Etiquette is a large part of what makes a shoot enjoyable, and is something photographers don’t always consider as a part of the photography process. I will be discussing mainly proper etiquette for photographers, but touching also upon what should be expected of every person involved in the shoot.
The previous blog was about prepping for a shoot, and that included communication about the shoot. The communication varies based on whether it is freelance or through an agency, whether it is a paying client, a test shoot, or you are hiring a specific model for a personal project. It also varies based on the level of experience. If you are shooting with someone who has never done a professional shoot before, they will need more guidance of what to expect, how to find the location, and instructions on exactly what to bring.
Let’s start with the basics here. Assuming that you, the photographer have been the one coordinating and setting everything up, and it’s not being done through an agency or you’re being hired to do a specific commercial job. Talking to someone about lining up a shoot is important to approach in the right way.
The first key is being respectful. Make sure you are maintaining a professional tone. Some customers are annoying, some models are flirtatious, and some people are just crazy. If you are quoting someone rates, especially someone who is trying to get a free shoot, then be polite when you let them know you are only accepting paid work. If they say that is too much, don’t get upset about it. If you can find a price that you would be willing to do and say, maybe give less edits or do a shorter shoot, then try and work something out. If you don’t want to bargain, you absolutely don’t have to. They can take or leave a price, and if they were serious about booking, then they will come back. Being gracious instead of pretentious will help in a possible future shoot or maybe a referral. I can’t tell you how many angry rants I’ve seen on facebook about how no one values artists and everyone is cheap. That won’t get you clients. Just be patient and the more you accomplish in your craft, the easier it will be for people to see your value.
Another point with being respectful is also making sure you a) respect your client’s vision b) respect their limits and c) make them comfortable. This is a hugely important thing to remember, particularly as a male photographer. When you are shooting women, they don’t want to feel like you are hitting on them. There have been too many photographers, both amateurs and professionals that have driven people away from modeling or being in front of the camera, in general, because they were creepy.
A second key is being specific. What are you hoping to accomplish? Is your shoot for a company, magazine, for a client, or for your portfolio? Make it clear what your goal is when looking for a model. Not just what you’re looking for in terms of a model’s stats (height, weight, size, hair color, etc.) Models have different limits and trying to persuade someone to do a shoot that is out of their comfort zone not only undermines your professional image, but it’s just a waste of everyone’s time. You may want a boudoir shoot to advertise to future clients, and want to hire a model for this. Now, going to a fashion model and pressuring to shoot in lingerie will probably not work out for you, although this kind of thing happens all the time. Also, once the theme is agreed upon, don’t try suggesting that you take things further. More articles of clothing coming off doesn’t mean that someone is getting more comfortable necessarily, the model could just feel pressured or not understand she can say no. Same for male models. This is a regular occurring issue when a model shoots more than they are comfortable with and the photographer gets upset when they don’t like the shots or request for them to not be used. The best way to bypass this headache is to err on the side of being overly careful.
The next step in etiquette is communication once you have chosen a model. Make sure they know what is expected of them, where exactly they will need to be, and what they should bring. If there is not a hair and makeup artist for the shoots (which I strongly recommend you always have), then make sure they have photos and the ability to pull off the hair and makeup looks you send. Ask if they want any specific food or beverages and what kind of music they enjoy listening to, so you can have all of this on hand. These are things that really make you stick out in a model’s or client’s mind. Small gestures to assure their comfort will go a long way.
Once they are there, assure that there is a comfortable, private area for changing and touching up their hair and makeup. If it is a location that doesn’t have a changing room, a portable changing tent or a screen makes a good temporary solution. Asking a model to change in a car or in a public area is not a good idea. Not only is it risky for their safety, but screams that you are not well prepared.
During the actual shoot, feel free to compliment your subject when appropriate, but don’t go overboard. Make sure and read the situation. If your client or model visibly becomes uncomfortable, maybe ease up on compliments. Never, ever make the compliments sexual. I don’t care what kind of a shoot this is, talking about how sexy someone is or how horny someone is making you has no place in a professional shoot. It is unacceptable how many times people get away with these things. Don’t be part of the problem.
Once the shoot is done, the things left are selecting and processing the images. Some photographers allow the client or model to choose any images they want to be edited. This can be done through sites like Dropbox, Smugmug, etc. The issue with this is not only that not every angle is flattering, and the newer the model is or if it’s a client who never has been in front of a camera, it might cause some issues with their self image. The other school of thought is only showing edited images. I’d say the best way to go about it is choosing maybe 20-50 of the good images, minus the bloopers, blurry shots, poorly lit, or unflattering shots and show those, giving the other person X amount of images to choose to be processed.
Let your client or model know how long they should expect to get the images back in. If it will take you a month, tell them upfront. This helps avoid, or at least cut down on the probability of you getting a message every day asking where their images are, particularly if they paid you for the shoot. Some people will be too demanding, asking for extra images or more complex edits than agreed upon. At that point, edits will cost more. Talking to photographers in your area in different areas will help determine what a good price point is.
Through all communications, remember that photography is a business and should be treated with professionalism. Even if you are making no money from it, you can still be professional. If you don’t treat something with the importance as if it is your job, then it never will be.