I just wanted to talk about walking into a space to shoot your first tour - many of you are in that position, are considering the task or have just shot one or two and are kicking yourselves at the mistakes you made.
I remember the first tour I shot so vividly - why? Because I blew it. The lead image has me in the reflection of the stove (why didn't I move?! what an insane dork!). All the lines are wonky, things are out of focus, the color balance is off and a lot of the pictures are too dark.
I gave myself thirty minutes to shoot this space, the homeowner said yes to the time frame and then when I got there, she called to say she needed a little more time, "Could we start 10 minutes late but I still have to leave at the appointed time to pick up my other child?" Now I had 20 minutes to do a big job I was unsure of and nervous about and I stumbled out a "Sure, of course."
I arrived and her young son had a meltdown, so I was really working with about 12-13 minutes to shoot the tour and interview the home owner. "Being rushed" would be a polite way of describing what was going on with me. I was shooting and sweating like a mad woman. I couldn't think of any real compositional strategies as far as photographing her in the space so I just started with where they were (and didn't move from it - I had a mean case of dead legs). I got onto her counter to get an overview shot and hit my head on a dangling light. I continued my disheveled, nose dive of a tour, bonked head and all and said things were 'cool.' I left a hot mess with about 50 images, 30 of which were too blurry to be usuable (no tripod) and a passable gallery for a first shoot.
The shoot went down in flames, I scooted out with a big sigh and obscenities flooding from my mouth at high volume in the car all the way home -- but I learned a TON.
- Timing. Hello - 30 minute window, yeah right! We need at least an hour planned to shoot any space. First we arrive and we banter - so critical that banter is! It greases the wheels for you and the folks you're photographing -- sets the tone for a fun experience for all. I arrive early, addresses can be hard to find and I leave a little early if I get done - but you never know, they could be living in a 6 bedroom in which case it's going to take longer than shooting just one room.
- Compositional Ideas. Now I arrive with a few compositional ideas in my head for my lead image/portrait; even if they're as basic as tight portrait, interacting with an object and hanging out outside… At least I have some variation and safety within a few different options. I love looking at inspiring photos, and using compositional or framing ideas I've been inspired by.
- Slowing Down. (So as not to hit my head on a lamp or break their stuff!). Going slower makes me relax, I take better pictures when not totally nervous out of my mind with a welt on my head. It calms the people you're photographing too - they're nervy w/their space going online for millions to see and now I see part of my job is to just be as chill as possible and get the job done and get to know someone through their space.
It's also great to walk away from a room or a person for a minute, try to clear your head and see the scene anew - maybe there's an idea there you hadn't tried instead of being slave to the first shot that came to mind.
- Not getting locked in. As much as I can, I'm moving during a shoot and not getting too comfortable ("free work out" my father-in-law calls it) getting into all nooks and crannies and holding squatting poses. It's no good to get stuck in one position (especially when you realize that wasn't the best angle when you get home and download pics!) - shooting from multiple perspectives/modes gives you choices and great images are about selecting from a handful of good pictures.
- Equipment. I bring my tripod now and get lead images straight - It takes a little extra time, but so worth it. It also helps me to slow down the process and notice details I may have missed as I'm lining up my shot. I also have an external flash and swap out lenses if I need to. And extra charged batteries.
I treated each tour as a small step to understanding shooting spaces, the life they breathe and those who inhabit them. And with little steps came bigger steps, and on occasion, a big leap and a great image.