Policies and Operating Procedures

The grease which keep social gears running smoothly

a mural showing local kami, or gods, from Saiga, Fukuoka, Japan

Local Kami and Famous Figures from Saga Prefecture, Fukuoka, Japan

“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”


Everyone knows the witticism associated with the word, 'assume.'

Or do they? That's the thing about assumption; you and I can quickly make ourselves looks like ...fools... if we take each other's feeling and understanding for granted. Relying on assumption to do the heavy lifting in a relationship is not only intellectually lazy, it's downright dangerous. Things can get toxic very quickly when we stop talking clearly and just choose to believe the other party is the one in the wrong. As humans, we're prone to want to protect our egos from imagined harm. Of course, this often leads to our egos becoming inflated or fragile and this often causes real harm. This is why I like to spell things out for others, and for myself. In order to do that, I use SOPs.

What is an SOP?

An SOP - or Standard Operating Procedure - is a set of instructions or 'if, then' statements that ensure consistency of service and results. They aren't rules, but guidelines that have been proven effective over time. When I worked briefly for IBM they were a fact of life that ensured things ran smoothly. My SOPs aren't as rigid as IBM's are, but they ensure I provide a consistency of service. I'm happy to adjust them when needed, but they do exist for a reason.
sunrise at mogimachi bay, nagasaki, japan

Sunrise at Mogimachi, Japan

For example, when I travel I always wear the same set of clothing and pack the same bags. I know that I'll be comfortable in almost any weather, how much each bag will weigh when filled, where my travel documents are, and it won't set off metal detectors. It also frees my mind to think of all the other details that are important like times and destinations.

What does this have to do with photography?

I'm so glad you asked! By applying this process to my photography, it allows me to have greater creative freedom in other areas. From my experience as a teacher and a father I know that total creative freedom has the same outcome: chaos and entropy. Without restrictions, people tend to go hog-wild and then burn out spectacularly. This is why I generally only use one light (and one reflector). I restrict the colours and styles of clothing that people bring to my studio. I have only 4 backdrops. I use 3 prime focal lengths. Do I sometimes use other lenses or experiment? Yes, of course, but without first restricting myself, I wouldn't have the desire to stretch myself.