How To Do a Professional Assignment

Step 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 my 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. It is not a simple matter of taking any old camera and taking a few snapshots.


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 iPad 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 iPad 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 iPad. This lets me see what the changes are doing 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.

To be continued…