One of the things that I’ve always heard and believe is: the difference between a pro and an amateur is that the pro will bring back the goods under any circumstance. I’ve had some assignments where things just go horribly – terribly wrong but it’s my job to make something out of it. Bad light, awful location, limited time, grumpy subject … NO subject, been there – shot that. I had one the other day that I knew was going to be tricky.
I was told a week prior to the "go" date that I would photograph certain sports coach. I won’t mention the team but they are a name and don’t want to get anyone in trouble, ya know? Anyhoo the deal was that I was to have access to the last 15 minutes of their practice to shoot the coach interacting with the team then the coach was to do some interviews and then after that I would have 5-10 minutes for portraits. Ok no problem, a portrait for the front and the rest for the inside. This is pretty normal stuff.
So my assistant and I get there early with all the gear cases and we check in with my team media rep. He seems like a very nice guy and did a nice job of trying to arrange things for my client and me. We ran over the schedule and everything seemed in order. As I always do I asked what mood the subject was in so as to be prepared to put on the appropriate attitude. If the coach is in a great mood I’ll be friendly/joking and if stressed I’ll be much more business like. The answer I got was "foul". Great! I have a hostile subject who is used to being the boss and yelling at people.
I have a quick confab with the assistant and say that the "fun" stuff we were thinking about doing have gone out the window. Ok we are going to crank this mother out and go for the more straight stuff. In our out of the way corner of the arena we quietly unpack all the stuff that we are going to need and get things essentially pre-assembled. I’m given the green light to do my team interaction shots and I’m off. Click-ety click-ety. Mmm, not bad. The coach actually doesn’t seem to be that upset so maybe the portraits will not be that stony. I shoot the snot out of the situation and then just as practice ends we start moving all the lights and such into place.
About 2 minutes later as we are still moving stuff to our preplanned location I hear the coach saying loudly "I wasn’t told about doing photos. It’s not my problem and have to leave". Oh-oh! Turns out that the coach was not informed that there were interviews and photos to do after practice – uh this is "media day" right? So Media Guy is in tow as they are headed to my position and I explain that I really only need the coach for 3 minutes but we can reschedule to fit theid needs. "Ok" the coach says looking at the big digital clock on the wall, "you have 3 minutes … go!". Now at this point I don’t even have a light on a stand yet. So with wide eyes the two of us shift into high gear and throw up the 4 lights onto stands roughly into position and I take a test shot. Luckily my exposure is really close and the lights are in the right place. I say "Hey that’s not bad" and the coach says loudly "Yeah maybe to you but I think this sucks!" I have Media Guy give the coach a ball to hold so that he’s not just standing there scowling at me like in the test shot. I ask the coach to raise it up a smidge and take one frame of him with the ball. "Ok, that’s it … I’m outta here!" and he walks off. The media guy gives a quick apology as he scurries after the coach.
That was it. One test shot of the coach looking like he wants to kill me with his bare hands and one shot holding the ball where he looks like he wants to knock my brains out with said ball. If I had to do an exposure check I would have zero frames of him. If I didn’t pre-set my lights – no pictures. If I didn’t have my stuff unpacked beforehand, yep – no portrait. My assistant and I exchange a bunch of "Holy-scha-moley!" looks, pack up all the stuff and head out.
I don’t think that it could have been much worse unless the coach was throwing knives at me. But what the heck … all this still beats having "a job"!