Planning Vs. Preparedness

I've blathered on a bit over the last few months about planning vs. preparedness. Today I wanted to revisit that notion for a moment in the context of strange coincidence and such things. Before I get to the coincidence part let me attempt to articulate my meaning a bit more on the preparedness vs planning part of it. To make it clear I don't at all consider planning to be some sort of bad thing or something to be avoided but more that like all things balance is key. For me and the way my gears grind I needed quite a large dose of casting fate to the wind in my own photographic endeavors. I needed to just show up with no big operation planned. Just me and a subject and a camera. You may need the exact opposite - that's fine. Just take my own situation and reverse it if that's true.

The shot at the top you may recognize from one of the couple of contact sheets that I've shared for an on-going personal project. Typical for that particular project this was shot on the fly while getting ready to shoot something else. That day the something else happened to be taking a walk around the block with Katya, exploring the possibilities of what the neighborhood had to offer in terms of locations I could use for another project. It was also going to serve a hidden agenda to get over my whole 35mm vs 50mm psychology problem - and it did.

Here's where a confluence of preparedness vs planning comes into the whole thing. No planning beyond "meh - maybe I will shoot a set or two while we're getting ready for the outdoor thing for that personal project". That doesn't mean I wasn't prepared to shoot this. I probably shot somewhere north of 1000 adult females. I know how to shoot them, how various focal lengths and proximities and angles work both good and bad. I know how to light them. I feel no trepidation, anxiety, or lack of confidence interacting, directing, or any of that no matter how tame or wild a particular session is to be. I have a ton of experience in making just about any location work. That's what I consider preparedness in one sense - probably the most important sense.

In terms of the Boy-Scout sense of preparedness I'll put that more in the planning category. Boy-Scout preparedness meaning having some specific item that will help you get the job done and knowing what that job needs to produce. You know like extra batteries. So when your camera goes belly up you are prepared with another battery. To me this is just planning along with something like a story board and a plan A, B, and C to get to some known end result. Lenses, lighting equipment, modifiers, pretty much all gear type stuff falls into planning for me. So does some scripted shot plan, posing diagrams, wardrobe, hair treatment, etc, etc.

Preparedness is more mental - here's the difference. I could layout a plan so exacting with everything from casting, to team, to lighting, to where to stand. I could draw diagrams to layout every detail. I could go so far as to actually test the plan with all the same people, the same casting, crew, etc. I could record everything as a rehearsal to prove it "works" and produces some desired result. I could then hand that plan to say some accomplished landscape photographer that has never ever shot a human being (exaggeration to make a point). I will assure you that photographer is completely unprepared to shoot that situation - even with all the planning done and handed to him/her on a silver platter.

Why? You can probably figure that out. Don't think I'm right? Try it sometime with something you are completely unfamiliar with shooting. Not something like a bottle of coke still life vs a bottle of vodka - I mean a completely different set of circumstances, environment, subject matter, style, etc. Never directed people before? - naked people? whatever - prolly not a great idea to do a real job that entails that if you are used to shooting food.

I stopped advertising for and shooting commercial work quite a while ago. I don't have a spiel nor do I have any kind of on-line portfolio for any type of work that I am prepared and qualified to shoot. I have shot a few jobs here and there but only if I felt like it. I have a couple of friends that have tried to feed me jobs and I've pissed them off by blowing those jobs off. Why? I poisoned myself by shooting things I had no desire to shoot for way too long and pouring tons of effort into those. I was in a state where I had literally no idea what I actually wanted to make or why I wanted to make it besides it's a job. I am in no fantasy world where I think every single thing you shoot for someone else will fire up the peak amount of passion that you may have - I'm pragmatic but I do know I cannot shoot anything that's in the complete opposite direction of my own photographic passions any longer.

Here's the strange coincidence part. The few jobs I have shot here and there were all over the map but they were all for private clients. I would have to say that more than half of those that I've done since I stopped shooting were intimate in nature - to use a term I just cannot stand for some reason they would have to fall into "boudoir" if they must be jammed into a genre. Wasn't the first time - I did that here and there in the way back machine as a side gig. By accident if you will. I kinda liked it which is why I have done a few here and there as of late within the last couple years again by accident. Guess what happened the other day…

A photographer eBuddy on twitter asked me if I shot "Boudoir" via twitter. He happens to be in DC - we were planning on hooking up when I was last down there shooting Katya but our schedules just weren't lining up. He had a friend that was looking to have something along those lines done and just wanted to know if I was interested… He didn't really feel comfortable doing it and for whatever reason it was out of his comfort zone wanted to send it my way. I said sure but I need to discuss some details before I take the job.

Now I have no idea if anything will ever come of it. As with most things there are far more inquiries than actual jobs but this got me thinking a bit. I don't know if I have landed on my answer but I am actually entertaining the idea of doing this type of work for private clients on a more regular basis - possibly even pursuing it. If you were to ask me if that possibility existed even two years ago I would have said not a chance. My attitude has shifted a bit. I may actually put a team together - a regular one vs ad-hoc and see what happens. Not full-bore just something exploratory. It crossed my mind that this is something that I've done here and there not "for me" that actually was a respite from what was driving me nuts in the past. I enjoyed it - 90% of the time I approached it the same way I approached the work I hated but on my terms with my vision of the end product. It was satisfying to both myself and my client - that's a win in my book.

This is something I am very prepared to do for reasons you can probably list without me going through them. There's a confluence of experience I've had over a very long time of which I can chuck the pieces that I am not interested in and embrace the ones that do float my boat. There's also an interesting intersection on some of the personal work I am currently pursuing as well. The same - not even close in a lot of ways but definitely some overlap. So something I am prepared to do but never planned on for sure. I don't know if this is something I am going to go after in a one-track mind kind of way. Most likely I won't as that tends to get me into corners I don't like to be in. Am I considering it as something more than just happenstance - absolutely.

Why didn't this ever cross my mind before? Next up - what would have been different if I was shooting the Katya session as a job vs on the fly "gear-free".


Ps. If anyone knows females looking for part-time assistant gigs I may be looking. Hook us up.

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