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Maximize Every Shoot With These Four Shots

It can be overwhelming to arrive at a beautiful landscape to make pictures, or to a portrait shoot and be faced with making great pictures on demand. When I make portraits for a client, I have to deliver, or there’s no food on the table–how’s that for pressure? Sometimes I see a good picture and I get excited about making it and I take some time to get it all set and it turns out just right and I love it. But if I leave it at that, then I’ve just spent all that time finessing the situation and walked away with only one good image.

Instead, I’ve learned that thinking like a filmmaker is a much smarter way to go. Filmmakers are always thinking about a wide shot, a middle shot, and a tight shot. So, once I’ve got the approximate pose in place, and I’ve got the light ready to roll, I can maximize the setup by making several pictures and asking myself, “Did I get the wide, middle, and tight?” This isn’t just for portraits: when you shoot a landscape, don’t forget to get the close up stuff. Photograph the mountain, then shoot the tree, then shoot the pine cones on the branches.

Panasonic GX7, 30mm f/2.8 Sigma lens, f/2.8, 1/160s, ISO 200.
Wide. Panasonic GX7, 30mm f/2.8 Sigma lens, f/2.8, 1/160s, ISO 200.
Panasonic GX7, 42.5mm f/1.2 Leica lens, f/1.2, 1/160s, ISO 200.
Middle. Panasonic GX7, 42.5mm f/1.2 Leica lens, f/1.2, 1/160s, ISO 200.
Panasonic GX7, 42.5mm f/1.2 Leica lens, f/1.2, 1/160s, ISO 200.
Tight. Panasonic GX7, 42.5mm f/1.2 Leica lens, f/1.2, 1/160s, ISO 200.

Here’s a bonus. Most photographers are guilty of not getting close enough to their subjects. Thus, besides my wide, middle, and tight shots I also get some tighter shots. These usually end up being my favorites. This is a close up of her face, but it could easily be her hands tying her slippers, or brushing her hair back, or a bug on the bark of the tree, or a corner of the pine cone with needles. Just get tighter.

Panasonic GX7, 42.5mm f/1.2 Leica lens, f/1.2, 1/160s, ISO 200.
Tighter. Panasonic GX7, 42.5mm f/1.2 Leica lens, f/1.2, 1/160s, ISO 200.

Make this a mantra, “Wide, Middle, Tight, Tighter” and you’ll end up with a richer portfolio from every shoot.

Now that I’ve got those basic shots under the belt, I can do something else–make a new pose, a new location, a new light setup. After making the above pictures, I beamed them over to my iPad (love the Panasonic MFT cameras and their app!) and reviewed them with my subject and her mom. While we were looking at them I noticed the breeze blowing wisps across the girl’s face and I got another idea. Since I was covered with my wide, middle, tight, and tighter shots, I was free to create something new, so we walked to a different spot in the parking lot:

Panasonic GX7, 42.5mm f/1.2 Leica lens, f/1.2, 1/160s, ISO 200.
Panasonic GX7, 42.5mm f/1.2 Leica lens, f/1.2, 1/160s, ISO 200.

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