Story and photography by Kelly Funk
Everyone has their own style of shooting, whether they know it or not; a style that allows them to create the most powerful images based on their inherent personality and traits. Sound like a textbook excerpt from behaviorist B.F. Skinner? Well, maybe it should because over the years I’ve determined there are two types of photographer styles: the “concept shooter,” or one that pre-plans an image in his or her mind before executing, and the “opportunist,” or someone that heads out with a vague idea of where they want to go hoping for the best. Before you read any further note that there’s no right or wrong here, but by understanding what’s best suited for your personality and traits, you may very well be able to maximize results in the field.
In the spring issue of OPC, Editor-in-Chief Roy Ramsay touched on this in his Photographer’s Lifestyle column by stating it’s important to him to pre-scout a location versus going with the flow. Personally I’m very much a concept junkie, but is this always the way to go? In my opinion, no. Many times I’ve arrived at a locale with very specific intentions, only to find that circumstances were not conducive to the results I wanted. In a situation like this I struggle to change my mindset, and thus may miss opportunities. If things do go according to plan I can almost always create something I’m very happy with or even stronger than I had envisioned; however, I continue to work on being creatively flexible in order to not panic when things don’t go exactly as planned. I’ve come to accept that it’s just the way I am. I think results for everyone can be improved by recognizing what style suits us best, yet remaining creatively open.
Which are you?
The key here is to understand what style suits you best. So ask yourself, do I get most excited about creating something in my imagination, utilizing a location I’m familiar with and adding different ingredients to create a strong concept, or am I the type of person who gets the biggest thrill out of seeing what fantastic opportunities present themselves in the course of a day? I definitely started out by being an opportunist, but through experience now get the most enjoyment out of letting my creative mind flow with endless possibilities until I literally create a very distinct image that I need to try and execute. For me, this is at least half the pleasure I get from photography. The image in my head is extremely vivid and I know exactly what I have to do to create it. For example, both young ladies shown here, the first a ballerina, the second a professional hair and makeup stylist, are concepts that I created well before the shoot itself that included direction, locale, artificial lighting and composition. The fall reflection image (previous page) was a chance opportunity from a walk about on a beautiful piece of farm land. By being flexible in all scenarios I was able to produce something I was happy with.
The common thread here in my experience is no matter what type of photographer you are that allows you to produce the best imagery, it’s absolutely paramount to remain flexible in all situations. Photography has so many variables and some remain out of our control. To fight those variables too much would reduce your opportunities. One thing is certain, you never get another chance to create something, whether it be a concept or an opportunity. I personally continue to work on my flexibility. Being aware of your own strengths and weaknesses should allow for continual improvements.
To read more great how-to articles from our top pros please pick up the Fall/Winter 2015 issue of OPC. To never miss an issue please subscribe today!