Tag Archives: creative project

How to Make the Most of Your Photographer

Some of photoshoots require more time invested, yet they remain the most memorable and successful.

Investing time, thought and effort into a project pays dividends for the client. You not only get your money’s worth from all the people you’ve hired, but you also build strong relationships that can only enhance your brand. Giving time, thought and energy into a collaborative effort can create win-win situations that serve as fertile ground for growth, be it for the client or the creative team.

Here are some tips from a photographer’s point of view.

1. Communicate ideas as much as possible.


Communication is key to collaborative creativity. Copyright Aloha Lavina.

Time spent in planning a photoshoot is time wisely invested. For a photographer, information about the concepts the client has in mind, the colors and shapes and textures of the products she is shooting will help in the creative decisions. For example, light reflecting off a smooth surface behaves differently from light reflecting off a rough surface. If your photographer knows what materials you used to make your product, he or she can decide what sort of lighting suits that product. Similarly, a concept cannot be translated into an image unless the photographer has all the information necessary to ‘form a picture’ of what the client has in mind. Guessing or leaving this thinking process to the last minute can greatly impair the photoshoot’s effectiveness from lack of time to think through the concept and the added pressure of  reconciling a lot of novel elements in the process.

2. Give the photographer a lot of chances to make good decisions.

A lot of considerations go into a photo session. One of the most important ones is lighting, especially when there are models involved in the shoot. Different facial structures require different lighting set ups to either hide or show certain features. Introducing your photographer to your models before the shoot can help the photographer to think of the lighting decisions for each model’s facial structure and build. Allowing for this to happen by investing time in a meeting between the models and photographer can benefit your brand because the photographer is given more chances to succeed in making images that are interesting and propel the ideas behind your brand.

Different face structures require different lighting setups. Copyright Aloha Lavina.

3. Organize the materials for the shoot.

Photographers pack with great care. A lot of photogs clean their equipment, follow long packing lists, and prepare a lot of small items that can make a difference between a good shot and a great shot. A good photog knows that preparation saves a lot of time; knowing where to reach in the bag when needing something is efficient and good practice.

In the same way, organizing the clothing or accessories can help a photoshoot move along smoothly. For example, organizing the clothes into sets and labeling them clearly with models’ names in the order of the shoot can really speed up the work. Because some shoots require a lot of moving and changing of lighting equipment, being ready with the clothing and accessories gives the creative people in your team more time to take so they can create their magic for you.

4. Trust the creativity of your team

You hired the makeup artist whom you thought would interpret the concept well and has great skills to execute it in makeup or hair. You hired the photographer whose vision and images match your brand’s beauty.

You must trust their creativity, skill and vision, right? You hired them, not someone else.

In a moment of creativity, the creative person is drawn into flow, a state of seemingly effortless innovation. Trusting this process, for many, have produced great leaps in executing a vision. Interrupting it will stilt the creativity and ‘burst the bubble’ of concentration, and it is a difficult thing to re-enter at will. If you had planning sessions and every one in the team is conscious of the time you have to make the magic happen, trust that what the creators do, in their own separate domains of skill, are geared toward making beauty for your brand.

5. Respect talent and skill.

If everyone could do what any one else could do, all images would look the same. We would not have any moments when we look at a photo and our breath catches because it is just so what we wanted to say.

Respect a unique vision and the passion that creates it. Copyright Aloha Lavina.

The creative world is wonderful because each photographer, each makeup artist, pushes him or her self to do better, to learn something else. If you took this energy and passion and channeled it into your brand, you would have power indeed—power to distinguish your product from the others of the same kind, and power to make people look at your ad twice, catching their breath.

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Shooting a Graphic Novel

When Bangkok based Actor Chris Wegoda sent me the script for “The Kill,” I got really excited. The story itself is simple: betrayal, friendship, conflict, murder, regret, mystery. What really got me excited was the chance to shoot with a still camera a series of emotive scenes that would normally require video to work. So my creative problem was, how do I light and direct a photoshoot so it looks like a movie?

We shot the scenes after three weeks of planning and preparation. The shoot itself was at just two locations, one a room with a shower, and another a parking lot with a grungy wall. The rest was portable flashes and the excellent work of three actors–Chris Wegoda, Stephen Thomas, and Faye Nightingale.

The whole shoot took about seven hours, from 5 pm indoor scenes to midnight for the dark scenes.

One of the photos from the shoot on a "movie poster."

Shooting this graphic novel taught me a lot about lighting. I used four SB-900s bare, to visually create the harsh feeling of the story. I used a lot of rim light when possible to outline the characters against the dark backgrounds, like a comic book would. In postproduction, I processed the RAW color file before converting to monochrome and adding a yellow filter to give it that motion picture film look.

And since it’s Christmas, go ahead and DOWNLOAD the graphic novel for FREE from this link.

The Kill A Graphic Novel

How to Stay Creative

“How do you stay creative?” my friend Lance says to me in the middle of a shoot. We are setting up the lights for a set called “Frost,” a makeup and light intensive set portraying the concept of ice and cold.

