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Knowing Your Subject – Being prepared for the Unexpected

Each subject type should be given special consideration. If the shoot type is known, ie. Wedding, Portrait, Glamour, Children or Landscape, etc, the photographer has time to prepare for the shoot. If the shoot is random, such as travel photography, the photographer has to be able to think fast and make lens, flash and camera settings on the fly quickly. When preparing, consider the subject and think through the shoot. What will you need to make your image the best? How will you post process the image? Would it be better in color or black and white. you should visualize the end result before you click the shutter.

Your first concern should be the environment in which you will be shooting. What will be the light source? Will you need artificial light? If you will need artificial light, will a portable flash be sufficient or will you need strobes? Will the subject be somewhat stationary or will it be moving around? Decide on your light source and make adjustments and backup plans as necessary. I always carry flash just in case the natural light is insufficient or if I need light to fill shadows– even in daylight.

The next consideration might be the lens type that you will need. If portrait, you will most likely need an 85mm or 105mm prime lens or a telephoto lens that includes these focal lengths. If shooting full length fashion images, a 50mm might suffice or a 70-200mm to give you and your subject some distance. Landscape could include a wide angle prime, such as a 14mm lens. Architecture photography might utilize a 24mm lens. Consider your subject and be prepared with the appropriate lens as necessary. Every lens type has a purpose. It doesn’t mean that a different lens could be used as an alternative to the preferred lens for the subject you are shooting. Most photographers acquire lenses as they are assigned to projects, so don’t worry about acquiring every lens out there. Just acquire the lens or lenses you need to begin shooting the subject(s) you are currently working with.

Final considerations should be your camera settings for proper exposure. Select and modify the appropriate ISO, Shutter Speed and Aperture in order to obtain the correct exposure and depth of field for the subject. Exposure settings can be different as you adjust for light and the amount of motion in the subject. Moving subjects may require faster shutter speeds which, in turn, may require lower F Stop and or Higher ISO, depending on available light and/or flash.

Probably the most difficult scenario is travel photography. Travel leads to all types of photography that can occur in any given day. For example, you might start off in a piazza with a wide angle or normal lens in natural light and then walk in building and need flash or fill flash with various lenses and or an extremely high ISO. At the end of the day, you might be at a place where a landscape or panorama would be the preferred shot. If you are just walking around the city, a telephoto lens with wide angle to zoom capability might be the answer. Have your camera set and ready to go in case you come up on that awesome shot. Be ready! When traveling, be constantly looking at light and how it falls on subjects.

The main point to consider is to know what your subject or potential subjects might be for the day and plan accordingly. Be prepared with all the accessories and batteries that you may need for the day’s shoot. And finally remember: you may not always own or have accessible the exact equipment you need for the shot. Therefore, learn to avoid walking away from the shot and improvise instead! One time, I needed fill flash for a subject and my flash was dead. I didn’t have a reflector with me so I dropped by a grocery store and bought a piece of white poster board. Worked just fine to add just a touch of reflected light to the subject of image.

© Copyright Robert Shreve Photography

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