How do you let your creativity flourish and get all your ducks in a row at the same time? Well, some smart person told me once that proper planning = perfect performance. Although it sounded like another cliched quote you could find in a business boardroom, it stuck with me. I realized, hey, could plan for “perfect performance” aka, my creativity in action.

Now, this isn’t saying you should be stressing yourself over every step, sentence and shutter speed like a serious Sally. That’s just silly. It’s about preparing your mind to eliminate stress so you can explode with creativity and carry it out with certainty. But how do we get to that point?

Remember: your creativity is the gold mine of your craft, your secret weapon and problem-solving friend.

It’s damn important. It’s essential to create a flow that you know you can optimally perform in – aka, what works for you/ you do you, boo. Over the years, this is something that has worked for me and maybe it’ll work for you. And it’s just 4 simple steps I go through to get the results and images I want. Here we go:

4 little steps you can take

Meet with your clients. I can’t stress this enough. Building a meaningful relationship builds trust. Trust creates synergy and synergy is magic. Take this time to get to know each other, find out their love stories, their passions and dreams for themselves or their businesses. It’s not all seriousness – and when you do talk shop, ask them for their ideas, insight and the direction they want to go in. Walk them through your work process – when they can expect the photos by, and answer any concerns or queries they have. With all of this, you have a foundation, a creative direction and focus to go through the next step

Brainstorm a look & feel. This is my favorite part. Create a mood board for your mind. Based on the conversation with your clients, you should have enough substance to direct your creative choices. Consider the taste of your client and your own personal style. Share your ideas with them. Use the wonderful powers of Pinterest and Instagram. Choose an appropriate location based on the look and feel you’ve designed.

Set-ups & shotlists. I would call this step more of a guideline rather than a rule. Some creatives like showing up and going with the flow – and others like a more organized approach. I’m in between – I generally come with 3-5 ideas or set-ups to work from – and I see where they take me. Use your ideas as a springboard. Keep them in the back of your mind or on your phone. Challenge yourself to experiment with new things.

Just shoot! If you enjoy yourself, so will your clients. Plan to have a good time. Give clear, gentle directions and have some fun. Always look for symmetry, color, and interesting light. If all your plans fail, that’s okay. Be open to change. A creative photographer is always searching. And you never know, you might find something even better.

At the end of the day, you’ll have good shoots and then you’ll have learning curves. Each experience will shape you – let it and just learn. Intentionally invest in yourself – and your creativity. You won’t only see beautiful images, but beautiful growth too.