Thursday, January 12, 2012

Be Prepared!

While I might not seem like the sort of guy who fits the profile of a Boy Scout, when I was a kid I was a Boy Scout. Prior to being a Boy Scout, I was a Cub Scout. Although I didn't stay with scouting long enough to become an Eagle Scout, a few of scouting's most enduring notions have stuck with me throughout my life. One in particular, "Be Prepared," is one I always try to apply to my photography.

For me, being prepared means I try to envision as many of the things that can go wrong on a shoot or that might negatively impact the results of my work and then proceed in ways which prepare me to deal with them. As a rule, those "things" are Murphy's Law things. Since, from experience, I'm painfully aware of how often Murphy's Law rears its ugly head on production shoots, I always do my best to be prepared to deal with their likely eventualities.

If Murphy's Law is anything, it's not only near-certain it's creative. It often seems to come up with new and inventive ways to try and screw me out of the prize. (The prize being the shot or shots I'm hoping to capture.) Murphy's Law, as you probably are aware, loves to blindside it's victims. It's a stealthy, ninja-like, villainous law. I'm totally aware that my general state of preparedness doesn't mean I'll be able to deal with all of Murphy's Law's eventualities. It simply means I have many of them, perhaps the most common of them, covered. It also means I'm always on the look-out for Murphy's Law to be sneaking up on me.

I could probably write a book based on all the ways Murphy's Law has screwed me or tried to screw me in the past. Many of you could probably do the same. But I do try to be a positive and proactive sort of guy. As such, I've tried to learn from Murphy's Law, that is, learn its ways and it's tactics. One thing I've learned is this: In spite of Murphy's Law's ability to be creative and inventive, there is another law or rule, the 80/20 Rule, a.k.a. Pareto's Principle, which also applies to many things. Even to Murphy's Law.

Pareto's Principle (or the 80/20 Rule) says that 20% of something is generally responsible for 80% of the results. That's good news! That means the same 20% of possible Murphy's Law events will occur 80% of the time.

I don't always have an in-place, nearly fool-proof, plan or solution to deal with all the effects of Murphy's Law. But I do have standard, on-going plans to deal with many of them. For instance, the way Murphy's Law often screws with me (and many other photographers) is via the models themselves, that is, models who flake. I can't always be prepared with a ready solution for the flake factor but at least I recognize that it's one of Murphy's Law's favorite ways to mess me up and I'm always prepared, make that aware, it may happen. That awareness doesn't always mean I'll be able to replace the model in a moment's notice but, if there's any way to prepare for it, I'm going to have that way available to me.

Another common Murphy's Law shoot-killer is gear; gear that suddenly messes up. These attacks on my productions are more easily prepared for because, for the most part, I almost always have back-up gear with me which can fill-in when Murphy's Law decides to toss me an equipment-related curve ball. The gear I'll end up using if my primary gear breaks or malfunctions may not be my preferred equipment to use on any given production, but it will allow me to continue my shoot and get through it. That means, of course, I not only need to have that back-up gear along with me, I need to know how to use it, i.e., to use it as effectively as the gear I most often or am most accustomed to using.

Besides models and gear, there are other Murphy's Law mishaps which can effect a production shoot. The most difficult ones, much like the models themselves, revolve around people. Murphy's Law loves to use people to screw with a shoot because people and their potential for being a negative contribution (is "negative contribution" a contradiction in terms?) are more difficult to be prepared for.

Still, I've found that recognizing the fact that many of the ways Murphy's Law screws with me will, 80% of the time, be in the same or similar ways, has helped me realize that I, make that all of us, can better prepare ourselves for their probable attempts to negatively impact our shoots.

The pretty girl at the top getting ready to pop into the shower is Alexis.

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