Read This If You’ve Ever Been Scared Before a Photo Shoot

In the age of increased mental health awareness, it is important to address some mental health issues that photographers may have to cope with. For many, that is primarily anxiety. In this article, I will break down a few ways you can be less anxious before and during a shoot. How I Shot Events at […]

Read This If You’ve Ever Been Scared Before a Photo Shoot

In the age of increased mental health awareness, it is important to address some mental health issues that photographers may have to cope with. For many, that is primarily anxiety. In this article, I will break down a few ways you can be less anxious before and during a shoot.

How I Shot Events at 17

Let me start with a personal story. At the joyfully stupid age of 17, through some connection of events, I was asked to come and shoot an event with 500 people. Some of them were CEOs and one of them was a minister. At that time, it was my biggest job ever — in fact, it was much bigger than anything before.

To say that it was a challenge would be an understatement.

In my arsenal, I had: a camera that took 1 CF card, a working lens, a semi-working lens, a poorly working Speedlite, a laptop from 2010, and a single hard drive. To add to the trouble, I was going to be in a different city without a camera store nearby to help should things go south.

I was incredibly stressed, but I couldn’t refuse a job I had wanted to do for some time. I didn’t know if I could pull it off, and I would describe the two days of shooting as being extremely stressful. In hindsight, that job was probably more than I could handle. However, the client has since hired me over and over again.

Ever since that experience, I’ve been trying to reduce stress as much as I can. I think over the years I’ve managed to distill shoot anxiety and figure out how to combat it.

Less Anxiety Translates Into More Fun

We’ve all been there: a shoot is coming up soon, you’re sweating, having a headache, and not having fun at all. I’ve been there, and I still go there sometimes. That’s completely normal. Each shoot is a huge commitment, the pre-production is often quite extensive, and failing on shoot day would be the worst thing imaginable.

While pre-shoot stress and anxiety can be quite normal, it is best to go on set feeling positive instead of stressed. I’ve found the environment to be a lot more fun and the resulting pictures better when the photographer is rather relaxed.

Prepare

Sometimes the origin of pre-shoot anxiety is simply lack of preparation. Winging a shoot rarely works, and it’s safe to assume that it won’t. If a major detail is up in the air on shoot day, I strongly suggest moving it to a later date. Some of the worst cases of anxiety stem from a lack of readiness.

One of the simplest ways to reduce anxiety is packing up for shooting the day before. For me that means going through a checklist of things:

Cameras and Lenses

Ask yourself: “What am I taking, and does it all work? Should one item die, can I still make do?”

If you’re in business, I suggest bringing a backup camera to all shoots. Even if it is significantly worse, it is still a backup that can take pictures. Ideally, you’ll want to own two copies of the same camera.

Lights and Grip

Pack them in cases and don’t leave loose lights or stands for the last minute. Check that all tubes work and that everything syncs properly. Stands should work as they did on day one, and make sure nothing is odd about your grip. It can get ugly expensive fast.

Batteries

Don’t store your batteries in the camera — I found that they deteriorate a bit faster. You want to make sure that everything is charged the day before. Labeling batteries helps you keep track of which ones are charged and ones that are not.

Read also: A DIY Solution for Tracking the Charge of Camera Batteries

Storage

Have multiple storage locations. Although I’m tethering most of the time, a few memory cards never leave my bag. I have two cards permanently in my go-to bag. In case I forget something at home, I have a place to shoot on.

If you’re going to be on location, designate a corner for stuff that’s packed. It is a very easy way to check everything you have and don’t have.

Physical Preparation

Physical preparation is as important as mental preparation. One of the most stressful shooting experiences I had so far was a portrait right after sunset with only five minutes available for the subject. I visited the shoot location the day before and planned out everything. Mentally, I pictured the shots in my head, as well as I imagined myself shooting in the place tomorrow. While that may be stressful for some, it helps me be calm and reassured that I know what’s happening.

One of the best ways to prepare mentally for the situation is to grab a friend and give yourself 5 minutes to shoot a killer portrait of them. This mock session will give you practice when running against the clock and you won’t be as nervous about the real thing.

Care For Yourself

For me, caring for myself means having a nice breakfast with lots of coffee. Taking a long shower or just listening to music before the shoot can be relaxing and put you in the right place for shooting. I find it best to come to the studio as early as I can and just sit down sip on coffee before everyone arrives.

