How do you plan your shots and how does one learn to plan?

Discussion in 'Casual Photo Conversations' started by atina_de_greffuhle, Feb 19, 2015.

  1. How do you plan your shots and how does one learn to plan?
    What are some considerations you take into account and how do you decide which approach to choose depending on the desired outlook?
    I am more interested in exterior photography, but I would be more than intrigued to find out what happens when planning a studio session.
  2. SCL


    Commenting on exterior only, I try to visualize what I want the end result to look like. Usually I have a theme in mind, so that narrows down the planning process. Then it is a matter first of examining the subject from several angles, thinking about the lighting, its directionality and harshness or softness, and how that plays into the visualization. Then it is time to get the camera ready and determine the exposure and subject distance/framing. The learning part, for me, comes afterwards as I am examining the shot to determine if it really captured what I intended, and to ask myself if I would do anything differently if given the chance.
  3. Only a little of it is even portrait work, but Ansel Adams's 1984 book
    Examples: The Making of 40 Photographs.
    ISBN 0-8212-1551-5

    is a discussion of how one of the masters planned and executed a series of classic photos. This can surely be generalized to any kind of photography.
  4. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    In Cindy Sherman: Retrospective you can see her notebooks and how she plans her shoots. It's very interesting and gives some insight into highly planned studio shoots.
    Learning how to plan requires some ability to project the desired result mentally or in sketch and to then work through the tools to get there. Typically, it's going to be the lighting that will make the difference.
    Also, lots of shooting should eventually help you understand the relationship between various factors.
  5. Since photography is basically light, the first thing I look at when planning a shot is the lighting. What direction the light is coming from and its intensity is taken into consideration. If that light will not do what I'm trying to accomplish I either come back when its lit differently or try to control the lighting myself with either reflectors or external lighting.
  6. I'm a big advocate of planning out shots with layouts and thumbnail sketches.
    My background comes from doing Lifestyle photography where I'd have several models on a location with several hours of shooting.
    "Never run out of ideas" is my motto.
    While shooting models I have certain specific routines that I recite. One, for instance, for shooting executives is a long golf saga about a guy (never existed) who drags me out as a golfing partner, first in the snow and then another time when we got sprayed with herbicide from an airplane on the ninth green (none of it true).
    But that's only if I see some golf paraphernalia in the offices I'm shooting. Likewise, I watch the models getting ready to spot any gestures that I may be able to use in the shoot.
    For instance, if I am shooting a violinist, the first thing I'll have them do is play something so that I can see the dimensions and gestures that go along with that. Then I'll pick a composition and lighting.
    On the backend, I find that my best critics are painters because they can place their subject wherever they want on their background. They don't take excuses, like, "well, there was nothing there to fill that space". Either you have succeeded or you haven't.
    I think that all photographers should be able to sketch, even if it's cartoonish. You should have a clear vision of what you're going to get.
    When I've done exteriors in quantity I've planned to run through twice. Morning and afternoon, and then back again to pick up the ones that should have been shot with the sun on the other side.
    My two cents anyway,
    Good luck!
  7. First , be very clear of the photograph you want to take. Then research - for landscape, for example, time of day, time of year, viewpoint and so on. Initially, don't take the camera with you - just look. For studio shoots, again, have a very clear intention in mind, but allow for chance and opportunity.
  8. I don't really plan anything. But don't take that as a recommendation. For heaven's sake, don't ever do as I do! However, I am always prepared: batteries charged, lens adapters in the same bag as the lenses, memory cards ready, etc.
    The only jobs I've had to plan were the very few weddings I've done. I checked out the locations, knew how long it would take to drive there, etc. For all other jobs, I just turn up, get inspired by the subject matter, and simply point and click.
    To conclude: for my photography, planning is generally unnecessary, but preparation is.
  9. For inanimate landscape, architectural and other photos of objects, natural or human made, I follow this sequence:
    • Visit the subject matter (following prior research of it, if applicable), think about it, what is it in the subject or my mind that incites me to photograph it?
    • Preview possible angles of view, lighting (sometimes imagined rather than real at a given moment) and compositions;
    • Adjust lighting, wait for the lighting I want, or come back at a better time (if possible);
