What Art Taught me: Preparation
When I was in the beginning stages of photography, I went to a meeting/interview for being a potential photographer for a magazine. Even though my skills were extremely inchoate, I had decided to give it a shot. What’s the worst that can happen? Turns out, the worst that could happen was one of the best things that could happen: I had an eye-opener. The interviewer didn’t praise me, but gave me my first taste of actual criticism, in a straight-forward, yet kind way. He simply explained that in the fashion world, an incredible amount of planning and preparation goes into one photo, and that my photos looked as if there had been no planning at all. Of course up to this point with my own photography, nothing really had been said except encouragement, so I was quite taken aback that someone who I only had one hour prior would be so direct.
He basically told me to keep trying, and that was the end of it for him. But for me, it was the start. I literally walked out of that office and down the street as if I was walking on clouds, extremely giddy for no apparent reason. I had never felt that way before. And it was weird that my body was so charged with positive energy after being turned very flatly down. But he was as far as I had ever come to the fashion world, and I was star-struck. After that I was studying up on the best fashion photographers that were, or had been in the biz.
His advice stuck with me. I didn’t plan, and I knew it, but I had my excuses for why I wasn’t. I had thought that photography was a spontaneous thing, something that couldn’t be caged within the bars of preparation. But I had the whole thing mixed up in my head. Prep and planning isn’t a cage to hold the wild birds, it’s a resting place for them. It took me a while to understand this concept, but I am very grateful that someone had the courage to be honest to my face and not only explain it to me, but to sit me down and show me.
Of course, then there is the issue of what kind of planning matches you. I can’t tell you what yours is, but mine at the moment is quite simple. I need to have an image in my head, and I try to get it as clear as possible, then I write down in my sketch book exactly how I can make that picture possible. Of course I can be lazy and not follow it to the tee, but hey, we all have room for growth.
Here is a basic list of the things I plan:
-I plan what outfit I will use,
-The exact place (One thing I often neglect)
-How I will edit
And that is just a basic list, most of them are subconscious now, and I don’t really have to think twice (Which makes it really hard to explain my process, unfortunately)
But, what happens when your best photo was taken in the spur of the moment and when your planned pictures seem like they hate you?
That’s where the beauty in understanding who you are and what works for you is. Most of my best photos are semi on the spur of the moment. And sometimes it just feels like it was on the spur of the moment just because the picture came out so smoothly, but it’s in that moment I have to remember that there was a bit of planning in all of them. Who brought the outfit? Who asked for (awesome) friends to help out? Who brought the scissors, rubber bands and safety pins just in case? Probably me. And what is that called? Preparation.