While Shooting

This is when nerves can kick in quite badly. When everyone arrived and you’re setting up, things may not go as planned and you may go back to feeling anxious. It is important to know that it may happen.

Assistants Are Your Best Friends

I truly believe that assistants are your best friends. You spend lots of time with them, and they are the people who know your process inside out. They often know everyone on the shoot and sometimes even know more than you do.

Chatting with an assistant can be very helpful when you’re bouncing ideas back and forth. If Plan A doesn’t work, the assistant knows what Plan B is, and can execute it in a second. I discuss what I will be doing in detail before each shoot, and if something is a bit dodgy I talk it through with the assistants.

Be Grateful

I like to think that the universe never gives you more than you can handle. If something changes, it is probably because you’ve got it. Like me and the big event job, it was just on the brink of what I could handle, and for that reason the opportunity presented itself. I probably can’t handle a Nike campaign just yet, so I’m not shooting something on that level. Regardless of what is happening, chances are you’ve got it — otherwise, it wouldn’t happen. Being grateful for what’s happening is a great trick up your sleeve to reduce stress.

Gratitude is a great thing. While that sounds like the most obvious sentence in this article, it is probably the most important one. You can’t be prepared for everything materially, but you can be grateful for your team, for the world, and for the past to align so that you are able to shoot.

Being grateful and expressing that gratitude over and over again is creating positive energy and a positive shooting environment. This comes down to saying thank you, but also to feeling grateful.

People are putting their hands to work so that you can shoot pictures. I find that incredibly kind, and I’m grateful for my team and everyone involved. Part of feeling grateful is being approachable. A team member should not be afraid to ask you something, even if it is the craziest idea they’ve ever had. Being kind and grateful goes a long way in feeling comfortable and reducing anxiety in photography.

Conclusion

I’d like to conclude by saying that reducing anxiety in photography is not a quick fix. It took me a few years to get to where I am now. Starting to be more prepared is easier, but feeling grateful takes some time and even courage. Being courageous enough to say ideas out loud and being grateful for others and yourself is crucial to feeling “home” when shooting. Think back to when you first picked up a camera; did you have fun? If yes, why not have fun now?


About the author: Illya Ovchar is a fashion photographer based in Budapest, Hungary. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. You can find more of Ovchar’s work on his website.


Image credits: Stock photos licensed from Depositphotos

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10 Basic Landscape Photography Composition Tips

Composition in landscape photography is of utmost importance for creating amazing photos. It is basically the way we put the objects in our frame to carve out meaningful images. There are many rules of composition like the rule of thirds and centered compositions, but I feel that there are a lot more to that than […]

10 Basic Landscape Photography Composition Tips

Composition in landscape photography is of utmost importance for creating amazing photos. It is basically the way we put the objects in our frame to carve out meaningful images.

There are many rules of composition like the rule of thirds and centered compositions, but I feel that there are a lot more to that than just these rules.

Landscape photography is about perception, it is about how we can depict nature in our own way. Obviously following the rules will give us good images but breaking them will give interesting and different images. Other than rules, I have experienced a lot in composition while shooting landscapes.

Here are my top 10 most important tips for landscape photography composition.

#1. Survey: Give Some Time to the Frame Without the Camera

Give some time to the frame without the camera. Whenever I arrive at a shoot location, I always take out my phone and scan the whole area with its camera. I check for various elements that I can frame and spend quite some time behind it.

In this example from Tumling in the Singalila Range, there were these horses that were having their morning time and the mountains in the background provided good complimentary framing along with the morning haze. The first photo is taken with my Redmi Note 5 smartphone, which I took during preps for the final photo.

#2. Visual Flow: Create Lines (or Curves) That Will Lead to the Focal Point or Towards the Image

Leading lines, as they are called, help in visualizing the way the photo is telling the story. They create a visual flow that leads us either to the main subject, also known as the focal point, or towards the image and not away from it. This helps in keeping the viewers engaged in our images and creates interest in their minds.

Here in the first photo from my hike to Tonglu, the darker branches of the tree and the broken ones on the ground leads our eyes to the tree itself which is the focal point here. In the second example from the Neora Vallery National Park hike, the path itself makes an S-curve and dwindles inside the frame, creating a sense of ambiguity and an interest to know what is there where the path ends.

