Tips From a Pro: Great Shots Take Great Planning

Feedback from others doesn't hurt either

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Jason Lindsey is based in Champaign, IL. For more of his work, check out JasonLindsey.comJason Lindsey

It's practically a photographic rite of passage: Making what you think are great photos only to be disappointed later when you find the images just don’t live up to your expectations. You then embark on the quest to discover the secret of photographic expressiveness, only to find it’s a never-ending challenge.

Commercial photographer Jason Lindsey has traveled this road, and he finds that a conscious thought process combined with immediate feedback from others can lead to a satisfying outcome. This is how he succeeded with this shot.

Lindsey was hired to promote Native American tourist destina-tions in North Dakota, and he knew his images needed to evoke authentic cultures. Pow-wows and dancing made perfect subjects for this assignment; for maximum control Lindsey arranged to have the dancers perform just for his camera. This let him get in close and draw on the power and mysticism of the moment. “I wanted to find the emotional quality of the dancing and not be too literal,” he says. “It's important to capture the feeling of reality without losing the mystique.”

To do that, he started with his Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III and Canon 16–35mm f/2.8L zoom, set wide to capture all the scene’s important elements. The sound and movement of the feathers of the regalia, for example, are essential to the dance, so Lindsey emphasized them by shooting close in and through them. He also made sure the earth lodge was visible in the background to establish a sense of place. Then, in post, Lindsey desaturated all color, excepting the yellow and red in the garments.

Lindsey describes the process of finding a visual approach for a subject as “sketching” with a camera. At first, he visually explores the space by quickly trying various camera positions and a variety of lenses. Then he shares the images with others and invites their opinions. The resulting input, he says, can be invaluable for turning a preliminary sketch into a more successful final image.

For this shot, Lindsey and the ad campaign’s creative director identified the strongest ideas for Lindsey to refine.

The moral of this story? If you’re looking for a breakthrough to create more meaningful images, the secret may be to seek out the opinions of others.

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