Posts tagged photography for executives

After the Shoot

construction silhouette

© Brian Fitzgerald

It’s a great feeling knowing that the shoot you’ve been planning for is complete. But just as the real work of planning begins long before the actual shoot date, there is still much work to be done after shoot day is over and the gear is packed away.

It may be days until clients get to see their images, but our job is just beginning. We start by archiving our precious files per our 3-2-1 system and scanning releases and other paperwork. Most critically, our post-shoot ritual involves a reflection on the shoot itself: the shoot post-mortem.

Post Mortem
The post-mortem is based on the After Action Report methodology used by the military and other organizations to retrospectively analyze our performance and improve it for the future benefit of our work and our clients. This is especially true when things don’t go according to plan (It’s important to note that this is a feature, not a bug; being flexible and able to pivot leads to often surprisingly great results). Discussing these unplanned events, as well as outright failures, leads to big leaps in understanding that help us when it comes to future projects.


We use checklists, write notes and have discussions about everything from subject interactions to shoot timing to gear performance. We’ll brainstorm how to improve in the future. These notes will be organized into actionable steps and to-do items that get added to our calendars and followed up on later.

Editing
Over the course of the next several days, we edit images using a multi-step culling process. First, we discard the obvious ‘bad’ images—out of focus frames, technical snafus, or closed eyes, for example. Subsequent editing rounds cull down even the largest shoots down to a manageable number that will in turn be toned and shared with clients so that they can make their final selections.

Post-Production
Once clients select their images, we process them for delivery and use. Our goal is not to make people look unrealistic and “Photoshopped”, but to apply toning and contrast, and clean up issues with skin, hair, or backgrounds. It may involve perspective correction and ‘merging’ multiple images together. More typically, it consists of mitigating skin blemishes, correcting skin tones and producing high-resolution image files that will reproduce well in print and online.

Image Delivery
Because our clients are businesses, agencies and creatives who utilize digital files for their own uses, we deliver high-resolution digital images optimized for their intended use.

We use Photoshelter.com for our client proofing galleries and also to deliver final electronic files to clients. We may utilize WeTransfer or Dropbox as well, depending on client needs. Photoshelter is a great, visual, easy-to-use system that works great for our clients in most situations.

Once files are delivered and in use, the shoot is over—yet the work of continual improvement continues. When we arrive at a shoot location, we bring with us the knowledge acquired from hundreds of previous shoots. Our clients benefit—as do we—from each part of our system having been tested and vetted through real-world application and use.

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Want to know more about our process? You might be interested in our posts on the right questions to ask yourself  before hiring a photographer ,   what to expect once you’ve hired a professional photographer  or what to expect when shoot day arrives

Success on Shoot Day is No Accident

Policeman shoot

Shoot Day is finally here.

You’ve planned for success, arranged for staff, customers, or talent to be on hand. Your space is cleaned and you’ve gotten confirmation from all parties including the photographer. The day you’ve been planning for has finally arrived.


The adage, “failure to plan is planning to fail’ is an apt one when it comes to a shoot.  Avoiding details and decisions until the day the photographer and crew show up means, at a minimum, leaving the success of your shoot to chance.


If you have a talented photographer working with you, you may get lucky.  They will likely get interesting images that accurately show what is happening in your business.


What you won’t get—except by accident—is purposeful imagery that goes beyond the obvious and allows you to propel your brand visually. This kind of work only comes from planning and conscious decision making before shoot day.
An experienced pro photographer will not arrive without a plan (even if it’s a minimal, stripped-down one), formulated in communication with you beforehand.


It’s not the size or complexity of the plan that matters; it’s whether there is a plan at all,  whether the right questions are asked and answered, and whether the plan is appropriate to the task at hand.


A portrait shoot requires different planning and approaches than an event shoot. But what unifies them is knowing beforehand what are the deliverables, the must-haves, and what would (in your mind) make the shoot a success. Assuming these are in place, your shoot day is on its firmest possible footing.  The hardest work should already be done.  Today is the culmination of  the work done days or weeks before.


You can expect the photographer and crew to arrive at least an hour before the start of your shoot. If it’s a complicated production or involves video, this setup period could be several hours rather than just one.


The photographer will go over the basic shoot plan and will be in constant contact with you or a designated point of contact throughout the shoot. If you’ve planned to be involved in the direction of the shoot, or to view images as they are being created, there will be constant interaction as the shoot progresses. Otherwise, there may be short updates as the shoot progresses.
If changes occur over the course of the day—as invariably they do—the photographer will update you and if decisions need to be made, will be ready with recommendations and options.


