7 Steps to a Smoother Photo Shoot
PATIENT: "Why do our photo shoots seem chaotic and stressful, and what can we do to improve them?"
CATALOG DOCTOR: "Photo shoots are complex events with a lot of steps (and thus potential for missteps) and people (so with potential strife and confusion). Here are seven key actions you can take to avoid the major drivers of photo shoot stress and chaos."
1. Hire more styling assistants than you think you'll need. More assistants means avoiding having an experienced (and expensive) photographer standing around waiting for a (affordable) styling assistant to finish steaming a garment or slicing prop fruit.
2. Be clear on rights before you book the shoot. Catalogers ask for rights that often surprise studios used to shooting for noncatalogers. Be very clear up front with the studio about the rights you need, or you may end up not owning your own photos and paying royalties for reuse or use in other media. Use photographers willing to shoot as "work for hire" (there are plenty) where you own all rights, forever, in all channels. Do be prepared to sometimes pay somewhat more for all rights. And don't expect to get all rights from shots using models — that's up to the models and their agencies, not the photo studio.
3. Confirm, in detail, a count of all the shots, including shot variations. An accurate shot list ensures you book enough studio and crew time. It also avoids last-minute surprises like finding "one" coat shot actually meant "plus pocket and collar details" and "flip the coat over and shoot the back, too." Some staff who request shots may not have been at shoots and so they haven't seen all the relighting and restyling needed for "variation" shots. They're not easy five-minute add-ons. Even "old hands" may have adopted a shorthand way of specifying shots, so assume you know that "one coat shot" actually means five shots.
4. Get samples early for thorough double-checking. I'm amazed at how often I hear, "Oh no, I asked for five dozen cupcakes but they only sent me five!" or "What's this orange jacket? Has this been added to the line? Are we supposed to shoot it?" Getting samples plenty early gives you enough time to review, count, come back with questions, and get more and/or different samples shipped before the shoot starts.
5. Are shots being approved remotely? Get the whole approval chain right. Be sure you have the right email address of the person doing remote reviews and approvals. Check to be sure they're actually going to be available when you need them. Phone them to let them know another emailed proof is waiting for their review. It's amazing how much studio time gets wasted just waiting to hear back from someone at the other end of an email send.
6. Identify the final decision maker. You can waste an awful lot of studio time having a mid-level person tweak and tweak a shot to their liking before sending it to the actual decision maker, ultimately having the decision maker reject it. Send rough looks to the decision maker early in the shoot to find out if you're going in the right direction. With their input on the first few shots, the photographer and stylists will start to get a feeling for what the decision maker does and doesn't like, making the rest of the shoot go much faster and more smoothly.
7. Figure out ahead of time the file names you want. The shot list the studio works from should include the name of the image that works with your current naming system. The name should also be easy to search on for everyone who will want to access the images later, whether for catalog, web, email, social, PR or ads.
Susan J. McIntyre is Founder and Chief Strategist of McIntyre Direct, a catalog agency and consultancy in Portland, Oregon offering complete creative, strategic, circulation and production services since 1991. Susan's broad experience with cataloging in multi-channel environments, plus her common-sense, bottom-line approach, have won clients from Vermont Country Store to Nautilus to C.C. Filson. A three-time ECHO award winner, McIntyre has addressed marketers in Europe, Australia and New Zealand, has written and been quoted in publications worldwide, and is a regular columnist for Retail Online Integration magazine and ACMA. She can be reached at 503-286-1400 or firstname.lastname@example.org.