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Some advice that will set you up for a great photo shoot,
and awesome client experience!
We’ve all had the moment during a photo shoot where something went wrong, we forgot something important, or things just didn’t go as planned. Well, we can’t prepare for all issues that present themselves during a photo shoot. But we can do a lot to prepare for how we can deal with them when they occur.
Probably the most important part of any photo shoot, other than the shooting itself, is preparing for the shoot. It is imperative that everything is in line prior to getting to work, in order to hit the ground running once the shoot starts. This is especially important if you are a photographer, like me, that does predominately “on-location” photography requiring an abundance of gear.
If someone is hiring you to photograph them, you cannot afford to neglect the following checklist! All it takes is one preventable misstep and you risk presenting yourself, and your business, as unprofessional, unprepared, and careless. It only takes a few minutes to make sure you are ready to go and adequately prepared for the shoot.
One day before your photo shoot:
#1 - Inspect your gear!
Yes! Every single time! “Do it, Do it now!” And do it the day before the photo shoot! “But Matt, why not the day of the shoot, I don’t need it until then anyway?” What if there's something wrong with your gear that you can’t fix before the shoot? Isn’t it better to find out about this the day before the photo shoot rather than when you pull your gear out of your bag in front of your client? Knowing the condition of your gear earlier rather than later will allow you to remedy the situation before the shoot, leaving your client none-the-wiser about the situation.
Think about it, if for some reason your camera started freaking out and it wasn't working properly (i.e the dreaded Error 99 for Canon camera’s) and you are unable to fix it in a reasonable amount of time, you now have the opportunity to find a last minute replacement. This could save you from having to cancel the shoot. If you have a local shop that rents cameras and gear you now have time to give them a call and see if they can help you out. Or maybe you have a VERY nice friend that would allow you to borrow their camera for the shoot while you get yours fixed. If you do, keep him/her, these friends are hard to find! They can be the knight in shining armor in your greatest time of need! LOL!
If you are unable to remedy the situation before the photo shoot at least you have enough time to contact your client. I assure you your clients would much rather get a call from you the day prior to their photoshoot, before they got all the kids dressed up and ready to go and put on their “Sunday Best!” It is much easier to reschedule a photoshoot than deal with the embarrassment of showing up unprepared, especially when it was a preventable situation.
#2 - Charge all of your batteries!
Most of us are shooting with digital photography gear. All of this gear takes power, and they get their power from batteries. It may go without saying that you should check the power level on all of your batteries before your photoshoot, including your spares! Yes, I said spares! Please, always have spare batteries for all of your gear. And keep them in a spot where you will always know their location. It is so easy to tell your clients to “Take 5,” switch out your batteries, and go on with the shoot! Can you imagine if you had to cut a photo shoot short just because the batteries pooped out on you. That sucks! And it’s unacceptable during a paid photoshoot.
NOTE: Even if you have spare batteries available, be aware that battery power drains much faster in cold weather! So, if you are doing a lot of winter photoshoots make sure you stock up on the battery power! And here is a secret, put your spare batteries in your pocket or in a place close to your body. This will allow them to warm up, and extend their life before you need them.
#3 - Visit the location
Sometimes this isn’t practical, but I would guess that most of your photo shoots are going to be in a pretty local geographical area to your home or business. So, it shouldn't be too much of a burden to scout out the location prior to the photo shoot and plan your time. It is also very beneficial to visit the location during the same time of day as your planned photo shoot so you can observe the quality, location, and angle of light. You can also use this time to peruse the location and find specific, “diamond-in-the-rough” places that may give you that “WOW factor.”
#4 - Directions (and other important information)
Information is key, right? If you said “NO” you're WRONG! Ha Ha! It may seem like common sense to know where you are going and how to get there. Getting places is pretty straightforward with GPS services now available on our smartphones and vehicles. However, if you are not familiar with the location of the photoshoot make sure that you print yourself out a Google Maps printout of the location and directions to the photoshoot location. Or better yet, take a trip to the location before the photoshoot (see #3). Remember, technology is great but it is not infallible! It will fail you at some point. Always have a backup! Trust me, it’s worth it!
At the photo shoot
#1 - Always be on time!
NEVER be late for a photo shoot, ever! Nothing will tell your clients “I don’t care about you” more than if you show up late. Always be on time! I can’t stress this enough. “If you’re 15 min early, your 15 min late!” (thank the USMC for that advice!). If something unforeseen happens and you know for sure that you will not be on time, call your clients and let them know. Don’t just show up late and apologize. They will respect you so much more for that.
