Category Photographers

You’ve Hired Us. Now What?

 

Beach Path
© Brian Fitzgerald

If you’ve made the decision to hire a professional commercial photographer for your brand, company or organization, you’re likely wondering: what happens now? At Fitzgerald Photo, our goal is to showcase your brand and make your products, people and services shine. In order to do so, we follow a well-defined path that we know leads to great results.

Onboarding
As soon as the ink is dried on your contract and terms, planning starts in earnest on your project. From your perspective as the client, you can expect to receive regular and clear communication from your visuals team. If you’ve never worked with us before, you’ll get a welcome packet with information about our company, the services you’ll be using and our workflow. We use specific software and other tools to collaborate on projects and this is where you’ll find out how that all works. You’ll also discover the answers to many of the logistical questions you might have; everything from the size and type of image files you’ll receive to our post-production process and the protection and long-term storage of your image assets.

Planning
Planning for success includes meetings to discuss expectations, goals and logistics (whether in-person or, these days, online or over the phone).  We’ve found that the more work and care put in at this stage, the smoother (and better) things are when it counts—on shoot day.  These meetings don’t have to be a huge time commitment; we have no love for unneeded meetings and can guess you don’t either.  Depending on the project, this may simply be a series of detailed emails outlining and getting consensus on the shoot day plan.  At no point should you be wondering why you haven’t heard a word from your photographer a few days before a big shoot.

Scouting
Site visits are an important part of the planning process. There’s nothing like seeing the spaces we’ll be shooting in to prepare us for the possible hitches we may encounter or the opportunities we can take advantage of.  In cases where an in-person visit isn’t possible, we may request phone snapshots of the site(s), which in combination with Google street view images help form as complete a picture of the location as possible.

Useful Communication
We believe in clear and appropriate communication. This means that you’ll know when and if anything changes that might affect you, from the weather on shoot day to unanticipated changes that affect delivery schedules (unlikely, but it can happen). You’ll get confirmation every step of the way, including the shoot day schedule, the specific team members you’ll be dealing with, as well as arrival, setup, breakdown and departure times. While we can’t keep surprises from occurring, we can minimize the amount that occur just through regular communication.

Shoot Day
Shoot day often involves last-minute, unexpected and unanticipated events. These can be as minor as a model getting delayed in traffic by five minutes or as dramatic as a power failure that shuts down the site an hour before shoot time. Most are somewhere in between. You’ll be prepared because we will have outlined what to expect should many of these minor or major events occur, ahead of time. You can trust that we have the experience to roll with whatever changes come;  in fact, we welcome changes and believe that flexibility leads to more creativity and better results. The last thing we want to do is be so rigid in our planning that we stick to the schedule no matter what, instead of taking advantage of a better visual opportunity—or a serendipitous need—that arises on the fly.

Having a solid plan, but being flexible to changing the plan as needed, enables shoots to proceed and be successful no matter the circumstances. Unplanned changes often mask new visual opportunities that may end up showcasing your brand in ways we hadn’t imagined, but end up being far more interesting, genuine and authentic.

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Want to know more about our process? You might be interested in our post on what to do when looking to hire a photographer.

Before hiring a photographer, interview yourself

 

Tough Guy
©Brian Fitzgerald

Hiring a photographer can be a challenge. For those who don’t go through the process very often, it usually means spending hours on Google or social media to find qualified professional photographers; having multiple discussions; then vetting estimates that (hopefully) come in under budget and on time. That’s in addition to whatever work is already on your plate.

Things change quickly  in the photography world. If you don’t regularly work with a preferred photographer, you might find that the one you last relied on is no longer in business, or is too busy to take on new work. You’re soon typing terms like “best commercial photographers” into your search bar and scratching your head at results that include everything from weddings to pet portraits to products for catalogs.

Sorting all of this out takes time, and then once you’ve connected with a likely short list of photographers, the process of outlining goals and requirements begins. This is followed by evaluating the estimates, which can vary wildly between photographers due to their varying backgrounds, experience and preferred ways of doing business.

I’ve written before about the questions to ask when hiring a professional photographer. Before your initial conversation, here are a few tips to better prepare you for the process of determining the “best” photography professional for your needs. Doing just a little prep work before you make that call or send that email will reduce your effort, frustration and will maximize good results.

Where are your photographer leads coming from?
You can make some quick assumptions depending on where your leads are coming from.  Referrals from a trusted colleague or other source are great because you can assume the photographer is a known quantity, and move on from that basis. Referrals from a professional photography association or paid listing website (ASMP, APA National, NPPA,
, and others) allow you to view photographers by specialty and portfolio. You can assume these are experienced pros that have the experience to guide you through the requirements process and will ask questions you might never have considered. The most common referral source, Google and social media, is great but requires a bigger investment of time to sort, weed out and establish fit. I’d recommend it as a supplement to the first two sources.

What is your brand all about?
How would you describe your brand and brand mission? What key adjectives best describe your brand? What are your long-term brand goals and objectives?

