I used to joke with my colleagues when I was a photojournalist, "How can you already know what the story is about when you haven't even started reporting on it?" The angle of the story almost always changed once we got out into the field to interview and observe the story. I apply the same approach to my commercial career.
Whenever I work with a client I make every effort to do some scouting before the shoot happens. That way I can let what's happening in real life help guide the shoot. Through observing the nature of the subject matter I can more offer a distinct approach to the shoot.
For my shoot at the newly remodeled Schroeder's in SF it was crucial to get a great hero shot of beer since it's been known as a beer hall for the past 120 years. When I showed up for scouting I took my usual look at some of the dishes we would be shooting and also decided to observe the after-work happy hour crowd as they drank beers. I immediately noticed the different sizes of beer glasses and the staggered nature of the beers lined up on their communal table (see last picture in series below). It was the inspiration for my beer shot (see first picture below).