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Athletes warm up. Musicians warm up. It's always struck me as a little bit strange that writers and visual artists don't warm up. You can't sit at work all day and then suddenly walk out the door and be a photographer. Doing good work with your camera requires a particular mindset and visual sense, and it's very hard to simply turn that on and off. Photography is a physical experience. It's mostly centered around your visual sense obviously. But like any physical activity, warming up first will make things easier. Now, the good news is that if you don't warm up you're not likely to injure yourself, but if you do warm up, I think you might find that you get into a shooting awareness and state of mind faster than if you don't warm up.
So how does one warm up for photography? Well, first of all, look at images that you like. Look at your own images that have worked for you before, look at someone else's images that gets you back into the mindset of looking at images and seeing models of nice images. Personally I find that warming up is mostly a process of re-acquainting myself with the particulars of shooting. If I've had a busy day working or playing, or whatever I've been doing, then my mind is probably thinking about all sorts of things. So to warm up, I need to get focused on shooting and I need to get my visual sense back to thinking photographically.
The easiest way to do this is simply take a picture. When you walk out the door to go shooting, take a picture. Doesn't have to be anything important or grand. Take a picture of your foot, take a picture of the telephone pole across the street, anything at all. The goal is not to get a good shot but simply to remind yourself about what you're up to. Feeling the camera, looking through that frame, seeing your exposure settings, even just doing that once can help switch you over from what you were doing before to the process of shooting. Of course what's kind of depressing is when that practice shot is the best shot you get all day, but still it's a good thing to do right when you step out the door.
Now don't just rifle off a shot. Actually do what you're supposed to do. Frame carefully, focus, take note of your exposure settings, steady the camera, shoot. Doing that often reminds yourself of the crop of your frame and gets your mind oriented more towards the process of shooting and your hands back into the feel of the camera. Some of the seeing exercises that we looked at earlier can also be good warm up exercises, though they do take longer. At the very least, experiment with this simple process of taking a practice shot as soon as you head out to shoot.
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