When makeup artist, designer and stylist Hilde Marie Johansen and I meet to discuss the concepts for this shoot, she and I brainstorm everything, from the clothes to accessories to the lighting and the materials to use for each set. We sketch and write notes. As our ideas takes shape in that meeting, our enthusiasm and excitement for another creative day grows.

Hilde has created an illusion of frozen lips on the model using sugar granules. Her dress is white and light blue fabric. My goal for the shot is to set the

"Frost" by Aloha Lavina.

camera so that the photo comes out cold, with some blue tinge, and have the light just pop out of the softbox white and even, making shadows light and not overpowering. The photo comes out the way I had dreamed it would, and showing it to Lance, who is assisting me, he asks me the question.

Staying creative is a challenge every photographer sets him or herself. Whether photographing families or fashion, it helps to exercise creativity to stay fresh, design dramatic work, and maintain enthusiasm and excitement for each and every job.

How do you stay fresh as a photographer? Here are some tips on how to stay creative.

1. Find your passion.

Discovering what makes you excited as you create an image is key to staying creative. Many people with cameras learn technique by trying a lot of things. It’s great to take risks and give yourself plenty of opportunities to discover your favorites. Whether you are creating still life shots or macro, portraits or panorama landscapes, notice the elements of the shots you consider your favorites. Is it content—what you take photos of? Is it the quality of light? Is it genre? Finding out what you enjoy photographing is key to enjoying a long and happy relationship with your craft.

2. Shoot a lot.

When you’re first starting out, you want to find your niche, that particular brand of photography that helps define you. To help yourself find this corner of your creative happiness, take a lot of photos. Anything that interests you: capture it. When I first started carrying my DSLR every day, I took walks in the evenings. What I found was that I loved capturing vignettes, little stories told by things and light around me. Digital images are cheap – you don’t need to spend money developing them in a shop, and you can set up a “negative” contact sheet electronically in your computer, easily weeding out what doesn’t work and what you liked. The growing portfolio you develop as you shoot will help you to define your creative drive.

3. Surround yourself with people who are passionate and learn from them.

Not just photographers, but musicians, painters, and others have to find their wellspring of inspiration in order to stay creative. Hanging out with creative people gives you a support system for your creativity, and it also helps you tap into the enthusiasm and love that creative people have for their art. This support system is not essential but it helps you keep fresh. I once wrote a poem after hearing a musician play an Indonesian drumming song, giving the

Pamela. Photo by Aloha Lavina.

poem the cadence and tone of the drum (“Bangkok Street Stall”, published in The Chariton Review). Another time, I shot a sequence of images based on someone’s interpretation of anomie. Both times I was inspired by something that was different from the medium I used to express ideas, and the source of inspiration added resonance to what I created. Hanging out with artists not only is fun, but being in a creative atmosphere can spark imagination.

4. Pay attention to moments, and stay in the present.

When I first started with portraiture, I would be so future oriented that I messed up my shots. What happened was, I would be thinking of the next shot I wanted to do while shooting the current shot. The photos often came out blurry from my impatience expressing itself in quick movements. Reflecting on my impatience later, I found out that I have to stay in the present to make each image count.

Besides being patient, paying attention to moments ensures that you are ready to press the shutter release when an expressive moment happens. Taking a series of shots, hoping to get a good one, is wasteful and unnecessary. Waiting patiently for all the elements to fall into place is a creative trait. Yes, art can happen by accident, but wouldn’t it be wonderful if art happens as you act deliberately, making you an active and engaged creator?

5. Don’t be afraid to fail, and stay persistent.

Like in other things we do in life, fear of failure paralyzes us. The part of the brain that deals with stress takes over, and the part of the brain that controls our creative, associative skills freezes. We over-analyze. What results is stilted performance because we have frozen our minds and shut it from flow.

Flow is “optimum performance” given a challenge and some skills (Cszikszentmihalyi). We express flow as effortlessness, when we allow it to happen. Because we already have a

"Somewhere You've Never Been" by Aloha Lavina.

set of skills, given a challenge, we are able to engage in meeting the challenge using all our skills and perhaps be pushed into learning new ones in the process. The key word here is engage. Fear disallows engagement because it creates inside us a stress response (run away or fight). Openness, on the other hand, allows engagement—it is an attitude that helps us to use our perceptions, concentration and skills to perform the necessary actions to meet a challenge.

There is nothing more joyful in photography (and other learning) than the aha moment. Yesterday I assisted my student Soofia in her first conceptual shoot. At one of the sets, lighting was very difficult, but I pushed her to persist in trying different settings or lighting positions.  It took almost half an hour before the lighting worked, but that moment we found the perfect setting and lighting was a moment delicious, full of accomplishment.

This moment should be our goal as creative people. When you stay fearless and persistent, the aha moments you meet along the way will fuel your creativity and enthusiasm, and inspire you to shoot again.


Welcome back and thanks for reading Imagine That! To keep updated with new posts, subscribe to Imagine That! by clicking on the RSS Feed button on the upper right of the Homepage.

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