How To Do A Professional Assignment-Four
by William Lulow
After I’ve created the job envelope and put all my notes, etc. in it, I can concentrate on shooting the job. It is vitally important to LISTEN to the client so that you have a good idea of what is wanted. Too many photographers have their own idea of what kind of photographs to make, but if you are a professional, i.e., you make your living by making images, you need to please someone else by giving them the kind of photograph and quality they need for their purposes. These days, one active expression is “Garbage in, garbage out.” This means that if the quality of the image is not top notch, then neither will be any of the uses for the photograph. If it is not clear, crisp, well-composed and well exposed, the quality on the web or in a brochure or magazine will be even worse. So, even if the image is to be used as a thumbnail on a website, it should be of the highest quality possible. This means having high quality, up-to-date equipment (cameras and lenses, tripods, lights, backgrounds, etc.). Often people ask why a professional photograph is so expensive. Well, photographers have to make enough money to subsidize the equipment they have and to make sure they can stay current with new advances in technology-not to mention paying the rent. It is not a simple matter of taking any old camera and taking a few snapshots. (With this being said, however, a good photographer can probably take a great photograph with any type of camera). And, these days, top-of-the-line cameras and lenses are not cheap!
So, let’s say I have a portrait to make. If it is a private commission, I try to find out something about the person so that I have something to talk about with him or her. I often begin a session by asking questions and finding out that way. Sometimes I explain what I’m doing as I’m setting up lights. I then begin right away taking pictures. I put a few up on my laptop so that the client can see them blown up. Sometimes I show them the shot in the camera. The blow up accomplishes two things. (1) It shows the client what the shot will look like and (2) it enables me to preview the lighting, focus and exposure. I use the laptop as a proofing tool. I like to preview a few shots just to check everything and then finish the session with shots in the camera only. After the lighting, exposure and pose are fine tuned, I then shoot for expression. Every time I change the lighting, I will then shoot another test shot for the laptop. This lets me see what the changes are and how they are affecting the shot. It continues to work as a proofing tool that I can show the subject and lets me know that I’m on the right track. If the subject says that they like the shot, I try to shoot a number of frames just like it so that I will have a number of different expressions and poses of something that the subject likes.
You don’t want to use the laptop too much because it interferes with the flow of the session. You should be looking for expressions and attitude during the shoot. Another technique I use when doing portraits is to engage face-to-face with my subject. I don’t like looking in the viewfinder all the time. Once the camera is set up (I almost always use a tripod), and the lighting is done, I can actually stand as close to the lens as possible so that the subject plays to the camera, without actually looking in the viewfinder. This takes away the camera as a “barrier” between the photographer and subject. It also involves the subject more so that the feeling of just being an object in front of the lens is much less of an obstacle to getting great expressions.
I’m also very much aware of how the photograph will eventually be used and I’m constantly trying to think of different poses that could be used in the same article. Sometimes it’s a shot of the person in an office or in the hallway or maybe in the reception area with the company logo in the shot. I’m looking for images that an art director could use for any sort of purpose. I also want to give the AD as many choices as possible.
To be continued…