FAQ : Previsualization


Part of what I do as a photographer–what we do as photographers–is create an image. Some prefer to place an emphasis at different points in the process (before, during, after), but I think we’d all agree it’s a culmination process. I, however, have been thinking lately how much I work on the before component to what I do. Namely, thinking/dreaming/creating an image before I’m even in front of clients, specifically during engagement sessions.

On a wedding day, things unfold naturally and while there’s a bit of time for posing of the bride and groom, most of what I capture is photojournalistic in nature (candid, unposed pictures). Engagement sessions are an entirely different thing though. For an hour and half, my clients expect me to create a fun, fresh, and fabulous environment at a location of their choice. Uhhh, this is hard. Very hard. And it takes a lot of thinking in advance.

Previsualization is the idea of thinking of a photo far before you’re even holding a camera. Thinking of poses and photos in advance make you feel more confident when approaching a long photo session. Of course, so much of what I do is created on the spot (and depends on location, light, and client interaction), but having a mental library of some-day photos allows me the freedom to create a photo…with confidence.

How to Previsualize?
Well, I don’t have a concrete answer, but I can tell you what I do…
1. Sketch out photos in your mind on note paper. This helps me remember what I want to do later.
2. Collect magazine ads for inspiration.
3. Study photos and truly dissect what each person in the photo is doing, and later instruct your clients to do the same.
4. Practice the pose in advance. Yes, this sounds so lame. But, whatever, deal with it. It’s better for you to practice with a spouse, roommate, Cute Boy in Class, and get it right than having to make it work later…and using your clients as guinea pigs.
5. Keep all your inspiration in one place, so you can easily access it before a shoot.

Here’s a recent photo I previsualized (this shoot is getting blogged soon!) and I’m happy to see my idea come to life…

The following photos are all photos that were planned in advance to the shoot and I challenged myself come to life when given the opportunity…

Just to clarify…there are some shoots when I don’t create a previsualized picture. However, when you think of ideas in advance to deal with and work in an environmental element (say, a car), it helps make you feel less intimidated having to create an image around it.

I didn’t previsualze a couple sitting in front of a white picket fence (although it is quite cute), but I did practice/envision the idea of me shooting almost at ground level and how I’d position my clients in such a situation. I then practiced with JD. Lots a lots of practice. Kissing is hard work.

One of my favs…

Happy Thursday! 🙂

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  1. Amy Paulson

    June 3rd, 2010 at 8:13 pm

    I adore you. Even though that sounds a little creepy coming form someone you don’t know. But I do. Because of how you love life, your fam and your clients. This post was SOOOOOOOO helpful. Thank you!!!

  2. Wendy Roe

    June 3rd, 2010 at 8:13 pm

    Lovin’ it Jasmine. Previsualization for anything in your life is a hidden gift. 🙂

  3. Amy Pinney

    June 3rd, 2010 at 8:13 pm

    ohhh. The night before a shoot, my mind is literally racing with images . It’s like a slideshow in my head, and I’ll pause on one, scrutinize the components and elements of it, and sometimes chuck it all together. I rarely remember them all, but a handful come back to me while I’m shooting 🙂 Good idea to sketch them!

  4. Jessica Willis

    June 3rd, 2010 at 8:14 pm

    i think this is a fabulous post. i, for one, obsessively stalk blogs so that i can think of photos for whenever i am taking pictures (however amateur) or for when i am in pictures. i’ve found it’s helped my photographer friends for me to say "ummm i saw a picture that did ______" and kinda show them (of course without stepping on their creative integrity).

    i esp love to practice kissing my boo (don’t judge) for kissing pictures because it really can look stupid.

  5. Krissy

    June 3rd, 2010 at 8:15 pm

    thanks for this j*! it helps a lot…

  6. Vitaliy

    June 3rd, 2010 at 8:15 pm

    This is great advice, Jasmine! I try to do the same thing – previsualize certain images which helps me spark my creativity and come up with other things. I like to have at least 3-5 specific shots in mind before the shoot. It really helps to get the creative juices flowing! Thank you for the post and for sharing your ideas!

