Proper preparation, n all that !

Just a few simple tips to follow to guide you on your way to better images.

This is a thing I’ve seen and heard so many times “ let’s go out and shoot some photos”,
I reply “what are we shooting.” And the answer comes . . . . . . . “Dunno !”
A key lesson I have learnt over the years is to pre-plan. All the great photographers did it. Bresson, Horst, Ansel Adams. I’ve known landscape photographers to be more weather forecasters than photographers. I knew one photographer in Guernsey to plan shots knowing the tide height cloud conditions and sun set position. But this made his images amazing. And that’s all down to preparation.


Mike Bonsall

The Steps

  • What are you shooting
  • Where are you shooting it
  • What story are you trying to portray
  • How will you achieve your image

What are you shooting

1.  There literally is no point starting out not knowing what you are doing. The situation will just start to spiral if you don’t know, if you don’t know what your shooting then you won’t know what lens to take. What lighting kit you will need?. You can’t take it all !
2. Even if it’s a landscape your shooting is it a water based shot. Will you remember to take your filters, tripod. You need to plan the right kit for the job ( forget your trigger for the lights and it’s game over.)
3. Try to shoot a person with meaning. Not just a pretty girl with one hand behind her head. Don’t get me wrong there is always a time and place for girlie portraits but the internet is flooded with them, and they won’t help you stand out as a photographer.
4. When you find the right person start off meeting them first without your camera. Talk to them first, even about what they do where they live. Take an interest in them and their lives and what makes them tick. It will help you break down the barriers on shoot day when you meet them.. Also if your shooting an environmental portrait it will give you an insight into their job and how they did it and more importantly how the felt about their job.

This image of of the Oyster fisherman I planned. I had the idea in my head I researched the location and I gave his a coupled of dates for the shoot just incase the weather didn’t play ball. I. Wanted stormy skies or heavy clouds that were moody.

Where are you shooting
1. Not only where are you shooting but why are you shooting there ? The location or background must really have a relationship to the subject. Especially if it’s an environmental portrait. As in my fisherman, I could have shown him at sea working. But he had retired ! I wanted to show him as he reflected on his days out at sea.
2. f you are shooting in a location check the you can go there without getting charged for trespassing. Also check for access and parking so you can get your kit there.
3. If it is just a portrait think about the colour of the back ground. Is it a colour the enhances the image or detracts if the colour or location is too strong or distracting.
4. Check your location with the sun. Or are you wanting to shoot your subject back lit with the sun. Try this site it’s free. The photographers ephemeris

What story are you trying to portray.
An image to me seems pointless unless you can get a reaction from its viewers
1. If you want to successfully tell a story start by placing other objects in the scene to leave clues. Even if it’s a still life I.e. Cut flowers, then lay them in a basket with some gardening gloves and secertears and maybe a few droplets of water and some shards of stems etc. That way you portray that the flowers have come fresh from the garden and have been cut by hand. If the gloves are pink it will suggest that they were picked by a woman.
2. Be prepared to put a lot of time into getting the story across. Your not going to achieve it in the first few photos. If your going to ask the sitter to act a certain way. Be precise and picky about what they do and are they doing what you want. Your the one who can see through the the lense and if it’s the wrong position or pose it will be your fault!

The best images I’ve seen where the image tells a story were, one black and white Image of an ex US war veteran who was sat on bar stool with a shot of whiskey in front of him and a photograph of a lost colleague. The second image was one that I missed. I went to visit the American war crematory at Coalville-sur-mare, nothern France. A somber reflecting place that we all must visit. I hadn’t got my camera at the time but I noticed an old man with medals on his jacket, attempting to bend down to place a single red rose upon a bright white cross of a friend and fallen hero. Those are the type of images that make you think and tell a story.

How will you achieve your image
This is the crucial bit, Take your time, don’t rush in.

1. Break the image into sections of planning.

  • Set a realistic date and plan for a second date just in case the weather won’t play ball
  • Book your subject and exchange phone numbers model release etc.
  • Set the place and venue
  • Make sure you know what gear you will be taking and its charged up. Nine times out of ten the lense I think I’m going to use I won’t so plan spare lenses.
  • Tell all informed roughly how long you think the shoot will take. You don’t want the model to rush things as they are running out of time.
  • Think about what your doing i.e. Settings of the camera. What fstop, what speed. How dark you want the background, how light you want certain bits of your subject. Where exactly do you place objects and the subject.
    Finally, make sure you get the shot your after. Don’t settle for second best just because the model and others are happy. You are the artist YOU need to make sure you have all you need for the image. You can’t ever come back and try to shoot extra bits. It just won’t work.