If you were ever a Scout or Girl Guide the phrase ‘be prepared’ will be well known to you. Preparedness is vital in becoming a successful photographer in so many ways.
My inspiration to write this blog stems from an American photo that went viral of some photographers covering an American football game who were watching and not photographing. Many slated these photographers, as with most top level sports spaces for accredited media and photographers is limited, so anyone privileged to gain a spot should be utilising it to the best of the ability. Obviously depending on your position on the field you can’t photograph the entire game but when the action is directly infront of you, then yes you should have a camera to your eye. So why weren’t these photographers taking photos, and why does it matter? In reality they were most likely inexperienced and weren’t prepared for the action to suddenly come in their direction, and in turn only had one lens/camera combination to hand which was unsuitable for the particular play. Was that their fault? Maybe! Should they be so publicly
Every photographer starts somewhere, and every photographer has their first event at one point. It is also almost guaranteed that every photographer will make mistakes at that event, but will hopefully learn from them. But there needs to be a degree of guidance, how can you be prepared for the unknown? You need to do your research and if possible find yourself a mentor, who can guide you and help you so you can fulfil your brief at that event.
Whatever the event be it a wedding or sporting event or even just a family photoshoot do some research.
Know your venue
Where are the best places/angles to photograph? Where will light be throughout the day? Are there any photography restrictions? Who is in charge?
Know your equipment
What focal range do you need to cover? Will you need more than one camera? Do you need and in turn are you allowed any additional lighting? What backup equipment do you need?
Know your event
How will the day unfold? What are the timings? Who is attending? Can things be happening in more than one place at once? If a sport what is likely to happen when?
Know your brief
What are you there to photograph? Are there priorities? If more than one client which takes preference in the event of a timing clash? What image styles does your client want?
Knowing what you are there to photograph may seem a bit of a ridiculous thing to point out but is actually very relevant. If you are say at Badminton horse trials photographing for a publication you need to know what is your brief. Are you there for 4* competition images, Tradestands, behind the scenes, Mitsubishi Motors Cup, trot up, Burghley Young Event Horse class or other? It is likely you are actually there to photograph all of the above so you will need to have a plan about when to be where. What parts of which classes can be sacrificed in favour of another according to your client’s or clients’ preferences.
How I prepare
I ask myself all the above when preparing for any photoshoot or event I’m photographing. For many especially weddings I will have scouted out the venue in advance, working out where I can take portraits so to reduce the amount of the time needed to the minimum. I also do this for equine events, if eventing I will walk the course the day before where possible to choose the best fences and locations, although for many venues now I know the best locations in advance through experience it’s just the fence in that location that changes. For showjumping whilst riders walk a course I will be surveying my photographic options.
I always ensure I have all necessary equipment, and back ups organised before I even leave for an event. The worst thing middway through an event is for equipment failure, but if your prepared with backup equipment you can minimise any fallout from it. Other things such as having fully charged batteries and empty memory cards, never mind spares to hand are vital. Getting close to filling a card? Don’t wait to fill it, change it out during a quiet moment so it doesn’t max out at just the wrong moment.
Don’t necessarily copy others. Although it is good to have an experienced mentor to turn to, don’t be afraid to step away from what others are doing. At an event if everyone else is stood elsewhere, ask what they are seeing and photographing from their position and compare to what you are achieving. There is a possibility you are in the ‘wrong’ place but equally your position could work just as well as the others. If you take test shots before you start you can see if your location will work and if not move elsewhere. Always keep in mind that sun can move during a long class or clouds could disappear so be prepared to move in the middle of a class if safety allows.
Lastly I try and be prepared for anything to happen at anytime! Ok there is only so ready you can be, and you can’t hold your camera up to your face permanently but if paying attention to what is unfolding infront and around you, you can spot that special photograph that other wise may have been missed. You often hear people say they were lucky to be in the right place at the right time to get that one special photo. Although luck can be key, people make their own luck by being prepared and ready. That person can be you if you make sure you’re prepared.