So my first foray into professional photography commissions is done and dusted and an interesting experience it was too. As I pointed out in the previous article, the task was not too difficult; produce images in 3 cinemas belonging to a nationwide chain for use on their website. However, the differences between capturing images that are defined by yourself and those defined by a paying client became very apparent right from the start.
On my first contact with my employer, the owner of the photographic agency that was responsible for the completing the commission, I received a brief on the job and particularly the timetable I had to work to. It was important that I delivered the images in good time to allow them to be reviewed and if necessary a re-visit made to fill gaps. I was sent a more comprehensive brief via email, which detailed the areas within each cinema that were to be photographed (not the same for each) and what should and should not be included in the images. For example posters for current films should not be shown prominently as this instantly dates the image. Similarly the areas should be tidy, with cleaner’s signs or crowd barriers removed to give an uncluttered appearance. (I still managed to miss this on a couple of occasions when time was pressing). The client didn’t want crowds in the images and if any members of the public did appear, they should not be looking at the camera or be generally recognisable – publication of images vs model release forms.
So armed with contact details for the relevant cinemas that I was to visit, I setup appointments to carry out the shoots. From the brief it was obvious I needed to be at the locations at a quiet time, which generally meant just after opening in the morning. Even so, one location was in a large shopping mall, so it was never going to be totally quiet.
The shoots were planned for 2 separate days as they were in geographically split and as any re-visits would involve quite a bit reorganisation of my schedule, I wanted to make sure I got it right first time. That started with kit prep. There is a strong temptation to take everything, just in case. However, it is worth sitting down and really thinking about what you will use. Of course you might not know exactly all aspects of the job but there were some things I could discount straight away; I was never going to need my zoom telephoto lens, mini tripod or landscape filters. Similarly as I don’t have a modern effective flashgun, my old one stayed behind as well. Essentials were, my full sized tripod, wide angle and standard zoom lenses, a couple of large capacity memory cards (32 Gb each) and a fully charged battery and back up.
Shoot one, in the large shopping mall, went surprisingly smoothly. First thing I did was to take 5 mins to walk around the place and start to get an idea what view points will work and what ones will not. The customer numbers were not too high at the time and I managed to get all the shots done in about 45 mins. It was tricky getting some images without posters for the current films creeping in and I did miss a cleaner’s “bollard” in one. Lesson here is, despite any time pressure, check the shot all over and then check it again. No flash, so the tripod was essential. Also I wanted to keep the ISO rating low-ish to maintain the image quality; all of which tended to increase exposure times. In terms of image capture, there were 2 ways to approach it; in-camera (i.e. manual settings inc white balance) or post production. Given that I always shoot RAW, I chose the later route.
Back home an efficient workflow was essential as I had 80+ images to review and select for post production editing. In the end, it took me about 2 hours to produce 18 images for consideration by the photo agency.
Shoots 2 and 3 were originally intended to be done on the same day. However one of the locations was undergoing refurbishment and so I had come back a few days later to complete it. As with most things, practise made the procedure easier and more efficient, but it was important that I didn’t get too casual. It would have been all too easy to miss something or not get the required shot.
Overall, I really enjoyed it. It was strange at first to be taking pictures under a certain degree of pressure to produce results, but it was a very good learning exercise and it most definitely took me out of my comfort zone. I hope I get the chance to do it again in the near future.