Photographers spend so much time working with clients that they often forget to shoot something for themselves. I play a game when I am on a job – It’s called take one for me.
You will invariably have 5 minute especially when covering events to take a shot that has no meaning to anyone other than yourself. It can be a simple thing like a shot of light reflecting on a wall or even portrait of people as they are contemplating the action in the room. The great thing about these random shots is that they have no pressure associated to them and in some cases you won’t look at them until months later and you’ve often forgotten about the images.
I was recently looking through some shots from an event I shot in Melbourne. Taken from the 46th floor I was able to shoot off a couple of quick shots at the end of the event. I wouldn’t normally get access to views of Melbourne from this height so I tend to look out the windows when I can – it’s a great view. These shots reminded me that we often forget to keep working on themes or ideas that we feel particularly connected to. Not all the photography we produce should always be about money.
I am embarking on two creative projects for myself. Both have a Photo narrative to them and one is collaborative in nature. Whether these will ever see the light of day I don’t know but the great thing about these projects is that they are servicing a very important purpose which is to keep me thinking about the images I make and what I am trying to achieve with my Photography.
My head is full of ideas and influences from some of my favourite Photographers so I feel I have a visual suitcase I can borrow from when creating personal work. I am in the planning phase and close to execution on one of my first shots.
So far, I have been immersed in a world filled with words, colour and light I guess I’m trying to work out my narrative and how I am going to achieve this in pictures. Easier said than done but a great challenge to give your self.
The difficulty I find is not in the idea but the execution, depending on the idea you need to start working through the logistics of creating the final body of work.
I can be a fairly methodical person when I start working on a project however, it doesn’t mean I am always successful in realising the idea. I go to the trouble of writing a proposal (even it’s just for my own reference). I do this largely so I can map out the perceived direction of my idea. This document will evolve over a period of time it will become a kind of storyboard.
When I have run workshops or classes I will often talk about planning and how important it is here are some things to consider when approaching personal work.
My 5 ‘W’s when embarking on personal work
1 > define your WHY?
This is a simple question and will lie at the core of what you are doing. So, ask yourself, Why do I want to explore this theme & what does it mean to me?
Once you can answer this you’ll find the direction for the piece.
2 > WHO?
Who will I need to engage to make the concept a reality?
This covers everything from the talent used in the shot through to hair and make-up and stylists depending on what the project is. The better the talent of the team you surround yourself with the more accomplished the final result will be.
If using talent whether it is for commercial or personal work always try to get a signed model release this will make life easier when the final product is ready to be shown to the world. In the age of social media it’s good to try and cover off the correct permissions.
3 > WHAT?
This is the core of the shoot , What are you shooting?
What are you trying to achieve with the images?
The project I have in mind will have a narrative using words and images so I have partnered with a journalist to pull together the elements. The images are the lynchpin that the words will rest on. If I do my job right my vision will influence the words. So having a clear vision is going to be crucial to the projects success. At this point you will start to consider the final outcome of the project for e.g. will result in an exhibition, blog or published piece.
4 > WHERE?
This is all about location and where you are shooting – are you using a studio or are you shooting on location. When working with people who are not experienced in front of a camera it is vital to engage them as much as possible so that they know what you are trying to achieve. Ask questions and try to assess what they feel comfortable doing. Don’t spend so much time ‘in your head’.
No matter what type of shoot you are doing as the shooter communication will be the key factor in successful image making.
Location shooting will have it’s own sets of challenges however, depending on the location you will need to be aware of the possible need for permissions to shoot in for e.g. a Warehouse or on a busy street in the CBD. The choice of location will mean that you will be required to think about your lighting options such as your power source, reflectors and the ability to bounce light to get a desired look and feel in the shot. Location shooting has the element of the unpredictable – you can’t control the weather or even the people on the street so to a degree you are increasing the risk but you may also get those happy ‘accidents’ that make a shot something special.
Your level of organisation will be important when on location.
Shooting in Studio gives you the ultimate control you will have everything you need at your finger tips. You’ll already know what equipment is available to you as well as the parameters you are working within. I like to view this as an opportunity to focus on the visual look and feel for the work. The great thing about studio shooting is you will have time to work an image to get it just right. Depending on the shoot your approach may be more considered hopefully achieve what you are after without too much drama.
Either of these shooting settings are nothing if you don’t have a well resolved idea of what you are trying to achieve.
5 > WHEN is the project ready?
Deciding when a project is complete is not necessarily at the point when the shooting is complete. This is often the beginning of the next phase of the project. For e.g. Malta 24/7 had different completion points which included completion of the shoot itself, editing of images, culling down the edits to the final selection and finally the presentation which in the case of Malta 24/7 was a book and travelling exhibition. Dependent on the final outcome you sometimes find your self back at the Why just when you have thought you have completed the project. As the second phase will usually promote another round of work for e.g. if an exhibition is on the cards, choice of venue, presentation style, promotion are just part of the puzzle that needs to be considered.
Only you will know when your work is complete but the great thing about personal work is that you can decide on your deadline.
You are your own client.