My photographs fall into two categories: incidental shots I happen upon by chance, and premeditated images mapped out in advance. There’s not much to say about the first type. I wander about in the woods as another camera-toting tourist, and sometimes I get lucky with an interesting subject. A naturalist’s eye and a basic ability to operate photographic equipment suffice to produce usable photos.
As my photographic career progresses, though, more of my work is premeditated. Partly this shift is inherent to a growing business. Clients have requests for particular subjects doing particular things, and I go shoot them.
But mostly I plan photographs because they look better. With precise control over composition and lighting I can walk away with a good image nine times out of ten.
What decisions shape a planned image? The subject is obviously selected to be of interest for some story or another. But other aspects are also important.
- Width or length of the optics. Do I want a wide angle from up close that captures the animal’s habitat and point of view? Or a long shot that isolates the subject?
- Angle of attack. Side view? Top view? Head-on?
- Color and structure of the background. Should I arrange a complementary color? Should I simplify it to basic black or clean white?
- Lighting. Should I backlight? Spotlight? Diffuse? Mix multiple sources?
- Motion. Do I want to convey movement with panning or motion blur?
- Image orientation. Is this a long portrait for a magazine cover? Or more of a panorama?
Recently I’ve been visualizing a lot of my photographs before I take them. The process of translating imagination to photography reminds me of musical improvisation, of hearing the melody before playing it. It cultivates a sense of control over the medium.
Anyway. I’m rambling. Here’s a sampling of planned images: