The secret of great commercial photography | Collaboration is the key

The secret of great commercial photography | Collaboration is the key

It’s easy to think of photography as a solitary occupation.  After all, I work for myself, often turn up to shoots alone and it’s me who wields the camera, edits the photos and corresponds with you throughout the booking process, during the shoot and afterwards.  I’m no different to a lot of commercial photographers in that regard.  However, the truth is that good photography is a collaborative process.

If I’m shooting people, I need the sitter’s understanding and co-operation to create the best portraits possible.  If I’m shooting interiors, everything has to be tidy, clean and neat.  Having a second pair of eyes on the set helps immeasurably in making sure that everything looks correct, that things are in the right place, and that I’ve not missed something that will spoil the shot.  Every time I’m working on location for a company, an expert eye telling me that equipment is being used correctly, or checking that staff are wearing the right uniform, or that nobody’s missing from the group shot, is invaluable assistance.

Many people who haven’t commissioned a professional photographer before assume that I’ll simply turn up, know exactly what needs photographing, and produce the goods.  And I can produce great photos anywhere and anytime … but to guarantee that they are the right great photos for what you want or need requires a bit more.  By talking about the purpose of the photos, by spending a little time discussing options, by planning what is going to happen on the day of the shoot, we’re going to produce not only great images, but great images that will help you do what you want them to do.

Let’s say you want some portraits of your staff.  Are we talking simple headshots for an ‘about us’ section (i.e. so you can put a face to the voice on the phone)?  A portrait that’s going to feature on a double page spread in a magazine article on the company (so we want some context i.e. the workplace in the shots, or something visually striking to complement the article)?  Images for the new website, showing staff happy at work (to show the company is friendly and great to deal with)?  All of these are portraits, yet all require a different approach; different planning; different kit; a different length of time to shoot.

As an example here are two portraits that are serving very different purposes.  The first one is a typical business headshot – it’s informative (‘this is what I look like’).  It would be used in an email footer, on a CV, as a Linkedin or Twitter avatar, etc.  It requires a plain background (that I usually bring with me to a shoot) and a specific lighting set up (so I need to know to bring that particular light and modifier).  These days it’s known as a ‘Linkedin headshot’.  (Use that phrase and I’ll know exactly what you want from me).

This second one, while also a close up portrait of a head and shoulders is doing a very different job isn’t it?  The sitter isn’t looking into the lens.  The out-of-shot gaze is saying something else.  The background, while plain, is a more integral part of the story.  The clothes add to that story.  You’d want something like this if you were an actor or model wanting new headshots, or we were doing a fashion shoot to advertise the clothes.  I’d shoot this on location, which would need to be scouted and agreed.  I would not use the same lighting as for the Linkedin headshot (we’d discuss the look created by lighting beforehand, but I’d probably be bringing several different options with me to use).

So, please don’t be frightened if you get in touch asking for a quotation for a job and I respond by asking you a series of questions.  It’s to help me to understand exactly what it is you want (and often, to help you to think about it yourself).  By discussing the outcome (I’ll often ask, ‘What are the photos for?’ or ‘Where will the photos end up?’) I can better plan what to shoot and how to shoot them so you’re getting exactly what you want.

So, if you’ve never commissioned a professional photographer before and are considering getting in touch … please give me a call to discuss what you want.