Your first pro shoot - How to handle it well ! Whatever is your first professional Photography shoot, whether you are being paid for it or not, your client is a big name or not, your models are great or not, the working conditions are favorable or not- make sure of one thing, that you deliver a good job!
This should however be the case for all your shoots. A bad name spreads much faster than good name and that’s always true. You cant say, that I have improved and give me another chance. Venture out looking for work only when you are ready. Technically as well as aesthetically. Well, there is a catch here. What came first? Egg or the hen? For work, you need a portfolio and for a portfolio, you need work!! It is always a good idea to do a lot of work for family and friends. Even if the pictures don’t turn out to be great, they will not spread bad word about you, hmmm as long as they are true friends, though. As it is rightly said that there is nothing to beat the experience and you do not get experience overnight. Time is a very important factor. But at the same time I would also say that don’t wait too long either, strike at just the right time. Some people learn by themselves while others do need formal training to learn photography. You may learn alot by going through the articles on this website and I have tried to cover as much as possible in the most easy to understand language.
You are the captain of the ship.
You are the one who has been trusted with the whole job. Be very careful in selecting you support team which includes your models, makeup artists, stylist, assistant/s. Even if you are being paid less, don’t compromise, by selecting a cheaper or less talented people for you job. If your first set of shoots is great it will reap results in the next shoots and ofcourse cover up the money! Make sure to meet them all beforehand if you have not met them earlier or if the client or the coordinator has directly fixed them for you. Through a discussion atleast you would get to know of their potential and you can make them understand as to what exactly are you expecting from them on the day of the shoot. Give a proper and clear brief without leaving anything to doubt. Before that make sure that you yourself have taken the brief from your client and are clear about the job. If any of your support team is not to your satisfaction it is better to be clear about it to your client at this stage rather than later. As all credit as well as discredit goes to the photographer. Moreover, after the meeting you would know how to handle the shoot in case you are unable to replace the talent.
Don’t tell everybody around that you are a beginner!
Even if you are nervous don’t show it to the others. If you are confident or at least look confident, your model or subject will respond better to you and you will have more control. Yes, that is important. Never let control get out of your hands. It doesn’t mean that you should not be open to suggestions or ideas from your support team but you as a photographer should be the one in actual command. The other people can only advice but it is you who is actually taking a decision in the split second before every shutter release.
Your assistant plays a very important role.
He should know his job and in fact should be able to read your mind! He should not be too interfering but at the same time should be able to sense that something is going wrong and should warn you about it. He must have the complete presence of mind and of course technically sound. Must have enough stamina to handle a demanding situation. He is there, so that you do not get exhausted and can concentrate on your actual work.
While you take the shots remember and keep in mind what your client needs and expects. Do not get carried away and shoot just for yourself. You may certainly do interesting and creative stuff but once you are sure that you have shot what is expected from you. Don’t forget that you are being paid for the execution of what has been planned out and the same has further been streamlined in the sense that graphic designers and other postproduction people are expecting that. If you don’t follow the fine guidelines you may put a lot of planning off track.
Never take up an assignment that technically you can not deliver. For example if the location requires wide angle of view and you do not have a wide-angle lens you will not be doing justice to your shoot.
Make sure that you have packed everything required for the shoot. It is very embarrassing to be in a situation where you do not have one or the other bare essentials for the shoot to move ahead. It could be something as insignificant as a synchronisation cord, a trigger or a set of batteries!!! But without those you may not be able to continue at all or at least not as planned. Also make sure that you have transferred all the images in the card from your previous shoot. Having a card with un transferred data is almost as good as not having the card! Don’t expect a fast enough or reliable computer on location.
Don't use equipment first time on the shoot If you have borrowed equipment from a friend or have just bought it new, don’t use it first time on an important assignment. One, your hands are not set on the equipment yet, your attention will be diverted on the proper functioning of it rather than the actual shoot. And secondly, new equipment bought officially or from grey market, may have a manufacturing defect, which may come to your notice as you shoot or later as you transfer your images to the computer. If it is a film camera, only when the rolls are developed and returned!!! Too late!! Never forget the booklet, if you can't find a function, you certainly will need to refer to the manual. Bookmark the important areas of the manual for quick reference. Don’t refer to the manual in the presence of your client or support team, as psychologically it will dilute their confidence in you. However, do so rather than doing something wrong if you can’t avoid it.
Plan your shoot in your mind or better still on a piece of paper. Note down the sequence, props required concept and everything that has come to your mind as you were conceptualizing the shoot. Of course you can make changes as you proceed with the shoot for improvement. This way, you do not miss out on important issues or points you want to highlight in your shoot. However, don’t overdo it also, let it be a starting point and your reflexes do the rest as per the situation.
Concentrate on your shoot. Keep other things out of your schedule for that day. Undivided attention is what gives you the best results until you reach a point where you can handle small little routine jobs along with the shoot, although not advised. Your mind should be relaxed. Anyways, there sure will be unexpected distractions, don’t let them bother you, something you’ll learn over the time.
Don’t panic at all, If something is going wrong or the shoot is not working out the way expected, That’s not even the last thing should do. If you have sensed the error while shooting, consider yourself lucky to have sensed it as you still have a chance to rectify the situation while everyone is available to you. After the pack up it might have been too late.
Keep the shoot simple and complicate it only if you can handle it. Remember, your reputation depends on the result. Complex lighting doesn’t always mean better results! As I said earlier you should be in command and and that includes your lighting as well. If your complex lighting setup is not working for some reason, it is never too late to restore to a simpler setup. If you cant figure out if the lighting is fine or not, you shouldn’t be doing the shoot but getting back to your basic lessons!!
Are you shooting at the right pace? Don’t be too fast or slow. If you are expected to do a certain number of looks / products /locations, make sure that you are shooting at the right speed to cover everything on schedule. If the pace is slow due to other people or factors, check out those to be back on track. Try not to begin your shoot too late in the day. Towards the evening everyone tends to get more tired and wants to get back home. If the model or any of the team members is not professional enough may actually be waiting to be home rather than concentrating on the shoot. However, never rush. It is better to be late than rush beyond a point! There is basic minimum time which you need to setup and shoot. Don’t let there be a waste of time otherwise.
Don't hesitate to speak out. If there is any deviation or otherwise. It is better to clear out things while the shoot is on than later on.
Post Production is as Important.
Once you successfully wrap up your shoot, do not forget that there is more it besides the shooting part. carefully transfer the images to your computer and rename them as per the renaming policy you follow. This ensures that you reach out to these images quickly at any given time. Open these in the camera's Raw converting software and if you feel that the exposure and any other factors need some fine adjustments, you can collectively select these and apply the changes to be effective in one go. This is like the final check before the images or videos are released. Some images may require more attention than others and its important not to skip this extra effort to ensure that images are perfectly fine before these reach the client or the Advertising agency.