#3. Layers: Find Layers to Separate Foreground, Midground and Background

Layers are a very useful way of creating stunning compositions. They work the best in mountains but we can use layers in any kind of environment where there are repetitions of similar objects leading to some focal points in the image.

The first photo is taken at Rishyap, where the two layers of mountains are leading us to the peak at the center of the frame. The second example shows another example of mountain layers where sunrays are falling and the mountains will lead the viewer into the image. Notice how in both images the clouds have worked as adding another layer to the composition.

#4. Depth: Create Depth in the Images With Movement

It is a very good way to illustrate long exposure photography where a sense of depth can be created in the moving elements. The direction of flow can be used to create beautiful images with a lot of depth in them.

In both these images, the first one from Rock Gardens Waterfalls in Darjeeling and the second one from Tabakoshi River in Mirik, one can find from where the water flow has started in the frame, thus including the depth factor into it.

#5. Golden Ratio: Make Use of This Concept to Create Unique Images

The golden ratio is a ratio of approximately 1.618 to 1. Read more about the golden ratio and its use in art here. Artists have used the golden ratio and the golden spiral to create stunning artworks for centuries. For photography as well, this is very handy, and in landscape photography, it can help in guiding the viewer’s eyes into the focal point of the image via the supporting elements. I do not use this as much as the other techniques but this is helpful and using this technique has given me one of my favorite images.

This is an image in which I had used the concept of the golden ratio. The rocks in the foreground act as the supporting elements, and the statue in the background is the focal point that is near the narrower end of the spiral.

#6. Balance: Make Sure the Frame Does Not Look Tilted on Any Side

This is one of the most important tips for getting the photos right. We cannot misplace the objects in our frame and put all the objects on one side, it tilts the frame and that does not help in creating visual interest in the image. Balance can be achieved in terms of objects, light as well as color in the image.

In the first image, the boat in the Teesta river is balancing the textures in the shore and the smooth water by creating a focal point by itself. In the second example, the two trees in the Gopaldhara Tea Garden are balancing each other, imagine the frame without either of them, it would look tilted, right? Also, try to imagine the frame without the trees, how would that look like?

#7. Symmetry: Look for Natural Symmetry Like Reflections

This is a unique find if it is found and it creates beautiful landscapes. Such landscapes cannot be even a percent closer to being them without the symmetry. Symmetry in nature can be found in the reflection of natural objects in still water. Can you think of any other areas which give perfect symmetry in nature?

In this image from Talberiya Dam, the horizon, the clouds, and the sky organize perfect symmetry in the dam’s water, creating a completely different image than it would have been without it.

#8. Foreground: Pay Very Close Attention to the Foreground

We need to pay very close attention to the foreground. Foreground objects can create interesting frames and uplift our composition by a huge amount. There can be literally anything in our foreground, but as long as it is compelling, we need to pay proper attention to it and justify its existence in our photo.

Here, in the first photo from Tumling, the bush in the foreground accentuates the image on a whole new level. In the second one from Rishikhola, the rocks in the river and the water flowing through them is creating an interesting foreground for the river in itself and the hills behind.

#9. Scale: Put Humans in the Frame to Create a Sense of Scale

To demonstrate the size and majesty of huge mountains and oceans, we can always put humans (often ourselves with the camera on a tripod) and convey the scale of the composition. It is a compelling method and it creates absolute stunners in minimalistic landscapes.

In both these images, it is me standing on the cliff edges with the camera self-timing the shots on the tripod, and just imagine how the photos would have been without the human elements in them. This minimalistic approach is one of my favorites in landscape photography composition.

#10. Point of View: Change Your Point of View (POV) to Create Interesting Frames

Lastly, we should always focus on changing the way we look at the world through our lenses. Maybe, a frame would have been better if the camera was a bit up in the air or lower at ground level. Changing the point of view increases the chances of creating unknown and uncommon frames which will obviously drag the attention of the viewers much more.

In this last example from Maidan, Kolkata, I had put my camera down on the ground and shot the white Kans Grass in the fall season here; It creates an absolutely different viewpoint right?

Conclusion

So that was it for this blog where I have discussed my top 10 tips for composing great landscape photos anytime, anywhere. I hope you like the blog and will implement at least one of them in your upcoming photo trips.


About the author: Subham Shome is a landscape and travel photographer based in Agarpara Kolkata, West Bengal, India. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. You can find more of Shome’s work on his website, Facebook, and Instagram. This article was also published here.

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