  7. Karen

    June 3rd, 2010 at 8:15 pm

    glad you blogged about this! Something I do quite regularly. Keeps those creative juices flowing! keep up the great previsualization!

  8. Rachel

    June 3rd, 2010 at 8:15 pm

    I don’t think it’s coincidence that you posted this FAQ today. I was actually thinking about this topic as I had my first engagement session yesterday and I felt like I was SO in over my head! Thanks for being so fabulous! 🙂

  9. Kayleen T.

    June 3rd, 2010 at 8:17 pm

    Love it! I just blogged about how I envision a picture before even taking it and it is the same way as you, I draw it out first! Great post.

  10. Penny

    June 3rd, 2010 at 8:17 pm

    I just started doing this myself when I go to shoot. It helps calm the nerves…yes..I still get butterflies when I go out to shoot. Some days it’s hard to keep it fresh and new…we all have down days…so a bag of tricks is always good to rely on. Thanks for the tips!

  11. Mindy A

    June 3rd, 2010 at 8:25 pm

    Out of all the photos of yours I’ve sighed over, that last kissy face one always sticks in my head. Love this article on previsualization, thanks for putting it into words. And yes, I do practice posing 🙂

  12. Mel

    June 3rd, 2010 at 8:26 pm

    LOVE this post! I have actually been having this very same conversation with clients and others who know me about how a vision is key and prepping for that is vital. I have finally found a client base that appreciates the planning and all that goes into making a session successful. I find the same holds true of children’s/family photography—a concept…and editorial vision. Photography is not just something you show up to…it is something that you plan and take great care in so your clients have the best possible images. Great minds think alike Jasmine! Thanks for yet another wonderful post. You are gift!

  13. Jonathan

    June 3rd, 2010 at 8:32 pm

    Jasmine I love you.
    Sharing these thoughts helps us professional-picture-taker-of-my-family folks become better picture-taker-of-my-family folks. Does that make sense? Yes, yes I have decided that it does.
    Thank you!

  14. Allison

    June 3rd, 2010 at 8:32 pm

    I totally agree I have a huge stack of inspiration that I go threw and think, hmmmm yes I can see them doing that beautifully, there’s a little personality matching to my inspiration board and when the final product comes out I am soo Happy!

  15. Connie

    June 3rd, 2010 at 8:33 pm

    I do this same thing, collect magazine pics, practice, think late at night and have to get up to write it down, I make sketches, etc. The hardest part for me is remembering when I am in the moment to use this information. I get into this zone then totally forget that I wanted to do that pose! I get home, see my notebook and then I am disappointed. Now I am going to take my notebook with me and look at it between locations. Thanks for sharing!

  16. Nicole Chubb

    June 3rd, 2010 at 8:34 pm

    This is easily my fave FAQ EVER! Thank you so much – I’ve been trying to figure out ways to work on this. I’m going to have to practice this tips 🙂

  17. Vanessa Voth

    June 3rd, 2010 at 8:34 pm

    Thanks for this post! Thinking of fun, unique posts is proving to be the most challenging part of being a photographer! (I’ve only been doing this professionally for about 4 months!) I save a lot of pictures of poses I like on my computer and then I put them on my iPod Touch so I can take it with me and use it like cue cards in case I get stuck!

  18. christina g

    June 3rd, 2010 at 8:35 pm

    What a great post! Makes sooo much sense!

  19. corey

    June 3rd, 2010 at 8:38 pm

    J* I previsualize in my mind but usually when the shoot happens i will tell the client no do this!!! and i end up with pretty solid images. But taking notes and magazine clippings is a great idea, because it doesn’t look exactly like what you see because i think the clients will fall into their own poses it seems like you always seem to find the best light CaLI seems to have it!!!!

