Inspiration, Ideas & Planning

We live in a world flooded with imagery, photography has never been more accesible to the masses, so what sets apart a photographer from somebody who takes photos? One thing comes to mind - planning. In my opinion the planning phase is the most important phase of any photograph..

I have a huge amount of respect for photographers who can immerse themselves in a scene and capture evocative images regardless of the conditions, with no prior planning or thought, but that's not me. Before I even think about leaving my house, I plan everything - from the more important factors such as weather conditions, to the minute details such as parking, walking distances, etc. generally, I'll have an idea of the end result I want to capture before I arrive on location.

See, most of my images are fed by inspiration in some form or another, and inspiration leads to ideas, these ideas develop into plans and those plans into images. I'm going to take my recent "Dark" image as an example..

Stage 1 - Inspiration.
Inspiration can, and does, come from all different sources. Most of the time it's through traditional sources, like seeing an image on Twitter or Instagram, but occasionally I find myself inspired in other ways. Inspiration for this image came whilst sat watching the Netflix screensaver rotate through a number of adverts, the poster for Dark popped up and caught my eye. The use of mirroring was a processing technique I was already familar with, but I'd never seen it used in woodland before.. I was immediately inspired to have a go myself.

DARK © 2019 Netflix

Stage 2 - Ideas & Planning.
So, after being inspired, I start to plan my own shot. This normally starts with picking a location. I live close to a woodland called Delph Woods which I've explored on a number of occasions so I knew almost immediately that a certain spot within this woodland would work for this shot - a small pond with a tree hanging over it. For other ideas I tend to use Google Maps and Earth quite a lot - the ability to view locations without the need to travel miles on end and then view those locations from all different angles (or zoom around on street view!) is an invaluable tool.

After picking a location I flesh out the idea with some simple requirements:

Weather: Does it need to be sunny? Foggy? Clear skies for stars? Etc. My goto weather app is always the Met Office.
Time of day/year: Where would I like the sun to be? Is it best suited for sunrise/sunset/middle of day, is there a time of year that suits the image best? The Photographer's Ephemeris is mandatory at this point.
Stars/Planets: Do I want to include any additional elements? E.g. the moon? Or Milkyway? Where/When are these elements visible? Stellarium is an amazing free software tool for this job.

Once the requirements are fleshed out, I've got a plan of when and how I'm going to shoot my idea. These plans sits in my journal, until such a time as I can turn them into shots. I cannot recommend strongly enough at this point the need to have a photographic journal, be it digital or paper, have a place where you can make a note of ideas, somewhere you can store inspirational imagery. My personal preference is a good old fashioned paper journal - I'm quite a tactile person, so being able to scribble, jot & draw out ideas feels natural, but this could just be a folder on your computer or cloud drive where you store a text file, or just a collection of scrap paper, it doesn't have to be fancy or expensive.

DARK - WexMondays 1st Place, FSPrintMonday 1st Place

Having these pre-defined plans allows me to be reactive (in my own way) to conditions when an oppurtunity presents itself (such as a foggy morning or clear night), and allows me much greater space to think about how I want a shot to look before I'm on location, so I know how I need to capture the scene to produce my idea.

I'd love to know how you plan your ideas - if you think I'm nuts and think you must immerse yourself and react to a scene making preplanning impossible, or want to know more about how I plan my own shoots, I'd love to hear from you