What are your goals for this project?
Is this photography project a quick one-off or are you building a brand-consistent visual library that you’ll use for years to come? If you’re after a quick hit, you can always pivot if it doesn’t work as you’d like, or if the photographer isn’t the best fit. If it’s the latter, choosing a photographer for a long-term relationship is a better approach.

What is your budget?
Photographers will always ask—or should. Knowing your numbers isn’t a license for the photographer to charge the maximum fees they can while hitting strategically below your top line. What it does is put you in the driver’s seat. Of all the variables that comprise a good estimate—time, money and quality—a photographer needs to have a sense of your limits and expectations for all three in order to come up with an estimate that works best for you. A budget helps orient your photographer and gives them necessary information. Is the budget close to what they feel the job is worth, requiring a little negotiation or adjustment of services to meet? Or is the gulf between the two so vast that it’s a waste of your time and theirs to proceed? It’s helpful to know this fairly early in the process. It doesn’t have to be uncomfortable; for professional photographers it’s a routine and necessary question and they’ll respect you for having defined what you can spend ahead of time.

What are the ideal outcomes from doing this project?
Do you hae specific outcomes in mind (selling a service or product), or more general (creating brand awareness)?

How long do you plan on using the images?
Will these images really be useful to you in a couple of years? What about after 10 years, when (perhaps) many of the team members in the images are no longer with the company and the clothing/hair styles start to look a bit dated? Depending on your brand and industry, images may age very quickly or very slowly.  Knowing the answers to this question can save you money, since in most cases the longer you use an image (i.e., the more value you derive from it over time), the more it can cost. 

How do you plan to use the images?
Are the images going to be used for a specific print or online campaign? Will they be part of a display ad? Or will they be added to your library, to be used in less specific and more numerous ways for years to come?  Will they be part of local or regional advertising or will they be used nationally or world-wide?  


Who are your target audience/clients/customers? Why are you reaching out to them?
Who are you trying to reach?  When they see these images or video, how do you want them to feel?  Do you want them to take specific action (buy something) or to emotionally connect with you and your message, building a long-term relationship?

What problems can the photographer help you to solve?
Professional photographers are more than just button pushers. We are masters of organization and logistics. We help hire models, makeup stylists, arrange for locations, art direct, and can help strategize with you on the creative direction a shoot should go in. We can be a straight service provider, creating images to a pre-defined specification, or we can be a creative partner using their vision to create something unique. What is helpful to you, your brand and your organization at this time?


These are the types of questions that you can expect your photographer candidates, in one form or another, to ask to you. Knowing what photographers are looking for and the information they most need will help you to be prepared to make decisions based on your brand values and goals, and will lead to a much better process and estimates, too.

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Five Clicks: Covid-19 Resources for Artists (and others)

As we await the reopening of services, businesses and schools, I’m passing along five great resources that fellow photographers, creatives and others might find useful. Many of these listed below are free during this timeframe and will hopefully help you weather the storm. 


1) Yale Science of Wellbeing course
Looking to be happier and more productive?  This is a great course offered free by one of the world’s premiere universities. 


2) Covid-19 Freelance Artist Resource
From playwrights to visual artists, composers to stage managers, actors to art patrons, there is something here for you in this list of mostly free opportunities to support your art (or your artist).

3) 198 Free tools to help you through the pandemic (Entrepreneur.com)
We’ve all heard of Zoom by now…but there are 197 other tools on this list you may not be aware of and should.

4)Covid Resources for Photographers
This comprehensive list of ideas, resources, and initiatives from lenscultures is meant to support the global photography community. Check it out or forward it to a photographer you know.


5) Pixel computer glasses
Last but not least, something to ease the strain of looking at a screen for hours-long Zoom calls (not free, but a nice discount)

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5 keys to success for photographers (Hint: it’s not about gear)

When I was first transitioning from newspaper photographer to commercial photographer, I had a huge ‘Ah-hah!’ moment. I was speaking to Jimmy Smith, a family friend and commercial photographer with 30 years under his belt.  Jimmy told me, flat-out: “You wanna know why only something like four percent of photographers make it in this business? If what we did was about photography, that number would be higher.”

Profound words that I’ve never forgotten. This, coming from a talented photographer who is truly an artist, and who works with global corporate and publishing brands.

Jimmy was speaking to the intangible, unsexy parts of the photography business (or any business). Behind the scenes of any successful venture, you’ll find the folks practicing certain habits and principles which have nothing to do with the widgets they sell or the service they actually provide.

As a former photo editor and a photographer who makes his living making images, I’m approached by students and others aspiring to make a living with their passion. As an outsider it’s easy to see whether they are heading towards success or retreating from it. In my opinion, it all boils down to good habits in a few areas (this ain’t rocket science). Successful photographers:

Show Up — I’m amazed at how often people don’t show up—for mixers, workshops, for meetings and other opportunities available to them.  When they do show up, they aren’t prepared to put their best foot forward. I’ve gotten a lot of work because I simply was the guy who showed up, was present and presentable.

