Let’s face, we as photographers LOVE gear...until we have to carry it around of course. If you’re a working photographer like me, you know the necessary burden of carrying gear around to complete a job. Cameras, tripods, lenses, strobes, softboxes, light stands, booms, and usually some sort of seamless coupled with the stands to hold it up. And these are just the basic items you may need for any given job.
For many jobs, I work on location. I’m often on location to shoot corporate head shots for a local dental practice. I typically shoot these doctor portraits on a white seamless in a very very tight space at the dental office. Shooting on location makes things much easier for the client; the art of client services. Because I shoot these portraits on location, the job requires me to carry gear up and down a flight of stairs, as well as move a ton of office furniture out of the way in order to make these shots happen. As you can imagine, this can take a lot of time.
My goal with this blog post is to help working photographers think of ways they can save time, by observing the locations they are shooting in, and carefully considering what gear they actually need for the job.
Pay Attention To Your Surroundings
Always pay attention to your surroundings on any given photo shoot. If this is your first time in a location, pay careful attention to the details, as you may find yourself shooting in the same location again, providing you have a lasting relationship with that particular client. Since I almost always shoot these portraits in the same room for this particular client, I've found ways to simplify my process and work more effeciently. By simplifying my process, I've cut down on the amount of time it takes to set up as well as eliminated non essential gear from my bag.
When shooting on location for a repeat client, here area few details you may want to pay attention to:
1. AC Outlets. It’s good to know where the outlets are. When you know your location, you’ll know if you need extension cords or power strips for your studio strobes. This is particularly important if you are shooting commercial vehicles in a large warehouse, where AC outlets are spaced farther apart than your typical office setting.
2. If you are using natural light to light your subject, it’s important to pay attention to the direction of light in relation to the time of day you are shooting. (If you are using strobes, this may or may not be as important.)
3. Be mindful of furniture you are moving. It's always good practice to try to put things back as they were before you arrived. Again, this goes back to customer service. Tip: take a snapshot of the room before you move anything. This gives you a reference as to how the room looked when you first arrived, making it much easier to put things back. Most clients will appreciate this.
4. Also, look for things that can potentially save you time, or work to your advantage in some way. For example, Though I always shoot these portraits on a white seamless, it occurred to me that there was a nice white dry erase board in the back of the room that i could use to my advantage…..Hmmm….
1. To save time on setting up, I decided to use the dry erase board as my background instead of setting up the seamless. I get the same look of a white seamless in less time, problem solved….Until there is writing on that dry erase board. Then it’s a good idea to unpack that seamless you left in your car just in case. You did bring the backup seamless just in case… right?!
2. I use the same lens on all these particular portraits, so there is no need to pack every lens that I own.
3. Instead of using two background lights to light the seamless (dry erase board in this case), i only use one for these particular shots. Since I'm shooting tight and only need to light a smaller portion of the background one background light does the job. This also saves time on setting up.
So these are just a few ideas to hopefully get the gears spinning in your head, to help simplify your process. Remember to think about these things. You just may find yourself in that location again ;)
Lastly, I have included a quick pre-production shot of the dry erase board that I turned into a “seamless” and a quick self portrait. Time saved is time well spent.