E-mail to client: “I must strongly recommend against the proposed photo shoot location, on the grounds that one or more of the crew members could plunge 150 feet down the sheer cliff face to their death.”
E-mail reply from client: “Life is risk.”
Managing a catalog photo shoot on location is harder than it looks. In fact, a key part of a good project manager’s job is to make the job look easy, because a jittery project manager upsets the crew and slows the work. Whatever happens, as project manager your job is to take it all in stride, consider all your options and make the right choice at every point, no matter what’s going on.
I pulled into the park manager’s driveway as the rest of the eight-person crew headed toward the sheer rock cliff half a mile away. Last week the park manager had assured me that a permit would be no problem; I could pick it up when we arrived.
“I’m here for that photo shoot permit we’ve been discussing,” I said.
“I’m not sure I can let you shoot,” said the park ranger.
“The eagles are not happy,” he said.
A typical location crew will consist of one or two photographers, an art director, one or more client representatives, one or two stylists, one or two styling assistants and any models you need. It’s possible for one person to simultaneously handle both art direction and project management, but it’s better if the jobs can be divided, because project management for even a relatively small crew can take a lot of time. Here are some basic project management issues to consider:
1. Transportation to/from the shoot. The photographer and photo assistants will handle their equipment—but the client will usually need help organizing the photo samples. Make sure somebody labels every sample in advance with the product’s name and what shot it appears in. It’s discouraging to stare into the back of a 26-foot truck brimming with closed cardboard boxes, all labeled “samples,” while the photographer is asking, “Where’s the first shot?”