As commercial photographers, we are constantly battling against time; every assignment has different people involved and different expectations of results and when the client expects the final product, and most assignments require a much longer preparation and/or post-production time than most imagine, and the time spent shooting is the shortest period of the whole assignment. That is part and parcel of the job.
It could be a simple event, like a speech and Q&A panel, but the client will require the photos within an hour of its conclusion. Or, in the case of corporate portraits for high-level executives, clients who only have a very specific, and very small, window of availability. These are busy people, and don’t have time for anyone to fiddle around with lights and angles and poses. They want a portrait, done in 15 minutes, and who are we to disagree?
Recently we had an assignment to shoot location portraits for Paypal’s new Senior VP for the Asia-Pacific region, Rupert Keeley. The brief was pretty simple: it had to be done in Paypal’s premises, we were expected to shoot against multiple backgrounds, and we had 15 minutes of time with him. It isn’t the tightest of deadlines, but it’s not exactly easy either. Every one of those 15 minutes had to count. And to make up for that, we asked, and received, a little preparation time ahead of the shoot.
We arrived an hour before the shoot to scout and setup for 3 to 4 different locations within the client’s office. Every location received the same treatment — lights were set up, test shots made, settings, lighting and camera positions noted down. This way each of us knew exactly what we needed to adjust or leave alone at each location to minimise downtime. We also shot tethered so the client can get (and give) instant feedback and we can identify and correct any issues on the spot.
All that prep meant we only needed 10, and not 15, minutes of time with Rupert. At the end, the client also requested for some quick photos so they can send it out to the media by the end of the day, and we were happy to oblige; after all, that was factored into our calculations.
What I’m trying to say isn’t how well we can perform in given only limited time to make portraits, since that really is part of what we do for a living. Most of our fellow professionals face similar time constraints in assignments and we all deal with them the best we can. But what professionals do is also to bring our experience to bear under these circumstances and know how to prepare for them accordingly, be it telling the client “Look, 15 minutes is fine but we’re looking at a little more time in advance of the session, and we won’t intrude on your VIP’s day, can we swing that?”, or having spare equipment just in case of failure, and knowing our kit’s limits inside out and making sure that all of that knowledge and experience is packaged neatly into the window the clients have and not having to worry about.
Of course, clients can choose to hire cheaper photographers. That is a given, no matter how you price yourself, there will be someone cheaper, and there will be someone who charges more. But photographers who charge a low price probably won’t have that know-how to make a shoot go smoothly and anticipating, then navigating any potential hitches.
Oh, and seeing our photos being used makes us feel good. I don’t deny that at all. We do enjoy our work, and I guess that’s why we keep going.