embracing the grey

It is rare that a shoot goes exactly as planned, and at times all plans are rendered moot. I was rudely reminded of this fact in a recent client shoot. After discussing her goals for the shoot, reviewing photos that she likes, and meeting her budgetary requirements, my client and I were both excited about  our plans for an early morning, outdoor shoot with the goal of getting a few great head and full body shots portraying a fresh, natural look highlighted by a golden glow. I selected a location and scouted several good backgrounds to maximize the angle of the sun at the specific time and date scheduled. Attire, makeup, hair and jewelry all discussed; lenses selected; batteries charged; coffee-maker set to brew at 5:15 AM; alarm (reluctantly) set. Everything was ready for a perfect natural light shoot. Except the natural light!

[It’s ok… scroll down to the photos (I know that I would)… you can always come back and read this later.. or not]

Instead of the beautiful warm sunlight of morning “golden hour”, we would be faced with heavily overcast skies, damp grounds, and the expectation of rain at any minute. It is at this moment, or perhaps after a few seconds of screaming and cursing, when it is critical for a photographer to remember and use the Serenity Prayer.

“God, give me grace to accept with serenity the things that cannot be changed,Courage to change the things which should be changed, and the Wisdom to distinguish the one from the other.”

  • Accept what cannot be changed. The weather could not be changed. The dim, dreary light could not be changed. The gray skies could not be changed. And my client opted not to change the schedule unless rain forced us to terminate the session.
  • Courage to change the things that should [or can] be changed. In the case of this shoot, I do not think that a great deal of courage was required, but it did take some recognition and technical know-how. We needed to change expectations–not of quality, but of the type of photo, the mood and emotional tones we could expect. It was useless to try to get golden, glowing shots, but a great hazy or misty image can also be stunning. Beautiful blue skies and lush green backgrounds were unlikely, but we could turn to architecture as background, blur backgrounds, or just minimize backgrounds altogether and shoot close up. Unbalanced light? I am not above helping mother nature with a bit of well-placed flash and some post-process reworking of light levels and tonal curves. And perhaps most important, rather than try to force “fresh-and-happy: onto “dreary-and-gloomy”, we could portray different expressions that better matched the ambience provided.
  • The wisdom to distinguish the one from the other. While I think and hope that I brought at least some of the wisdom needed, I leave it to my client and you to make this determination by reviewing the results of this session.

Here is what we did…


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