  20. angel pope

    June 3rd, 2010 at 8:40 pm

    Thanks Jasmine. Just for sharing. You know what I’d like to see…your sketches. 😉 luvs

  21. Catherine T.

    June 3rd, 2010 at 8:41 pm

    I love this post. Thank you Jasmine for giving some insight to the ‘before’ part of the shoot. I am constantly saving inspiration photos and thinking about what a photo would look like "if I did this" …. it’s good to know I’m not the only one 🙂

  22. Otto Rascon

    June 3rd, 2010 at 8:45 pm

    I love your idea of keeping your inspiration in one place. I will start doing that today. Rock on!

  23. Sarah Dudley

    June 3rd, 2010 at 8:45 pm

    Awesome post. So informative and helpful…you’re simply amazing! Gorgeous photo of Shannon and Jody…can’t wait to see the rest!!!

  24. Michael Newman

    June 3rd, 2010 at 8:48 pm

    Awesome post! Thanks Jasmine

  25. mika

    June 3rd, 2010 at 8:51 pm

    perfect timing! i’m doing a shoot saturday, so i’ve been looking for inspiration and doing lots of visualizing in my head! glad that other people draw (or in my situation, attempt to) out shots, too 🙂

  26. kelly marie

    June 3rd, 2010 at 8:55 pm

    You use magazine ads for inspiration…I use your blog! Great post 🙂

  27. Simply Natural Photography

    June 3rd, 2010 at 8:57 pm

    Thanks so much for sharing- posing is something I need to work on. I am really enoying these FAQ sessions. Thanks again!

  28. Jamie Y

    June 3rd, 2010 at 8:57 pm

    I have just started to take notes before a shoot, I think of all these great ideas, and then when I go to take the pictures, I am so focused on all the other aspects of it, I cant remember any of my poses. So, thanks for this, I am going to start a pose book soon thanks to your advice.

  29. Angel Canary

    June 3rd, 2010 at 9:03 pm

    You taught us this in your FABulous workshop! I actually did it with a senior the other day! I cut some little fairy roses and flowers from my 15 flower beds, grabbed a mason jar, old books, pillow and blanket and found a place in the woods. It’s one of my FAVs right now. It really does work! Thanks xoxo

  30. Megan (Best of Fates)

    June 3rd, 2010 at 9:11 pm

    I’d never realized how much pre-session thought you put into your engagement session, but it definitely pays off well!

  31. Kimberly

    June 3rd, 2010 at 9:15 pm

    I think a little pre-planning goes a long way, even if you don’t use all of your ideas. Great article!! I was challenged recently by a client who wanted pictures in an old cemetery (and with the grave stones) that we came upon while shooting. It totally threw me off my game. I don’t plan on doing those anymore but now I try to think outside the "normal location" box a little more.

  32. Emily Heizer Photography

    June 3rd, 2010 at 9:16 pm

    YUP!! That is EXACTLY what I do to prepare for sessions, weddings, shoots whatever. I sketch, I collect inspiration, I visualize, practice, work it out like a math problem. I look at the world through a viewfinder- whether I have a camera to my face or not! Everywhere I look I am framing and composing images, pretty much at all times. Right now, I am trying to figure out a flattering way to take a picture of my very cute cat’s very cute and fluffy bum that’s hanging off the windowsill in front of me. LOL 🙂

  33. Emily Heizer Photography

    June 3rd, 2010 at 9:18 pm

    Hey Jas? I think it’s time for a Polo post, don’t you think? My kitties are missing their favorite canine celebrity. Thanks!

