“The unknown is where the good stuff happens,” says photographer Trinette Reed. “Not knowing what you are doing is an integral part of being a good artist.”
Visual storytellers Trinette Reed and her partner Chris Gramly are commercial photographers who frequently contribute to the online Storehouse app. Their posts take the form of short stories featuring text, photos and video. Reed offers advice on putting together an engaging story.
“I think it is really about finding a balance,” says Reed, “between allowing for the unknown and at the same time being as prepared as possible for your shoot ahead of time. That is always our goal.
“First we do a brainstorm and a shot list and figure out what is the intention and story of this shoot. Then we hire talented people to support us in realizing our vision: producers, stylists, talent, hair and makeup, and great assistants. Having a rock-solid crew allows you to really focus more on the creative on shoot day.
“Once you are on the shoot,” she continues, “then I think it is good to allow space for the unknown and unplanned to happen. Some of the best shots happen that way when you don’t try to over control things and just go with the flow and be there to capture the moment.”
The Right Moment
Reed shares, “Once we were photographing a little girl who was adorable, but also had quite a large personality. We were directing her, and as kids do, she took the direction quite literally. I think we were just taking a few quick portraits of her and we asked her to do something with her hands (a lot to ask of a small kid but you never know) and she put her fist up under her chin in the cutest/funniest fashion and it was nothing you could have ever gotten her to do.
“Another example: a motion shot that Chris grabbed just following a model down a pathway to the next setup. It was slow motion and the wind came at the right moment to create a beautiful visual moment that would have been hard to create intentionally.”
Reed says, “Visual storytelling crosses all cultural divides and helps to communicate without the barrier of language. The common threads we find to be most significant are authentic emotion and perhaps timing.
“Capturing a great moment, whether it be still or motion, requires the presence of a believable emotional element and the right timing. In our corporate work this is also true, but there is a lot more orchestration happening around the moment to be captured. Some of it is set up, some of it just happens and being present for both is probably the most important thing a visual artist can be. Knowing when to let things happen and when to step in and direct is an acquired skill that I believe comes only with experience.”
Creating the Story
Reed and Gramly’s commercial work specializes in luxury resorts, hotels, and spa photography, as well as fashion, food, travel, lifestyle, and film/motion video production. How does a photographer stay open to finding the story without the risk of imposing a concept and not seeing the real story?
“It depends on the project really,” says Reed. “We are more often than not creating the story before a shoot, not simply documenting it and this requires the intention we mentioned. I would liken it to a journalist preparing for an interview. They research their subject/current issues and then formulate questions to ask, but ultimately the story will unfold depending on how the interviewee responds to those questions.
“Sometimes in the flow the initial concept is abandoned for an entirely new story, but the intention still remains. When striking a balance between the intent to tell a story and letting one unfold there is little risk of imposing a concept. Instead the real story reveals itself.”
Check out Trinette Reed and Chris Gramly’s portfolio.