Mixed Martial Artists will tell you that the battle isn’t won in the ring on fight night. It’s won in the long and grueling training sessions that take place in the months before the fight. Spend enough time punishing yourself in training, and the fight itself is just another day at work. As artists we have our own battles that we wage regularly. And while they don’t involve us being punched in the face, they do present their own special form of torture that causes us to lose sleep, feel less than our peers, consider quitting and getting a real job and worst of all think about buying that new lens to solve all our problems with the swipe of a debit card.
But we also have our own training sessions that prepare us for the big fight. They are known as test shoots. For me, a test shoot might involve my working with a full team of model, hair stylist, fashion stylist and makeup artist, or it might involve my working with just the model alone. It doesn’t matter. As much as I value having a strong glam squad, there is no guarantee that I’m going to produce interesting work just because I have a lot of people in the room. So I’m quick to schedule a shoot without glam.
The test shoot is a time to be creative. There is no boss. No creative director. No agenda. Ok, maybe we prepared a mood board in advance and emailed that around in the days before the shoot. But its just as likely we didn’t, and minutes before the model arrives, I’m asking the team, “So what are we going to do today?” Sometimes, it’s just me and the model and I’m asking her that same question.
But this is where the battle is won or lost because I’m always trying something new. This is where I’m coming up with new lighting techniques, new poses, new themes. I’m working in an environment where failure is very much an option. But it’s through the repeated failures on the test shoots, that I slowly gain one new technique here and another new technique there. By the time I’m tasked with doing a real shoot, these new techniques are a natural part of my shooting process. The battle has already been won before the artist or creative director steps on set. The victory is mine -or rather the victory is everyone’s. And nobody had to get punched in the face in the process 😉