The Chemistry of a Photoshoot (Part 3)
Some of this overlaps with the previous 2 posts.
In order to really be in control you must have prepared everything properly in advance. This will not only give you a good understanding of what's going but will show your client that you know what you're doing. If the client has to do a bunch of last minute running around &
detail finalization for you it will have them questioning your organizational skills in no time.
Also, you must be able to control the energy of your shoot. Obviously there are some things that will always be out of your control, but if you can't keep your subjects interested you will quickly lose control of your shoot.
Having briefly touched on those points, let's move on to some things to keep in mind while you're at a shoot.
It is important to establish yourself as the person in charge of the shoot as soon as possible. The only time you wouldn't do this is if you are working with a creative director or another type of director who is organizing everything. However, most of the time, you, as the photographer, will be the one calling the shots.
If you don't establish your leadership over the shoot you will quickly lose control of what is going on. One of the first shoots I ever set up was with a local car club. My initial thought was to get in touch with 3 or so of the vehicle owners & have them let me photograph their cars. I was mostly going for location shots and detail shots.
I got in touch with the person listed on the club's website and he emailed me back sounding enthusiastic about the idea. But then somehow he took my idea and turned it into a huge meeting with 30+ vehicles attending!! I stood by & didn't say anything to discourage him.
The appointed day came and I walked into the shoot so discouraged that I didn't even bother to make a game plan for the people that showed up. I ended up taking group photos and some individual shots of owners & their cars. Pretty much people were telling me what they wanted photos of & I was taking them. Nothing even close to what I had originally envisioned. I shot until my memory card was full & ended the shoot.
I was originally mad at the guy who organized the event, but after considering everything I had to shift the blame back to myself. If I had truly been in control I would have insisted that only 3 or 4 cars come or I wouldn't do the shoot. That was one of several hard lessons learned that day!
I have come a long way since then! The last shoot I was on I sent a whole family to their rooms to change their clothes because the outfits were not working at all in the photos! It ate about 10 minutes of the shoot time but the photos we got after the wardrobe change were infinitely better than the ones before. The family was happy with the end product and that is really what counts.
That leads me into the next thing you, as the photographer, should be getting better at: Direction.
Once you have established the fact that you are the one in charge of the shoot, you have to be able to give direction & communicate your ideas clearly. You can do this by having a go-by image to show the subjects, or by verbally/physically placing them. A go-by image is helpful to have because the subjects can see exactly what they are expected to do. Keep the image handy and visible to your subjects. Whenever possible, have an assistant ready to move the subjects or refresh their memories of the go-by image. If you must physically move your subjects it means leaving your post and having to come back & reset yourself every time an adjustment is required.
You must be able to tell people what to do without being timid about it, or abrasive. If you walk into a room to shoot someone and there is furniture everywhere you must be able to tell whoever is working with you that the shot would look better without it.
If your client is choosing a location for you, you must be able to go to the location and make an assessment as to whether it will work for the shot. If it wont work for the shot then, in the name of making a winning photo, exercise your authority and explain to them why it will not work and offer other suggestions. If the location they picked works then that's great. Marketing/PR people often don't have the same eye for photography as you do though, so its important that if you are given lemons you quickly right the situation and go find some grapes. Don't force yourself to make lemonade unless you absolutely have no other option.
Starting a shoot in a bad location can throw a hitch in your creativity because, in your mind, you will have given up on making a good image as soon as you determined that the location was bad. Your energy will suffer and from there it is all down hill. If you look around and can't find anything better then at least you will have the satisfaction of knowing that this location was the best YOU could find. Then and only then should you start to make your lemonade. But my guess is that if you have control of things, and you have the right attitude, you will make the best lemonade the client has ever had!
Follow-through with what you have said you will do for your client. For example, if you say you will have the images in 3 days, make sure you have the images in 2 1/2! This shows them you are in control of things on your end and that will instill them with confidence, ultimately leading to more work for you. If you can't deliver the images on time, for whatever reason, be sure and call the client with plenty of time and make them aware of the situation. Don't just deliver the images late without letting the client know. It always looks better if you own up to your mistakes than if you try to hide from them.
Finally, follow up. Call the client, make a time when you can go meet with them and go over the images you have shot together. This will give you immediate feedback and you can discuss the shots you picked and why you thought they were worth picking.
Also, if the person you are delivering the images to was not with you while you were shooting, the meeting will give you a chance to explain to them why furniture was moved or why wardrobe/locations were changed. If they just look at the images by themselves they may misinterpret your intentions and be upset that you did not deliver the images they requested.
That's it for this time.
Hope this will be helpful to you as you start to take on more and more shoots.