You Have to Want It
This is not a passive trade. You cannot wait around for shots or subjects or ideas to come to you. You have to actively conceptualize, explore, execute, and construct every photo. You will get back what you put in, and I put in a lot. The only regrets I have in the past 3 years are photos I have missed or passed on the opportunity to take. Many mornings I wake up between 3am-5am to ensure the perfect lighting at the perfectly remote location. When you’re out of coffee, out of sleep, and possibly discouraged, make sure you have enough passion to run your own engine.
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Facilitate Your Own Inspiration
Understand what inspires you and actively seek those things out. For instance, I know I am often inspired by exploring new and random places or by checking out the photography of those I look up to. So, naturally, I spend a lot of my time driving around places I haven’t been, and I spend a lot of time studying other photography. Again, make sure you put in the time to succeed. That being said, always be receptive and attentive to what’s around you. Inspiration could be right above your head or below your feet, but you’ll never know if you don’t allow yourself to interpret it as such. I am constantly writing down spontaneous ideas because there is no excuse or reason not to.
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Plan out Everything You Can
I find that planning out your shoots makes them substantially more successful and efficient. The vast majority of my shots are done on location. Before I leave to shoot, I’m very prepared for what’s coming. I make rough sketches of what I want the final image to look like. I scout the location prior to the day of the shoot to decide on lighting and specific perspectives. I consider the size and frame of the subject, how they might interact with the terrain, and how I want to position them. I try to gain the best understanding I can of how I want the image to feel, what I want it to convey, etc. I make very sure I pack everything I need with me and not much that I don’t need. Putting in the effort makes the shoots go smoothly, makes my images easier to capture and manipulate, and in general is the most efficient use of my time. I take my work seriously, and in order to do that I am always as thorough and prepared as possible.
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Always Be Able to Improvise
Approach everything as professionally as you can to try to avoid problems, but never lose touch with the creativity that makes you an artist. Find it, feel it, extract it, and trust it. No matter how much you plan, something will always go wrong. The tether stops working, the strobes won’t fire, a prop gets damaged – if it can happen, it probably will at some point. You have to be able to adapt and make it work. Or maybe everything goes as planned, but you suddenly get inspired by the moment. Always harness and utilize your own personal creativity. At the end of the day, your work ethic and passion will go a long way in dictating the quality of your work. But the voice of your work can only come from you. If you don’t believe in it, no one else will.
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*Written by MDW for Heather Byington
Vegas & LA; trespasser, photographer, explorer, & imagination extraordinaire. Heather spent five years working as a photo assistant around Minneapolis and assisting some of the best. Her skills and set etiquette are by far what sets her apart. Creating/adding to your vision, execution and with a personal touch of care.