Test shots, preliminary works: their differences and purposes

By MESAGI, the



Creating art with a camera requires a phase of exploration. Test shots and preliminary works are useful “tools” for the photographer for this exploration, but they serve very different purposes. Read on.

Test shots in photography

Let’s start with test shots: their purpose is to test to appreciate the peculiarities of photographic gear, camera software options, or any other variables. Testing different settings for a digital camera for example helps to understand the software, its options, and their effects on photographs. Test shots can also help to comprehend the character of a new lens, the impact of screw-in filters, or the camera’s sensor qualities and limitations.

When I was given a grant and was finally able to get my first interchangeable lens camera earlier this year, I passed months doing test shots. It’s not always fun to do that but it was important for me to get a feel about the full-frame sensor and software of my SIGMA FP L. To understand the character of my Voigtländer Heliar 40mm lens. It was also a plus to become familiar with the camera’s body and its usage which are different from my tiny Ricoh GR III.

Preliminary works in photography

Preliminary works are not about testing hardware or software. Their purpose is to help us achieve the photographic results we want. And thus, they are useless on their own. They must be part of a bigger picture, in my humble opinion: an art project. Preliminary works will help us attain the photographic results we desire for a given project and preferably for a given outcome (book, magazine, web, you name it…). 

I’ll use my own experience as an illustration. After doing test shots for a while to get familiar with my FP L and Heliar lens, I started doing preliminary works to get the right monochrome tone to express a peculiar part of my feelings in black-and-white for my second book. You can see that these works are the prelude to a visual style and to a book. 

When to use test shots and preliminary works

When you want to test cameras, lenses, accessories, or firmware: do test shots. When you want to get a specific photographic result for a project: do preliminary works. The great thing about these two “tools” is that you shouldn’t stress about taking breathtaking photographs. What matters is that the photographs serve your purposes: testing or achieving.

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