I’ll expand on this section in more detail in the piece I’m intending to write, which I shall boldly title: “1001 quick production tips”, otherwise it will come to dominate this series of posts. However there are still a few production aspects that I can’t really cover under the heading of “tips for working quickly and improvising” so here they are:
Communication is just as important, if not more important during a job than before it. The clearer everybody involved knows what’s going on the less likely problems are to occur, and I can’t say it simpler than that. If plans change either immediately before or during a shoot, then everyone needs to stay up to date with any changes, whether it be location, or personnel, or even a change in the brief itself. If your client, or a representative of your client is on the shoot, then you need to keep them constantly informed of what you’re doing, and ensuring that you’re carrying out the brief to their requirements. Rest assured that it’s highly likely that communication from them will be fairly prompt and abrupt if they think you’re straying from the brief.
In olden times, when men were bold, and dragons roamed the earth, you would shoot a Polaroid and everyone would huddle round it and voice their opinion. In the blistering white heat of the 21st century we use either the back of the camera or the laptop screen, but the principle is the same. You don’t need to show your client or subject an image every time you shoot something, but it’s very important to get their feedback now and again, and it’s quicker than waiting for a Polaroid to develop. If you’re shooting people, always communicate with your subject – I used to assist some photographers years ago who kept up a wall of silence whilst photographing – this might be OK for fashion models, who are accustomed to being in front of the lens, but for almost everyone else you’re much better off chatting away, keeping them informed of what you’re doing.
Moving on from communication comes delegation – something that those of us who are one-person businesses can often find difficult. If you’ve got extra personnel on the shoot, such as assistants, work experience monkeys or studio staff – use them to take care of the mundane tasks. Your job when shooting is just to shoot stuff – it’s absolutely fine to hand your mobile to your assistant for the 20 minutes or so you might be concentrating on the last shot. Likewise, don’t get caught up over the basic aspects of a shoot, from cleaning the floor to getting tea for everyone – that’s what you’re paying your assistants a good day rate for. You don’t have to become a fascist sergeant major and boss them about like worms (though we’ve all done it once or twice – the power, the power!!!!!), but if a client is paying you a decent day-rate then they’ve booked you for your creative and technical skills, not your floor-sweeping ability, and they’ll expect you to concentrate on the job in hand.
As the shoot finishes you may need to deliver the images to the client. Usually this takes the form of burning a disk from your laptop, for which you have of course brought a sufficient supply of blank disks and ready-made boxes. Precise details about this are covered in the much awaited (and continually being revised) article on workflow, which I will finish soon. Honest.
Lastly, keep up to date with paperwork. Collect every relevant piece of paper as you go along. This can include; receipts, invoices, business cards, delivery notes, faxes, and emails. Likewise, take down any information you may need with regards to invoicing, turnaround times and delivery of the job, and possible future work. This includes things like totalling up your mileage if necessary. I’ve alluded to it already a couple of times on this site – but the vast majority of your work as freelance photographer is going to come, in some way or other, from existing clients, and gathering contact details with everyone you work with should be second nature. Even overlooking actual paid work, you’ll want to take down details of models who you might want to test with, similarly make-up artists or stylists, or an assistant who was particularly good.