Sunday, September 4, 2011

Case Study: Pre-Production in Photography


In this digital era, with new photographers coming in and having more experience with computers than camera and lights, there is usually more attention placed on the post production segment of a shoot than the pre-production preparation for the photo shoot.While the post production part is very important, if a lot of what can be done for the shoot is realized in pre-production, the outcome of the product will not only look and feel more convincing, but will require less time spent in the digital darkroom. Inside, there is an example of a recent photoshoot of Patrick Demarchelier for Longchamp, illustrating the importance of the pre-production process, and also how to incorporate the stage of pre-production in other genres of photography.


Pre-Produciton is more than just props and backgrounds. It is getting the right team for the job and making sure they are well briefed for it. It is also the preparation of the complete storyboard of how you are going to choreograph each shot. It is knowing what the final look is going to be before you enter the studio.Planning each and every image is key to the success of your photo shoot.

For a Fashion/Advertising shoot, the team usually consists of an Art Director, Fashion Stylist(the person that chooses the clothing, shoes and accessories), Hair and Make-Up Artists, Models and of course Photographer and his Assistant. It is very important to make sure the whole team is  briefed regarding the look of each image going to be shot. Providing each crew member with a detailed list of all that is expected from them, will not only demonstrate your desire for best from that crew member, but it will also make for a smoother production. Without great styling or set design, or atleast the best you can afford, you might as well take the day off rather than shooting. Attention to detail and planning for the unexpected will save you from most disasters.


Lets take a look at a very recent shoot for the brand Longchamp,done by Patrick Demarchelier, just to see how smooth a production goes when planned properly.


As you can see, the above shoot is quite a massive production, with a big team to make it happen. There is set designing, fashion styling, hair/makeup styling, assistants, lighting techs, digital techs, the model Audrey Marnay, all working seamlessly with Patrick.





What you see is a choreography of a shoot, how it should happen from start to finish. The pre-production aspect of this shoot was so strong and well planned, that you can see the draft of the final ads right after the shoot in both horizontal and vertical formats. Also, the out of camera shot is perfect and requires no special effects in Photoshop, just some skin and color work. This is exactly how things were done before with Polaroids to make a dummy layout after every shot.


I know that every one is not going to do shoots of this scale all the time. The most important lesson that Pre-Production teaches us is discipline. When we have that discipline of planning thoroughly in any shoot we do, even if it's for free, the images are going to be the best possible, and disasters will be happy accidents. One of the most important quotes I’ve read is an Amy Arbus quote that was in the Avedon - 1994 issue of American Photographer, that "Dick taught us that we couldn’t just dilly dally with this thing we love called photography, you have a responsibility to not just be a good photographer but a great one."

As a Professional Photographer of any genre be it advertising, weddings, sports etc., YOU have the responsibility to take the best picture possible...and if you choose to be any less than that, you’re doing yourself a disservice. It’s not the photography that matters, it’s the journey. I’m just using photography to document it. If you’re fortunate enough to have an ability that renders you a powerful voice by means of photography, then do it and do it well.

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