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In this post Ramsay Taplin from Taplin Web Design talks about photographers and their interactions with web designers.
Image by photographer padawan
Over the years I have worked with many freelance photographers to produce photos for my Adelaide website design clients. In that time I have seen the best and worst of photographic creativity. I have seen “professional” photographers turn up to a corporate shoot with no shoes on. I have lost a hundreds of dollars worth of shots because a photographer thought it would be a good idea to leave a USB on my home front porch. But, I have also worked with photographers who know how to work magic with their cameras.
In this post I want to show you the 9 worst mistakes that freelance/professional photographers can make when taking photos for a web designer. I hope this information will be a useful resource for any budding young photographers out there who are just starting to work for and establish relationships with some bigger firms.
Warning: This post may contain rage fueled tangents of utter frustration!
As I mentioned in the opening paragraph I once had a charming young photographer turn up to a corporate photo shoot with no shoes on. She was extremely good at what she did and turned some pretty boring “suits” into powerful looking businessmen (much to their surprise!). But, unfortunately, her dress sense really let her down.
I don’t mean to sound like a starchy old fuddy duddy here. I’m really not like that. But I have to emphasize how important it is to look professional when you are performing a professional service.
There are three things at play here. Firstly, dressing like a slob who just woke up makes my firm look bad. I hired you to take photos for my client and therefore would love it if you brought some shoes to the shoot. Secondly, it reflects badly on you and makes me reluctant to hire you again. And thirdly, it doesn’t make the guys in the photos feel very secure. They need to feel like they are in the hands of a professional and are going to end up looking like superstars.
To be honest, I kind of envy the girl who rocked up with no shoes on. I wish I was brave enough to do that! But we live in a vain world where first impressions are very important. For that reason it is vital to look like a professional.
Something that really bothered me when I was first starting to work with professional photographers was how they were reluctant to tell me how good they were. I realize, now, that they were just trying to be humble and graceful but at the time it made me really stressed because I didn’t know whether they’d be able to achieve the results that I wanted.
If you have been hired by a website design firm to take photos for a new web creation please make sure you let them know exactly what you can do. If you feel you know how to turn a buggered up drab old office-front into a vintage looking workshop of fairy-dust then please let me know! If I know what your capabilities are I will push you to achieve something better for my client. Try and find a balance between humility and selling yourself. It’s hard but worthwhile.
The opposite end of the spectrum is admittedly a much worse predicament to be in. I remember working with a very young photographer I had met at a cafe who really overstated his abilities. The kid had the gift of the gab but that was about it. He “seduced” me into using his services but looking back I think he had probably just purchased his first Canon SLR and thought that he would automatically be taking superb photos. He was wrong. The photos were blurry, over exposed and extremely unprofessional. I ended up paying his fee and making the embarrassing move of calling up my client to organize a re-shoot. A big waste of time.
If you do not feel like you can get the photographs that the web designer is asking for then please don’t take the job. Both you and the designer will be better off. Sure, you won’t get the fee but you will save a lot of face and possibly your reputation. The last thing a freelance photographer needs is a bunch of website designers badmouthing your photos.
One saying I have always identified with is “under promise, over deliver“. I think it works well for the art of photography. Don’t get your client’s expectations too high and then surprise them with an amazing end product.
I grew up in very business-minded family. My father always taught me that being late was one of the most unprofessional things you could do. As a result I am always on time and I expect the same thing of the people I hire. If I am paying you a few thousand dollars to come out and meet my clients and take photos for their website then I ask that you rock up when I want you there, not when you feel like it.
I am sure for most people out there this one is a given. But I need to emphasize it because it really is important. Quite often photographers will be hired by their friends and as such there is a temptation to think that one can be a bit more relaxed with the “rules” of business. Please don’t fall into that trap.
I once had a photographer pull me aside and say “aaahh… the guy in the front has a massive wad of snot on his lip…. does that… ahh… matter?” Bloody oath it matters! I am glad she asked me though because that little boogie could have ruined the whole shot.
Any professional photographer will tell you that one of the worst feelings you can have is when you go home after a shoot, plug your camera into your computer and look at a whole bunch of photos that turned out nothing like what the client wanted. It is the pits. Asking questions, however, often solves this problem.
When you are out on a job the website designer will usually be with you. They will probably give you some instructions on what they want and how they want the final product to look but other than that you are on your own. Please do not feel embarrassed to ask questions during this time. It doesn’t matter how silly they sound, it is better to ask them now then have to reorganize the shoot because the photos didn’t turn out how the client wanted.
This is where the rage fueled rant comes in! One of the most irritating things a freelance photographer can do is assume that they know better. The worst thing you can do as a photographer is ignore the instructions and take bunch of photos that you think will suit the website.
Here is why it is annoying. A good website designer will have created a preliminary design before he/she goes out and gets the photos. This means that the photos need to “work” with the design and not the other way around. Let me give you an example of how it should be done:
I recently designed a simple brochure website for one of South Australia’s largest landscaping businesses, Garden Works Landscaping. The client wanted some elegant photos that showed off their products and their office site. I explained to my photographer that the website was going to be quite wide and that space for the photos would be very narrow. Portrait shots would not work.
She took the advice on board and when we rolled up to the Garden Works premises for the shoot I was extremely impressed to see that she had brought along a vast array of wide angled lenses and even spent some of her own money hiring a super wide lens for the weekend. This showed me that she had listened to my instructions and was ready to work within them.
Needless to say I have hired her for every outdoor job since.
As a photographer you are being paid for two things: your skills and your equipment. If you fail to bring some of that equipment the job is not going to be complete.
One idea my crack photographer has is to develop a “Shoot List”. On that list she has all of the things she will need at a photo shoot – camera, point and shoot camera, lens cleaner, lens cleaning pen, USB, lenses, etc. Then, the night before the shoot, she just pulls out the list and goes through ticking off each item. That way she is always prepared and never has that feeling of “oh I left something at home”.
This tip comes not so much from my web design business, but from a wedding I attended last weekend. The photographer was a very talented man but he was grumpy as all hell. He spent the whole time yelling at people to get in the right position and almost made one of the bridesmaids cry!
As I said in number seven, part of what you are being paid for as a photographer is your skills. This does not just mean your photographic skills but also your skills in dealing with people. The world’s best professional photographers are probably no better at taking photographs than many other professional photographer – their point of difference is their ability to deal with and manipulate people. And people love good manners. Just look at TV shows like Americas Next Top Model or American Idol – the photographers who get the best results are the ones that know how to schmooze the people in front of the camera.
I think I have some bad karma when it comes to receiving things on time because it seems as though no one sends things when they say they will. It is quite annoying. But, if it karma I must deserve it right?
If you tell me you are going to send the photos on Wednesday chances are I will set some time aside on Wednesday to work with them. That means I will sit in front of the computer all day with a coffee waiting for my inbox to flash “1 New Email”. Not really. But, when they don’t arrive it can put a bit of a dent in proceedings. Try to send the photos when you say you will – it makes you look really professional.
Honestly speaking, it is the photographers who make our websites beautiful. Sure, our designs make a difference but it is often the quality of the photos that really make the site pop off the screen. Sadly, however, it is not just your amazing photos that dictate how successful your career is. It is also important to look nice, talk politely and so on. If you remember this other (boring business) stuff I am sure you will go far.
Have you ever made any of the mistakes above or worked with someone who has? Have I missed anything important that young photographers might need to know? Leave a comment below – it might really help someone!
This post was brought to you by Ramsay Taplin from Taplin Web Design – an Australian based web design company hell bent on unleashing your firm’s online potential.
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