Use Rituals to Strengthen Your Photography

The advice that follows will have little to do with astrology, moon phases, chanting, or anything of that nature. Unless, of course, you’d like to do that… nothing wrong with it. Rather, this is inspired by a fashion photographer I was once close with.

Photo by Lauren Dahlhauser

“I must prepare.”

Those three words are what he would utter when it was time to wrap up a phone conversation or a meeting. It has a lot to do with the fact that English is not his first language – perhaps that is the translation for what is commonly said in Armenia in place of the very American “I gotta go get ready.” In any case, he took his gigs very seriously, and always made the time and space to prepare, always the night before.

I never asked him what his process was – I have my own. I just always appreciated the implication: that all other activities must cease because it was time for his ritual of creating a sacred, uninterrupted space for the following day’s work, in order for it to be the best it could be. I admired this so much so that, to this day, whether I‘m preparing to be in front of the camera, behind it, or just getting ready to travel, I tell myself, “I must prepare”.

It’s a declaration that sets in motion a specific set of actions that are repeated. My specific actions the day or night before a shoot are such:

  • put on some music
  • sweep the floor
  • review the creative brief and shot lists for the impending job
  • pull only the equipment that I’ll need
  • make sure all batteries are charged
  • double check that every memory card is empty
  • pack
  • put everything at the front door
  • set my alarm for the next morning

After making time for this specific ritual, I can go to bed with confidence and security that I have everything I need, no anxiety or worries. Mindfulness and respect for the job at hand began before it was even booked, because I am committed to this ritual, regardless of who the client may be.

In your case, think about your own preparation rituals in your life. Have you defined one for shoot prep yet, intentionally or organically? If so, how well does it serve you? Do you feel true confidence on your way to your shoot? If you have not defined a ritual yet, then now is the time! Ritual is another form of mindfulness, and mindful work is high-quality work. Use your own ritual to elevate your process and approach to photography, and it will bleed over into the work itself.

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