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Always Go With Your Gut

"The Ground We Left Behind"

Go. With. Your. Gut. I know these "brain" things we have are supposed to be the almighty powerhouses of thought - in charge when it comes to decisions and figuring things out. However, I find time and time again that my gut is smarter than my brain. It just knows things. I've given up on fighting it, because my instincts have yet to steer me wrong.  There have been many occasions when my brain is really encouraging me to do something, but my gut keeps saying, "Listen Robert, I know your brain is the thinker but I'm the artist, so ignore Mr. Logic and go with what feels right." 

This fine looking fellow is my friend Ciaran; he grew up here in Lebanon with my wife, Sara. She's been great friends with him and his siblings for years. I quickly adopted Ciaran as one of my own friends, because he is just an awesome guy. (As well as the rest of his family. His sister is actually the girl in this photo.) He up and moved off to Nashville to be a musical-badass, so we don't get to see him tooooo often, but when we do it's always great fun.

Check out this original masterpiece that I'm secretly obsessed with. (It's not a secret ... I think this song is the shit.) ... Now go buy it on iTunes.

I decided last time he was in town to drag him (willingly) over to the studio for a photo shoot (because that's what I do). Like many of my impromptu photo sessions I had absolutely zero idea what to shoot or what I would eventually do with the photos once I had them. So I just listened to my gut. Being the stylish young man that he is, Ciaran showed up rockin' this cool jacket, scarf, and a floppy mohawk of sorts. I liked the look and figured I would shoot for some sort of to-be-determined-later-moody-nightime-scene ... So yeah, very minimal planning as to what the final image was going to look like.

To start things off as I do with all of my shoots,  I told my "model" to basically just stand there. "Don't worry Ciaran, these pictures don't matter. I'm just going to be moving some lights around and tweaking things before we really get shooting. I'll probably just delete these." When I'm in the studio I shoot tethered to the computer so I can pop images off and then view them on the screen to decide what I want to adjust. I snapped the first image and right off the bat it was looking a little too flat. I turned off my main light and took a picture with just my left edge light on to see exactly where that light was falling on my subject. This is a great technique when doing a multiple light set up - Turn just one light on at a time and it's way easier to get each light exactly how you want it. 

The left image is the very first shot I took, and the right is the second shot taken with just one light on.

The left image is the very first shot I took, and the right is the second shot taken with just one light on.

I continued to massage my lighting into place until I was liking the look of it; then we got down to business. We shot for a long while, trying all kinds of different poses and angles. I took a ton of shots because it was one of those shoots where I didn't know what I was going for, and wanted to be sure I had something to work with. For most of an hour I was moving lights, directing head tilts, and changing lenses. All this fine tuning and guess what ... you know that second shot with just the one edge light turned on? The one that "didn't matter?"  Yup. That's the image I ended up using.

My brain insisted that I should go with one of the images I took later into the shoot. You know, about half an hour or so into shooting when you really get into a groove. You've fiddled with the lights after every few shots to get everything looking just right. Your subject is warmed up and feeling comfortable. You've developed a rhythm and are coming up with all kinds of interesting shots and positions. Surely that is when you capture "the shot."  I did have a couple frames marked as "selects" to use from the end of the shoot, but every time I looked through all the images a part of me latched onto that second shot.

My brain looked at that second frame and told me, "Well Robert it's a little dark, and it's just a test shot ... don't use that one." Meanwhile my gut kept screaming to forget all those more "polished" images from later on and just go with the picture that spoke to me the most. Eventually I gave in to my intuition and told my brain to go suck it. So what if this image was a little on the dark side and just a lighting test meant to be tossed aside. So what if Ciaran was literally just standing there looking at the wall; apparently his "resting-face" is model-worthy. 

So friends what did I learn on this shoot? Well first of all, owls make everything more awesome and Ciaran is a snappy dresser that can't help but to look good. But more importantly, the fact that your instincts are smarter than your brain. Even when all logical signs point to something, your gut will always knows how you really feel - what you truly want to do. Sure I could have used one of the later images; they do have nice lighting, after all. I could have thrown something together and been happy with it, but in the back of my mind I think my gut would always be saying, "Hey, remember that second shot you took? That was the one. That would have made such a cool image ... too bad you wrote it off because it was just a setup shot...."