Thoughts & Theory

Why Vision Matters


One of the basic principles of my teaching goes thusly:

Three images make the final photograph – the image you envision, the image you shoot, and the image you refine or process in the (digital) darkroom. The better you are at the second two, the closer you are able to come to the first, namely your vision.

This is important because it gives you the ground from which to make the right decisions in accomplishing your vision. I go into my shoots with a clear vision of what I want.

In this case the shoot was a weekend with yogis for a self-promotional shoot. I went in with a clear sense of the look and feel of my images. I had already created a list of adjectives that I wanted my images to evoke when finished. I wanted them full of personality, real people with luminous expressions, in a light, luminous environment. I wanted images that felt lit up on the inside because that’s my experience of many of the yogis I know. I knew from there what kind of models I wanted – genuine yogis who make a difference in the Vancouver yoga scene, and we contacted them.

I also knew what kind of look I wanted and that informed our decisions about wardrobe, back drops, lighting, and eventually, the post-process – all of which was decided ahead of time to create the best possible process that served the initial vision. We wanted clothes with texture, favourite comfortable garments that the yogis themselves wear and like and feel are expressions of their personality. We gave them guidance on the colours, using words like organic, earthy, soft, textured, and loose to further describe the look we wanted. Without exception they showed up ready to shoot with exactly the kind of extensions of their personailities – including props, which in this case included beads, jewelry, children (ok, not really props!) and a surf board.

We catered the shoot with vegetables, organic foods, and water, and made the studio as peaceful as we could knowing the more we helped our subjects feel at ease, the more “yogic” they’d look when the cameras came out.


Lighting was all Elinchrome, 2 strobes blown through a large Chimera softbox on camera left, and a medium Elinchrom Octabank on camera right. Behind the models lighting the seamless and providing some backlight were two more elinchrom strobes, bare bulbs shot into large white panels and bounced back at the paper and the models. This was chosen to give us the most etherial-feeling light, knowing we’d further punch it in Lightroom after the shoot. Here’s a lighting diagram

(click to make it bigger, or go here to get a layered psd file to make your own, courtesy of Kevin Kertz)

In Adobe Lightroom we used a number of techniques to further blow out the background and either punch the contrast, or lower it depending on the look. For some subjects – particularly those shots including children- we wanted more contrast, more playfulness (kids are wonderful, but they’re more playful than they are serene, and there’s plenty of playfulness in yoga). For the shots where we knew we wanted softer, more serene or organic colours, we chose settings that allowed some desaturation or hue adjustments to suit.

What is important is to remember this was all done pro-actively and intentionally. We didn’t just shoot hoping to “get something that doesn’t suck.” We shot with a vision for the communication of the final images and then chose the most expedient combination of techniques – some in camera, some in post – to accomplish that. Vision matters because it’s the destination that determines the choice of road map.

Jun 1st


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CategoryPosted in: News & Stuff, Thoughts & Theory

Lexar Article Published

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May 28th


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CategoryPosted in: Thoughts & Theory, Tutorials &Technique

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