Prior Preparation Prevents Poor Pictures
I started taking pictures with a Kodak 110 when I was seven years old. I didn’t do much preparation back then. I carried the camera and assumed my Moms would have extra film and flash cubes in her purse (she always did). My mother stopped carrying extra film by the time I moved to shooting 35 mm film, but besides throwing a few extra rolls in my pocket I still didn’t do much prior planning. It wasn’t until I bought my first SLR that I actually started preparing before I took pictures. Even then it was a while before I got to a point where I started to feel truly prepared before I went to shoot a location and/or event. What follows are the three steps I complete in preparation to take photos.
The first step is to study the craft of photography. There are multiple arguments concerning whether photography is a craft or an art (these arguments always seem a bit narrow). Photography is each and both depending on the angle one takes. The craft of photography is the skill set one must acquire to take sound pictures (to capture the pictures you want). Learning the craft of photography is mastering the ability to correctly capture the light. Studying the craft of photography is preparing for the multitude of situations that may arise while shooting.
The next step is to brainstorm, research, and visualize. The snapshot can be a wonderful thing. Some of my best photos are moments of serendipity (those moments when I just happened to be in the right place at the right time). But I can’t rely on always being in the right place at the right time to get the right shot. I brainstorm ideas and form them into possible projects. Then I research locations, individuals, events, gear, etc. to develop the project. I try to go into a project with a vision of what I want the finished product to be (of course I always remain flexible if situations change). I believe it’s fine to sometimes grab a camera and go, but if I’m packing a full kit I have a plan.
The final step in preparation is knowing the gear. I spent near a decade working in retail electronics. We used the acronym RTFM (Read The F*#@ing Manual) to describe customers who said cameras, phones, and other electronic items were defective when they should have just read the instructions. In order to master the two previously mentioned steps it is important to have thorough knowledge of your gear. An important part of mastering the craft of photography is mastering the controls of your camera. Knowing what your camera (and other gear) can and can’t do is also important when researching your project.
I like to think I’ve come a long way from that seven-year old kid carrying a Kodak 110 that my mother bought for me at the local KMart (at least I’m older if not wiser). It took quite a while to develop a consistent means properly preparing to take sound pictures. This list may change over time, but it works well for me. My Moms always says to take a jacket because it may rain. Well, if I’m going to be prepared for the weather I may as well be prepared to take the best photographs possible.