How To Plan Shoots

outlander-1 copy
I have certain questions about blogging and photography that come up again and again. One of those is "how do you always match your outfits to your location???" Another question feels like a variant of that one, "which comes first, the outfit or the location?" Honestly, the answer isn't straight forward one or the other, but rather a combination of the two. The best way to answer is to explain how I plan my "shoots" which will also give you direction if you're looking to improve your coordination in shoots. The main elements to me are: thinking seasonally, exploring often, and being willing to adapt to change.
palava apple-42Thinking Seasonally: One of the biggest ways I plan my photographs is by focusing on the seasons and what affect they have on the landscape around me. As I live in the countryside and most of my pictures are taken within a few minutes of my house I've got to know this region very well and am hyper aware of the subtle changes by season. It's not simply spring, summer, fall, winter; it's the first snowdrops of spring, the wild daffodils in April, the bluebell woods, the apple blossoms in May, and so on. These seasonal scenes help direct some of my photo shoots and determine what I will wear. As we head towards April I started to think about what blue dresses I have in my closet that might match the bluebells or wonder if a romantic white dress might capture that scene better. I know every  May I want to get at least one picture on my in law's farm with the apple blossoms and every September I will want to take a lot of pictures with the apple and plum trees, so I can make wardrobe choices based on that information. I can even pitch the idea of an apple photoshoot to a brand and see if they're interested in partnering. Creative order: location, then outfit.
scabCapturing an idea: Other times it isn't about a seasonal thing, but rather a mental image I want to bring to reality. With the first image in this post we wanted to shoot something Outlander inspired. I have been reading and watching Outlander for years, but only introduced the show to Thomas while we were in Scotland as a bit of a lark. I never expected him to actually like the show--but he did! He wanted to do an Outlander inspired photograph with some of the standing stones in Ireland and we threw ideas back and forth about what our picture would look like. We finally settled on the idea of two versions of the same person while leaving it a bit open to interpretation (it is before and after, is it a nerd and a book character, a princess and school girl?). I chose outfits that would coordinate in color with each other and the setting while still giving very distinct and different vibes and we went out and shot it. So here the creative order was: idea, then location, then outfit. Even that doesn't always work according to plan if you don't know the location intimately! Case in point: picture above, we wanted to shoot a princess-y look at Scrabo Tower and I thought the yellow dress would be a good look because Scrabo is surrounded by gorse which usually has warm yellow flowers. Of course, we forgot because there isn't a lot of gorse right where we live that the flowers weren't in season, so instead of getting a yellow dress in a sea of yellow flowers I was surrounded by prickly green bushes and no flower in sight! We still took the pictures because we were already there, but the images weren't what we had in mind.
liz alig bike-12 Knowing my surroundings: While there are some big seasonal changes that I will try to plan outfits to match, there's also times when I receive an outfit from a brand or buy a new dress that I didn't buy with a location in mind. Now it is a matter of trying to figure out where to shoot the look. For example I recently collaborated with Good After Nine to feature their new owl rings. The owls gave me early autumn vibes, but it's still very green around me so I tried to think about what locations would give me the right "feeling" I wanted to complement the rings. Knowing my area quite well I had a few options and decided to go for a local corn field because I hadn't taken pictures there before. In my free time I often walk around my area and always take mental notes of areas that look nice. It was one evening on a walk that we saw the beautiful evening light coming through the leaves on the path in the picture above; seeing that I knew it would look nice with a green dress I wanted to shoot and we decided to come back out at the same time the next night to try to capture that light. If we hadn't gone on that walk I probably would have shot the dress at a different location. Even areas you know well are worth exploring often to look for subtle changes or to appreciate them in different light conditions. Creative process: outfit first and then find location to match based on mental notes and exploration.
sunflower field-9Going with the flow: So sometimes it's location first, then outfit, other times it's outfit first, then location, and then there are times when things don't go according to plan! For the picture above I got ready for my photoshoot with that outfit, I had a location in mind and headed out of my house, but on the way to my chosen location I stumbled across these sunflowers that had sprung up practically overnight! Thomas took a few quick test shots in the sunflowers and I decided that even though it wasn't what I planned and I wasn't sure what a fox (print) had to do with sunflowers--it was too pretty to go elsewhere for pictures! So this wasn't a planned "matching/coordinated" shoot, but one that happened rather spur of the moment. Similarly, when we travel I can't anticipate what locations we will visit exactly or change my outfit on the spur of the moment to match a location, instead you just have to go with the flow and hope it works! The below picture was taken at a castle in Scotland, I would've worn a long romantic dress if I had known we would be taking a few pictures outside of it, but instead I'm in a tee shirt in a denim pinafore. The shot still works because tonally the colors matched the outfit and I tried to find a pose where the outfit wasn't a focal point (and tried to mostly hide behind the tall grass and my hair!). Don't be so set on an idea or location that you can't work with the settings you find. Get creative because you can't always be perfectly prepared and you don't want to miss out on a great location.


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