johnwright

Don?t think…DO!

I’ve sat here for 15 minutes with absolutely NO idea what to write for you all. None.

I’ve gotten up, gone to my garden and smoked a cigarette. Sat down. Stared at the screen. Gotten back up. Smoked. Sat back down.

Then it struck me! Just go and write it.

Don’t think, do!

I’m fortunate enough to be in the position to have been asked to make a contribution to Scott’s site as as Guest Blogger, so I’m just going to WRITE IT!

And it’s going to be about exactly that principal in relation to photography. The principal of NOT planning, not getting tied up in details, not sweating the small stuff. The principal that sometimes, you just gotta throw your shoulders back, lift your chin, walk in the room with a smile and freaking shoot the thing! :)

I’ve found myself taking this approach increasingly this year. Having spent so many hours in the run up to previous shoots trying to pre-empt the un-pre-emptable, trying to predict how someone’s going to behave, how they’ll respond to the concept, to me, to the location or whatever. I’ve learned that I’ve been in SO MANY rooms with SO MANY different people and I’ve walked out with a picture that there is a great lesson to be learned from all of those shots.

Some of my best pictures, award winners, covers, exhibited works, have come from an idea COMPLETELY off plan and it was only through an ability to be flexible, to go with a different flow, that I’ve been fortunate enough to capture them. Now this isn’t a boast here. I’m not saying that this is a measure of some photographic zen quality. This isn’t even about ME, this is about all of us. In fact below are some examples of work which has come ‘off the cuff.’ What I’m trying to impart is that they are not the result of ANY photographic skill. They are simply in existance becauseIi was FLEXIBLE!. We are all flexible to some degree! We couldn’t cross a main street otherwise, and if we can build on that…ability, it can help enhance our work. Regardless of our lighting kit or our megapixel count.

A GREAT example!:

Last year I was commissioned to shoot Pete Doherty. My client had a PLAN! A detailed one! Now Pete has had his problems and they’re well documented. So when my client tried to brief me on exactly what they wanted I knew I had to just zone out, make ‘yes, yes’ noises and relax in the knowledge that if Mr D actually arrived at the shoot, and as long as I could connect with him and use the lighting skills that I have, we would make it work.

NOTHING went to plan :)

He did arrive and we did connect (I still have the Union Jack neck scarf he gave me permanently around the head of my tripod) and the resulting set of pictures have won enough stuff and been hung in galleries in London. If I had worried about the ‘plan’ we would have probably not shot a thing.

080806PeteDoherty157sm

With the same mindset I recently shot for a blue chip corporate client: VODAFONE. The brief moved two or three times in pre-production, the deadline was incredibly tight for post production and the talent list was Florence of Florence And The Machine, F1 superstar Jenson Button and supermodel and actress Lily Cole. The call time was 6am, Jenson was flying in from Montreal having come 2nd in the Canadian Grand Prix and he would be with us for ‘1 HOUR EXACTLY.’ We would have all three together for 20 minutes. The brief moved again :). The deadline got tighter and ‘Did I think everything would be okay?’ :)

Now at this point I had to just remind myself that the job was Lily, Jenson and Florence TOGETHER and the fact was that, again, if they all turned up and if I connected with them then really, with such huge names, it would shoot itself. There was simply no point worrying about what COULD go wrong because if something DID go wrong (ie Jenson’s flight) we would just have to DEAL with it somehow.

“It’s all going to be fine,” I assured my client. Picture below :)

Vodafone UK announces major new sponsorship deals giving custome

And when it does go wrong? Like when you’re commissioned to shoot a TV personality with a leopard and the day before the shoot a volcano erupts in Iceland meaning that you arrive at the studio to find you have a leopard…and no TV personality?

Well, you shoot the leopard…and shoot the personality two weeks later :):

LOUISE REDKNAPP photographed by John Wright

So now I’m thinking…’This applies to everything I do…or at least I should APPLY it to everything I do!’

