More often than not, things aren’t going to go the way that you want them to on set. Things are going to break. Things aren’t going to work. Models aren’t going to show up. That’s life. Deal with it.
Now, for those of you who are either under prepared or overwhelmed, don’t give up. There is always a way to resolve a situation that you didn’t foresee. Here are the three steps I take to handle any situation on or off set.
What You Can Do to Conquer Every Situation
We all need to fail. I'm a firm believer that failure leads to growth. Once you've gone through a failure, you'll either need to learn to adapt, or you'll continue failing. I cannot tell you how many situations that I've been in where I found myself questioning my validity and my experience as a photographer.
But, I think that it's human nature to question yourself. Inevitably, we all question ourselves. I think that the trick to get through any situation is as follows:
Stress is often unnecessary. The only time you should ever feel stressed is when you're absolutely unprepared, and even then, if you step back and think, you'll almost always find a solution.
The way I tackle unforeseen situations is simple. I know that somehow and some way, I'll need to get the job done. That's evident. I'm not going to allow myself to fail. I trust in my ability to conquer said situation.
What variables in your situation are in your control? What variables can you change? Don't focus on whatever you cannot change — for example, if your client requests a last-minute location change and you already have all of your gear set up for a specific shot. Ask them politely to take a quick shot before you move, "just in case." Don't relocate until you nab that shot. You already have your gear set up, and it doesn't cost them anything more than a second.
Once you've analyzed the situation and figured out what variables you can change, use them to your advantage. For example, in the video below, I was informed by the client that most of my gear was already on location and accounted for. Unfortunately, that wasn't the reality of the situation. Luckily I was prepared and brought a light stand as backup and found a way to set up a backdrop for that editorial. If I hadn't found a way to mount the backdrop, I could have just as easily used gaffer's tape to mount a backdrop to a wall or better yet, shoot on-location.
Finding practical variables that you can change makes you an extremely versatile photographer. Learning to adapt to any situation makes you a Swiss Army knife of solutions, or maybe I've been watching too many MacGyver reruns.
On a brighter note, here are some god-awful situations that I've found myself in. Enjoy my pain!