Production. Pre-production, the production of the day of shooting, and post production. Yes, it is all a production. In the city of Miami, there are many aspiring photographers. Also, there is a trend within Miami to always say “I can do it, no problem”! Whether it is a home repair or a major ad campaign, Miami is a tricky city to hire someone in. Maybe I’m thinking of this today because of all the work done on my house last week, and all the things that weren’t done right and now require more time and work to fix. But in the city of Miami, you’ll rarely here anyone say “I don’t know how to do that”. And it’s part of the charm of the city! People truly WANT to be able to do it all. They want you to relax and not stress while they help you get done what you need done. But in a city, when everyone says they can do it, how do you find out who really can? At least in photography the devil is in the details. Which brings us back to (you guessed it), production. It’s what you can’t wake up and know how to do. You can be a very talented photographer, but if you can’t organize a shoot your not going to go very far. Granted, there are clients who know all about production. Clients who either have in house production staff to do this work or already know who they will outsource it to. Because when they say seconds of shooting takes hours of planning, it’s not a lie.
That said, reasons my clients love working with me is that I am always able and happy to help with production. I don’t expect my clients to all know how a photo shoot comes together, that would be unreasonable! So part of my job is to see what they want and need for images and then make sure on the day we shoot we have everything we could possibly need to get those images into my camera.
A good case study of this was a client of mine who had about two weeks to replace their existing ad campaign. This client was spending serious money on advertising and to learn that in 2 weeks they would no long have the license to any images was a huge blow. They needed Billboards, online ads, magazine ads, website images, a complete brand makeover, and it had to be done in about two weeks start to finish. And this is where they started to see why working with someone who knew the industry already was better than taking someone’s word for it that they “can do it, no problem”! Because there are always problems. A professional photographer knows how to roll through those problems and quickly find solutions to keep you on deadline. But if a photographer doesn’t know production, doesn’t have relationships already with a team of people, the client suffers. We would cast models only to learn they booked a ticket home (this was towards the end of the Miami modeling season) and were no longer available that day, we had stylists pulling clothes that weren’t what we wanted, we needed equipment flown in from out of state, just to name a few things. But because I have 7 years of this business under my belt we were able to watch closely as the days leading up to the shoot unfolded and catch each issue early on to fix it.
But production is more than fixing problems, it’s anticipating needs. I can see the creative direction from the examples and mood boards sent and know what we need to do this job well. In the above case study, I encouraged hiring 3 models instead of 2 (the client knew he wanted 2 particular models, the 3rd was a blond that I suspected would fit another need they hadn’t identified yet). The 3rd model ended up being the favorite and the one who was on the Billboards. We needed 5 shots with different outfits total, but the client ended up choosing 7 and licensing extras and because we shot over 10 looks they were able to get more to work with. The retouching happened as soon as the client made the selections and they were able to switch out their Billboards and run their new adds seamlessly. It’s a beautiful thing when fast, well shot, creative work happens. But if I hadn’t been who I am, if I was still green, any single small issue we hit could have derailed the shoot. It’s about knowing more than your clients do about the shoot. If you ever find yourself working for a client who knows more than you about what your doing there, look out. Odds are they don’t know that you aren’t more experienced and that truth always surfaces.
But being a photographer isn’t about putting your client down either. Please, don’t misunderstand me! It’s about anticipating the clients needs before they realize they have them. It’s in the details. And that is why a handy man with a camera isn’t the best choice for photos that are important. Because in this business, going back the next week to fix a mistake is easily thousands and thousands of dollars. I wouldn’t want to be on the other side here in Miami, it’s hard enough to find someone to repair your sink because of the false confidences. A sink, which is just a few bucks compared to a photo shoot. And when it comes to photography, more and more people are picking up cameras and trying to strike it rich, like some misguided gold rush, promising that they can take a great picture and pull off a monumental shoot with no work/worries/involvement fromt he client. I’d say that is the first red flag, if they don’t know what questions to ask and just tell you they can do the shoot. That’s when it is time to re-evaluate who your hiring. And then, well, call me 😉