The Writings

Lights, Camera, Direct!

If you haven't noticed, there's a LOT that goes into a shoot.  Lighting, camera settings, concept development and execution... etc, etc.  So many things to consider to get ONE reasonable image.  If you're anything like me, there are countless voices that run through your head, trying to keep you on point to make sure you have all of your ducks in a row.  However, one very important part in all of this tends to get overlooked quite frequently, and in my experience and from what I've witnessed, I think a lot of "photographers" lack: directing the shoot.

So many "photographers" lack people skills, which is an integral part in conveying the concept to the model, couple, or client.  Without the ability to speak to people, you're missing out on properly delivering your message on what you're trying to create.  But even with people skills, having the confidence and ability to direct the shoot is vital in order to get the show that you want.  Here are a few things I typically make sure are done when (if) I'm shooting a model, couple, client.


It's hard to direct a shoot when you don't have a clear concept in mind.  Maybe I'm an over-planner, or a little OCD, but if I'm going to shoot something that I want to create, I have to make sure I plan out every detail and can pre-visualize the image I want to make.  It sounds pretty obvious, but I've seen so many "photographers" shoot when only having a generalized concept in mind, and the resulting images are a muddled mess of calamity.  Without having a plan or a concept, what image is really going to develop?  Chances are, not the one you wanted and can be proud of.  Of course, to an extent, there are a lot of things we can't predict, but with a detailed plan in mind, it makes it incredibly easier to achieve the kind of shoot you're looking for.


Most of the photographers I know who are starting out tend to have a problem with this part.  In the beginning, I had a difficult time trying to direct my clients, too.  It's certainly something that takes a little bit of practice, but the time and effort put in to become better at directing your client or model is time well spent.  Creating a concept is the easy part - relaying that message to your subject is where things can get tricky.  By having a concept in mind, you can lead your model to get the image you want, but you have to be able to clearly spell out what it is you're trying to achieve.  Be in constant communication with the subject and make sure to be encouraging.  It can get nerve-wracking when the lights and cameras go off, so be sure to help your model relax by talking with them throughout the shoot.

During the session, it can be easy for photographers to get caught up in the moment and ignore reading the body language of the model.  Be sure to pay attention if they start getting tired or uncomfortable and take a break if needed.  I like to have bottled water or snacks available, not only to be polite, but show that I have their interests and comfort in mind, too.

Be Confident

I'm going to sound really mean, but just hear me out: nothing pisses me off more than a wimp.  Hate them.  Hate, hate, hate them.  If you're going to be directing a model or client, you have to show that you know what you're doing!  If you don't have confidence in your abilities, how will the subject be able to trust in your abilities?  Even if something goes wrong, you have to be of a frame of mind to be confident and adapt to the situation.  When I first started out, I was almost reluctant to direct and had some poisonous mentality that I didn't want to appear pushy.  This only translated to my images looking like crap.  Once I got it through my head to, well, "grow a pair", I started getting the images I wanted and believed more in my own abilities.

I'm not saying I am truly, honestly confident 100% of the time - I certainly have my moments.  The difference is that I realize what the concept is that I have in mind, run through the details, and just tell myself "everything is going to work out".  Sweating the small stuff hinders the possibility of being confident.  Especially now, I'm able to draw upon previous experiences that help me solve problems and lead the shoot the way I want it done.  I'm not afraid to direct and get the image that I'm after - or even collaborate with the model/client and possibly get images I didn't initially conceive.

No matter what I'm shooting, I make sure that I follow these procedures to ensure that my shoot is going to run as smoothly as I want it to.  There will undoubtedly be some SNAFU that can be hard to plan for, but being able to pre-visualize the image, direct the shoot, and exude confidence (whether it's truly there or not) can make a world of difference!

Until next time,

- Patrick