There are entire lists of excuses not to be organized…and reasons why those excuses don’t cut it. Sure, you’re a rebel. We get it. And we know you’ve heard that Albert Einstein said, “a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind” (he didn’t, by the way). But let’s be realistic: the main reason for that Marie Kondo nightmare in your studio is pure and simple laziness.
We get that, too.
Location shoots, weddings, sporting events … those suckers can flat take it out of you. Running around all day in the hot sun, dealing with demands while you’re trying to do your job—heck, just having to be “on” all day: it’s exhausting. And even if it wasn’t, the first thing you want to do when you get back is plug in your drive and see what you got that day.
The LAST thing you want to do is clean and put away your equipment. So it gets dumped in the entryway with a promise to deal with it later. And more often than not, “later” is photog-speak for “The next time I need it.”
The problem is, the next time you need it, you may’ve forgotten that you put your flash in your glove box. Or that the batteries in your meter were dead. Or that you ripped that screen. Something. So you’re scrambling about, trying to get stuff ready for that Important Shoot, and you discover what you probably would’ve remembered if you had put your equipment away that day. Stress much?
I’ve heard more than one photographer say something to the effect of “that’s the price you pay for being an artist!” I call BS: chaos and creativity are not the same thing. Even if you ARE a proverbial starving artist, you don’t have to look the part. Because you’re also a PROFESSIONAL, remember?
Don’t get me wrong: I know that keeping your camera gear optimized and organized isn’t easy, especially if you’ve foregone the overhead of a dedicated studio. Strobes, light stands, sand bags, battery packs, screens, backgrounds: photography equipment is bulky, often heavy, and comes in weird, cumbersome shapes.
Whether you have a studio or not, you’re still faced with the idea of taking it on the road with you for every shoot. OK, maybe not ALL of it for EVERY shoot … but that presents it’s own set of problems: “I don’t need my whole toolbox for this gig, just that one wrench!” OK, fine. But if you don’t put that wrench BACK in your toolbox when you return, odds are you’ll forget … at least until you’re on-site and discover that wrench isn’t there.
Of course, if you aren’t an organized person by nature ( and that actually IS typical of artists), you probably don’t even know how to go about getting yourself a system, so I am going to give you a big tip to get you started. Maybe you can benefit from all the mistakes I’ve made over the years. Here it is:
A place for everything.
Usually, that rule is followed by “…and everything in its place.” Wouldn’t that be nice? That’s the ideal, of course, but it starts with simply having a set place for everything. If you have a place for everything, if you trip across, say, that wrench we mentioned earlier, you don’t have to just pick it up, look around, and wonder what to do with it. You KNOW where it goes, and you KNOW where you’ll look for it first.
Not only that, but you can gather some quick intel simply by looking at where something is supposed to be—even if it’s not there. Think about it: you know you have a wedding to do on Saturday. You know you’ll need a certain flash. If you don’t know where it is supposed to be, you walk in Friday night and start your search from scratch. Bring on the stress.
But if you decide that flash belongs atop the bookshelf, and you at least make SOME attempt to put it back there when you’re done, you walk in Friday night, see it isn’t there … but now you have someplace to start. “OK, why didn’t I put it there? When did I last use it?” and so on.
That’s not the true benefit, though: what happens if you remember the upcoming job, not on Friday night, but on Wednesday afternoon. You remember, glance to the bookshelf … the flash isn’t there. Now you know ahead of time that you need to find it. You don’t have to look for it that second, when you’re walking out the door: all you have to do is glance at where it is supposed to be. Now you know.
And knowing, as GI Joe used to say, is half the battle.