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  • Writer's pictureAndrei Tanase

Preparing to Take Photos

Updated: Jun 11, 2021

A topic less considered, but nonetheless important as we take our first steps in photography, is preparation. A set of tasks that can span from the dull (but crucial) process of charging your camera batteries to the thrill of mapping out a new set of locations for your next destination.

Whether it is we decide to photograph in a new or very well known environment, strange or very familiar subjects, there are certain preparations that will improve our success rate, allow us to easier troubleshoot on the spot any possible challenges, or capture unique or less recurrent moments.

With hope this will be of some use for you to create a structured approach to your preparation process, I've compiled a list of tasks, essential and recommended, that I find myself in need of to increase the chances of capturing those moments I am looking so much forward for.

Essential prep tasks:

  • Decide on the subject(s) you will photograph,

  • Get familiar with the environment you are planning to photograph in,

  • Taking in consideration the subject(s) and environment, decide what equipment you need and plan how to best use it.

Additional recommended prep tasks:

  • Update yourself on any changes in variables related to the subject(s) or the environment,

  • Cross check your gear is prepared for the task, and easily available for use at the right moment(s).


Decide on The Subject(s) You Will Photograph

Deciding on a goal (or a so called subject hero) for a series of photos you are planning to take will substantially increase your chance to be satisfied with the results and ensure you've practiced certain photography skills you are interested to develop.

There are of course situations where our approach to the selection of subjects can be spontaneous and creative, less methodical and strongly connected to the causality of the moment. And the resulting photos are wonderful additions.

Any of these approaches will most definitely provide you with good opportunities to practice what theory you have learnt and develop your understanding and knowledge of photography.

Duck | Animals |

I would recommend you to prepare for both.

Plan a set of subjects to photograph and plan to expect certain "surprise" subjects based on the environment you decided to locate yourself in.

For example, plan to shoot the setting sun over you favorite lake and plan for the possibility to photograph certain birds or wildlife native to the location. Such was the case when I took the picture of this duck, going out to photograph sunset.


Get Familiar With the Environment

The more comfortable you feel with the environment in which you're planning to photograph in and the more familiar you are with it, the easier will be to focus on creating your photos and learn as much as possible out of the process.

The environment encompasses a broad range of variables, therefore it is useful for us to consider the following:

  • What distance do we have to travel (if we have to travel any) to get to the place(s) we intend to photograph in?

  • How much time will it require us to travel there?

  • What time of day do we need or want to be there based on necessary or optimal conditions for photographing the subject(s)?

  • Where will we have to be located in relative position the subject(s) for a pleasing composition or better light?

  • What per-arrangements do we need to secure in order to get there (for example purchasing a transport ticket or paying an access fee)?

  • What is the weather forecast?

  • Is it possible that the weather forecast will hinder our access to certain locations or will substantially increase our travel time?

There are of course many additional variables that can be added to the list, and I encourage you to do so based on the type of photography your are intending to practice.

For example if you are planning to take portraits in a photo studio the environmental variables will be significantly different, such as considering if you have your own studio or you have to book one, if the gear necessary for your chose light setup is available on location or you have to bring it there or additional power sources for the studio gear in case of a surge.


Decide What Equipment You Need and Plan How to Use It

Taking in consideration the subject(s) you decided for your photos and the environment you are planning to photograph in, planning your gear, photography and non-photography related, is essential.

Here is a list of tasks to consider:

  • Is the gear we have prepared and organized (for example, batteries charged, memory cards with sufficient storage space in the photo camera, sensor dust removed and lens cleaned, your flash unit has batteries as well, your tripod joint screws are secured)?

  • What camera(s) are we going to use and what lenses?

  • What additional photo gear do we need or is useful to have (for example lens cloths, tripod, neutral density filters)

  • If we are intending to use a drone, are we legally allowed to do so (for example we have an appropriate operating license as required by the law of the state where we are going to take photos in) and do we know the operating regulations imposed by law (for example, depending on the weight and dimensions of the drone we might be restricted to certain operating altitude restrictions or we might have to adhere to minimum operating distance restrictions to airfields and private property),

  • What gear items (non photography related) do we need in order to reach the destination(s) and do we have the knowledge to use them (for example metal crampons, climbing rope, diving equipment)

  • What additional gear items do we need based on the weather forecast and environmental conditions or time of day we are planning to photograph in (for example rain clothes, hiking boots, a flashlight or even easy to bypass items such as a cap, mosquito spray or a spare pair of socks).


Going Forward

I hope this blog post offered you useful insight into the preparation process, and you will feel more confident and comfortable the next time you are prepared to take photos.

As an exercise, I would encourage you to bui