I've been reading, analyzing and studying so much photography lately that I'm overthinking my shots and they are starting to look contrived. How much preproduction do you do? Are you previsualizing? How do you keep it real and fresh without overthinking it?
I think there are times that doing a lot of research and analyzing are a good thing but it can overwhelm you pretty quickly.
It’s like those kung fu movies where the student is training. They do so much training they get overwhelmed too quickly or fight to vigorously. There’s always that scene where everything gets quiet. They clear their mind. Flow like water and all that crap and…. they slowly get up and kick a lot of ass. :)
Something like that needs to happen for you. Step away from all the noise. Take a month off twitter, facebook, and the like. Let this be the last Tumblr post you read for 30 days. Fast from information.
Pick up your camera and go shoot. Pick a subject and go shoot that. Say circles. Go find circles for a day. Then shoot shadows for a day. Or a week. Nothing but shadows. Or the color red. Then shoot red circles. Start to build these simple assignments on top of each other.
Don’t blog about it. Don’t instragram them. Don’t twitter that you’re doing this. Eff the rest of the world online. Find signal.
As for the other parts of your question… I don’t do a lot of preproduction unless it involves a “production”. Like a call sheet, a call time, prop rentals, gear rentals, talent, etc. Just logistical stuff. On most jobs I’m walking on to the shoot with a loose idea of what I want and/or what the client wants and I work from there.
I pre-visualize a lot. A LOT. I think about a photo I want or a series of photos that I want and try to go out and make those. Sometimes it’s based on the subject I’m shooting. Like “I want a larger than life strong portrait of this person.” Sometimes it’s based on the location. “I want to really pick up on those leading lines or that texture or color, etc.”
Sometimes I’ll shoot a street photo and that becomes the base for my next portrait shoot.
I over think stuff far too much. Some days I just say fck it and head out with zero plans and just make it up as I go. That’s how photography stays fresh for me. I have enough confidence that where ever I end up I can make a photo. I can find some sort of light. I can find some sort of interesting background. It’s my job to make something from nothing and I like to find myself in the “nothing” to be challenged.