This Wicca-inspired shoot "Witch Sisters” was my first big milestone in 2019 as I sought to venture deeper into conceptual photography. Below are four key lessons I learnt through the process.
1. Plan every minute detail
Every seemingly small detail can heavily impact how the final picture turns out and if you leave it to chance, it probably will not turn out right. A good example of this is where the models are looking in the frame. As you can imagine, this gets more complex the more models you have in the frame. I thought I had everything planned out because I had a detailed mood board, several kilograms of props ready to use and rough scribbles of what I wanted to shoot but on a shoot with this many people, that was not enough.
A lot of time was also spent between photographs trying to figure out what the next scene should look like, and which props would work best. In the end, this slowed down the shoot’s momentum and meant that half the props I was trudging around were not even necessary. It saves a lot of energy if everything frame is as planned as possible beforehand.
Can you make out my scribbles?
2. Team spirit is essential
Every portrait photographer knows that interacting with the model well is important for getting the right shot. This is however made more complex when shooting a detailed concept with a team of people.
Proper planning is important to keep energy levels up and maintain momentum, however simultaneously, being too strict with the outcome leaves little room for new ideas and can kill morale. And there will be a lot of ideas when you are shooting with many people. In the end, it is important to appreciate that everyone has taken the time to make your concept come to life and to make having fun top priority; like adults playing make-pretend.
3. A little creativity makes impossible things possible
I have made a lot of excuses in the past as to why it was not possible to shoot the concepts I had in mind. It is always the same thing: ‘I will wait until I have enough experience’, ‘I don’t have the resources to make it happen’…
But after being blown away by how large Hollywood productions also rely on creative hacks (see: Grand Budapest Hotel BTS) I realised that the only thing stopping me from realizing concepts was an unwillingness to be resourceful.
4. Patience is key
This concept started with a rough idea of shooting three girls in white dresses in the woods. Three months passed before that initial idea turned into the photographs seen here. I find it incredible how an image that is shot in a fraction of a second and is seen by viewers for only a few seconds, takes so much time and energy to create.
It is easy to focus on all the things that I could have done even better in retrospect but I guess I have to contend with waiting until my next big concept to incorporate these lessons. And I hope it is not three months away! (EDIT: even if it is three months away…)
Shoutout to my awesome team:
Annika | Couturière and Costume Designer
Marisa | Model
Oliwia | Model
Feli | Model
Robin | fellow Photographer and Assistant for this shoot