“Just What Goes into a Project?”
It’s apparent it’s spring with summer just around the corner with all the emails coming in. You’re getting ready to go out in the longer daylight hours and slay some pixels. Most outstanding! I know this because emails are asking about how I approach my various projects. I’m not sure how valid my methodology really is because I go about projects we think pretty uniquely, that’s saying nicely, my own way. I should probably start by defining what I mean by a project. A project to me is anytime I head out with a camera to tell a particular visual story. So going on a photowalk to me is not a project, it’s photographing whatever happens to show up. Heading out for a morning shoot with an aircraft, a date that’s on the calendar, that’s a project. So projects can last as short as 15min and as long as, well our longest is going into its 30th year. With that definition, we (Sharon & I) then think about two factors, the most important is how important is the project to me (I have an incredibly supportive wife and partner!) and second, how will it affect the business. It’s real simple to us, the projects follow our hearts and if we’re lucky, the business will benefit sometime down the road. I’ve been very fortunate to pick and do those projects that are important to me and somehow, despite who’s in the wheelhouse, it works out for the business.
With that in mind, the next and probably the most important thing we determine is what’s the story we want to tell? That can vary widely with the only things in common is that I’m telling the story and my need to grab heartstrings. There are times we start out and we don’t have a handle on the exact ins and outs but we have a general direction with the final goal not defined until the last photograph is taken. It’s with all of this input, Sharon & I and on some projects, our sons Brent & Jake as they are part of the creative team, make the decision to pull the trigger and I start doing the real homework. The homework covers everything from subject knowledge, story coverage, locations, dates, finances, possible markets and potential income. I’m real, real, real big on doing my homework for all these reasons as well as the biggest one, the gear I think I’ll need to tell the story. Gear for what technical issues I think I might encounter, the new creative avenues I want to chase I’ve never before ventured. From this combination, I do whatever testing I think I need to do prior to the first day. And I try really hard to have all gear acquisitions done prior to that first day. And in this process, I’m in touch with either pilot or biologists, some expert who can help fill in the blanks and facilitate things happening.
And with all of this prep comes that first day. Some projects go down in flames, some are great success stories. Some simply unfold in a direction that we never expected in marvelous and challenging ways. I guess in summing up the whole process for myself, I work hard to solve every possible problem I can prior to putting the camera up to my eye so when I do put the camera up to my eye, the only thing that is going through my mind is what I’m seeing unfold in the viewfinder. After all the time I have at this, I’ve grown pretty darn confident in what I can do at the camera. That confidence comes from all that goes on prior to that moment of the click, learning from past failures and successes and applying that to my homework so I’m good to go. And in a nutshell, that’s just what goes into a project.