Collaborating with Friends
When I first started as a photographer, I could not create images enough. I feel like I always had my camera on me and I was always asking people to go out and shoot just for fun. I would see pretty light and make whoever was with me be my model even for just a few minutes. I was constantly trying to practice my skills, improve my craft and was so thirsty for experience in any form I could get. I soon made friends with other photographers and began to collaborate with other creatives.
We would get dressed up so we could practice photographing each other and we’d go on little photography outings together, which was SO much better than trying to do it alone. We’d share insight in how to pose people, how to shoot for specific effect, how to edit our images once we got them downloaded. We were constantly experimenting and creating and therefore constantly learning. It was the best.
Now, as a full-time photographer (who also happens to be kind of a stay-at-home mom with two kids), it’s harder to find time to collaborate just for fun. However, I still need this creative “play” time or my work will become stale and my drive to continue this beloved career of mine will wane. That play time with my camera is what allows me to experiment with new things that I can bring to my client work as well as challenge myself with new ways of shooting all while also keeping that creative fire in me lit. It’s essential for my work, but it’s also so much fun.
So, the best way that I have found to keep up this creative play time is to collaborate with other creative people who need great photos, but who will allow me to be totally free to create what I want without very specific expectations. And I can’t recommend doing this enough.
Working with The Life Styled
One of those creative people who came into my life years ago is Catherine Sheppard of The Life Styled, a style blogger and all-around style genius. We have done countless shoots together and most recently she asked me to create images for a new blog series she was launching earlier this year.
The series was called Fashion Feng Shui and was essentially a series on how to use the five elements to define, understand and enhance your personal style. It’s a really incredible method of looking at your personal style and from her I have learned so much about my own style and how I can use what I wear to help achieve my goals. It sounds a little hippy-dippy, but I am so into it and totally recommend reading her full series about it here to learn more about how useful it really is. (As a sidenote, she also has a workshop series and her next workshop is coming up on June 17th in Los Angeles. If you’re interested in learning more directly from her with other like-minded women, check out her workshop!)
Working on this shoot meant a few things: 1. I got to collaborate with and photograph of my gorgeous friends. duh! 2. I got to help choose locations to complement the feel of each element and bring it to life visually. So fun! 3. I got to have total creative freedom in showcasing each of these elements- there were no rules, really. I just had to make each element come alive using the location and the outfit that Catherine chose for each shoot.
Below are some of my favorite images that demonstrated the qualities of each element according to Fashion Feng Shui. Seeing all the images come together for this project was so fun and I’m really proud of what we created, but mostly I’m just happy I got to play with someone like Catherine who really inspires me creatively.
Results of a Creative Collaboration
You may be asking- ok, but how do I do this. Here are four pieces of advice to going about collaborating with other creatives and making it a valuable experience for your work.
- Brainstorm Ideas. You’re a creative person so I’m sure you have so many ideas for the types of images you want to create. Make a list of all of your photo shoot ideas- actually write them down. Choose one that speaks to you most and try to outline it in your mind so that you can articulate your full idea to someone else.
- Determine the team. Some shoots will require just one other creative person (like these that I did with Catherine), but some will require a few or more. Make a list of people you know with whom to collaborate (either in real life or even those on social media to whom you can reach out) that you think could help execute your idea well. Does your idea require floral elements for styling? Well, make a list of florists you love. Do you need a model? Think of friends who are willing to be in front of your camera. Then, start reaching out to people to explain the basics of your idea and see if they’re willing to get creative with you to make something awesome. Most of the time, other creative people are as excited about making something great as you are!
- Have a plan. Once you have the general shoot concept and the team of other creatives, it’s time to start logistics. Pull together everything you need for the shoot and find a location. Also, think about how you might use these images. Is it just for practicing a certain skill (shooting products), are you trying to add to your portfolio, are you looking to use these for publication? Even though this is a creative shoot and the priority should be to play, you may be able to utilize these images for your advantage in some way, so have that thought through before you start shooting.
- Go shoot and have fun! The whole point of these shoots is to collaborate with others and to break the mold of how you’re used to shooting. Whenever I have a creative shoot like this, I spend lots of time looking to unique sources of inspiration that are very different from things I usually shoot. For example, I love looking through my fine art photography books of greats like Henri Cartier Bresson and Elliot Erwitt for unique portrait compositions. I love looking to fashion photography, landscape photography, anything different from what I have been shooting lots of recently. Doing this helps me prepare to think differently about composing, lighting, posing, etc. and helps me to create something new and unique the day of the shoot. If while shooting you feel yourself slipping back into automatic mode, force yourself to do something new. Here are a few tips to shooting techniques that make me shoot something in a new way: a.) If you’re used to shooting things wide open (f1.4, for example), make yourself shoot at f5.6 or f8 to see how that changes how you’re shooting; b.) experiment with very slow shutter speeds; c.) if you’re used to shooting in open shade or backlit, try shooting something in full sun; d.) change your perspective- usually we are used to shooting things from eye-level, but it’s super fun to change that up by climbing a tall ladder and shooting from high above or to lie on the ground and shoot from way low. Simply changing your height of taking a photo can open up a whole new world of photographic possibilities.
Remember, the goal here is to collaborate to make something new to inspire your creativity. Sometimes these experiments are wildly successful and lead to new techniques you can use in your professional work. Sometimes, however, they don’t turn out so great, but you will still always learn something in the process.