Commercial and portrait photographer John Keatley believes that the more time you spend planning and pre-visualizing every aspect of a shoot, the more time you have to interact with your subjects on set, and the more value you have in the eyes of your clients. During his PhotoPlus Expo seminar, “Managing Clients and Workflow on Set,” Keatley gave experienced commercial photographers and newcomers some pointers for how to maximize their time on productions large and small and make a lasting impression on clients. He described each step in his workflow—from pre-production meetings to sending the invoice.
Keatley, who offers online tutorials and business workshops for photographers, stressed that, before a client call even comes in, you should have your team in place. Making sure you have good working relationships with hair and makeup artists, producers, assistants and digital techs means that you won’t have to scramble once an assignment comes in. Having a team that you can work well with leaves less chance for surprises on set, Keatley said.
He also recommended that, as soon as a potential job comes in, you give your team a call and let them know the dates and any information you may have. However, do not finalize the scheduling until you have a written sign off for the job from the client, or you may need to pay the crew even if the job falls through.
Keatley emphasized the importance of pre-visualization before the shoot. Beyond planning color schemes or what props to purchase, Keatley said, pre-visualization involves thinking through not only what will happen on the shoot, but also what could happen. As an example, he described a shoot where he had to photograph his subjects in a shower. He had thought of many possible outcomes, but failed to anticipate several problems. He tested the water temperature, for example, but didn’t anticipate that the warm water wouldn’t last throughout the shoot. He made sure he had a pump, but didn’t have a back-up plan in the event the pump stopped working, which it did. Also he hadn’t thought to bring towels. Taking the time to properly think through and problem-solve details prior to being on the set is not only the key to a successful shoot, but also gains the respect of your clients, he said.
Keatley also said that throughout the pre-production process, photographers should ask the client as many questions as they need to. “The more questions, the better.” Keatley noted. “It shows you’re thoughtful and that you care.”
Putting together a production calendar is another step in successful pre-pro prep. To see what Keatley’s production calendars look like, keatley-survivalguide_productioncalendar. The calendar he showed is for an ideal timeline, he noted; there isn’t always the time or budget to stretch your schedule for a full month. However, as a rule of thumb, he suggested that at least two weeks is needed from planning to the delivery of retouched images. Exceptions can be made depending on your experience level and the complexity of the shoot.
Keatley offered a few things to keep in mind during the shoot. First, he said, be mindful of the needs of your client. Make sure they have a comfortable place to sit, a quiet place for them to work or to use a phone. “It’s also probably a good idea to feed them,” he said.
Keatley also suggests bringing promo pieces to the shoot, as you’re likely to meet creatives on the set who may want to work with you in the future.
After the shoot: Celebrate. Take the client out. It generates excitement and helps you thank them and the staff for a job well done.
And lastly, when you send the invoice, make sure it looks professional, is easy to read and is pleasant to view.
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