For a long time (too long) I wasn't shooting my own work or creating the art that was piling up in my head. I had this notion that everything must be perfect first. "I can't do this shoot until I'm better at lighting." "Oh that idea would be cool, but I need to find a talented professional model to do that." "I should really wait until I have a makeup artist here or there's no point in shooting this concept." These were the kinds of silly thoughts that used to plague Past-Bert. (For all those who have not done their homework and studied all of my other posts, Past-Bert is the former version of my current self. He came up...in the past...in this post.) Yes my friends, there was a rather sad length of time when Past-Bert doubted himself. He didn't think he was ready. The stars had to align in the correct order, the air had to be exactly the right temperature, the tides had to be out, but not too far out! He was a crazy person; what was he thinking!? At the beginning of 2014 something clicked in his bewildered head, he had had enough. All the tools were at his fingertips and he was ready. Sometimes you have to just do it. There's never going to be some magical perfect time when everything lines up; that time is always now. The only way anyone is going to get better at anything is to do it over and over and over again and to learn from their mistakes as much as (if not more than) from their successes.
Now don't let me lead you astray with the title of this post. It's an absolutely EXCELLENT idea to plan things. Whenever possible I do plan out as much as I can before a photo shoot. If anything changes on the spot, splendid, but if there's a plan to set in motion it really helps things go smoothly. HOWEVER, this does not mean that it's wrong to just shoot something off the cuff, with no idea what sort of an outcome is intended. Sometimes I need to shoot. Once in a while the gravitational pull of the studio is too powerful; I can't fight it just because I don't have anything planned! So I roll with it. That is precisely what happened with "Temptress of the Tides."
IF SOMETHING TELLS YOU TO SHOOT, DON'T FIGHT IT
Those of you readers that did do your homework, know that I've spoken of my friend Liza before (in this post), and will most definitely be mentioning her again. (Future-Bert has some things up his sleeves that involve this lovely lady.) Liza was so gracious as to leave in my possession a beautiful black asymmetrical dress she had crafted. I hung it in my apartment and it stared at me every time I walked by. It was a snarky sorta stare. "Stop giving me that look dress!! I'll use you as soon as I come up with an idea you'd be good for," I would say to it. (Not really, what do you think I'm a crazy person who talks to snazzy clothing? *insert quiet maniacal laughter here*) I was having a bit of a relapse to my old ways, and didn't want to use the dress until I had the absolute perfect plan all sorted out for it . Then one evening, with an open schedule and hunger to shoot, I could resist the siren song of the dress no longer. "FINE! I've had it with your attitude dress. Come with me." I snatched it off the hanger and oh what do you know, it fit my wife Sara like a glove! (...Well more like a dress actually, and one that was practically made for her.) "What is the image going to be" she eagerly inquired. "I have no idea, but it's going to be awesome," I explained.
TRY LOTS OF THINGS AND HAVE FUN!
As often as I can, I like to bring in a makeup artist to collaborate with. In the past that was a make or break thing. No makeup specialist, no photo shoot. But duh, Sara and I are both artists, and if you can paint on a canvas, you can paint on a face! We decided on some red lips, slightly shaded and highlighted cheek bones, and a "dark smokey eye" to go along with the black dress. Since I didn't have a plan, the dress made most of the decisions for me. We slapped her hair up into a messy bun (by we I mean Sara, she's got mad bun skills), because the dress was strapless and we figured we should show off her shoulders. (Maybe I'm biased, but they're damn nice shoulders.) I believe we had a little Nicki Minaj Pandora radio station blaring, you know, to set the mood. Sara loves her some Minaj jams, so it was a given. I almost always have music on during shoots...also during most hours that I'm awake. I got my lighting set up, something simple-ish, similar to what I've done for other shoots; then we just started to play around! She struck all kinds of poses, I messed around with different lighting setups, and we danced and laughed into the evening.
In the end I really liked the way this pose looked. The dress had a slight ballroom-ish-ness to it, almost like a dark Cinderella type feel (No? Just me?), and this position reminded me of her running away and looking back for her glass slipper. (Side note, what the heck kind of a girl wears slippers to a ball? Those are for lounging around the house. Who are we kidding, they were high heels! ...I guess "Glass High heel" was too wordy...) Once I settled on the pose I had her try it several more times with different facial expressions, head tilts, hand positions and whatnot.
SEE WHAT YOUR PHOTOS HAVE TO SAY
Ok, now comes the fun part... Well the shoot was really fun, so here comes the next fun part. I looked through all my images to let them inspire me. Yes, I had already pretty much decided on the pose I liked, but I still wanted to check all the pictures to see with fresh eyes if one of them jumped out at me. There were many shots I rather liked (who knows I might use some of them in the future if the mood strikes), but I still went with the "Cinderella" pose. I was looking at the way the dress fell and sorta flowed off of her hips (again with the dress making all my decisions), and this vision popped into my head of the dress continuing to flow off of her as if she were part of a dark inky ocean. Perhaps she was some sort of beautiful mythological siren that didn't stick to the rocky coast of an Island to lure unsuspecting sailors to their doom, but one that wandered the vastness of the ocean looking for ships to plummet to the ocean floor. (What an evil bitch.)
JUST KEEP EDITING AND YOU'LL GET THERE...
As you'll see in my speed edit (WHAT!? A speed edit, YAAYY!), without a clear vision I did some stumbling along throughout my editing journey towards the final image. (To be honest, I cut out several parts of the edit to shorten it, so you don't even get to see all of the bumps in the road.) I had to try different things to see what worked and what didn't. I even found myself doing a major overhaul after I realized that I'd broken one of my own rules from my compositing tips post. I put a fancy sunset behind her, when the lighting was coming from above to the left. (Bad Past-Bert *slaps wrist*)
However, THEN things took a turn for the interesting when I ended up blending the two versions together into an image I liked better than either of them!! So really all I'm saying here people, is that once in a while it's not a terrible idea to challenge yourself and shoot without an idea in mind. Let all the inspiration, planning, and heavy creative thinking happen afterwords. Mix it up a little. Obviously this is not the best way to go about creating conceptual pictures - it definitely takes longer and you'll end up with way more captures than you really need. Not to mention you'll edit for days (at least I did). When you aren't envisioning something in your head to begin with, it's more difficult to know when it's finished. All that said, I challenge you to try this exercise and see what happens. Planning ahead is awesome and after going through this experience myself, I think I'll definitely try to plan my shoots as often as I can, but without a little lack of planning and one charismatic black dress I would have never created the "Temptress of the Tides."