Essential habit no 5. Structure and Plan.

Increase your chance of getting good results by giving yourself challenges and briefs, even if you’re not a professional.

Pick a theme to shoot – don’t just be aimless. Aimless wandering can be great, but you leave a lot open to luck. Photograph a specific group of people, restrict yourself to just one lens, or one light, take a bus to the end of its route, and walk back, snapping anything that interests you, look for objects of just one colour – you get the idea.

Once you’ve got your theme or structure, actually plan and think through what you’re going to do. A professional approaches a shoot, and thinks through the whole process – they don’t just rock up and leave things to chance. They’ll work out what time of the day the best light will appear, and how much kit they’ll need, and so on.

Don’t be afraid of structures, or think that planning will make your work boring – a bit of planning will hugely increase your chances of getting results you’re excited about. Once within a framework, you can experiment and play around.

The “Old Skool” images in the video above require lots of planning, yet they look quite natural and playful. In simple terms, creating these images required permission to use the venue, a few hours location scouting, everyone kitting out in school uniform, transporting people around, lighting and camera kit to cart round as well, and very muddy and wet conditions on location. BUT – once everything is in place, that structure just becomes the background, and I can focus on what’s happening in front of the camera – what performances I want from people, and just as importantly, I can react to what people are doing, and improvise.

Having this structure doesn’t limit my work, it gives it a good foundation to build on. If I’d rocked up to this shoot with no pre-planning, and very little equipment, along with no idea of what I wanted to do, the odds of me coming away with results I’d be happy with (not to mention my client) wouldn’t be great.

Action steps:

  • Building on “Find your passion” from the first habit, set yourself a project, or something to explore. There are some ideas above, but try taking a picture at the same time every day, working only in black and white, using a pinhole camera, or bringing a favourite story from a book or film to life – anything to give yourself some structure.
  • Before you embark on this project, return to that original question “what am I shooting” and do a bit of planning. Go on google maps and check the location out, check the weather, and what the best shooting spots might be and so on, think through what equipment you might need and how you’ll carry it, and so on. If you want more interesting, creative and professional results, you’ll need to start behaving like a professional.

30 second summary.

If you’re serious about your photography, take it seriously, and do some planning. I promise you won’t suck all the fun out of the experience, and you’ll improve your chances of getting great results.

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