How many hours have I sat around OVER THINKING what I should do next only to find that when I have to act, I act positively!? More importantly, how many hours have YOU sat around pondering “What shall I shoot?…How will I contact that magazine?…How should I light this? only to find that when you PUT yourself in front of the subject you wanted to shoot, YOU DID FINE!

Gordon Ramsay

Okay you could have improved something by doing this or changing that, but that’s called ‘experience,’ and you’ve learned from it, and it’ll be better the next time BECAUSE you put yourself in the situation in the FIRST place :)

Rihanna210_Wide_NRT_Printsm

What I’m saying is let’s all STOP trying to work out how to ‘get that client’ and ‘what if my portfolio appointment goes flat’ and ‘how can I light this or that’ or ‘would it be better if I had x camera?’ and let’s just get on with DOING this great, weird, difficult, delightful thing that is photography. Let’s go to places people only dream of, meet people who have inspired and outraged and shocked and entertained us, let’s just capture moments that will never ever ever EVER happen again. Let’s see what happens if we ‘open up a stop’ or ‘turn that head off’ and if we do, if we just throw our shoulders back, lift our chins, walk in the room with a smile and just shoot the freaking thing! I really believe that all the rest of it, will look after itself.

090429palomafaith151sm

Thanks to Scott and Brad for letting me write this and many many thanks to you for taking
the time to read it!

John Wright
twitter.com/johnwrightph
johnwrightphoto.tumblr.com
johnwrightphoto.com

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45 Comments

  1. Delightful, inspiring, loved it, thanks.

  2. John, thanks for this look into the mind of a genius! My experience is planning everything out then when I get to where I’m going I think “I should have brought that one other thing”! Your work is incredible.

  3. This is a most enjoyable post with great advice. Thank you.

  4. Love this philosophy. Very inspiring – very REAL. Thanks for sharing it.

  5. And there was me thinking I was the only one that went through this mild of ‘what if’s’ before a shoot :)

    John, absolutely superb post covering a topic that is so important; being flexible and adaptable; thanks for sharing your experiences along with wonderful imagery.

    Best wishes to you,
    Glyn

  6. Nice article written in your!!

  7. Nice article and some very good points.

    There is a error in the link to John’s webpage it has scottkelby in front you might want to fix that :)

    //Theis

  8. Hi John,

    Thanks for an insightful post with some great images. Reassuring to know that even the pro’s can still have anxieties :-)

    Thanks,
    David

  9. Great post and very insightful. Some planning is useful but when you get bogged down in the details the chance to be creative and let your passion drive you can get lost. Wonderful pictures as well.

    Thank you.
    Upde

  10. cool post, I intend to try “Just Do it” this weekend!

    Thanks!

  11. That was great stuff! Where you writing for ME especially..? ;-)) Exactly “searching for the perfect plan before to start” is my barricade so often. Not only in photography, but also in life. More easiness – yeah!

  12. Hi John, many thanks for such an inspirational post. No matter how much we plan, we must expect the unexpected. Stunning images that we must all aspire to!

    Kind regards

    Ian

  13. What a great article!!! Thanks for not planning it all out, but just writing it. This should pertain to a lot of things we do in life, not just photography and writing.

  14. Hi John,

    Thanks for the excellent post! You never really know what can go wrong and when it does you have to do the best you can with what you have. Thanks for sharing your story and keeping it real.

    All the best,

    Stephen

  15. Excellent post! I could not agree more. I plan and plan for every shoot and the winners are almost always the ones that are off the cuff shots.

  16. Great post which, for me, came at exactly the right time. I caught myself thinking “my photography would improve if I bought a new camera, if I bought this or that piece of gear…” the other day. No true at all! It will improve if I “just do it” (over and over again).

    Thanks a lot for this great post.

