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"The best preparation for tomorrow is doing your best today."
~ H. Jackson Brown, Jr
Planning is an integral part of life. As we grow, we find ourselves becoming planners because we are the planners of our lives and all that they entail- at least we should be. Our lives are our biggest project and projects require plans. Without plans, things tend to get a bit chaotic, lack vision, and become full of unexpected surprises.
Similarly, photoshoots require planning. It is, after all, a big project. Simple or high-level plans help the photographic process. Some artists will go through some form of planning, whether that is visualizing, conceptualizing, outlining, or the like. Being directed by some form of epiphany. Few will jump right into creating without any idea of where they are going. Being guided by a feeling and producing a magnificent work is incredible.
However, in the creative process, there is still a place for planning. Planning helps you to carve out your goal, vision, and method for what you are attempting to accomplish, organizing necessary details for a successful shoot. It is in this preparation process of planning that you narrow your aim, visualize how you will shoot, and create a recourse for anything unexpected, supporting why it's important to plan your photoshoot.
Planning is not only important for photographers but models and clients. When both sides of the camera plan and communicate the photographic vision, the magic can start happening. Both parties will have different aspects and tasks to handle when it comes to planning the photoshoot.
Craft the Vision
How ever you can best articulate what you want the final result to be, do it. If you do not know what you're aiming for, you can either get something completely outlandish or stumble upon a pleasant surprise. In the event, no planning is done, the latter tends to be the hope, but realistically, the former is more likely to happen.
Nothing can be accomplished without some form of idea. So even if you are not entirely sure what it is that you are targeting, put it down somewhere, voice recording, abstract colors and shapes, or writing. In doing so, you can hone in on what you want your final work to look like because you have narrowed down your photographic goal.
I am big on putting pen to paper, so something that I do all the time before a shoot is write down all the details. I jot down who I am working with, what style and genre I am working in, the location, a time frame, and even do a rough (really rough) sketch of how I want to set things up.
Planning in this way I have tons of journals, notebooks, and pens. There's something about leather journals that I love! College ruled or no lines, I just add them to my growing collection, which I keep in my closet once filled. As they are a collection of my outlined ideas, they are a great resource to go to and see where I've grown. Fine point pens are my absolute favorite, especially gel, because I write small. I also use post-its and small cards. My desk is covered with them and my scribbles.
Outline the How
Now that you have crafted your vision and either have a semblance or multilevel plan as to what you want to achieve, you must turn to the how. How will all of this get done? How can I get what's in my brain behind the camera? In outlining the how, build action steps or lists of things that need to get down or be in place, and the order in which things should be done.
Here you are building your photographic method into your photographic process. The method being the manner in which you conduct, direct, and proceed with your shoot, including tools and techniques. The process being the entirety of the project from start to finish, beginning with initiating the idea and continuing into the planning.
As you construct your photographic method, consider setting the shoot atmosphere, posing flow, set and light changes, outfit changes, and camera settings. Which will be your pivot point for changing steps as you execute your shoot? Will you have your model change outfits while keeping the set the same and repeat for each set, or will you change the set multiple times per outfit? Minding these steps will help you have a smooth photoshoot.
Plan for the Unexpected
Your plan is your recourse for anything unexpected that might happen. Without a plan, you have nothing to fall back on. This is why a plan is so critical. If all else fails, you can refer to your plan to guide you back towards your goal and keep you on track.
In having your original plan, it's also important to plan for the unexpected. Set up fail-safes or backup plans for each action step. Sometimes life will happen, things don't always go according to plan; so, it's prudent to not fall into overwhelm and examine how you can adjust your plan or use your backups.
For example, in Florida, weather can be unpredictable, so I always have an indoor backup plan when I'm shooting outside. It's best practice to also have extra SD cards, lens cleaner, and batteries.
For Clients and Models
Get in on the planning process with your photographer. It would be unfortunate for them to plan something that you can not actually do, like aerial dancing if you're afraid of heights, or an underwater shoot if you cannot swim.
As they carve out the vision, share your thoughts, especially if it's a shoot for you. Two heads are better than one. Formulation of the plan ought to include the one posing. Make sure the plan is something that you are physically and mentally capable of, that you are comfortable with it, and can knock out of the park.
Take part in the how because you'll probably be doing a lot. From posing to changing outfits you have an active role in the photographer's process and method. Discover the best ways to communicate with your photographer on set. Learn about the posing flow. This can all be done by asking simple questions, starting with, where will we begin? How will we be shooting, today? As the photographer tells you about the shoot, it is the opportune time to ask questions.