What you should expect from your photographer, always, is great communication.  If they are unclear about something, they will ask you rather than making assumptions that lead to reshoots later on.


Your photographer is also there to protect you. This means, among other things, managing the set and crew. This means not putting people or equipment in dangerous or damaging situations. This means having commercial insurance sufficient to protect you and their crew in the case of an accident. It also entails ensuring model and property releases get filled out by the necessary parties, protecting everyone in the process. On a less dramatic but no less important level, it means being a de facto member of your team; mindful of situations that are good for you and avoiding that which isn’t.  On scene, we are your ambassador and act accordingly when dealing with your team members and/or customers.


At the end of the day, you can expect that the shoot location will look the same as it did prior to the photographer’s arrival hours earlier. I joke that our job is primarily to move stuff around and occasionally we pick up a camera.   We want to leave behind a positive experience and not create extra and unnecessary work for anyone else.  Your brand is our brand and on shoot day we’re all on the same team.

 

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Want to know more about our process? You might be interested in our posts on the right questions to ask yourself  before hiring a photographer ,   what to expect once you’ve hired a professional photographer  or what happens after your shoot day ends

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 the questions to ask yourself before hiring a photographer what to expect on shoot day, or what happens after the shoot is complete.

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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Want to know more about our process? You might be interested in our posts on what to expect once you’ve hired a professional photographer,  what happens when shoot day arrives or about our process once the shoot is complete

Environmental Portraits: Take it Outside

Female Lobsterman
© Brian Fitzgerald
 
 
This June, after several months of working remotely (almost entirely indoors), I’ve been fortunate to be able to get back to creating new images for my clients.   Now that the days are growing warm it’s been the perfect time for my clients to take advantage of the short but beautiful summer season here in Maine by having their commercial portraits done outside. 
 
There are two primary types of portraits I’ve been making.  One is an editorial-style environmental portrait, where the setting is an important storytelling aspect of the final image.   Context is an important part of this type of portrait, since the background ends up being a secondary subject in the image. 
 
The other portrait type is more of a cinematic headshot portrait, where there is an environmental feel but the focus is entirely on the subject–it’s a great way to photograph a doctor, lawyer or financial professional far from their normal work environs and still make it seem professional and natural to do so.  
 
 
 
Businessman outside

© Brian Fitzgerald
 
I’m finding myself taking my studio on the road more and more often, photographing my clients outdoors and on location where conditions may be more changeable and unpredicatable but the results are often more striking.   It brings me back to my roots as an Arizona photojournalist, hauling out my Norman 200B flash heads to compete with the sun to make a memorable portrait.   
 
So consider outdoor portraits as an option that could work for your business or brand.  
 
Businesswoman outside
© Brian Fitzgerald
 
 
 
 
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Certainty in Uncertain Times

During this time of uncertainty, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Not long ago all of us were still making optimistic plans for get-togethers, projects and trips for the weeks and months to come.


The events of a few short days have changed and challenged our perceptions and plans.


Stuck at home, certain only of our uncertainties, bouncing off of loved ones and compulsively checking our news (and non-news) feeds for scraps of information, we instead learn second-hand from the gossip of others.


What’s clear is that we are all in the same boat. None of us asked for this and the control we have is limited to that which we exercise over ourselves. We have the choice to limit ourselves for the good of the whole. We also have the option to spend some of our now extra time doing things we’ve long neglected—at least, that’s my plan. I’m choosing to look at this upheaval as a gift of time: time to spend with my family; time to reset and plan; time to learn and reflect.


In a few weeks or months when things calm down and normalcy returns, as it surely will, I hope to look back and know that I spent my time the best way I could. Today, I plant a seed for that day.

Have Studio, Will Travel

During my photojournalism career, my ‘office’ was my car, complete with police scanners, reporter’s notebooks, a Domke bag of gear and strobe lights in the trunk.    Now, as a commercial and editorial photographer, I’m based out of a studio in downtown Portland (far nicer than most newspapers I called home and with much more gear). 

I always imagined two types of photographers existed:  studio photographers, usually specializing in portrait or product photography, and location shooters, who travel to clients and whose studio is wherever they happen to be on assignment.  Wedding photographers, photojournalists and editorial shooters and architectural photographers are among those for whom an assignment is everywhere but, obviously, a studio. 

At heart, I’ll always be an editorial photographer—a storyteller— who is flexible enough to adjust to the changing circumstances of a location shoot but who uses flash and strobes fully, where appropriate.   Not a studio photographer, but a photographer with a studio. 

