Things I Learned on a Gratis Shoot

You will read all over the internet that as a starting photographer, one should never just do work for free. I’d agree, with the exception when your skills have gotten rusty and you need to improve. That is when you do some photos for a friend.

Since moving to Columbia, South Carolina, I have had very few opportunities to do any actual photography. The last time I did a shoot was rather awkward for me and i didn’t really know what I was doing. Before then, the last serious photography was in the Philippines (check out this photo). So my skills have become quite rusty. I would really hate to see how my cinema skills have deteriorated. But then again, I think those might have faired a bit better.

Anyway, a good friend of mine wanted to some good pictures. I needed to practice photography. It was a win-win. For the most part, it went well. But truthfully, I am a bit disappointed in myself. I’ve gotten dull. It is not like last year wear I was filming and photographing all the time. That was my job. I’ve grown rusty. On top of that, there are a few things I need to pick up. It wasn’t all bad. We had fun and I learned some things

1. Have a Plan

First thing’s first, I need a written plan of how I am going to do the shoot. From poses to locations to lenses. I like having a plan, even if I through it out the window. It is good to have a guide and structure for what you are going to be doing. Even if I threw it all out, it’s because I feel comfortable enough to do so.

2. It is a collaboration

I am not a director. I learned that in the HU DMA program. Running the show is not my strength. But I am very comfortable working with someone else. That is why I like being in cinematography. I get the opportunity to collaborate with the people around me and still do a very important job that involves decision making. Working with a client/model/subject should be no different. I am not necessarily in charge of everything (well, actually I am). It is a collaboration between 2 or more people. You are working together to make something great, so everyone has something to bring to the table.

3. Learn to Direct

That being said, the photographer is still the one calling the shots. I think it is more of a confidence issue. Its hard to keep a clear head when there is a lot of pressure to do well. That is why I need to have things planned. I’ve stated I am not a director

4. Learn proper posing technique

I went to school for film. This is not something I learned in school. Reading up online, this is something a lot of photographers struggle with. As a result, I ordered a book recommended on DPmag. It is the one thing in photograph i really need to learn.

5. Be comfortable/be yourself

When i am a bit stressed, my ability to communicated drops a bit. Not only does the subject need to be relaxed, but so do I. I need to be myself. Only then than i work my best. Being comfortable lets me communicate better and make the whole thing enjoyable for everyone.

Have fun is the obvious 6, but it is the unwritten rule. The crazy thing is that when it comes to the moving image, I do most of things fairly well. Something about photography throws me off. I do great and candid, street, and some portrait work. But photo shoots in a semi controllable situation i struggle with. It is sort of backwards for film. I do ok at street, candid, and event; but I am at home in a controlled environment. But then again, I a trained as a filmmaker. I specialize in the moving image.

But this shoot was fun and worth it. It just goes to show i have a long way to go with a lot to learn. Thats good though, I’m always ok with trying to improve.


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