Pre-shoot decisions, for instance, include what sort of environment will we be shooting our models in? What wardrobe (if any) should they wear? What kind of lighting setups will we most likely use? What lens or lenses will we slap onto the front of our cameras? All of those questions and more are important to the success of our shoots and the “looks” we’re after for the final images. Our decisions to each of those questions, and more, impact our end results in big ways.
The pre-shoot questions I listed above represent, in my mind, the strategic elements of our shoots. It’s called ‘pre-production planning’ and I highly recommend you engage in some amount of pre-shoot planning if you’re not doing so already. You don’t have to have everything set in concrete – being flexible and able to ‘go with the flow’ is equally important – but it’s always a good idea to have a plan, you know, a strategy in place before shooting. That strategy can be clearly or loosely defined. Either way, a pre-shoot strategy is a good thing to have.
WHAT ARE SHOOTING STRATEGIES?
Strategy is defined as a plan of action designed to achieve a major or overall aim or goal. In this case, that major or overall aim or goal is, of course, to snap terrific, OOC (out-of-the-camera) images of our beautiful models. That’s obvious, right? No surprise there.
Tactics, while being quite similar to strategies (almost synonymous, in some ways) are still a bit different from our overall strategies. Tactics, as opposed to strategies, are those things we engage in while pursuing our overall strategies. Our overall strategies can include pre-planned tactics, but those tactics alone don’t necessarily define the overall strategy.
Tactics are defined as the actions we engage in to achieve specific ends (strategies) while pursuing our pre-planned strategies. I know it sounds like I’m saying the same thing from slightly different perspectives but I find it helpful to differentiate them. Tactics are the means to an end, the end being the overall strategy, aim, or goal.
WHAT ARE SHOOTING TACTICS?
As mentioned, our overall strategies are often in place before we shoot, i.e., lighting and gear strategies and that sort of stuff. The tactics we use to achieve our strategies, however, need to be dynamic and fluid. They need to be flexible. That’s because, often enough, things we did not or could not pre-plan for suddenly take place, hitting us in the face with out-of-nowhere surprises or simply because we didn’t plan for them.
Unplanned-for elements can threaten our overall strategies for having successful shoots if/when we don’t have a number of different tactics available to deal with them. Murphy’s Law – whatever can go wrong will go wrong – is an example of why we need alternative tactics to achieve strategic success. I know, I know, it’s still sounding like I’m talking about the same things, strategies and tactics, but in my mind, they’re different. Perhaps subtly different but different nonetheless. After all, we have learned and practiced various tactics to achieve the same or nearly the same end results. That’s why learning techniques and practicing them is so important. The more tactics we have at our disposals, the greater our chances are of achieving success with our overall aims and goals.
WHY WE NEED ALTERNATE TACTICS
Often enough, I’ve been asked why I bring so much gear to many of my shoots. That’s easy. It’s because, while my strategies for a successful shoot are generally in place, once I get to the location – locations I might not be familiar with because they were decided upon by my clients, not by me — there’s a good chance I might have to use very different tactics, tactics which require other or additional gear to get the job done successfully.
Here’s another example: I can’t always count on the models my clients hire being experienced models. When they’re not, I have to adjust my directing tactics for getting what I need from those models even if it means I must resort to physically (and often hilariously, to others that is) demonstrating every pose and expression I want those inexperienced models to engage in. You see, telling my clients after a shoot that the model had few modeling skills isn’t going to absolve me of shooting pics that don’t meet my clients’ expectations. They simply don’t care. They expect me to shoot pics that meet a certain level of competence and the elements that make those pics ‘competent’ also rely on getting the right poses, expressions, emotions, and projected attitudes from my models whether those models have the requisite skills and experience or not.
There are other reasons for sometimes adjusting our tactics or calling on tactics we had not pre-planned on using. You see, it’s not always because things sometimes go wrong or we don’t have the right gear, or for all kinds of other reasons. It might be because things aren’t playing out as planned.
Occasionally, for instance, a client throws me a curve ball by suddenly changing their usual and customary expectations for the photos they want me to shoot. I’ve worked for some of my clients many times. By and large, their expectations are nearly always, essentially, the same. But not always! I’ve shown up on sets and have had my client suddenly want results that are very different from what they usually want and/or expect from me. Me saying, “I don’t know how to do that,” or “I don’t have the right gear with me to do that,” isn’t ever a good excuse. When these times happen, I must engage in tactics – be it lighting tactics, equipment tactics, whatever – that weren’t part of my strategic plan or might require using tactics I might not be well practiced at employing. Often enough, those times require improvising.
LEARNING AND PRACTICE CREATES MORE TACTICS
Everything I’ve mentioned, whether it has to do with un-planned-for locations or shooting environments, inexperienced models, Murphy’s Law, changing client expectations and more represent those times when being flexible, able to go with the flow, and employing shooting tactics I had not planned to use come into play. Sure. As a rule I would rather not have to improvise to get the shots. But when I do need to improvise, the improvising nearly always calls on related skills and tactics I already have experience with. That’s a big reason why it’s so important to continue learning regardless of our self-perceived levels of skill and experience. i.e., no matter how often we’ve shot in a particular genre like glam and nude before.
You see, the more we learn about photography and shooting models, the more things we know how to do, the more we practice the things we’ve already learned or might already know how to do, the more able we are to achieve great results even when we encounter things we did not or could not have predicted or anticipated in our pre-planned, overall and general, strategies. Every tactic we learn and practice can, potentially, mean the difference between a successful shoot and one that’s much less so.
Thanks for reading!