We all do it at one point or another. We like taking photos of nature (for example), so we take more and more photos of nature, and tend over look other areas of photography. Then one day, someone calls up and says, "Hey, we were talking the other day about you doing photography. I think I have some extra work for you, are you interested?"
"Sure!" You say enthusiastically, then almost as an after thought you ask, "What are we shooting?"
The person you are talking with has decided to go for the World Speed Record in a wheel chair. Now, I've taken photos of people and I've taken photos at more traditional sporting events, like Football, Basketball, and Soccer; but how do you gear up for something you have NEVER shot before? The first photo tip to remember is to always have business cards with you. Because even though he said "the other day" you realize it has been almost two years since you had this discussion, but you did give him a business card and obviously he kept it.
Back to the problem at hand, this photo shoot is prior to the actual event. The photos he wants you to take are to be used as promotion shots. The customer suggests a local park for the photo shoot location. The first photo obstacle is the location itself, yes there are some nice points but, this park has office buildings on one side and a huge school on the other side. Always be aware of the background in your photo shoot.
Admittedly this was a new situation for me, but the first dozen shots or so just didn't feel right to me. Then my mind starting thinking about how I take photos of little kids at weddings; I get down on their level. Yes, this was a full size adult, but the photos didn't feel right until I was at the same level he was. If the subject is looking down and you photograph looking down at him, there is no interaction. Always take your photos with interaction in mind.
This particular person designed this particular wheel chair specifically for racing. Being totally naïve regarding handicap racing, I had to reply on his expertise to get the right photo. Regardless of the type of event you are shooting, remember this photo tip: use other people's knowledge to make your photos look more professional. In wheelchair racing for example; the front wheels control all the steering. If I had only shot photos with his hands resting on the back wheels, anybody who did know the event would know I (the photographer) didn't know what I was doing.
Even though we started this photo shoot early in the morning, the higher the sun got, the more dramatic the shadows got. When the subject was in an actual racing stance and he was leaning forward in his chair it did create some really deep shadows. I experimented with a reflector, a flash and some photos with both. Even though it was a beautiful day, quote "not a cloud in the sky"; I had to be prepared to control the existing light.
To review the lessons learned when photographing something totally out of your everyday experience, this is what I had to learn, or relearn to get the job done:
A) Always have photo business cards available, you never know when they can lead to new and exciting photo opportunities. (Even two years later.)
B) Always be aware of the background! That sounds obvious, but you want to make sure the subject is the main center of attention in your photo, not a reflection off an office window.
C) Always take photos with interaction in mind. Originally I was going to say at the same eye level, but during this photo shoot I also got down and took pictures at ground level as well.
D) Always use other people's expertise to make your photos look good. This is especially true when shooting things you have never shot before. The subject is more likely to like your work if he or she knows they actually helped with the input.
E) Always be prepared to control the light in your photo to meet the needs of the shoot. A bright sunny day is not always the best time to take a great photograph. Remember this: the brighter the light, the harsher the shadows.
A final thought, as a photographer, your most valuable tool is your mind and the ability to think and see creatively. Do not get so wrapped up in one specialty area of photography that you forget to apply those same photo tips to other areas as well. Life is a journey, not a destination. Likewise, who and what we are as photographers is what we learn from the different types of things we allow ourselves to photograph.
Award winning writer / photographer Tedric Garrison has over 30 years experience in photography. As a Graphic Art Major, he has a unique perspective on the Elements of Design and how those elements relate to all aspects of photography. His photo eBook "Your Creative Edge" (http://www.betterphototips.com/creativeedge.htm) proves that creativity CAN be taught. Today, he shares his wealth of knowledge with the world, at:http://www.betterphototips.com
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