Former Art Buyers and current photography consultants Amanda Sosa Stone and Suzanne Sease have agreed to take anonymous questions from photographers and not only give their expert advice but put it out to a wide range of photographers, reps and art buyers to gather a variety of opinions. The goal with this column is to solicit honest questions and answers through anonymity.
Once on a shoot with creative directors and producers what are some do’s & don’ts as a follow up question to your previous post about the meeting? Be yourself I get, but what about protocol while shooting or even after the shoot?
Amanda and Suzanne: What you do on set is crucial to your success and crucial for a client to consider hiring you again. Many people often read Dos and Don’ts and often say “well that’s obvious” but when you are under pressure or nervous, you too can slip up. We hope these guided tips from our well-respected industry creatives will sink in and help on your next shoot!
The following are other tips beyond what I hope most of the readers will understand to be standard protocol (stay on budget, keep to deadlines, no whining, etc.) I could probably go on and on, but here are a few tips that have tripped up many photographers…
Describe the ground rules
No later than the pre-pro, clearly outline any ground rules that will be important to enforce in order to achieve a successful shoot. For example, if it’s a closed set for a lingerie shoot, let everyone know who is allowed on set and when. That does NOT mean banishing the client to a closet so they stay out of the way. It may, however, require a description of how any talking on the set tends to distract you from interacting with your crew and the talent, thereby compromising the shot. Reiterate these rules on the day of the shoot prior to clicking a shutter.
Engage with the client
This means both the agency and the client. Let them know you are interested in hearing their input, even if further discussion is needed. Most of the big questions should be answered at the pre-pro, so hopefully there won’t be many curve balls on the day of the shoot – but it does happen more often than I wish it would!
It’s difficult to think clearly when hungry. Provide a variety of healthy snacks and beverages. Find out if the client has special food needs, such as food allergies, being a vegetarian, etc. It’s very embarrassing if everyone is eating – except for the vegan, who is only sipping fruit juice because nothing else was edible to them. It doesn’t have to be expensive, just tasty. (If your client is a junk food junkie, then accommodate appropriately.)
Deliver what you promised
This sounds so simple, but I can’t tell you the number of times the photographer didn’t deliver, despite continuous reminders and reassurance that they would. If you agreed to provide all images on a removable hard drive before they left for the day, then be prepared to do so by hiring the necessary digitechs. That means you should promise only what is possible to deliver: “Before you leave for the day, I’ll provide you with low res jpgs for the first 3 shots; low res jpgs for the other 3 shots will be sent to you by Fed Ex for delivery on Friday morning. Once you make selects, I will send you hi res files by FTP.”
Treat your crew well, but professionally
A dysfunctional relationship with your crew is obvious to everyone; even if you think you hide it well. I’ll bet nearly every photo assistant or client has a nightmare story about a jerk photographer, or on the opposite end of the spectrum, one who is too friendly with his crew and won’t ask them to perform basic tasks because they’re friends.
Make the clients feel like the shoot mattered to you
Mundane or exciting, clients want to know you care about the shoot. “Thanks for a great shoot. I sure enjoyed (working with you/the project/getting to know you).” Obviously, keep it truthful, so if you can’t say something nice, just let them know how you’ll wrap things up. “Thanks so much for the project. I’ll be sure to get those files to you on Thursday.”
Make certain you know the “safe zones”
The art buyer that you’re friendly with over the phone may or may not be the person to open up to about the Art Director From Hell. The buyer’s first loyalty will be to the company and you may be the one thrown under the bus if things don’t go well. When in doubt, keep conversation job-related and not editorial.
Get an FTP service
Sending large files via email is not only cumbersome, but it’s possible that they may never make their destination. Share location files, casting shots or production files over 1 mb this way.
Give too much information
They don’t need to know the details of how you’re going to accomplish something, they just need to know you’re going to take care of it. Thinking out loud can make the client wonder if you’ve got a good handle on things. The client also doesn’t need to know that you’re on your third marriage because your other wives were gold-diggers.
Presume you are a close friend of the client
Avoid friending them on Facebook as soon as the shoot is over. They may be kind, but not interested in a more personal relationship. Take your time in nurturing the relationship or you may be identified as creepy rather than friendly. Personally, I use LinkedIn for professional relationships, and it’s not until I know someone on a more personal level that I accept FB invitations from them.
Ask for the next job
I cringe as I write this, but it has happened. Instead of asking, “Are there any other projects in the works that I can bid on?”, say “I sure enjoyed working with you and I hope we can work together again soon.”
You have to deliver great photos and that’s a given. Beyond that:
- Listen to creative concerns and be open to questions.
- Ask questions to figure out what is behind what you consider a “bad” or “stupid” request from AD or from their client. By understanding where the concern comes from, you might be able to troubleshoot a solution that you all can be happy with.
- Always deliver what you are asked for first and then if you have enough time add in any extra shots you are inspired to do
- Make sure AD, client and anyone agency staff feel taken care of – basic courtesies. Beyond doing great work, you can develop client loyalty through genuine little human touches.
I’m not aware of any specific shoot protocol. Here are a couple of things I try to do, though, just ’cause it seems like the right thing to do:
1. Always provide a comfy place for the client to sit and be busy with their work, since more likely than not they will working on other projects while the shoot day details are worked out. This seating area is close enough that they can glance up and see the progress, but not be ‘in the way’ of the behind the scenes work. Internet access a must. Food, bev, all that…
2. If the agency client is in attendance, I make sure to show ‘in progress files’ to the art director only first. If they want to share the in progress stuff, the AD can share with the AE who will in turn show the client.
Do not answer calls, emails or talk about any other project other than what you are working on. I like to make my client think they are the only client on my mind. If they ask about your other clients or what else you’ve been shooting, feel free to answer just don’t ramble.
CONSULTANTS (wonder who they might be):
Use please and thank you to your crew and models (you are being watched by everyone and your every move is analyzed)
Never yell at your crew (in front of your client or behind the scenes)
To Summarize: On a shoot there is always pressure, but that doesn’t mean you have to break under the pressure. If you are educated on this subject and handle yourself and the project calmly, you will be able to make a positive impression.
Call To Action: Make a list of things you have done well in the past and mistakes you might have had. Learn from both. Repeat the great moments and avoid those mistakes. GOOD LUCK!