reserved