  34. Jessica

    June 3rd, 2010 at 9:22 pm

    Thanks for this Jasmine- I do a lot of visualization and inspiration collecting before my sessions 🙂 I love the idea of practicing poses before the sessions to- could be fun huh! Have a wonderful weekend! <3

  35. Dena Finley

    June 3rd, 2010 at 9:29 pm

    Good advice! I take a lot of photos of photos (from magazines, the web, store windows…) with my camera phone & save them on my phone to view later. I have a BB, but I am sure any camera phone will work. It saves me from those stacks & stacks of magazines piling up. It also allows me to remember a fabulous photo I saw online or in a mag when I am out & about. Its like having instant inspiration at my fingertips. (Now if only Verizon would get the iPhone, but that’s whole other "Rant")

  36. Shari

    June 3rd, 2010 at 9:40 pm

    wow. you totally just summed up what i’ve been thinking for the past few weeks…and reconfirmed how important it is to daydream about future shoots/poses/images/environments/etc. THANK YOU! thanks for your generosity in sharing your knowledge. it really is needed and much, MMMMUUUUCHHH appreciated!

  37. Denise

    June 3rd, 2010 at 9:41 pm

    You’re the bomb diggity bomb! Thank you for this! I have my office wall covered with ads from magazines for inspiration and then I have you 🙂

  38. Carrie Pratt

    June 3rd, 2010 at 9:41 pm

    Hands down this is one of the most helpful blogposts ever. I struggle with posing and had never even thought of any of these ideas 🙂 Thanks so much Jasmine*!!!!!

  39. Becky

    June 3rd, 2010 at 9:48 pm

    yes i would really like to see the sketches of the shots…. pleeeeeeeaaaaaaasssssseeeee…..
    and a picture of Polo wudnt hurt.

  40. Jessie Emeric

    June 3rd, 2010 at 9:48 pm

    ok, so i think i love you! no really, i love that i’m not alone by doing this. I thought that i was a bit too "anal" about being ready and having a vision of what i wanted to create. not everything can go as planned and sometimes the best pics are the ones you don’t plan for, but i love having a plan and now i don’t feel bad about it. it does help me feel more confident and ready! thank you so much for this post! XOXO

  41. Laura

    June 3rd, 2010 at 9:56 pm

    This is such great advice. I do most of the things you suggested, but not on a regular basis. I can’t wait to start practicing with my hubby!!!! I haven’t used that trick yet!

  42. Britney

    June 3rd, 2010 at 10:05 pm

    I’ve been following your blog for a while now and have never commented…but I’m so glad that you made me feel like a normal person! lol I thought I was a freak for previsualizing my shoots and *trying* to draw out the scenes in my head. :o)

  43. Kimberly Witort

    June 3rd, 2010 at 10:06 pm

    I couldn’t agree more on everything in this post. I feel so much more in control when I have some shots already thought out! Great post.

  44. Chantel

    June 3rd, 2010 at 10:07 pm

    You are wonderful! Thanks for reminding us of the divine process that goes into creating fabulous imagery. The dreaming is my favorite part! You are a gift! Be blessed today! 🙂


    June 3rd, 2010 at 10:19 pm

    Wow. You’re a mind reader. You have so many talents!

  46. Stacey Malleck

    June 3rd, 2010 at 10:50 pm

    Feeling inspired! Thanks Jasmine 🙂

  47. The Bing

    June 3rd, 2010 at 10:58 pm

    J* thank you for continuing to inspire!

  48. Linda Sherrill

    June 3rd, 2010 at 11:10 pm

    Great inspiration as always! Thanks!

  49. Alicia Damron

    June 3rd, 2010 at 11:13 pm

    It’s great to hear how you come up with your images. They always look so spontaneous and fun, but it’s encouraging to hear that you have to plan for it. Thanks!

  50. Emily

    June 3rd, 2010 at 11:16 pm


  51. Laurie Bracewell

    June 3rd, 2010 at 11:39 pm

    Studying, understanding and executing in the right lighting and situation…you’re great at this!

  52. Jan

    June 4th, 2010 at 12:10 am

    Thanks for sharing!

  53. Meg

    June 4th, 2010 at 12:31 am

    Yay! Thanks for this helpful post and tips!

