You Know A Shoot Will Go Awry When…

With no apologies to Jeff Foxworthy.  I do apologize for any perceived negativity, so stick around for the end where I suggest positive alternatives/ responses!

Over the years, I’ve had many shoots go awry.  There are commonalities to these that my training as a behavioral specialist helps me perceive long before the shoot actually happens.  Keep in mind these are shoots involving people, not places or objects.

1. a lot of flattery in advance.  “I’ve always wanted to work with you,” “I love your work, use me for anything.”  These people will flake if you give in.

2. the other person pooh-poohs your ideas and suggests dull alternatives, or refer back to work you did a long time ago.  If they really like what you do they will trust in what you do currently, and not ask you to play “Creep” even though it’s been decades.

3. lots of rescheduling or long lengths of time between email responses.  It isn’t always the case that this means it’s not going to happen, but usually people who are organized and set in one way of life (showing up to shoots prepared and with a positive attitude and trusting the photographer) are organized and set in their other habits, like email responses.  I remember a family who rescheduled 5 times (forgot the first time, soccer games, other events) and weren’t happy with the photos anyways because they didn’t like their expressions.

4. Endless back and forth of questions.  Where, when, what do I get, what is our concept, what was that concept again?  How about this?  Like #1, these shoots inevitably don’t happen.

How to cut down on shoots going awry…

1. Overbook.  In LA I booked a studio on a Saturday afternoon.  I imagined I had 2 models for it, A and B.  By Friday night model C writes me and comes on board.  On Saturday morning I hear from model D, who I spoke with weeks earlier but didn’t think was coming, but was.  By Saturday afternoon model B drops out.  I actually predicted this last minute shake up because it always happens, someone you haven’t heard from is still committed while someone acting super committed flakes.  There really was no way my stylists could have handled 4 people in a 3 hour slot but if I stuck to the 2 people I had 24 hours previous, I would’ve been left with 1 model on Saturday.

2. Trust your instincts and cancel stuff before you end up wasting time doing things that don’t pay, don’t benefit you and are extra work for nothing.  It’s rare, but I get an actual physical anxiety attack over a shoot, I know it’s not something I should do, and it’s off.

3. Be a better communicator yourself.  Say everything that matters in the first email, do it in bullet point format so it’s legible, keep it to about 2 or 3 sentences, and if need be list to a flickr file of sample images- either inspiration or work you’ve done previously that is along the lines of what you’re going to shoot.  Take the uncertainty off the table.

4. If you can afford to be choosy, then be choosy.  Do research on people if it’s out there.  If people have tumblrs, facebooks, blogs you can rifle through them for behavioral quirks- oversharing, prima donnas, complainers, poor judgement/ taste, instagram obsessives- and you can spot who is professional, or at least has a compatible personality.

What’s critical is remembering on a shoot, be it family or fashion or art, the photographer is the captain of the ship.  They are the ones responsible for steering clear of storms.


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I'm a multimedia artist in Phoenix, AZ. Main Site - Instagram @primordialcreative + twitter @dbmillerphoto

One thought on “You Know A Shoot Will Go Awry When…”

  1. Well said, especially the part about trusting your instincts. Watching for the signs early on & setting expectations up front can make for a better experience for all parties involved. Thanks for sharing.

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