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This article has been transposed from the Lightroom 4 Workflow System DVD, designed to teach Lightroom users the entire workflow system that we use to cull/edit at a rate of 1500 images per hour. We will be writing about several of these tips/techniques in this 10 part series to be released over several weeks.
Our 10 part article series will go as follows:
1. Pre-Production + Production (this article)
2. Metering + Manual Shooting
3. Manual Flash
4. Pre-Shoot-Culling + In-Camera-Culling
5. Lightroom Settings
6. Import Settings
7. Hacking the Lightroom Modules
8. Library Module Culling System
9. Culling Methodology
10. Batch Processing
Without further delay, let’s move to part one of this series.
I know it sounds obvious and lame of me to mention, but an efficient post production workflow is going to heavily rely on an efficient pre-production and production workflow. The purpose of pre-production planning is to eliminate the non-essential shots from your workflow by simply not taking them in the first place. I think you all know exactly know which shots I am talking about. They are the thousands of hard drive littering shots that never get processed or printed.
So, to cut down on this form of what I like to call “digital litter”, you need to be thinking about your final end product before even shooting. Think before shooting? Yeah, I know, it may sound foreign; let’s spend a moment discussing it.
You know those incredible photographs in Vogue, Vanity Fair, W Magazine, etc.? You know, the ones that just make you go “hmmmm, how’d they do that!?” Well, it shouldn’t be surprising when I tell you that somewhere around 70 – 90% of the time that goes into those photographs is in the planning and pre-production process. It isn’t common for these teams to come together for days to setup the scene and lighting, then have the talent show up for 10 minutes, shoot a few photos and leave. While each of these shoots is different, you can guarantee that they come into each shoot with a plan. You absolutely have to have a plan when you are working with teams and budgets that size.
Now most of us will never have the chance to be involved in these big productions, but that doesn’t mean the same rules don’t apply to our own shoots, regardless of what you are shooting.
Whether you are a landscape, street, wedding, portrait, family, baby, equine, or whatever other type of photographer you are, you should approach each of your shoots the with a plan and vision for your final product. That doesn’t mean that you need a written plan with each shoot, but you should have an idea and goal of what you want to walk away with from each shoot. This applies for hobbyists and professionals the same.
If you don’t believe me, then take this challenge. I guarantee that by doing a bit of pre-production planning you will not only walk away from each shoot with higher quality images, but also less “digital litter” which in turn will enhance your overall workflow.
Here are a few practical examples of pre-shoot planning:
For a landscape photographer, have a goal when you go out. Perhaps you want to shoot an amazing sunset shot. But, let’s take it a step further. What do you want to do with said sunset shot? Are you planning on printing or framing the image? What type of sunset shot would be you like to take? A sunset shot from the busy setting of a downtown metropolis is going to look much different than one shot from rocky ocean cliffs.
So, let’s take a step forward and narrow down our vision. I want to come back with 3 shots for a 3 piece framed collage. I would like to feature shots that show off the rocky cliffs of Palos Verdes, CA as they appear during sunset.
Now, we have an idea of the overall shoot and vision. We know where we need to go to accomplish the shoot, as well as how many shots we want to walk away with. Rather than focusing on taking hundreds of shots, I am focused on making the 3 shots for my framed collage as strong as possible. Let’s look at another scenario.
Now, let’s approach this from a standpoint of a portrait photographer shooting a set of engagement photos for a client. In this situation, pre-planning becomes all the more important given that you have paying clients expecting a service. But, the question remains, what type of shots do these clients want?
This is where we would want to bring in the clients into the pre-planning phase to create what is referred to in fashion photography as the “mood board.” We want to know what type of photography our clients are into, what mood and feel they are striving for; do they wish to plan their shoot around an outing or event? We want to know which shooting and post production styles resonate with the client.
Once we have decided on what style and feel they are going for, we can start discussing locations and activities to plan the shoot around. I shot both of the portrait sessions below; yet look at how different the overall look and feel is from each session:
Couple 1 – “Light and Airy Beach Lifestyle Mood”
Couple 2 – “High Contrast Downtown/Metropolitan Mood”
Once again, understand the purpose of the shoot and final product. Generally, our portrait session final product is an album. For an album, we want to tell a story of the couple, and that will influence the shots that I need to capture during the shoot as there will need to be a mixture of portraits and detail shots to tell the story of the day.
Regardless of what type of photographer you are, and regardless of whether you are shooting for personal reasons or as a professional, walking into each shoot with a plan will help in shaping the overall results and quality of your images.
We are going to get into shooting tips and techniques, and granted that is a part of production, but proper production doesn’t refer to just shooting correct exposures. Proper production means that we have brought the necessary equipment and team (if necessary) to accomplish what we planned in the pre-production phase. For example, one of our couples work in the clothing/fashion industry and wanted that look and feel for their shoot.
To accomplish this look, we needed to bring out full sets of lighting gear with extra-large soft boxes to create that very soft lighting look that you might see in fashion magazines. This meant that I also needed two grips (lighting assistants) to help in the placement and setup of the lighting in each scene.
As a landscape photographer, you are going to have a different set of appropriate production gear. Your production gear is going to include a tri-pod, wide angle lens, graduated and variable filters, cable release, etc. Every photographer is going to have an appropriate set of production gear depending on the type and style of photography. Learn it, know it, and bring it to each shoot!
The other side of production that will greatly affect workflow is in regards to the technical side of shooting efficiently, however we will be covering this in more detail in the next part of this article series.
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