Assignment insight part 1 – Getting your mind around it

Anyone who is a professional photographer will often get a potential client say something like "Why are you charging me so much? All you have to do is go out and snap the picture!" Uh, no. It's far more complex than that. Let me explain from example.

I get a call from a guy who is interested in having me make some location portraits of Wendy Booker a "climber lady in the Boulder area". Ok, can do. How did he hear of me? Ah, a link from on of my professional organizations. Nice to know. So we chat about the terms and we easily agree on price. He sends me an e-mail with details and we whip up contracts. He needs the photos in a week's time. Which is good for me. The image are for promo for one of her sponsors so she will be in rocky terrain and all the photos need to have the company logo visible.

Now before I contact my subject I try and find out who I am dealing with. This is really really important. This will let me know what she looks like, how she has been photographed before, some things about her personally and thus how I should light, pose and work with her. At first I thought that she was a pro rock climber since we have so many out here it silly. A simple google search found that she is actually tall, blond, 52, a mountain climber and suffering from MS. Wow. Not the young, tiny and built out of iron gal that I was initially imagining. Well that changes some things. She has a blog so I read a bit of that and get more info.

Then I call her. I had spent about 2 hours putting together the shoot so far and I hadn't left the office. Wendy and I have a quick and very funny phone call and I find that she is as spunky as I thought. Well there quickly emerges a wrinckle in the shoot schedule: she is booked solid until the last day that I am able to photograph her because … she's leaving for Nepal the following day to prepair for climbing Mount Everest. So no rain delays, no rescheduling, no reshoot, no joke. Oh, and she can only do it after 5:30pm so that will mean that I will have about 1 1/2 to 2 hours from the time I meet her till we hit sunset. Now we gotta find a location for this mess. Her address is in the far western section of Boulder that butts against the foothills but that's all wooded and you can't see the mountains because the foothills obscures them. So I have to do some scouting and find something usable.

Enter the saving grace of technology. I put address into Google Earth and see that the park that is essentially down the street from her place looks like this:


A-hA! Those rock spines would be a perfect location. I can even see how much elevation there is, where the trail access is and how far a hike it is to get there. Google Earth is a must have/use for anyone who is looking for locations. It's saved my butt when I had to fly somewhere and find a place for photographs on a deadline.

Then I went to the location to actually see what I had to work with.
That meant hiking there, scrambling about the rocks and figuring out
what angles would work and how I could plan the hour or so that I had
to work with.

Now I knew that I had to light her for the shoot but I also would be up against some daylight so I couldn't take a bunch of my Nikon speedlights – I needed more power than that to hold f/11 from 3 light sources so that meant taking my monolights and battery pack. So that meant the lights were going into my big ThinkTank backpack. Luckily I can fit all that in. My cameras were going into my LowePro backpack and the stands and softboxes were going into my soft bag.

I put my 85mm f/1.4 and 14mm f/2.8 in the bag along with and SB-800 just in case I found a need for them. I figured that it would be a 20 minute hike to get to location and if I found that I needed something once I was there going back wasn't an option. So Kim my assistant and I would be hiking the gear up about a half mile from the trailhead.

Moral of the story: if I just showed up to Wendy's house with a camera bag and some lights I would have been pretty sunk. Planning ahead is often the key to making the photos happen and as a result that work goes on the invoice.

One thought on “Assignment insight part 1 – Getting your mind around it”

  1. Right you are about preperation. To many times have I left the house to go shoot something and forgot this or that. Long time no hear JC. Yep, its THAT Wayne from way back. I read your site often, and wonder what your up to. Hopefully we will be able to get together some day to go shoot something cool. I am sure I could use your tips and expertise to further my work along. Good luck in DC and hope to hear from you soon.

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