4e Speedmail captured by Z 6 / Z24-70

The excitement sets me into a frenzy of mental show of the images I’m going to have. Then the panic, fear, dread, delight, rush sets in. How am I going to not only fulfill my commitment to the client, but bring back the photographs I have in my head? Everything and anything is possible but in the world of reality, how do I deliver content that lives up to my own standards? Prepping for a client shoot takes a whole lot more than just the budget, the bottom line. It was pounded into my head by editors, “You’re only as good as your last photo!” I have one if not two client aviation shoots in the next week. Both coming to me because of recommendations of other aviation clients. To say they might have over sold me could be an understatement. While I’m very grateful for that, this piles a whole lot of pressure on the click of a camera. Now’s the time to plan.

The first thing I do is take a deep plunge into research. That starts with literature search on the aircraft. Knowing the history starts the creative wheels turning. One of the big things for me is backgrounds for the aircraft. Getting to know the history helps me figure out where I want to fly and what time since I get a feel for the background I want for the aircraft. This is critical to my photographic success. This then helps figure out flight path, photo platform and camera gear. But this is only part of the photographic process. If the aircraft is a 1930’s plane, it doesn’t “move” in the sky like a WWII fighter. If the plane is on floats, having it just flying and not on water doesn’t tell its story. These are all considerations that come to mind that doing basic literature research really helps with. But it doesn’t end there.

Next is the visual research. I look at all the photographs of the aircraft others have taken over the years. Why? I want ideas for what to do and not to do! This can be everything from angle of attack to light to background. There is no reason when you’re on the clock, literally, to reinvent the visual wheel. This includes looking at my own image library to see what I can improve on and, what I don’t have in my library at all that I can add. This has to include the “crazy” ideas that come to mind during this whole process and/or a client’s request.

From this research, I create a shot list that I send to the client prior to our meeting. Just because I think this would be a cool photograph doesn’t mean that logistically it can be done. First and the biggest consideration is safety! Next, is it something the aircraft can do. And finally, is it something the pilot can do! With that discussion comes the setting of the brief time for the flight. That then puts into action my list for A2A and making sure all the personal and camera gear is prepped and ready. And after all of this, there is no guarantee. I’ve arrived at many a hangar to have the flight scrubbed because of weather or mechanical issue. That is simply part of the process. On the flip side, the brief is done and you’re in the skies seeing all of your planning, prep and ideas coming to life in the viewfinder. That’s the lows and highs of the photographic business. But when those funds change hands and you see the smile on the clients face as they gaze at those big ass prints, it just gets me psyched to do it all over again!

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