  54. Christa

    June 4th, 2010 at 1:12 am

    I LOVE this post….so helpful, thanks!!!!

  55. Nithya

    June 4th, 2010 at 3:54 am

    Wow, so helpful – thanks for sharing! I’m definitely going to start doing this =D

  56. Karen

    June 4th, 2010 at 4:00 am

    Thank you for sharing this. =]

  57. Rae

    June 4th, 2010 at 4:43 am

    I love this! I am going to have to start and inspiration book of my own. Thanks Jasmine!

  58. Kirsten

    June 4th, 2010 at 4:43 am

    I love that you posted this because I was just talking about it today. One of my favorite photographers here in Colorado has told me several times, "Never lose your vision because that can’t be taught," and I have been thinking a lot lately about how, even though I still have a lot to learn, one thing I am confident with is pre-visualization. I was eating lunch with my dad today in Boulder, CO. Boulder has a great mix of people and my dad and I love to people-watch. Close to us, there was a priest in his robe and everything and my dad said, "That would be a cool shot," because he was standing very poised, with his hands behind his back and I said, "I just saw a homeless man walk by with dirty clothes and a hat with a feather in it. I wish the priest was talking to him. That would be a cool shot."

  59. Brittani

    June 4th, 2010 at 5:16 am

    =D None of these LOOK like they are previsualized. I honestly thought you just made them all laugh and act silly, and you caught amazing moments. You rock, and you are amazing for sharing your secrets. Thanks!

  60. Holli True

    June 4th, 2010 at 5:46 am

    LOVE this post because this is exactly what I do. I sketch out poses all the time because then it is etched in my memory. Long ago you mentioned an inspiration book to hold clippings, notes, sketches, etc. Since that post I have created my own inspiration book and I lurrrrve it! 🙂 You’ve inspired me in so many ways, Jasmine!!

  61. Michelle Dudley

    June 4th, 2010 at 6:47 am

    I love how you pick your brain…for us! Thank you!!

  62. Danielle

    June 4th, 2010 at 7:20 am

    Oh Jasmine you’re the best. Another amazing post. So thankful for you. =) Miss you & hope to see you soon. Sending some extra special love your way.

  63. Kaylee Sizemore

    June 4th, 2010 at 7:34 am


  64. Kaylee Sizemore

    June 4th, 2010 at 7:35 am


  65. Angela Waterberg

    June 4th, 2010 at 7:39 am

    You are really inspiring! All of these photos are so fun and natural! 🙂

  66. Carolyn Egerszegi

    June 4th, 2010 at 7:42 am

    THANK YOU for this post Jasmine! I love it when you write about your process. As a photographer it’s extremely helpful and inspiring to get some insight into how you get the amazing results that you do. Write more post just like these, please!! Thanks!!

  67. Tim May

    June 4th, 2010 at 12:24 pm

    What a great post. I have been waiting for one like this for ages. The process that an artist (you) goes through when creating something fascinates me and this is a little insight into that. Im sure this is what you talk about in your workshops but this is as close as i’ll get to one until you come to the UK

  68. Nicky Peterson

    June 4th, 2010 at 5:03 pm

    I love your blog! Your writing! Your willingness to help others! Loved this post! Thank you so much for all your do!

  69. amanda thiessen

    June 4th, 2010 at 6:43 pm

    i love that you’re an open book. thank you for putting yourself out there.

  70. Girish

    June 5th, 2010 at 4:51 am

    A very great read this one. Very very informative and important amount one to remember.


  71. Natascha-Yaeko

    June 5th, 2010 at 4:08 pm

    Great to read, as always. The last pic is my fave. Awesome.

  72. Brenda

    June 5th, 2010 at 5:37 pm

    Thank you!! It seems like your images are taken so spontaneously! What a genius set of ideas! Thank you for the inspiration and insight into your process.