    • Rethink my objective or approach. Auto-criticize my objective. What is it that I really want to evoke in a final image? What can I do to strengthen my approach;
    • Proceed to making the image or images. When shooting digital I will use its instant image feedback as an iterative approach of revising former images until I have what I want.
    • I'm not discouraged if the result doesn't measure up to my intentions. Everything is a learning process to some extent. Stand by being consistent with an aim or approach, until it may be time to move on to something else that better uses or suits my creativity.
  10. I virtually always plan in the sense that I previsualize the image before taking it. If I can't previsualize it as an interesting shot, I usually don't take it: it saves time and energy. However, it is quite possible I miss shots this way since I may not be previsualizing accurately enough, and it leaves little room for accidentally great shots. Of course, for sports or similar shots I usually don't have time to previsualize, so I take what looks vaguely promising and edit strongly afterwards, but even these are planned to some extent by deciding where to stand, where I think the light/background is best etc etc. In addition, there are always a few locations where you feel inspired, but the conditions are not right, so you try to return when they are.
  11. A photographic studio is literally just a brick wall until you put in a background, lights, a subject and (last of all) the camera, so by definition everything is 100% planned (with studio still lives - if you're working with a model, there's certainly room for serendipity). With landscape photography, planning consists of selecting a venue and a time (very probably early or late in the day). You may then capture an image which you previously imagined, much more likely is that you get this image but also some other and much better ones which you noticed completely spontaneously.
  12. "How do you plan your shots and how does one learn to plan?"
    It depends on what you mean by planning. Like others have said every picture requires some type of planning, but some planning takes more time than others. When I was just getting into photography I use to separate pictures on Planned vs. non-Planned.
    Planned photography means that you the photographer(and maybe others) took the time to think how you/they want the picture to look, what is the message in the picture and how it should be composed. In studio photography, this might take the gathering of several minds. Drawing and sketches might be involved as well as props, poses and the manipulation of lighting to achieve a certain effect.
    There is no such laborious planning when it comes to Non-planned, or Candid photography. Not to say that there isn't any planning at all, like I said before every picture requires some type of planning. When it comes to non-planned photography you are still working under the guidelines of studio photography(composition, lighting, selective-focus etc.) where you want the picture to convey a certain message, but the difference is, you work with the available environment, or what is at hand to convey this message. There are no props and manipulating the lighting can be difficult and sometimes totally inappropriate for the situation.
    With that in mind, how do you learn to plan for Candid photography ? This is where Visualization comes in and where you put all your skills of planned photography together in a matter of a few seconds or minutes. Often you have only seconds to pre-visualize a certain image and press the shutter. At other times you might see a subject you like and wait until the environment is more suitable for that image. This might take hours, days, weeks or months, but you are still not in full control as if you were inside a studio.
    Wedding photography is a combination of both planned and non-panned photography. The pictures that you take of a couple for a photo album might be pre-planned, while others are totally candid. For wedding photography, you don't really have a studio, but you can take the studio with you by bringing some lights, backdrops , filters, even make-up to manipulate the environment as you see fit.
    Phew, seems like I'm going around in circles here, but I would say the mind of the photographer, or how they trained their mind to see the world around them and put that world on two dimensional medium plays a huge part.
    With that said try to look at as many images of successful professional and amateur photographers and either emulate them, or develop a distinct style of your own(this comes with experience). Not just photography, go to a Museum and check out some famous pieces of art, this is also very helpful. Hopefully this will help you plan for better images, whether candidly or in the studio.

    I have a Motto when it comes to photography: "if you can't paint it then don't take it !"
  13. For me, planning is more about knowing how to use your equipment, which comes from practice, much like practicing an instrument. My actual method of photographing is spontaneous. I think some of it is automatically "planned" like time of day, type of light, etc. I don't even think about those things much any more because they are so automatic. When shooting, I look for the kind of strong composition I like, and when I see it, I shoot it. Always be open, don't be afraid to experiment, and trust your instincts!

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