Also, showing up early will give you a last minute look at your chosen location before your clients get there. You may need to change your original plan based on the current situation! What if there is a 5K run going on at the local park, right where you planned to have your photoshoot? Bummer! You're going to need to change things up. Better to panic when you are alone, get it all figured out, and look like your NEW plan was your ORIGINAL plan all along when your clients show up! Brilliant, yeah? Trust me, it happens. Better to have 30 minutes to figure this out instead of figuring it out “on-the-fly” while your clients “wait in the wings.”
#2 - “Dress for Success!”
Always dress appropriately for the occasion. You’re a professional, dress like it! Obviously, the situation, event, or even the weather can affect your choice of attire. However, dress like your clients would expect you to dress. You will be dressing differently when photographing a wedding than you will when you are shooting somebody’s kid at a soccer game. For more casual events most clients are not going to care too much about what you are wearing. However, for more formal events, like weddings, the bride will most-likely want you looking good. Check with the client. Don’t get caught showing up way under-dressed for the expectations of your client. Your client is probably assuming that you know what will be appropriate for their event so if you are unsure, ask! It will save you some heartache and embarrassment at the event.
#3 - Have a container of “Special Items”
If you photograph families, you are familiar with children. Such wonderful human beings. So beautiful, so happy, and entertaining… for the first half of the photoshoot! Inevitably they get a little worn out, bored, hungry, tired, frustrated, full diaper… whatever. Anyway, if you haven't captured all of the photos you wanted/needed with that child, you are going to need some help. I can tell you that having a bag of “special items” can be a life-saver, or “photo-saver.” If you photograph small children this is what you should always carry with you… Small cute stuffed toys that make squeaky noises, preferably ones that you can stick on the top of your lens (they sell these, ya’ know, made to wrap around camera lenses), different kinds of NON-CHOCOLATE candy (bribery usually works - ask parents first), bubbles, and a colorful lightweight blanket or scarf. These can help you immensely by keeping a child engaged in the photoshoot and looking at your camera. Even if you only get 10 more minutes of engagement… a lot of photos can be taken in 10 min, just maybe one of them will be the perfect one!
Other “special items” that can save the day…
- Small pair of scissors
- hair ties (trust me… cheap, and can be a “session saver”)
- small towel
- camera battery charger (that can plug into your car power port)
After the photo shoot
#1 - Thank your client!
Always remember that your client did YOU a service by hiring you. Make sure they know that you appreciate it very much! Always confirm with them that you took all of photographs they wanted to get out of the photo session. Make sure that you let them know, if you haven’t already, how long they can expect until their photos will be available for viewing. And make sure you stick with that expectation. In fact, be early! It is always nice to get an email stating that their photos are ready for viewing before they expect them to be!
Well, I hope this will help you organize your photo shoots. I have, unfortunately, learned some of these “on-the-job” and have had to do the best I could at the time, including having to cut a photo shoot short one time.
Don’t embarrass yourself, be professional, be prepared!! Trust me, the peace of mind will help decrease your stress level. This, in turn, will allow you to create better photographs, and give your clients a better experience. Heck, who knows, maybe, just maybe, they will tell their friends about their incredible experience and what an awesome photographer you are!
If you have any questions or comments please feel free to leave them. I would love to hear from you. If you haven’t already, please “LIKE” my page on Facebook! CLICK HERE!! https://www.facebook.com/pages/Matthew-Koehler-Photography/198684676816908 And please feel free to share this post with all of your friends! Thank you!
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"...She lifts her hands up to the sky
She moves with the music
The song is her lover
The melody's making her cry
So she dances..."
Josh Groban - "So She Dances"
Welcome to my blog! And to my first blog entry! What a beautiful image to kick it off with. This is an image I captured of a dancer preparing for her performance in "Dance On!," an annual production put on by "The Dance Center" in Santa Rosa, CA. It was taken backstage, during intermission. She just started dancing behind the curtain and I could not resist photographing her, gracefully gliding across the stage. She seemed to be so consumed by the music in her head that she did not even see me following her with my camera. Either that or she just didn't care. Either way, it was beautiful to watch. I could feel her love of the dance as I watched and photographed her. She didn't have a large audience at the moment but she still moved across the stage with a purpose, every move deliberate, like every moved mattered. To her it probably did. Im just glad I was able to capture it!