On winging it
Winging it. I’m doing it, they’re doing it, but no one talks about it that much.
I had this idea in my mind that somehow when you become a parent you just knew how to do it. You became an all-knowing fountain of knowledge. It turns out, I’m still me, pottering along in the best way I know how. Surely all Mums know exactly what every peep and gesture from their little one means? Am I meant to know this? In reality, a lot of the time, it’s my best guess. Sometimes my guess is a good one, other times it’s not even in the same ballpark.
I feel like photography has a similar thing going on.
Bear with me here. I’ve been capturing portraits for around 8 years now. I’ve learnt a lot over this time, and my skills have developed and evolved, but the biggest lesson I’ve learnt is to be ok with winging it. It’s taken me a long time to be ok with the discomfort of not knowing exactly how the session is going to go. I’ve learnt to hold that discomfort, examine it thoroughly and breathe through it. Even if the weather holds, if you know the people you are about to photograph, have scoped out the location, and for good measure have a plan of how you are going to direct the session, in my experience there is always a curve ball. I always need to remind my inner Type A to just go with it, and see where the experience takes me.
It’s a tough one for me, to be ok with not knowing.
It’s funny that I like knowing as much as possible beforehand about the shoot – I feel like that gives me a bit of control over the end result (hint, it doesn’t). My images are SO much stronger when I drop my expectations of how the session is going to be, and remind myself that ‘The Plan’ only happens in my imagination. In fact, I have come to accept that the planning stage is mostly to appease my nerves and often has no resemblance to how everything pans out.
My most recent photo session in central London was a fine example of this.
My early morning train was rerouted. The first intended shoot location was covered in rubbish from last night’s street party. The second one was cordoned off for an event later that day. Even the lovely soft UK light that I’m used to shooting in disappeared in London’s heatwave. The third location was obscured by a large rubbish truck. I mean, the universe was having a bit of a laugh at my inner control freak. But you know what? We figured out a new plan as we went along, In the end my client and I were really happy with what we captured.
I still have moments when The Planner in me wants to create a bullet point extenstive list of what we are going to do, and exactly how the session is going to run. And then I give myself a nudge, and permission to tiptoe to the edge of uncertainly. And I remember that this space of not knowing is exactly where the magic of genuine connection and expression happens, every single time.