What You Should Check Before Taking a Photograph | The C.A.M.P Framework
Photography is subjective due to the mixture of factors that come together to make a photograph. The visual appeal that you create is all based on your experience, training, and knowledge of photography and light. To boil that down into a framework took a lot of trial and error but we somehow managed to create a system to help photographers think critically about the art they create.
While writing the script for Lighting 3, I wanted to create a systemized process for photographers to follow that involved pairing their artistic abilities with their technical understanding of photography. This ultimately led to the C.A.M.P Framework. In this article, I want to breakdown exactly what the acronym represents and what we achieve with each step. My intention behind this process wasn’t to strip the photographer of their artistic integrity, but hopefully to evolve the image into a full and cohesive thought that incorporates their experience with their creativity.
When we first step foot into a scene, it’s important to assess the characteristics of our background, identify if there are any foreground elements we can incorporate, and ultimately decide what our composition will be. Here are some of the questions I find myself asking upon entering a scene before I even pick up a camera:
- What do we want our scene to look like?
- Where do we want the camera to be?
- What’s the angle?
- What do we want our subjects to be doing?
By asking ourselves these questions, we are working through the scene, finding elements we want to incorporate, but most importantly, we are creating an intention. The intent behind the photograph is inevitably how people will perceive it. If that intention isn’t clear or remains unidentified, the idea may not come across as envisioned.
A: Ambient Light Exposure
Following the intention that we established with our composition, we next move on to our exposure settings. There is no such thing as the “correct” exposure, I simply refer to it as the intended exposure for the scene. Every photographer is different and therefore sees light differently. How we choose to manipulate natural light and dial in our ambient light settings is largely based on the end vision of the image. The main question you need to ask yourself is: Do you want a dramatic image (darkening the ambient light and using more flash) or do you want a softer image (brightening the ambient light and using a more natural power of flash)?
Answering that question immediately defines what your ambient light exposure will be and if you will need to modify or add light in order to make your subject stand out in the image.
M: Modify/Add Light
Now that we’ve dialed in our ambient light exposure and have worked around the restrictions of natural light, do we need to add in an additional light source or modify this light to yield flattering results? The end goal is to make sure your subject is visible in the frame and do your best to get it right in camera rather than fixing your mistakes in post-production. Are your subjects visible in the frame or do they need to be chiseled out? Do you need to add an additional light source or modify your light to match the existing light? Asking yourself these questions while actually creating the shot will ideally save you time while editing because you’ll only need to make minor adjustments to the image rather than completely altering it to fit your ideal vision of the photo.
P: Pose & Photograph
Now that all of the technical aspects have been considered and adjusted, it’s time to finally pick up your camera and make the necessary adjustments to pose your subject. This last step is likely the most crucial since it involves all of the factors combining together to make one force. One wrong pose or missed focus could potentially ruin the image you intended to create. My suggestion is to take multiple variations of the shot and work around the scene, moving any additional light sources if necessary to get the most value from the scene you are photographing in.
The whole purpose of creating the C.A.M.P Framework was to ensure that photographers are spending the time to craft an image rather than hurriedly stepping into a scene and taking images they likely won’t end up using. Intent is something that we often forget about when creating art because we get wrapped up in the technical aspect of photography. I hope that this inspires you to combine the technique with your artistic abilities to create something truly unforgettable and unique to your style.