When The Shoot Doesn’t Go As Smoothly As You Hoped
Even though I’ve done this stuff for years, I still have disastrous sessions every now and then. Sometimes it seems like nothing is working right and I have to remind myself to slow down, collect my thoughts, and just build up the shot one piece at a time. I feel fortunate that I’ve been able to work with some extremely patient models. When you’re trying to create something special, patience is a key ingredient. I don’t often know what I want to do until we actually get started. I do that on purpose most of the time because improvising tends to yield more creative results for me. And years of doing that has prepared me for the moments when I really need that skill. Sometimes equipment fails. Sometimes the lighting you chose just doesn’t look all that great. Whatever the reason, it’s good to be able to adapt and keep your cool. If it doesn’t look right, break it down to the basics and keep tweaking things until you start seeing the results you want.
Here are a few key points to keep in mind in this situation:
1. First and foremost you must communicate with the model beforehand and let them know this isn’t going to be a quick process. Tell her you’re just doing test shots right now and to hold off on giving her full energy until you’re all dialed in. No sense in wasting a good performance.
2. If you get frustrated easily it’s best to simplify the number of variables you have to work with. Choose one light, one modifier, one background, and keep working it until you like the results you’re getting.
3. Make minor adjustments instead of drastic changes. I say this for 2 reasons. 1. When you’re reviewing your images later it’s much easier to remember what you were doing when you got the shot you really like, and you’ll be able recreate those results much easier the next time. 2. This forces you to focus on one single aspect of the shot at a time. If my light was 10 feet away in the first shot and I put it 3 feet away for the 2nd shot everything is going to be dramatically effected. The exposure, the coverage on the model, the quality of the shadows, etc.. Just set the light up, take a shot where it is, see what you got on the back of the camera, and then start making small adjustments.
4. Don’t forget to crack some jokes and ask them about things going on in their life while you’re working on the lighting. Even though you prepared your model ahead of time for a slow process, a bit of levity really helps to keep them engaged and in a good mood for when you’re finally ready to shoot. They’ll feel like they’re involved in the process and it’ll help you to stay relaxed too.
5. Practice a lighting idea ahead of time. If there’s something new you want to try, it’s good to work some bugs out beforehand, just to get an idea of what you can expect when you have a live model to work with. I used to practice on myself all the time. Put the camera on a tripod, use a clicker or timer. Works great.
6. Sometimes you just need to scrub the mission and move on to something else. No shame in that. Come back to the images later on and see if you can figure out where you were going wrong, and try again next time. Take it back to the drawing board and do some more practice, but don’t give up. When I first started working with flash it just about fried my brains trying to understand it. But the more I experimented the more things started to click.
I hope you found this useful. Now for your weekly assignment. Try something you know will likely frustrate you. Write some notes. Find some images that you want to emulate. Set out on a journey armed with a game plan and put some of these suggestions to use. Good luck. Enjoy the process. I’d love to hear how things went for you.