Previsualisation for Photographers

A common theme among many stunning and successful images is planning & preparation. But before planning and preparation comes previsualisation, which usually starts with an idea, influence or vision.

Previsualisation is looking at a scene or idea and imaging how it will look in the final form. That previsualisation will then drive how the image is shot and post processed.

Previsualisation or Previs has been used by film makers for years, probably since the invention of motion picture production. You may be familiar with storyboards, an essential and integral part of the process for many. A storyboard doesn’t need to be fancy sketches or computer generated images, just a series of representations on which an image or scene can be planned.

For many years I worked as a corporate TV production manager/producer in London where planning whole programmes was an essential part of the production process, especially where clients and financial compliance where concerned.

Once you have your idea, a sketch or whatever, you can begin planning. Look at the images created by others to get an idea of what’s really involved. Look at the work of photographers you admire, magazine ads, editorial images. These images don’t just happen, in some cases the planning is meticulous, in others quick and spontaneous, but they all start with an idea. A fine example is that of Stuart Woods latest wedding image.

Creating an image isn’t about the gear, but the idea. It’s not the photographers with latest or most expensive gear which create stunning images, but those who think their shots through and prepare.

Remember the 7Ps - Proper Planning and Preparation Prevents Piss Poor Performance Get it right, first time and every time!

Elements to consider when planning your images

Cast & crew - models, talent, hair, makeup, assistants.

Location or studio? Do you need to permission to or a permit to shoot at the location? Does the studio have the lighting you need?

Wardrobe, props - tell the story, communicate the mood or theme.

Time of day, light & lighting. There are any number of online aids and apps to aid planning an outside or location shoot. One of note is Shot Hot Spot which brings together crowd sourced feedback & images , plus integration with Google maps & The Photographers Ephemeris.

Accessibility, how will you and those involved travel. What about local facilities, drink, food, sanitation?

Cameras, lenses, supports, grip & effects. Often overlooked by many. A tripod not only helps with sharp images, they are an aid to composition. Lenses help focus on a area of the frame (think Tom Hooper, The King’s Speech) or contribute to a sweeping vista (David Lean, Lawrence of Arabia).

Post production - what processing, editing and retouching will be required? Do you need to shoot accordingly.

Whilst not an exhaustive list, you get the idea.

What you exclude from the frame is as important as what’s included. The 35mm slide mount in the image above I use as an aid when framing a shot. Most of the time I shoot full frame, in other words a 36 x 24mm sensor, the same size as an old 35mm stills film frame.

By holding the slide mount to your eye and moving back and forth you get an idea of framing the shot. The closer to your eye simulates a wide angle lens, further away a telephoto lens. So one inch from your eye equates to a 24mm lens, whilst 4 inches 100mm and so on.

If you're serious about your photographic lighting then maybe The LIGHT Side Facebook group will interest you. It's about all things to do with light and lighting. TLS is a closed group so someone will need to add you or you'll need to send a request to be added. It's a friendly group, with a degree of humour and some great photographers willing to share and contribute.


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