When I moved into my first studio over a decade ago, I figured it was mainly to store my gear outside of the home, where it was gradually taking over the basement.   I thought I’d meet clients there and that’s about it.  But, it turns out that my studio has remained busy because it gives my clients options.   When the weather or a location isn’t working out for us, or if we need absolute control over lighting, we have the studio.   

My studio now has become just one more tool in my bag and helps me to deliver another option to my clients.    I may miss the days when everything I owned could fit in a shoulder bag, but I’d much rather have the flexibility to choose the best approach for my clients—in studio or on location—instead of having my approach dictated by a lack of options.

On location, Old Orchard Beach, ME

 

Portland Maine Studio
Fitzgerald Photo Studio, downtown Portland.

 

Portland Maine Studio
Fitzgerald Photo Studio, downtown Portland.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Five Ways to Rock Content Marketing (plus One)

If you’re responsible for marketing at your company (or one-person shop), one single word can induce sweating, bouts of self-doubt and even some wistful headshaking: content.  Since the online platforms for content delivery are so ubiquitous, it’s likely any bottleneck in producing consistent, high-quality (and brand-appropriate) content is on the production side (you), not on the delivery side.

So what’s your strategy when it comes to producing and sharing content?

Content isn’t just what you produce—writing (blogs, articles, white papers) and visuals (graphics, images, videos), but also those things you discover, curate and share.

The content you publish might be very slick and professionally-done. It might also utilize unedited smartphone photos, Instagram stories or short video snippets. This kind of grab-and-go visual content is raw, but also authentic, organic and real.

Both types can have a place in your content strategy.

A solid ongoing content approach may include targeted shoots to build up a library of appropriate imagery—of people, processes, places; of faces and evergreen details—that are on brand message. It also involves defining what sorts of ‘raw’ content should be considered, and the triggers and standards for that kind of content.It all starts with an editorial content calendar—whether in the form of a spreadsheet, a physical white board or an actual calendar (digital or physical). On this calendar are listed all of the planned blogs, articles, social media posts and other content planned for the next months or year.

Looking at a blank screen it can be overwhelming, thinking about how to proceed.  I start with the easy wins.  Here are some strategies that can help you produce great content consistently and take the stress out of the process. 

Recurring Content
This is the easiest to schedule. For me, it starts with my end of year wrap-up blog post. I also do a series of assignment showcases that celebrate completed recent projects—usually one a month—and so I just schedule those even if all I can write for some of them is “client highlight”.  I can fill in the specifics later. The important part is to fill out my editorial calendar so that I have content each week in the form of blogs and social media posts. For others, it might make sense to tie content to annual events or seasons, like the start of spring or baseball season.

Leverage others’ content
I don’t do all the content heavy lifting myself. I make sure I’m curating interesting content from others. This means commenting on social media posts, sharing content I find valuable, and even allowing guest posts on my sites and platforms.

Behind the Scenes
People love to see the unscripted ‘inner workings’ of an operation. This tends to be the ‘raw’ unpolished stuff. I try to have a stream of visual content that shows me and my team at work, or on location, as part of my mix. This is where some of the more creative, quirky or fun images can go. This is what Seth Godin might refer to as, “showing your scuffed shoes”. I schedule this as well in my calendar.

Evergreen Content
This is content that always stays fresh no matter the season. It can be a quick hit list of tips, a short how-to article or feature. These can be done ahead of time and sprinkled around where needed.  Brainstorm and produce this during your slower season and you’ll be ready no matter how busy things become later. 

Targeted Shoots
Custom, highly tactical content generation. Coming up with a shot list (including video) and executing with the idea of creating an image library good for specific uses.

I have many clients who hire us for targeted, planned shoots of content meant primarily for social media—these may be less polished, and include a mix of micro-video snippets and images that can be easily shared. Then they spread out these posts over the course of several months so they have plenty of content even during their busier times of year. If you plan ahead, these targeted shoots don’t have to be onerous, time consuming or costly—we strategize with our clients to come up with creative approaches that are fun and fit their brand, whether it’s a restaurant wanting ‘in-situ’ portraits of their dishes or a recycling company wanting “product” shots of the sometimes strange and unusual types of items that end up being processed in their facilities. Often, we help set the strategy that our client’s marketing teams can continue to do themselves in the future in a pinch.

Recommendations and favorites
Recommended lists of books. Favorite peices of software. Best blogs. Top resources for others in your industry. This is a fun way to share your knowledge with others and create a conversation. 

Having a balance of polished, high-value content as well as social media-focused content will keep your audience engaged and will help you be successful at actually maintaining the consistency needed to grow your audience.

Have questions about how to make this happen for you and your business? We build custom plans for our client partners and would be glad to discuss whether we’d be a good fit for yours.