Which comes first, the Concept or the Shoot?

Compositing…which comes first, the Concept or the Shoot?

This is something that I get asked about every single day by photographers all around the world. “Where do I even start?!  Should I come up with the idea for my composite and choose my stock first, or shoot my subject and come up with ideas on how to use my model and choose what stock I want later. For me personally, the answer is both.

It is always a good idea to have some inspiration in mind when you go into the shoot on what you would like to create from your session. Especially when working with clients, it’s always ideal to ask them if they have any ideas or input as to what they would like for their children, what they would like to see hanging in their home. After all, these art pieces will be displayed in their home and should ideally have a special meaning for them. Consulting with your clients before the shoots also allows for you both to plan on outfit and prop selections.

Just the thought of trying to choose one or two ideas can be overwhelming to your clients, especially when the possibilities are endless! If you run into a scenario like this, try asking your clients a few questions such as what is important to them, what types of activities do their families enjoy, what are their children interested in. Even ask them about their own childhood…was there a particular storybook, movie, or activity that they enjoyed when they were children, that they share a love for with their own children today.

 So, what happens when your clients do not know what type of composites they are looking for or leave it up to you and your expertise to decide? Well, this is where you really get to challenge yourself! If you are anything like me, you already have dozens of ideas floating around in your head that you are just waiting to get out. Take this opportunity to realize all of those ideas, but at the same time, take into consideration the age of your subject. An idea that requires a complicated pose and or several frames with slightly different posing will not be a good fit for a young child. The last thing that you want to do is to confuse and frustrate your little models. The shooting portion of your work should be fun for your clients and something that they look forward to doing with you, again and again, so be sure that your ideas are age-appropriate.

Also, when working with very young clients, instead of trying to pose them, I prefer to let them play and interact with their families and then get my ideas while culling through the images. For example, in the image below, this little cutie was going in for her stuffed bunny, but while culling, I imagined her hugging an animal and this was the ending result.

In the image below, I was shooting my daughter when my little guy decided to jump directly in front of my lens and photobomb us with his silly faces! I most likely would not have come up with this idea to place him underwater if this didn’t happen, nor would he have likely posed and made this adorable face if I had asked. Ha!

It’s always a good idea to go into your photo shoots with some type of inspiration and focus, but don’t be afraid to get creative with your concepts after the shoot as well. Some of my best composites are derived from ideas that never would have occurred to me until I clicked the shutter or viewed the image after it was shot. Furthermore, many of my concepts would not have been realized if not for the ideas and collaboration of the parents and children before the shoot.

Open your mind, be flexible and find your inspiration!

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Best Wishes,