Keep Your Client Happy: Six Essential Tips For Managing A Photo Shoot
Question: What are some production strategies for managing medium to large shoots?
When it comes to managing any type of shoot, you need two things: organization and a strategy. As the size of the shoot increases, so do the complexity of its logistics and the details you and your team are responsible for. Hiring the right crew - and enough crew - will be a key part of a successful strategy and well-executed shoot.
Get as much information as possible from the client and create a production list. Surround yourself with people who complement your style and bring any skills you lack to the table. All great photographers surround themselves with crew members who enhance their strengths and take personal responsibility for their actions. And definitely be sure to have layouts and your shot list ready on set so you can keep track of the details as you go along.
Essentials for Getting the Job Done Right
1. Obtain layouts from the client.
Clients should supply layouts or visual guidelines in order for you to accurately bid the project. If they do not have specific comps for the shoot, ask them for swipes, tear sheets or sketches. Be sure anything they send you is exactly what you estimate the productions costs on. You want to be positive you have the correct location, the correct number of talent in the examples, and that the props are representative of what they prefer you to use. Of course, line items are subject to change but you don't want to make any assumptions. Talk through the layout with the art buyer and ask if there is anything else that you should know.
2. Get a shot list.
Find out how many shots the client actually needs, as well as the exact usage. Ask if there are variations to the shots and, if so, what do the variations entail? Is it a wardrobe change? Makeup change? Lighting change? Camera angle change? Your questions help determine the number of shots, and the number of days it will take to shoot.
3. Line up the right crew.
Beyond having a basic crew of photo assistants, you will need to hire a producer if it is a shoot for an ad agency. A producer will assist you in creating an accurate estimate. They will hire the crew, coordinate the production and maintain communication with the agency. At best, collaborating with an experienced producer takes the pressure of coordinating production details off your shoulders - leaving you time to concentrate on the creative aspects of the shoot.
4. Confirm the props.
Often an agency will say they only need a few props and don’t want to hire a prop stylist for budgetary reasons. However, more often than not, the prop list keeps growing and ultimately becomes another person’s job. Creating a comprehensive list of props which are needed makes it clear who will handle them and whether or not you need a prop stylist.
5. Find out what the wardrobe is.
No matter who the client is, you will NEED a wardrobe stylist! Even if the agency says that the talent can wear their own wardrobe, a stylist will ensure you have supplemental wardrobe on set or to coordinate the existing wardrobe to be brought in. And, most importantly, be selective when hiring a stylist. It’s essential that they have a keen sense for what is required for your particular shoot so you can focus on shooting.
6. Create a production book and call sheet.
A clear production schedule allows the entire crew to know what’s happening during pre-production, on the actual shoot day(s), and during post-production.
Organization Keeps You and Your Clients Happy
It takes a great deal of effort to organize a large shoot. Though each shoot requires different things, each should be approached with the same overall strategy. Keep the communication going, update the agency frequently, and notify them of any changes -- especially budgetary changes, as they need to be approved before moving forward.
Complete a production book and make sure all your information is correct and kept up to date. Hire a producer to handle the production so you can focus on the creative. Keep your shot list in front of you on set. Most importantly, have the right crew AND enough crew members. The right crew makes a large production seamless...or at least they will make it look that way! And with a smooth production and focused shoot comes a happy client!