EDITED: ...I found of a video of the one and only Ansel Adams who sums it up best. See below...
Sometimes, if you know you are going to have a tough assignment coming up, or just a hard shot in general, it never hurts to plan it out ahead.
That's what I did with the shot above. There's nothing wrong with running & gunning, but sometimes you are limited by time constraints, weather, your model's patience and other various factors. So its not a bad idea to at least try to preconceive your shot before you actually take it. That way you can get setup, take your shot and get done relatively quickly. Also, by previsualizing your shot, you have a better direction on how to actually compose and execute it.
Some of you may know that I am notoriously anal (say it ain't so) and I quite frequently will plan my shots way ahead of doing an actual shoot. I just can't help it.
Previsualization will make you a better photographer and will help you improve your technical skills. Its where the creative side, the technical side and hard work all come together to create a worthwhile image and not just an ordinary snapshot. By no means am I considering the above a Pulitzer prize winner, but it came out pretty much how I saw it in my head and I was happy that it only took a few test shots to get my lighting and composition right.
There are various ways you can plan your compositions too. Sometimes, just being on the scene, analyzing the light, layout and your subject matter will be all the planning you need. Other times, it might make more sense to get an idea of how you want your finished project to look.
That's where the work of art below (click on it for a larger view) comes in. I recently participated in a project on the Louisville Photography Collective (a local website for photographers to network and share ideas) where three photographers were to meet up, and then each photographer had to take a portrait of the other two. Rather than come up with some boring, standard portrait, I wanted to do something different. So, after my idea came to me, I set about sketching it out to work out the logistics of the shot and to get an idea of how I was going to compose it.
So the next time you have a project coming up, take the to time to plan it out a little beforehand and I'd be willing to bet the results will come out much better.
The Key to a Photograph from Ansel Adams from SilberStudios.Tv on Vimeo.