How often have you composed your shot, taken it and when you look back, you feel that there is something missing? You may even have said something like “wouldn’t have been great if someone was standing there”. Well, that’s previsualization. In other words, your brain putting together the pieces on the composition and coming up with what in your mind would work as an interesting photo. So there you have it, I have explained previsualization in one sentence.
The thing is that every photographer is different in their style, influences and what they see when they are at a scene. There could also be factors that influence you at that moment. The smell, the traffic, the weather or even your mood can all have an impact on a photo. Previsualization is about harnessing all of that so that you can compose and take the best photo that you can. If you have ever struggled with this, here are some tips to help you out.
What are you trying to say?
The most important element of being able to previsualize a shot is to be able to determine what message you are trying to portray. Do you want to tell a specific story about something or someone? For example, a local shop keeper that makes handmade souvenirs. Or maybe the hustle and bustle of a busy city during the morning commute. It could be that you are trying to portray a mood of calmness and tranquillity of the beautiful beach in front of you. Or instead, maybe showing it as a romantic destination for couples. These are completely different messages that require different elements to make them work. A tranquil beach might be someone alone watching the sunset whereas a romantic message might be a couple walking along the beach.
Being clear in your mind about the message or story you are trying to tell is the best way to start previsualizing any shot. Take a few minutes to slow down and think about the message before snapping away and you’ll notice that you will begin to subconsciously start thinking about a story. Use that to compose your shot.
It is also worth noting that sometimes previsualizing the shot is purely for aesthetic purposes. In other words, the message is already there in the photo but you want to improve the balance or composition of your shot.
Research does help
You may be someone who struggles with the whole notion of thinking about the story you are trying to tell. This is often where newbie photographers struggle when it comes to previsualization. The best way to combat this is to do your research before heading out on location for a shoot. Look at the kind of photos that exist and especially the ones that you find interesting. Is there something that they have in common? Is it the light? Have they been framed in a special way? The point here is not to copy but rather to try and inspire you to come up with your own vision of the scene.
Start to write down some ideas or even better draw some rough sketches of how you would compose the shot. This is similar to what art directors do in the world of advertising where they will provide the photographer with a drawing of the photo that they want. Make notes on things like the time of day that you would be able to capture this shot. The conditions you will need and even which direction you need the light to be coming from. You’ll be amazed by how you suddenly begin to get ideas about compositions once you actually begin to do some research and think about the shot.
You’ll need patience and perseverance
The next part of previsualizing a shot is to actually make it happen and capture it. Depending on the complexity or conditions needed to be able to capture the shot, you may have to accept that it won’t happen straight away. For example, you may need the light to be coming from a certain direction and as a result, the photo can only be taken at a certain time of the year. Or it could just be that on that day that you arrived at your location you didn’t get a person in your foreground to act as a point of interest.
Usually, the big difference between a good photo and a great photo is just a few simple elements. So if you just settle for what you get when you are there, then you are not capturing the best photo that you can. It’s always imperative to build in some time into any shoot to be able to wait for the right conditions. Don’t be in a rush to take a few photos and leave. Only leave when you have captured the best photo that you could on that day.
Finish it off properly
For great photos, you have to be willing to see the process through from start to finish. Part of that process is post-production. Sometimes a shot can only be achieved through the use of post-production so you would have already thought about that in your research stage. For example, if you wanted to capture star trails or HDR photos where you will need a create your shot by merging together multiple photos. Or it could be that you need to just straighten or crop your image. Whatever post-production is required, the key is to do well and with care. Don’t rush the end part as it will only compromise your final photo.
Previsualization is as much about being spontaneous as it is planning in advance. Every single time you lift your camera you are already previsualizing a photo – sometimes you may not even realize that you are doing it. Over time and with practice this will become more and more second nature to you and will take less effort in doing so. But in the meantime use the tips above to help you on your way.
Photo credits: Kav Dadfar – All rights reserved. No usage without permission.