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Taking A Second Glance: Perspective Is Key

A paper horse and owl are nestled in felt pom-pom garland with a backdrop of hand drawn hearts.
A simple photoshoot created with characters from Kat Ford's book, "Giddy-Up Fairytale Cowgirl."

I've enjoyed arranging items since I was a child, perhaps because my grandparents owned an antique store with treasures placed on copious shelves. As an adult, this aptitude for spatial awareness led to a career as a visual merchandiser and, eventually, a freelance prop and set designer. 

Never in my wildest childhood dreams would I have imagined that I could make money creating sets for photographers and videographers. This realization led to a series of vocational-pointing edutainment passion projects that I explore through children's books, novels, and content creation. I want to empower future vocational success by exposing children to the myriad occupations available through dramatic play.

Photoshoots can be complex, consisting of sets, wardrobe, makeup, hair, and lighting. But they can also be uncomplicated, allowing the neophyte to experiment with concepts like scale, strategy, and teamwork. Industries that use these skills can range from film to print publications, weddings, special events, social media and marketing, retail, real estate, and fashion.

Here are some ideas to use at home or in the classroom to create an easy DIY photoshoot:

  1. Strategize: Create a mood board with inspiration for your photoshoot. Consider color, set or wardrobe elements, and lighting. This stage is a beneficial time to discuss the goal of your final images. Do you want to highlight a product, for instance, an accessory your model is wearing? Are you attempting to convey an emotion? Don't forget that a model doesn't have to be a person; try a pet or stuffed animal.

  2. Create: Identify your location. You might choose a natural setting or a room in your house. You could use wrapping paper or draw on a roll of white paper to create a cyclorama. As you place elements within your set, look through the lens of your camera or smartphone to determine perspective and lighting.

  3. Shoot: Take pictures from various angles. Don't shy away from moving things if the original placement doesn't look the way you hoped.

  4. Edit: Editing your image can be as simple as finding the best crop or using image-altering software and apps. 

  5. Share: Depending on age, share your image on social media, with family and friends, or print it out and create your own magazine or ad campaign.

This activity can stay simple or include assigning different projects to team members, allowing children to explore aptitude in project management, styling or clothing construction, prop construction, photography, and graphic design. For older children, skillsets within each niche vocation could be introduced, such as photography aperture and taking measurements to fit or alter garments. Images from multiple photoshoots could be compiled into printed/digital publications or social media calendars, introducing multi-faceted visual narratives and writing.

Aside from vocational exposure and creativity, this dramatic play activity offers a third important lesson. When creating professional visual narratives, reality skews for the sake of storytelling. Lighting and angle enhance a pose, editing digitally alters, and the final image is closer to a fairy tale. As we navigate an ever-growing world of media created for consumption, empowering children to understand that what you see is not always reality is paramount. 

Knowing that the way something appears could merely be a matter of interpretation is paradigm-shifting, bringing me to my cosmic point. When we train our minds to be less reactive, stepping back from a situation to get a 360-degree view, we allow mental space to visualize what is happening behind the scenes. Who is the photographer? Who designed the set? Who is deciding where to shed the most light? The world is overflowing with different perspectives; crop an image slightly, and it tells a different story. Isn't it time that we offer ourselves and others the grace to take a second glance and search for the larger narrative?

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