During Artists In Jackson, my portrait strategy for each artist was a mix of planning and spontaneity.
Others, like Andrew, I didn’t know the location at all, but as we explored the building we found a room with just my kind of light.
My trick is to find a location that has what Brooks Jensen calls a “density of opportunity.” Namely, head to a place I know reasonably well, with cool surroundings, that we can use to make photos. And typically, I try to find a time of day where light comes in at an angle, and I can have fun with shadows or golden hour.
Otherwise, I’m making it up as I go along. And that’s part of the fun, and the learning. Those variables feel comfortable.
That may be why I’m having such a hard time getting started on my next portrait project. This time, my thinking is to have everyone come to one location, with a structured light source, and shoot on a simple backdrop with simple surroundings. There’s no improv involved with the settings, lighting, etc. The only variable is the subject of the portrait – that’s where the chaos comes in.
With such a rigid structure, I feel like everything—the place, the time, the light—has to be perfect before I even get started making photographs. So I haven’t started.
Given enough time, that Not Starting turns into guilt (for not making) and worry (about never starting), and that’s where I sit right now.