How I work:
Hello Underexposed fans and followers:
Today I was inspired by an episode of The Art of Photography video podcast to discuss a little about how I work. Shout out to Ted Forbes and everyone involved in that site; I am really loving the podcast. -B
The above linked video talks a lot about the need for photographers to carry a notebook for those moments when inspiration strikes. I am a recent convert to this idea and have found that it really does do a lot of good when trying to keep everything organized. I actually smiled when the video advised me that this is something that other people should and do follow through with.
Being a photographer on a budget—and honestly who isn’t—I opted not to go for the fancy “hipster” moleskine notebook, but instead for a cheaper knockoff. Either way, it’s still something that is small enough to fit in my back pocket—and develop a nice patina from being under my ass most of the time—and be large enough to still get a good bit of information (read: chicken scratch) for me to decipher later.
I use this notebook throughout the entire creative process, which lead me to write this blog post.
First of all, I am not always in a creative mood (believe it or not), and usually when I am, I am nowhere near any way to get this creativity into my art. For those moments when I am not, I find that having an outlet to help remember ideas becomes important for those later moments when it’s time to work. Also, these notes to myself help immensely when it comes time to meet with a model or a client.
I have been lucky that I have worked with some really creative people that love to bounce ideas off of me for shoot ideas. In these meetings with models is when the notebook becomes the most key. Ideas for shoots come up all the time—not only in meetings but also in day to day conversation. Take for example the main photo above. I knew going into working with Scarlett Quinn that she wanted to do some sort of “Nerdy-Star Wars-Comic-Extravaganza,” but that in itself is a very broad topic. I was able to note down the ideas for what she was looking at and then refine the concept into something we both would be proud of and enjoy shooting.
If you can read my notes above (sorry they are crossed out…I wasn’t expecting to be showing this to anyone), you will see that the general idea for what we were going for was still conveyed, even if some of the ideas didn’t make it into the final product (this time).
Scheduling and Booking:
Working as a small time freelance photographer, this part becomes both easier and harder than for a more “professional” photographer. In the more professional world, the bookings would be handled by a whole other set of people—but for my case, I am working all alone with coming up with getting things together.
I meet my models through networking online and through other friends. I’m glad that my day-to-day life affords me time to get to meet these people because, otherwise, I don’t think I would be able to produce as much work as I would like to.
Part of the scheduling process also includes tracking down locations and scouting for areas in which to shoot. This in itself is an entire blog post all of its own, so we won’t go into all of that right now.
The hardest part that I find for this portion of creating a shoot is finding the time. Now I wish I was doing this as my full time job; however, I do still have a “day job” in which to contend with. This basically books me for a solid 40 scheduled hours a week, but at the same time it does leave me with 2 days in which to run things here at UNEX. However, I have trained myself to work on very little sleep, so even though I may not be shooting during the week, I am always busy even after work getting new content prepped and ready for all of you viewers (feel special now?). Needless to say, this does not leave a lot of “me” time during the weekends, and I do have to say that I am glad my girlfriend understands this (and is interested and proud of the work I do create during this time).
Before going into a shoot, I do take some time to get everything together. Usually beginning the night before, I make sure that all of my gear is clean and ready to go (again a different blog post). Charging batteries, formatting memory cards, and if I am working in my home studio, I make sure that lights are set and my backdrop is ready to go. I know what you may be thinking—that this seems like a no-brainer. Well I can speak from experience that sometimes life has a way of catching up with you. And I have had photo shoots in the past that were sadly cut short because of lack of battery power.
Setting proper expectations with the client/model is also something that should be reaffirmed during this time. In my standard contract, there is a clause for what to expect during a shoot. Basically this means that even if I want to have a specific concept in mind, that exact image may not come out of the shoot. Nobody is perfect, especially on this “semi-pro” level.
Usually I try to book my shoots for an hour of shooting time, and then one to two hours of post processing. I like to keep the model present during this time so we can together review images to make sure they are satisfied (and start the touch up process). Having all of my workspace prepped and ready to go so as soon as the models are ready makes this happen. Generally speaking, I also like to shoot in 2 separate blocks of time. Allowing us to shoot some, offload the images, review, and then re-shoot if needed.
Post Production and Delivery:
Once we have the images narrowed down to the final deliverable numbers, I then go in and start post processing. This is actually the most time-consuming part, making sure everything is exposed properly and touch ups are made. There was a time in the past where I was very anti-photoshop, and to an extent, still am. However I must concede that in the right hands and using the right tools, it can make a great image into an excellent one.
Finally, when the images are all exported and ready to go, I generally deliver the digital prints on either physical media or upload them to an online cloud storage system for my clients to download at their leisure. This allows me to keep some overhead costs down and not need to run prints (and drive up costs out of either mine or the client’s pockets).