    Kind regards,

    Martijn

  17. On a day when I needed something to get me going, I got it. Thank you Mr. Wright. Very well said and very inspiring.

  18. At age 62, I have learned that worry only stifles my work. Go with the flow. Great advice!

  19. The simplest advice is often the best advice! Thanks for the excellent blog post! It seems like every shoot I do I end up having to improvise on something, so I now plan for, or expect, things to not go according to plan. :)

  20. I’m getting ready to shoot my first wedding since 1977 and just realized, “I just need to do it,” stop over thinking. I’m not going to be able to plan for action and reaction.

  21. When I saw the picture of the guest photographer, I thought it was David Lynch for a second. Great post, and beautiful pictures.

  22. Great post. Thanks, I need that.

  23. Great imaginative images, great advice, fun post. Thanks!

  24. I just browsed through John’s website…some really extraordinary images! I’m in awe! John, if you read this, I’d love to know the behind-the-scenes details of the cricket player swinging the bat and the impact of the red paint.

  25. Getting good shots when nothing goes according to plan takes lots of experience in my opinion. We’re not all at this point yet. So it might work for you but some of us won’t get away with such good pictures.

  26. I love the mantra of just working with what you have. Great pictures come with trying stuff. Not to get all Nike on everyone, but just do it. ;-)

  27. Scared to death to go out in the sophisticated technical world, far away from my rural youth in the Rockies… my first boss met me at the front door of the company…and said “you got your degree, you got your job and you’ve showed up…and for most conscientious people, showing up is 90% of the job – the rest is listening to your instincts and doing something with it”.

    It’s proved true so many times as my work assignments have morphed through the years… I am no longer involved in my degree specialty, but that “instinct and doing” part keeps carrying the day.

    Nice read.

  28. John
    The image of Gordon Ramsey caught my interest and held me. I kept going back to it and looking again. That was yesterday. I was back again…. looking today. Not that I am a big fan of Gordon Ramsey – but what a powerful image. This image will stay with me. The Kelby post today about “the shot”. To me….that’s the shot. Thanks for sharing.

    • Karen, I read Scott’s post today and immediately thought when I felt I’d got ‘the shot’…Gordon’s tear was DEFINITELY one of those times :) Thanks for reading and for commenting. Glad the picture connects with you. J

  29. …and to everyone who has responded SO positively to my post: A heartfelt thank you! :) so flattering to think my words connected. J

  30. Incredible blog post! No truer words ever spoken.

  31. I seriously like the post. A bit late to reply. But nevertheless. Again inspiring as always.

    The first shot of the guy smoking on his website made me his fan :) Great site and portfolio.
    I completely believe and am learning what he has explained. Still a beginner and yet to learn a lot.

    I have wasted a lot of time reading and thinking how to shoot, but now days I go and shoot rather than planning and wasting hours on that. Basic planning is and having a idea of the shoot is all I do, rest happen at real-time.

  32. Excellent post, true words. I needed to read that to help myself to just believe. Thanks.

  33. Wow, I feel like I’ve wasted a TON of time now!

    Great article John, think I’ll go shoot now :)

  34. Excellent post and great images. Inspired to do more, think about it less.

  35. Inspiring for sure. So often I get hung up on the details. I’m even trying a 365 project this year and I still have the occasional day where I don’t take an image. Lazy, maybe, mental block, maybe. This post really helps. Its right up there with my new favorite quote I heard a few weeks ago by David DuChemin …. shut up and shoot.

  36. You have no idea how motivational your blog post was. Thank you for just writing from your heart.
    Linda

  37. Love it!! Had a shoot rcently, spent three days trying to figure out how I wanted to do it. An hour before the client arrived, I ripped up my sketch sheets, zeroed all the gear. When she arrived, we chatted for about half an hour over coffee, shot for twenty minutes with nothing even remotely resembling my “plans”. She loved the prints, bought three 16x20s. I just “Did it” as you so eloquently said.

  38. thanks for this post, its motivating and wanting myself to learn more

  39. Some really amazing photography. Love the composition of the shots taken. I think the best work comes when your under pressure. Certainly helps you to be much more organised along with your creative imagination ticking a bit more than usual. Certainly helps me.

    Keep up the great work.

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