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Pre-Production 4 – Car and Mobile Phone/Laptop

Sarah and Abdul setup
Setup for a portrait of Sarah and Abdul.

Here in my Car, I Feel Safest of all.

Strangely enough I managed nearly 8 years down here in London without a car, only hiring them once or twice when the job required it, and using taxis for large scale jobs within central London. London is one of the few places in the world where this is possible, as despite it’s many failings we do have a fairly comprehensive public transport network, plus I’m a tough old git who’s prepared to heave a heavy camera bag and a rolling case around the place. However, just recently I’ve bought a car, for a whole host of reasons, which I won’t go into, and this obviously has an effect on the gear I can carry to jobs.

The first main principle is that it allows me to load the car with equipment almost to capacity on any job, and then make decisions once at the location. The second is that I have the car set up as a mobile “base”, with almost everything else I could need out of the office. Things like my list of phone numbers are duplicated in the glove box of my car. I’ve even gone so far as to stash things like all weather gear and an overnight bag in the space around the spare wheel so that they’re hidden away, and permanently in the car whenever I might need them. It’s quite comforting to know that I’ve got the gear for any weather, plus I can comfortably stop overnight in a travelodge if I feel exhausted. I’ve also got things like sat-nav, hands free mobile kit and in-car chargers for the various batteries that I use – the whole idea being that I can survive a few days in succession without having to get “back to base”.  I’ve gone into this in much more depth in a specific post which you can find right here.

A neat example of this was late last summer (2006), when I had to drive to Scotland (flying was not advisable at the time, due to the grave danger of bottles of Coke blowing you out of the sky!) to shoot a reportage story on Colin Montgomerie, then shoot 2 portraits just north of London the day after, then spend the next day shooting fitness equipment in the midlands in a portable studio. The demands of these jobs meant that I was carrying almost my full kit, and using different combinations day after day – the reportage story had quite different demands to the portable studio!

It shouldn’t need to be said, but running a car, and using it as part of the business only adds another piece of equipment that will need looking after, taxing, MOT’ing, insuring and suchlike. Make sure all the basic maintenance things are up to date, particularly before a long-distance job.

Laptop/Smart Phone.

Like everything else, make sure your laptop is fully charged, and purchase and carry a spare or long life battery if possible. Likewise, ensure that everything is up to date, that all the software you use is patched up to the current standard, that the virus checking and other routine maintenance has been done. At a slightly deeper level, make sure that all your regular software is set up correctly, so that you don’t have to spend extra time doing such mundane tasks as embedding colour profiles or changing resolution. Things like FTP settings, passwords, profiles, workspaces and all the rest should be setup as required, and ideally find some way of being able to access them if you’re unable to go online. I suspect that like me, many people have got a bit complacent in recent years with regards to online passwords, and the ability of software to store them – this is all very well until you can’t connect for whatever reason and/or you suffer a catastrophic crash. Then suddenly you can’t access any of your normal info online, or send files to clients and so on.  Services like Adobe Creative Cloud are fantastic in many ways, but it is possible to find yourself “locked out” of your own software if it chooses to have one of it’s periodic password requests and you can’t get online.  Being able to use your smartphone as a wifi hotspot in situations like this can be a life-saver!

Having all your software up to date is very handy, but if you know you’re heading out the door to somewhere remote, and/or may be without decent wifi for a few days, it’s worth manually checking that everything is as up-to-date as it can be.  I’ve arrived on location once, finished the shoot, and started work, only to find that a HUGE upload wanted to install itself.  Not ideal when you’re in the middle of a job, and have got little or no wifi signal!

Your smartphone (hate the things, but don’t really have any choice) will be fully charged, and if you’re travelling for more than a day or so, a spare/booster battery and/or the charger would be a wise thing to carry. Program any essential numbers for the job into the memory as well, in case you lose your job sheet.  Ideally you should have all your contacts synced up across your various devies and profiles, but I’ll leave the specifics of that to you.

Smartphones are truly amazing things, and nearly essential for any professional photographer.  One word of caution though – any smart phone (no matter what make….) is dependent on battery power, and to a greater or lesser extent, connectivity. Don’t take it for granted that you can just bring up google and find what you want anytime and anywhere – you’re bound to get caught out sooner or later. Just recently I was working with a client who was the proud owner of a new iphone, and the first time we met he was very keen to show off all the features. Very impressive it was too. The next time we met, he didn’t have it on him, as it had suffered a complete crash in it’s OS. This is not meant as a criticism of iphones per se, merely to point out that sometimes a paper diary or job sheet is more use…..


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