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A good idea alone isn’t enough. Creating a plan and knowing where to head is key. Getting down to work and finish projects isn’t just more important than the actual idea but also will generate new ones. Only by entering the state of visualization and therefore, creation, you will be able to pin down your vision.
Let’s say I want to document the process of a potter and tell how she creates the most beautiful vases and bowls. What steps exactly do I want to show? Is my audience other potters who are searching for a tutorial or should I focus on the emotion?
As my approach to photography concentrates more on the story than on the technical aspects, I tend to list up all the steps I want to photograph. For the potter this may be:
- Preparation of the clay
- «Pulling» the clay up
- Forming the clay by hand
- Final Product
If it’s less of a process-based story, I list all the elements I need to tell the story convincingly. Even if it’s just a single photo: what are the ingredients in this photo I need to transport the message.
Bring it to the paper
Outgoing from the list I bring those concepts to paper. I search the Internet for similar reference photos or stills and pin them to a mood board.
Afterward, I sketch out posing or light situations. This technique needed some practice, but after a little, I got the hang of it and now love to create these storyboards. Especially for tricky shots. Also, I can send them to the client, and he gets a vague idea before the shoot!
By sketching out my idea, I can see how I need to position the light and what composition I’m after.
Take it to the next level
Sometimes, when working with a client who already knows how the photo should look like, they come up to me with their mood- and storyboards. No matter who came up with them: Our job as photographers is to start with the sketch and then take things to the next level. Taking great care of what’s happening inside the frame and adjust accordingly.
These visualizations are the fundament of a shoot; they are there to help to steer the production into the right way and make the communication much clearer.
Closing I want to address two things.
First: Of course I don’t use this method all the time, it’s very time-consuming. Sometimes it’s part sketches part free, and sometimes it’s a blank canvas when I’m on set.
Second: I do believe that by using this process I will save a lot of time on set and this allows me getting more creative and maybe deliver a second or third photo with a different point of view.
Third (you get extra points if you read this): You don’t have to be a great artist to do this. I wouldn’t describe myself as one. I think everybody who has to do with photography in their job can benefit from this kind of visualization to get a more definite goal. Remember: these sketches are mainly for yourself.