Seize the Day! {For Photographers}

Here is a quick post about capitalizing on potential opportunities. I will also explain a little about exploring your subject in more depth, even from a static shooting position. I will be using some photographs I took yesterday morning after it had snowed all night to illustrate my thoughts. Now, these are certainly not the best photographs I have ever taken, but just think of this as an exercise for the mind and eyes. I believe a lot of what I am going to get into here is in fact transferable to wedding photography as well.

Here is the set up: The other night I was stacking some firewood, just as it had started to snow. I knew that we were expecting a fairly significant (for NJ at least) amount of snow. In the past I have thought about placing “interesting” objects in the grass before it started to snow so that I could photograph them afterward. For one reason or another I just never followed through with the idea. So, last night, since I was already outside, and it had only just begun to snow I decided to seize the day, or more appropriately, the night! I didn’t have too much at my disposal as I wasn’t truly prepared to do this. Time to improvise, (kind of like a wedding huh?) I saw a bunch of our outdoor chairs sitting upside down on our table, grammar school style. I knew that these chairs would become my “subject”. I am a big fan of line, shape and pattern in my photography, so I started thinking of how I could use all of these chairs in an interesting way. I had to previsualize the photograph before I made it. This is another device I use when photographing the bride and groom. In my head I am sorting out where the light will fall, how I can use that to my advantage, how am I going to compose it, what focal length and aperture to use, where is the best angle to shoot from etc. Keep in mind that this is usually just a starting point, and sometimes it doesn’t work, or you need to tweak things, or even rethink one of those components for whatever reason.

In regards to the following photographs, I knew that I wanted a clean and simple snow laden background for the shot I was previsualizing, and to show the chairs in a semi-random pattern. Because my backyard isn’t terribly large and has a fence all the way around it, some trees, and other various objects, I knew the only way for me to achieve a clean background in such a small space was to shoot down on top of my “subject”. So, now I knew that I would be shooting from a window inside the house on the second floor. In my head, I tried to visualize what it looked like from that specific window. From there I began placing the chairs in a semi-random pattern. I also knew that I didn’t want any of the chairs to overlap one another from my shooting angle, so had to space them accordingly.

If you know what someone is likely to do before they do it, you can better prepare yourself for it right? I knew we were expecting a lot of snow and wanted to construct an interesting photograph utilizing that snow. I put everything together to achieve that goal and then executed. The same can be said of a wedding day. While it is true that every wedding is different and unique in its own way, there are a few things throughout a wedding that you can anticipate happening before they actually do happen. So prepare yourself for those moments, think ahead of time about where the light will be, what’s the best focal length and aperture to express your vision for that shot, where is the best angle to photograph it from etc. So, let’s see what I came up with…

Here is the shot pretty much as I had envisioned it the night before. I accomplished my goals; a clean and uncluttered “backdrop”, the chairs set up in a semi-random pattern which shows off their lines, and no chairs are overlapping each other. It’s pretty straight forward and I was relatively happy with the result considering I didn’t actually put too much thought into this.

So, now it’s time to subtly “explore” the “subject”, all from the same exact shooting position. The above shot was my starting point, and was how I had envisioned the shot to begin with, but that doesn’t mean it’s the best “solution”. I then zoomed in a bit to only show 3 complete chairs, and let the others be slightly cropped out.

I then zoomed out, changed to a portrait orientation and included all the chairs in the frame again, just as in the first shot, but this time I included some negative space below them. Also notice that I have gone from a square crop, to a landscape, and now to a portrait orientation.

I liked the look of all that negative space, so I decided to include just one chair in the frame this time.

As I was photographing, I noticed some birds flying to our bird feeder, so I tried to do a few shots with the birds in the frame. Obviously I couldn’t tell the birds where to go in the composition, so I just kept shooting and hoped something interesting would come out. I thought the following shot was the most interesting of the bird photographs. I liked how these two birds were positioned in the frame. I really enjoy this kind of shooting because you don’t really know what you will get, so it’s more exciting.

I kept the idea of including some negative space, but this time just changed back to a landscape orientation. When doing this, I picked up a little bit of our tree swing in the frame, which I kind of liked.

Then I decided to venture away from my “subject” and decided to only include the tree swing with a lot of negative space around it. Part of the framing decision of this was only due to other distracting elements that started creeping into the photograph.

So, you can see, I have not changed my shooting position in any way, and was able to come up with a few different looks of the same subject (except for the lone swing, but you can see how I got there). So, don’t just shoot what you think is the final photograph and pack it up, explore it a bit more and you will more than likely find something you like even better!

Don’t be shy now, chime in with comments or questions. Also, if you think this might be useful for someone else you know, please send them a link to it:

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