"Oh no, it’s the same location, yet again!" That’s a statement you’ll hear frequently from wedding photographers when they are assigned to shoot in a location they’ve visited frequently. I agree that shooting at the same location over and over can be testing. It might look like reinventing the wheel with very little space to innovate. This post is about how you can win over such a tricky situation of a repeated location on cards for your next outdoor shoot.
I faced a similar situation when I was commissioned to shoot at the Shore temple, Mahabalipuram, India. As a photographer from India, I have been to this spot at least twenty times in the last seven years. But then, such challenging situations can be opportunities in disguise and all you have to do is be prepared. Location plays a huge role in complementing the mood of the shoot. It might be a repetitive location for you, but to the client, it might be their dream destination and it is your duty to make sure they go back with a bag of beautiful memories. Here are my two cents.
1. Take Advantage of Your Knowledge
You’ve been there and you’ve done it. That means you know what will work in that location and what won’t. Use this knowledge to your advantage. With the image of the land in your mind, prepare yourself well in advance with the right techniques, equipment, and shot ideas. You can contemplate all the new possibilities that you can create in the location. Instead of landing up on the spot and wondering what new you can pull out, this will save a lot of time and energy. Remember, you also know if the location would need any prior permission for couple shoots, the best timing, and so on. This way you are not wasting time waiting for anything or complaining that you didn’t know the rules earlier. Thus, the knowledge of the location is a true luxury if tapped well.
2. Learn to Unlearn and Relearn
Unlearning is the key. You have so much in your mind already about that location which is bound to restrict your imagination. Attempting to forget what you know is definitely not easy, and this is where playtime helps. Imagine taking the things you know about this place and placing them in a basket to be kicked off a mountain, or a cool clean shower that would wash away your memories. This might sound silly, but trust me, it works in its own ways when sincerely tried. Try wiping away the familiarity – the fun way. Tap your imagination and unlearn. And once you do, relearn the location with a newer perspective. Look at it like you do for the first time. Take a deep breath, rub your hands, and fall in love with the location. Things will fall into place, naturally.
3. Do Not Be Tempted to Use What Worked in the Past
Knowledge is power but it can be intruding too. Having been on that location so many times, it is natural that you are bound to know what shots will click well for sure. It is easy to try out what you know would work already and execute the shoot. But where’s the fun in that? Do not let your earlier experience haunt or daunt your imagination. You’ll have consciously make a decision to keep yourself away from the old techniques and try the new. You can turn back your memory pages and look at all the pictures you’ve already done at that spot. Voluntarily vow to not repeat it. This will avoid redundancy.
4. Try Out New Photography Techniques
Yes, it is all about the moment and the story between the couple. But to capture it perfectly, you need to play with the techniques effectively. Search for a new way to express what you see. If you did a motion blur the last time around, play with an HDR shot this time. Complement your vision with the apt technique. Use new props, bring in more colors, suggest themed dresses, hairdos, etc. See how best you can utilize the natural light available in your frames. Take into account all the possibilities and play with a new technique to achieve it. Only when you break the routine and start experimenting with techniques, you will be able to come out with images that stand out.
5. Step Back and Think
Step aside and look at the location from the eye of a stranger. Standing in the location, ask yourself these two questions - "What will a photographer with an award-winning aspiration do here?" "What will a photographer with a conventional mindset do here?" Once you pick a side (which obviously would be the former) and start exploring the answers, make sure you don’t fall prey to the conventional rules. Execute what you think can be done differently and keep improvising on it. And don’t stop questioning. "If there were ten photographers around you at the same location, what would make your shots different and unique?" Introspection fuels creativity. That’s how you will make unique pictures in the process.
6. Be Ready to Take Inspiration from All Quarters
The idea of inspiration is wrongly understood by a lot of us. For a photographer to stay inspired, it is not just about following other photographer's works, watching photo-tutorials online, or attending workshops and conferences. What really is more important is to stay open. You might be a nature lover or a music enthusiast or an avid reader. Spend time on what you love doing. In my case, personally, I love shooting movies and songs, and when I like something in what I see, I take a snapshot of the frame. I also shoot kids, temples, and social documentaries. One might think that these activities have no direct connection to what we do. But over time, all these little pieces will find their way into your work in its own way and gift you newer perspectives. Try it.
7. Take a Walk Around the Location
Nothing opens up your mind like a relaxed walk around the location does. No big deal but a casual stroll is all it takes at times. As much as you approach the location, it is important to allow the location get to you too. Naturally, in your stroll, you will always see this new angle or a different lighting all of a sudden. Things keep changing and the location would have had some new additions that could make for good photography spots. Stay open and search for a new perspective. You can capitalize on what you get lucky with.
So the next time you are going to be presented with the challenge of shooting in the same old location, you can exclaim, "Oh yeah, I know this location so well, and I’m going to try something new this time!" It is a matter of your mindset and how well you are prepared. Think different, do more, be inspired!