Do We Need to Know Where Our Photography Is Going?

Do We Need to Know Where Our Photography Is Going?

When it comes to being creative and personal photography, how do you approach your shoots? Do you prepare a well-researched mood board and vehemently stick to it, or do you let your creative juices flow and see where the shoot takes you? Is there a right way?

I have just come back from a collaboration shoot with a dancer who found me on Instagram. She fell in love with my work and one thing led to another, and next thing I knew, we ended up meeting up and doing a brief shoot in the city. I hadn't quite set any expectations for this session, nor had I specifically prepared a mood board for this. I had a loose idea of what I thought I wanted to achieve, but when it comes to collaborations, to me, it's a two-way process, and as such, takes into account the personality, mood, gestures, and body language of my subject, too. I showed up, we talked and bonded, and we started creating.

I've never showed up to a photo session with a completely blank mind; usually, it's the opposite. I have so many ideas, and most of the time, high expectations of myself, that I need to process all this and come up with something doable, and do so on the spot. What I do is observe the location, the weather, the light, the way my subject moves, and how they change their facial expressions when we talk to each other and try to incorporate my ideas to mix in with all of these other variables to create something that pleases me as an artist. This is far from doing paid jobs with specific requirements and expectations, and I find that taking the time to do personal sessions is a constant reminder to break outside the box and not to remain compliant in our photography journey. 

A female photographer and man's reflection in the mirror

Sometimes, coincidences and random ideas lead us to our destination.

So, the question remains whether we should approach our personal sessions in a constructive and thought-through manner as we do with our commissioned jobs, or should creativity, imagination, and the rapport with our subject take on a direction of its own once it's set in motion? Generally, I don't have very detailed and specific expectations for personal shoots, and as someone who often does self-portraits in the space of 10-minute creativity bursts, I enjoy the unexpected when it comes to photographing people. To me, it's an impossible and unnecessary task to try and recreate specific shots that may be saved on your Pinterest board or in your Instagram collection, because it takes away the spontaneity of two people coming together and creating something personal together. Having said that, I thoroughly enjoy collating photographs that inspire me.

How do you approach your personal shoots? Do you create a plan and set expectations, or do you surrender to your thoughts and emotions and let yourself simply start creating without any limits?

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Ian Oliver's picture

Why does it have to be one or the other?

Anete Lusina's picture

It definitely doesn't. That's why it's an open question whether it is important to actually know where it is going :) What are your thoughts?

Kevin Kennedy's picture

Interesting thoughts on the creative process in prep and during a shoot. However, from the title, I was hoping this article was going to be about Who uses our photos after a shoot, and how we can track them.

In response to your question about how I approach my personal shoots. I try to go in with at least one shot in mind, especially when it's in collaboration with someone like a dancer. That one shot comes from a discussion with the subject of what One Thing they'd like to come out of the shoot with. Then after that one shot is captured, we can explore: with other looks, themes, or secondary goals.

Anete Lusina's picture

Thanks for your comment! I've seen this website re. your question, I haven't personally tested it myself but it may be worth a shot -

Kevin Kennedy's picture

Awesome! I am also looking for verbiage to use in my contracts to better understand how clients do and can use my photographs.

John Koster's picture

Author is a natural light photographer. In other words, has no idea how to use strobes.

Anete Lusina's picture

Now what relevance does that bear on the article I have written?