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5 P’s for Photography

Applying the 5 P’s to photography

Proper Preparation Prevents Poor Performance” was first coined by the British Military during WWII and has become a popular guide for everyone from marketing executives through to athletic coaches and it can just as easily be applied to photography.

A perfect example was a shoot I did this past week for a tutorial I wrote for D-Photo Magazine as the first installment of a regular column that I will be writing for the magazine answering reader’s questions on various topics relating to photography. The topic for this month was on photographing the night sky and unlike most other forms of photography, this particular genre of photography really requires quite a bit of forward thinking to really get an outstanding image.

Some of the things you have to remember when planning a night shoot is to research what is going to be in the night sky- When does the moon rise and set? Where is the North or South stars (depending on which hemisphere you live in), and what are you going to include in the foreground if you are doing star trail or night landscape images. These are just a few of the many considerations you have to plan for when looking at shooting at night.

Other things to plan for which are fairly standard when planing any kind of photography shoot are:

  • Make sure all necessary batteries are charged
  • All the little accessories you need to connect any light modifiers, filters, flashes to your camera etc are packed
  • If you are shooting on location, you have to be sure you have scouted the area before the shoot
  • Double check your camera settings (I have ruined a complete shoot when I forgot to switch the files back to RAW).

The other night I was all set to go out and do some time-lapse shooting to create a star trail image, but ended up wasting about three to four hours before I could get a shot that I could use.

star trails

Backyard star trails 24 image composite Canon 5D mkII 16-35mm lens, ISO 1600 [email protected] min


Some of the pitfalls I ran into were:

  1. Not scouting the locations I wanted to shoot at the time I was going to shoot. I had a location all lined up in my mind that would be perfect, a nice wide open panorama view, south facing with an interesting foreground and when I got there to shoot it was totally useless since there way way too much light pollution to get a good shot of the stars.
  2. Once I drove to another spot I thought of that would not have any light pollution and got my camera all set up and did a 90min star trail exposure I went home and downloaded the images straight away and realized that though I had set my focus to infinity, I must have bumped the camera at some point setting things up and the whole series of images were blurry so another hour and half wasted.
  3. It was getting late, I decided to set my camera up on our property to get something, which was always a last resort, it would not be quite as dramatic as what I had envisioned, but it would be better than nothing. I set the camera up, ensured that the focus was properly set this time and went inside to keep warm and surf the net while the camera ticked away. I was tempted to just leave the camera running all night and go get it in the morning, but since the weather had been up and down all week I didn’t want find a drowned camera in the morning. It was a good thing too, since when I got the camera the lens was totally fogged over and I lost probably half of the exposures from the fogging of the lens. I realized later that the fogging was caused by the temperature dropping suddenly and if I had left the camera out all night, it would have been totally frosted over which would have probably ruined it.

Fortunately I was able to save the shoot since I did get enough shots to create a good star trail image before the fogging occurred and now know to create either a lens sock or get a lens heater the next time I want to go and do long exposures/time-lapse shots and to scout the locations at night, not during the day.

So hopefully next time you are getting ready for a big shoot, remember the 5P’s. Proper Prevents Poor Performance

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