  73. Sarah

    June 6th, 2010 at 1:41 am

    As a photographer who is just starting out, I can’t tell you how glad I am to know that you do this too! I cut out pics from magazines, jot down ideas that come to my head from out of nowhere.. it really helps to have something to reference. Thanks for making me feel okay about it and giving it a name, Previsualization!

  74. Marissa Dodgen

    June 6th, 2010 at 3:39 am

    I am really good at the pre-part. I love to plan out a session before, that way I guarantee at least some good structured shots and I am less nervous if I let things flow out of that.

  75. Juli L.

    June 6th, 2010 at 7:24 am

    How weird to read this post when just a couple hours ago I was telling my sister-in-law that I need to start doing this very thing! Thank you for the post…I had no idea that you did this, but it definitely works, your shots are wonderful! 🙂

  76. Truc

    June 6th, 2010 at 9:04 am

    I love your FAQ posts, Jasmine! I’m a new reader to your blog, and your posts are so incredibly helpful and inspiring! Thank you!

  77. Apple

    June 6th, 2010 at 3:43 pm

    wow! this is so timely! visualization is one of my subjects this term! and I have one of the most terror profs on it. ._. wish me luck! visualization can be the easiest part.. execution is the real challenge. i lovelovelove your work jas!<3

  78. Michelle Parish

    June 6th, 2010 at 4:07 pm

    That’s funny…I use your photos, and other photographers that I admire to inspire me, and I also save magazines, or just browse them in BAM for ideas and I thought I was just being OCD, now I know I’m gettin’ my Jasmine on!!

  79. s h e r r y

    June 7th, 2010 at 4:16 am

    Thanks for sharing! 🙂 I’m starting to pool outside inspiration with my own (crazy) ideas for future shoots.

  80. Brian

    June 7th, 2010 at 5:04 am

    I loved this post! The question I have is: Do you ever just show a couple or an individual an image and say, "do this…"? Sometimes I try to explain to a couple what to do, but I’ve found it easier just to show them. Is it weird though?

  81. kristi

    June 8th, 2010 at 2:18 am

    great tips, jasmine. I absolutely have to pre-visualize, and then be prepared to go with the flow and not be rigid about things that might not work out….great to hear that you do this as well! I also keep a stash of screen grabs of images and poses that I like on my ipod in a specific folder, ie: engagement, families, seniors, etc and scan over them quickly while awaiting the arrival of a client. Otherwise, i would definitely forget!

  82. Bobbie Brown

    June 8th, 2010 at 4:49 am

    It is nearly midnight here in NC and I am sitting here catching up on your blog with a green facemask on and feeling oh-so-inspired. Thank you!

  83. Ann

    June 9th, 2010 at 7:51 am

    As a client, I love this post. I love knowing that all of the fun, spontaneous images captured on your shoots are sometimes led or directed. For people not used to being in front of the camera, it can be so difficult to act naturally and be fun. I have often wondered if you just happened to have some of the most naturally photographic people as clients. Now I know…you have some great clients for sure, but they are taking their cues from a master director behind the camera!

  84. Shannon Marklin

    September 13th, 2010 at 7:18 pm

    Thank you so much for this post Jasmine! I’ve only done two engagement sessions, and the last one I brought a list of general poses I knew I wanted to take…but kind of froze up during the session 🙁 It helps to know that it takes more than writing it down to get comfortable, I’ll definitely practice and try to visualize more next time. Thanks so much, you have no idea how much your posts inspire a rookie photographer like me 🙂

  85. Aniruddha

    January 25th, 2011 at 12:25 pm

    Very interesting thought, and those leading to very interesting pictures 🙂 Thanks for sharing this 🙂

  86. Caroline Shea

    September 29th, 2011 at 4:11 pm

    Love this post…very helpful as well…I told my hubby after I read this, "time to go practice some posing and kissing" he’s like "huh??" haha. Thanks again Jasmine for your inspiring words