Allow me to take you in detail through a recent shoot for one of my clients – Multipower. Besides my usual fascination with geeking out, I’d like to stress the importance of being organised, both before, during, and after the shoot, in order to get a huge amount of imagery shot in one day, and then delivered to the client promptly afterwards.
The job is pretty simple in essence – generate a library of images for the various “Influencers” that Multipower sponsor, which can then be fed out across social media channels for the next year or so. I did 2 shoots like this last year, and made a video about one of them.
Each influencer needs some profile shots, a series of exercises, some more lifestyle/fitness shots, some shots with Multipower product, and any extras that crop up. For this they’ve each got an hour allocated. There are 9 influencers “slots” in the day, made up of 11 influencers, as there are 2 pairs in the mix, plus where their times overlap we took advantage of this to shoot some small “team” shots. Just in case we find ourselves with some time to spare, the client would appreciate some generic “fitness” details shots which can be used to illustrate all sorts of different things. So, you know, just the usual day in the office.
Multipower have hired a gym in West London for the day, as obviously we need a fitness environment, and various bits of gym equipment for all the moves. I sadly didn’t have the time to scout the location before the shoot, which was a definite disadvantage, as although I could look at pictures online, they turned out to be very out of date, and the layout had changed quite a bit. Mirrors down 2 walls, pretty low ceilings, and lots of equipment that couldn’t be moved narrowed down our shooting options quite a bit.
Come the day of the shoot, and as soon as I’d arrived and had a proper look, I realised I would be able to manage just 2 main setups in the room we were using. After we’d moved big bits of kit like rowing machines and ellipticals, we were able to create a small “studio” in front of one of the mirrors and alongside a cable machine. I hung a white shower curtain (quite a handy thing to have in the bag) in front of the mirror, aimed a Profoto D1 head into the mirror, and let the light bounce back through the curtain. Bingo, one white studio background. Add a black/silver reflector panel down one side, and another D1 with a beauty dish on as the key light, and that’s the profile shots lit. I set these lights to Channel 1 on my Air TTL transmitter.
Now for the exercise shots. I needed to use the rest of the room, ideally focusing on the floorspace in the middle for the most part, but being prepared to move to the edges if needs be. Here’s where battery lights like the Profoto B1s really come into their own. Stick a medium size softbox on one of them, a zoom reflector on the other, and set them to channel 2, and I’ve got a versatile lighting rig that I can move pretty quickly between shots, and all I need to do to change between this and the profile shots is tap a button on the Air TTL.
All in all the shoot went very smoothly, not least because all the influencers are professionals at this sort of thing, and we’d got a fairly good running order established before we kicked off. As always with a shoot of this nature, there are hundreds of little details I’d like to tweak, but time just doesn’t permit me. For each influencer I was taking roughly 250 shots, and the total score by the end of the day was 2543 images. I should start charging by the shot shouldn’t I….
After what I believe the kids call a “Cheeky Nandos”, I drove home, and stuck the cards into the computer (see here for hints on downloading multiple cards into Lightroom). I’d like to go into some detail about my Lightroom workflow, as I realise I don’t cover it very much, and it’s a pretty critical part of my job. Just before I do, let me define “hands-on” and “hands-off” tasks. A “hands-on” task, is a job that requires me to actually make manual changes to things, such as altering an image in the develop module of Lightroom. It’s slightly influenced by the computer, in that a faster graphics card/processor/hard drive will speed up things like rendering previews, but ultimately, the time it takes to complete these tasks comes down to how much work I need to do on each image. “Hands-off” tasks are ones which still take a chunk of time, but during which I don’t need to do anything – think batch exporting images, converting to DNG, rendering previews, backing up and so on. This latter type of work is pretty much solely influenced by things like RAM, processor speed, read/write disk speed and so on. As such, it’s one of those areas where it’s possible to actually BUY yourself an easy life. A few hundred quid extra spent when purchasing your computer can save literally days over it’s lifespan, so don’t skimp when picking components.
Here’s my Lightroom workflow:
Import/copy as dng to folder in “Current Jobs”. I have a preset for this which does everything for me from embedding copyright through to applying basic develop settings.
