“If only it was sunny”. How often have you said that when looking at the scene? This is your brain working out an ideal scene with the elements that you feel will make a good composition, and this is essentially what pre-visualization is all about. It could be influences from anything you have seen, like photographs or movies, to things you’ve read, to things that you sense or just a feeling you get.
Do your research
It’s pretty rare in this day and age to go anywhere that hasn’t already been photographed, or written about, so your first task should always be to research what already exists. The last thing that picture editors (if you shoot commercially or for stock) want to see, is another standard photograph of the Eiffel Tower. By doing research, you get a sense of what has already been done, but also how you may potentially be able to create something different. This could be anything from composition, to lighting, or even just how the image is cropped.
I have seen the Albert Memorial in London hundreds of times, but have rarely seen it reflected in the glass panels of Albert Hall.
Scamp is a term that is used in advertising. It is basically a drawing that an Art Director presents to clients or photographer,s to show what an idea for an advertisement will look like. Scamps are a great way to get you thinking about a scene and potential photo ideas. You don’t need to be a great artist, or draw an amazing picture, often just a rough sketch will get your brain thinking about the composition and lighting.
Think about the message
It’s no good photographing a scene where you want to depict tranquility and calmness, during the hustle and bustle of rush hour. That’s why thinking about the message or story you want to portray is so important ,and can help you pre-visualize your image. When you are researching a potential photograph or even when you are at your location, always keep in mind the message that the photo needs to deliver. More often than not this will automatically get you thinking and pre-visualzsing the image the way you want it to be.
This scene wouldn’t be that interesting without the quad bike.
Look and wait
Often the difference between a good photo and a great photo is just a few simple elements added, or removed from the scene. This could be points or interest, lighting, or simply a different time of the day. When you arrive at a scene the first thing you should do is really look, and critique it in your mind. How can the scene be improved? Once you have begun to really observe, and think about what is in front of you, you will begin to see in your mind the image that you want to capture. It is then a matter of waiting, or returning when the elements are right, to capture that photograph.
I waited almost 45 minutes for this couple to appear. It was worth the wait as this image has sold multiple times since.
The final product
One of the techniques I use to pre-visualize a scene is to imagine it in its final place. Start off by thinking about the message that you want to portray, then try to imagine it in a magazine or newspaper. This should help you be more critical of the photo, but also to think about the technical elements such as orientation and crop. Remember that you can always take a few more risks as well with your photos, after all that is one of the great benefits of digital photography.
Pre-visualization is as much about being spontaneous, as it is planning in advance. Every single time you lift your camera you are already pre-visualizing a photo – sometimes you may not even realize that you’re doing it. Over time, and with practice, this will become more second nature to you and will take less effort to do.
What techniques do you use for pre-visualization? Share your tips below.