The flow of a photo session
In the recent article, turning day into night, I described the thought-process of a photo sequence. Starting with an idea, we worked up to a photo that looked impressive. So that entails a few test shots, including one to show the couple what we’re trying to achieve. Then we finesse it.
That’s the usual process when coming up with ideas – it’s a succession of photos, changing things up a bit until we have a few images that look really good and show the couple at their best.
But sometimes, the idea doesn’t work.
It takes time for a photographer to build up the experience, and especially the confidence in working with clients … as well as the confidence and experience in:
– working with available light,
– knowing when to use additional light, and how to use it,
– posing the couple,
– finding suitable locations,
– and just a whole bunch of things that have to come together for a photo session to be successful.
But just as important is recognizing immediately when an idea doesn’t work, and then having the confidence in telling the couple “this isn’t working, let’s move on” … while still not breaking the flow of the photo session and not damping their enthusiasm. This is something that took me a while to realize. I’d be so caught up in anxiety in making everything work, that I didn’t realize it was okay to admit failure and *then* finding a better opportunity. Of course it takes gentle humor and enthusiasm to keep things rolling.
Here’s an example during this specific photo session:
Laura and Todd is a that I met up with in Manhattan, prior to their wedding date, for the engagement photo session. I really like doing these because it gives the photographer a chance to connect with the couple before the wedding, and get an idea of what kind of rhythm would be possible in photographing them.
The idea that I was chasing here with this photograph:
Knowing that if I exposed correctly for my subjects here on the stairwell under the Manhattan highline, the background would be blown out to an extent. (I know that she is under-exposed in this test shot.) I was hoping that I could get the out-of-focus symmetrical pattern of the building behind them. With this test shot I realized I wouldn’t be able to get the working distance to isolate them properly against the intended background. Two test shots with Laura more or less in position, and I could see this idea wouldn’t work the way I intended.
There was a sense of freedom for me as a growing photographer when I realized that I could actually easily let go of ideas that wouldn’t work, and then continue with ideas where the photos would look great enough to really impress my clients and their friends and family. While ultimately the idea behind the photo session is to give the couple images they’d love, sometimes there will be dead-end ideas. Not every idea *has* to work. It is okay to fail and move on. It just takes confidence in yourself.
Knowing when not to get stuck, but move on to find better images, is an important step in keeping the rhythm and flow of a photo session.
- Top 5 tips on shooting engagement photo sessions
- Connect with your clients for better engagement photo sessions
- Lighting for on-location photo sessions – pick your battles
- Making your images pop through lens choice – Compressed perspective
- More photos from this session: New York engagement photo session
5 Comments, Add Your Own
Good post Neil. I know exactly what you are talking about here, I used to keep working a situation longer than I should have because I thought I had to get ‘something’ out of everything I tried or the client would think I didn’t know what I was doing. Having the confidence to say this isn’t working frees us up to try things we might otherwise avoid too because we don’t have to be too concerned about ‘playing it safe’ all the time. One last thing I’ve found as my confidence increases, I don’t overshoot a good situation. There’s no point making the same great image over and over because I will only want to show the couple a few of the best images from one situation or maybe just one even. This gives more time to try and sometimes fail but overall the outcome is more interesting images.
Hear hear! Great post. I have been guilty too many times of flogging the dead horse because I’m concerned about admitting to the client that the results aren’t good (both because I want to worry them and create a negative vibe, and because I don’t want to look like I don’t know what I’m doing). But there definitely are ways to move on without either of those negative outcomes. I reckon if you just say to them well I wanted to have a play and try something out here but my idea isn’t really working out, you can easily suggest to them that you were thinking outside the square, pushing the creative boundaries etc etc – all positive things. They’ll usually respect that at least you were trying something a bit different for them, and understand that some creative ideas work and some don’t. It’s probably all in the way you pitch it – just laugh it off as no big deal and they’ll accept that.
3John Martin says
I always warn my clients ahead of time that sometimes I’ll see something shiny and I just NEED to try it out. It may or may not work and if I’m not feeling it I just tell them and move on. But it did take awhile to build the confidence to do that. It’s nice to read it here too. I feel validated now.
Great post! It took me a while to figure this out as well, but now I remind myself before every shoot that not every idea will work. Quick question for you Neil, how many images do you usually deliver from an engagement session? Also, do ever just let the clients do their own thing and capture on the fly or are you always planning and posing? I shoot more on the fly but find that I still am desiring to do more posing and less “off the cuff” moment to ensure I have the “goods” to deliver Any thoughts? Love your stuff..big follower..have read both books more times than I can count and I put what I have learned from you to use in almost every shoot!
Many times when i photograph my wife i run into situation where all i have left to say is: “Lets get … , it wont work” Then the next photo is a success!!!
Sometimes people waste too much time. Once you get the feel it is not it you done.