Once converted to dng, and all previews rendered (in this case, I left them cooking overnight – they probably finished about 11pm or so, but I was in bed!) make an edit of anything unusable, and thin out identical frames. So, I’ll cull any shots where the model has blinked/pulled a daft face, I’ve made some sort of cock up, or there are several frames that are almost identical. There’s no point delivering frames that are 99% the same as each other to the client, it only makes their choices harder.
This edit is really important, as although it takes a bit of time, it speeds everything else up down the line. Less storage space, less transmission time when sending, less processing time when rendering out to jpeg, and so on. Basically, I don’t want to waste mine or my client’s time with files that need never see the light of day. For this job I culled the 2543 images down to 2094.
Once this edit is done, I’ll batch rename the files to a name appropriate to the job.
Now I can safely back them up. The RAW files go to a NAS RAID drive, as well as a portable hard drive, and the jpegs (when processed) go to the portable drive, and to my cloud storage.
Now comes the lengthy “hands on” task – editing the images. As much as possible, I want to make corrections to one image, then copy and paste those develop settings across as many images as I can. Here’s where shooting consistently really pays off. On a perfect day in the studio, with no changes in the lighting or setup, I could do one set of corrections, and then literally copy and paste it across the entire job. On a shoot like this, where each person has had at least 3 different setups, and usually more, the number of images I need to correct by hand goes up exponentially. This stage can take quite a while, and for this job was just over 2 hours.
Once all the images have had their settings altered, I process them out as jpegs. Since the final use of these for this job is social media and the web, I prioritise the low-res versions, so I have an export preset that spits out 1500 pixel/72dpi files, in srgb colour space, with a decent amount of screen sharpening. I then repeat this for the high res images, which I also send to the client and keep myself.
One useful trick when exporting images is to split the process up into as many threads as you have processors, or multiples thereof. Without getting too geeky, Lightroom can use multi-threading, which means it can spread itself across several processors to make use of the extra power in order to work quicker. I’ve not only read about this online, but done several tests myself, and it definitely works. Let’s say I have 200 images to export. If I select them all, and then run the export on the lot, it might take 1/2 an hour to process them out to jpeg or similar. If I’ve got a multi-core processor (most smartphones now have them, so I’m pretty sure your computer’s got one) I can split the process up into as many cores as I’ve got, and it will run the process much faster. For argument’s sake let’s assume I’ve got a quad core processor, so I break the 200 images into 4 sets of 50. It’s not quite exact, but lightroom will now take roughly as long as it would take to process 50 images, only it’s working on 4 sets of 50, so the whole process takes just over a quarter of the time. Don’t take my word for it – try it yourself.
Once the jpegs are processed, for a job like this I divide them up into different folders for each model. This makes the clients job much easier, as 2000+ images is a lot to trawl through. I’ll then back up the jpegs to the portable hard drive, and my cloud storage. My client has access to “their” folder on my cloud storage, and they simply download the images when I let them know they’ve been uploaded – there’s no need to “deliver” them in any other form.
That’s pretty much it really. I might pick out a few for special attention and give them some polish in Photoshop, but all that remains is to issue the invoice, and bask in the warm glow of appreciation from a grateful client.
I estimate that including “hand-free” and “hands-on” aspects of the post-production, I was working for another 8 hours on this job after the shoot. It’s obviously bigger than most due to the sheer volume of how much I shot, plus the need to do so much more “hands-on” processing due to the changing nature of the shots themselves. For those just starting out, it’s well worth remembering how much of the “work iceberg” the client doesn’t see – in this case an entire extra working day, and making sure you factor that into your fee when you quote for the job. You’ll also need to factor it into your diary! I had nothing booked the day after this shoot, which made things pretty smooth, but I’ve had jobs of this size that have needed to be turned around in less than 24 hours in the past, or have been out on a shoot again the next day. If I don’t stay on top of these sort of things, I can get some very unpleasant surprises.
All in all, a shoot like this demonstrates one of the aspects of professional photography that I keep banging on about – being organised. Yes, I know a lot about shooting fitness, and am pretty good with lighting and so on, but if a shoot like this wasn’t organised well it could easily become a nightmare, and rather than consume 2 working days, could take up a whole week. I doubt the client would let me bill for a whole week……