Preparation is key...
Preparation in photography is a fundamental to success in my view. There are a number of aspects that I have to prepare for when considering what makes a great photo and this article will detail some of the areas that I always consider. Firstly, there is the matter of getting out there to take a photograph, sometimes this is easier said that done! With all of the other things that like throws at us; family, work, leisure activities, it can be difficult to find the time needed, so I have to make that time and plan it in advance more often than not. I talk to a lot of people that would love to take more photographs, but can’t find the time to do so; this is the first key element of preparation. Prepare to make the time to take the photograph.
Secondly, what type of photograph do I want to make? This again is a key element of preparation; I can’t take a seascape, if I am nowhere near the sea, so often I will tie this in with other activities like holidays or weekends away and prepare the family for the fact that I want to go off to take some photographs! Preparation about the type of photograph you want to take is key to be in the right place at the right time; this requires planning and consideration to get the best results. As with all rules though, sometimes just going out, taking the camera with you and seeing what you can get keeps you going. This ties in with the third aspect which is looking at the kind of conditions that I want to shoot or the scene or subject that I want to capture. I can’t take a sunset image in the middle of a summer day, so understanding sunrise and sunset times throughout the year is important to prepare for what time of day I need to be out. Similarly, for the right seascape shot, tides times and conditions are important to understand. I need to consider access to a given place or how long it could take me to get there. I also consider safety as part of preparation as well; is it safe to be in a particular place? Will the incoming tide cut me off from leaving a beach? I find myself looking at the weather forecast constantly and looking out at the sky to see what sort of cloud cover there is; are there any clouds on the horizon line that may thwart a decent sunset? They say that you have to be in it to win it; it is the same with photography, often you just need to be out there ready to shoot and I have experienced many occasions where I have been out thinking that there would be a great sunset only for it not to materialize. Conversely, sometimes you can be surprised, even the dullest looking of days can net a great sunset! I will often turn around, facing away from a sunset; sometimes you will be surprise as to what you see.
Preparing what to shoot and when, also ties into the fourth aspect which is equipment. Preparing what equipment to take when is vital to ensure that I get the desired image; I have a number of cameras that I use for specific requirements and I ensure that I have the right camera, lenses, filters, tripod and other associated items of equipment with me. Preparing your batteries is critical; there is nothing worse than being out on a shoot and not having a charged battery or multiple batteries to hand (we have all done it!), so I always ensure that I have them fully charged before heading off to shoot. I have developed a way of working with the equipment I have and continue to try and look at different features and functions to try and get the best out of the camera. Consider the weight of what you are carrying; I try and pack based on where I am going, so have a range of bags to carry my equipment for best comfort. Trial and error these days is easy with digital imaging, you can take as many photographs as your memory card will allow; this has allowed me to experiment with different settings and understand the best approach. You should also consider what clothing to wear; there is nothing worse than getting to a location and finding that you time is cut short because you are too cold, or that you can’t access the place you wanted to go to as you don’t have the right footwear.
The fifth item is being prepared to learn - however experienced I think I am, there is always more to learn and that is the beauty of photography; you can learn throughout your lifetime, but you have to be prepared to do so. I challenge myself continually to learn something new, however small it may seem, every piece of information brings expertise in how to make a photograph. I love attending workshops, as you get to learn so many new techniques and meet like minded people to share things with.
Finally item number six is post processing and how you share or present your images. For me the post processing is an essential part of the process and when I am making a photograph, I will look at how I will process it when I get home and that can affect how I prepare to take the photograph with the camera, don’t get me wrong, my aim is to make the image as complete as possible with the camera and then use the post processing phase to carry out final tweaks. I have to be prepared to learn how to use the various tools available for post processing and I am still learning today; there is so much that you can do in this space. Prepare to present your photographs; print your images or share them online; being prepared to do this doesn't take a lot of time and it is wonderful to see something that you have created as a physical item.
So, in a nutshell, preparation is key to every element of photography and with the right preparation in place, it can be hugely rewarding. If you plan ahead, consider every aspect of what you are trying to do, where you are going and what you will need when you get there, you will be completely prepared.