Follow Up — When anyone contacts me for a internship, a job, or feedback, I do what I can to help. I may have to put them off for a short while until I can give my full attention. I’ll put the ball in their court by asking them to email or call me in a week, or to send their thoughts about what they really want, etc. Simple stuff. I do this because time is limited, and also partly to test how committed they really are. Less than 20 percent actually follow back up with me. My current full-time assistant, Charlie Widdis, certainly wasn’t the only USM student I’ve offered to help. But he is the only one who responded, made an appointment, and then followed up later. That led to me hiring him as an assistant and eventually my full-time employee.

Follow Through — When I was coming up, I’d show my work to trusted photographers and if they gave me direct and pointed advice, you’d better believe I made appropriate changes. More recently, I worked with business coach Mandy Schumaker. She helped me work through a plan to make my business stronger. I wasn’t always prepared to do what she suggested at the time, but I noted everything and in the year or so since I’ve ticked off many of the items we agreed on. This speaks to the ability to follow through—on a project, on a difficult assignment or on a relationship that needs to be cultivated (they all do).

Show Gratitude — This is a big one. I’m everything in this career because of those who have gone before me or who have lent a helping hand when I most needed it. Brad Armstrong taught me how to do location lighting. Paul O’Neil taught me to be a better assignment photographer. Rick Wiley taught me to be a better photo editor. I’m grateful to them for the photographer I have become. I’m also thankful to the many people who agree to participate in project work that I do when they don’t have to. I’m grateful to my amazing, awesome clients who trust me and continue to do so. In fact, I should be thanking people more than I do. When I receive thank-yous—whether email or hand-written note—it feels great.

Know it’s Not About Them — We all struggle with this one. The work of photographers is personal, creative and requires a point of view. But if all you know is photography, you’re in a pretty small place. It’s lonely being a photo monk sacrificing all to the photo gods. When you’re talking to clients or others, quit talking about yourself, your gear and your job. Listen. Ask about them. It’s. Not. About. You.

I have to work at each of these areas just like everyone does. What’s clear to me is that when I follow my own advice, I do well. When I don’t, well…I don’t. As Mandy likes to say, “How you do anything is how you do everything.”

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On photographers and community

 

Jose Azel, left, of Aurora Photos, talks with photographer Kevin Brusie.   In background:  Peter Dennen of Pedro+Jackie Photo Consulting.
Jose Azel, left, of Aurora Photos, talks with photographer Kevin Brusie. In background: Peter Dennen of Pedro+Jackie Photo Consulting.

 

As a newspaper photojournalist, it was always about competition — against myself, against my colleagues, against photographers at competing news organizations. I loved getting a shot at a news scene that the other guys missed—the proof of my short-lived super-awesomeness in print for all to see the next day. Despite this, the world of editorial newspaper photography is a small and tight-knit group. We competed, but we also helped each other. I’ve been given rolls of film by photographers from competing newspapers, and have given batteries and digital cards to others. Off the clock, we’d often hang out and engaged in the time-honored photographer pastime of complaining.

The commercial world of photography inhabited by art photographers, editorial and commercial shooters isn’t quite the same. We don’t see each other at news scenes typically and are more like lone ships in the night—occasionally passing but not spending time in each others company. It’s a hazard of being a solo business person and in a competitive market environment. What we miss out is the community of photographers that support, help and encourage each other…and yes, compete.

Last evening we had an amazing gathering of local photo talent at the bimonthly ASMP Maine “Breakfast” Club at Brian Boru’s Pub. These breakfast meetings are casual affairs organized throughout New England by members of the American Society of Media Photographers meant to promote community among ASMP members and non-members alike. In Maine, we’ve settled on evening events rather than breakfast because it’s just easier when you’re asking people to drive from hours away to attend. Last night, Amy Wilton and her intern came from all the way from Hope, Maine (thanks, Amy). We had editorial shooters, corporate commercial folks, lifestyle photographers, and wedding photographers. Well-known locals showed as did some recent transplants, like David Butler who moved here from Arizona last year.

I’m excited about last night for a couple of reasons. The turnout was great. It’s clear that the photographers enjoyed meeting and talking with each other. Looking around the room, I realized that we do have a community—one that can and will come together. We also tried something different last night. instead of just gathering to have beer, Peter Dennen of Pedro+Jackie Photo Consultants gave professional portfolio reviews. We’re going to continue to offer programming at our future meetings as well. Our next “Breakfast” is Wednesday, July 9 at Aurora Photos in Portland. We’ll have appetizers, drinks (because, Beer!) and Aurora founder and National Geographic photographer Jose Azel will be presenting.

Thanks to all who were able to come out last night—and for those who couldn’t, I’ll keep you posted on future gatherings. And if you ever need batteries, let me know.

 

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