Some beautiful moments are spontaneous, others take a bit more planning. When I know I have a more conceptual shoot approaching, I normally try to think through how I want people to feel when they see the images. What makes an image emotive is a harmony of many factors. Its the lighting, the people, the pose, the scale, the color, the texture, etc. All of these factors come together in infinitely unique ways, and any one can drastically change the feeling of an image. Additionally, there is a lot to be said about being immersed in the emotion that you want to evoke in order to have the right visual sensitivity to respond creatively when things don’t go as planned.
When planning shoots, its good to think through micro & macro imagery that you can use to tell the story. What are far away shots that can give a sense of environment? What are small details that make the images feel intimate?
A while back Amy Osaba contacted me about a ballet inspired shoot, she described to me her love for movement and the anticipation of the stage. With that we collected imagery, I studied ballet and movement, and then I sketched.
I know I wanted some suggesting the momentary nature of ballet, so I loved the idea of only part of the ballerina in the frame. Here are some rough sketches and the images I ended up with. I had several pages of little thumbnails like this and maybe a fourth of them made it to the final images list. So that shows that while I do plan, a lot of what I don’t plan makes it into the shoot as well.
For instance, this dress shot is one of my favorites, and I had absolutely no planning involved. The model was changing and I came in to check on her and she had just laid the dress (haphazardly) across the couch. I had the visual sensitivity to see a potential moment, so I laid the dress more aesthetically and shot maybe 5 frames. It was perfect.
When planning for an engagement session or wedding, I usually don’t sketch out certain ideas. Sometimes if the venue is really unique or something about the couple stands out perhaps, but on average I’m more journalistic on wedding days while still setting up some styled still life frames. Which I love, because its a great mix of aesthetics and documentation. I do however, think through the nature of the couple’s relationship. Is one person more outgoing, the other shy? Are they more silly? More romantic? Reserved? What are physical orientations I can encourage them in to tell that particular story? The story of them.
Additionally, I normally have a few things in mind to help move the shoot along. Sometimes this involves bringing some images on my phone to help couples visualize. Anyone who has had an engagement session with me in the last few months knows my love of old photographs of Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward, I normally have a 5 minutes speech on how much I collect and love them. For some reason I am particularly enamored with this one shot by David Sutton in 1965 of them sitting on their porch. Obviously, I could not and would not want to completely replicate this image, but I did use it to create something new in one of my more recent engagement sessions. We shot some more simple ones like the inspiration, but I also got one of them laughing that turned out to be one of my favorites of the day. So you can see how I had the initial inspiration, but ended with something very different.