How many of you plan your photography? That is to say, going out with a shooting plan in mind, something you have carefully considered beforehand? To be precise, you leave your house armed with knowledge of :
Sunrise or sunset times.
Tide levels (seascapes)
Spare memory cards
Fully charged batteries
A series of test shots taken on a day previously when planning your shoot
A shooting list (see above)
Camera ISO and lens pre-set with shooting conditions taken into consideration
The list above can be expanded upon very easily, however just considering the basics of any planned photographic activity can be daunting for a lot of people (an perhaps off putting too). However, if you desire the highest quality results from your outings and your photography, then you are going to have to indulge in some planning. So let us help you with the basics.
The image above was the result of many previous visits and careful planning
Pre-Shoot Location Visit
This part sounds easy and generally speaking it is. This is in reality your opportunity to experiment with composition, light direction and consider the impact of tide levels (when shooting seascapes). Take your camera to your chosen location and start thinking as a top photographer. What does that mean? Well consider method acting as a role model. If you walk around and just for fun pretend you are (insert the name of a photographer who inspires you) and start thinking and acting the way they would, believe you are that person and see the world through new eyes. You will be surprised at how effective and fun this exercise can be!
Your chosen location may be somewhere you are familiar with, but this methodical approach will bring better results than you have ever through possible. This activity is key to the success on your planned days shoot, as you can experiment to your hearts content with as many compositions as you think may work. You can use the guide to composition included in your Image Academy Online Photography course to help you with some ideas.
Take your time and don't rush through your location - feel your surroundings and don't forget to 'think like a photographer' :)
Browsing your test shots
Once back home you can download your test images and create a shortlist for the planned shoot. This part is critical as what you capture on the day will be based on your shortlist.
Be honest about what you have taken - I know that sounds obvious, however some photographers have difficulty with this part and ironically some are too critical of their own work. If you are unsure, seek the opinion of another photographer - someone you trust to give you honest feedback. That all said, ultimately it is your photography and the final decision on what to photograph is always yours, so be true to yourself and shoot what inspires you.
Fail to plan and plan to fail - a bit cliched, but successful images are all about the planning
Planning your shoot.
You now have your shortlist and you need to convert that into a shooting list. Some photographers will print of a contact sheet of every image - almost as a prompt and shooting order for the day. You can put this in your bag and cross off each image once you have taken it. With that list, make sure your camera settings are recorded too. E.g. Focal length, aperture and so on and stick to the plan on the day.
The night before
OK, this is all going to sound obvious, however trust me when I tell you that over the years of running a lot of workshops, I am no longer surprised how ill prepared some people are when they arrive on location. This includes, flat batteries, shooting at the incorrect ISO, not brought the lens they meant to bring, no memory cards - the list goes on, so be prepared and create a checklist that you can use for EVERY planned shoot. This list is not exhaustive but should include:
Batteries charged and in camera (with spare batteries already in your bag)
The ISO on your camera pre-set for the next days shoot
the lens aperture pre-set as above
Your shooting list (contact sheet)
You know when sunrise and sunset is (there are many apps that can help you with this)
You know where the tide level will be and if it is going in or out - never put yourself in the danger of an incoming tide without knowing where is safe
Your lens(es) is/are clean and ready to use
You have ample memory cards formatted and ready to use
All your equipment is clean and ready to use (filters etc)
Include a small led torch to help you in low light conditions
Have your appropriate clothing laid out and ready for your shoot
This list should become habitual and as you can already see, there is a great deal to consider for any planned photographic activity.
Every genre of photography requires planning, so make sure to do yours.
Why planning is important
You are probably wondering why all of this will help you take better photographs? Quite simply, if you arrive on location, feeling organised and in control of what you are about to do, you will take better photographs - period! You will feel more relaxed, creative and unstressed and your images will reflect your state of mind - they will have more impact and you will feel that you have created something special as a result.
So, plan plan plan and when you arrive stick to what you originally planned to do. It is ok to change things on the day if you genuinely see something better. However from experience and given the narrow timeframe a sunrise or sunset will have you working, there usually is not time to make changes and hence the reason for planning in the first place. :)
So plan a shoot right now. Make a proper plan to take all of this guidance guidance guidance put together something really special in the next 14-days. The light at this time of year is very special, so take advantage of that fact and get yourself out there - what do you have to lose???