Photo Shoots Gone Bad
Once in a while, it’s good to be reminded of the importance of managing a photo shoot. Just over a week ago, the entire nation got that reminder.
Lesson 1: Communicate, Confirm, Then Re-confirm
In an effort to capture some photographs of Air Force One flying across New York’s harbor, the duplicate backup plane was brought in along with some F-16 fighter jets to escort it. Unfortunately, the public was unaware that the event of a low-flying aircraft circling the city was about to occur. Panic broke out, people started evacuating from their high-rise buildings, and emergency phone calls flooded 911.
Following the false alarm, the director of the White House Military Office assured the press that steps were taken to notify city officials. A furious Mayor Bloomberg, however, was never briefed on the event. Due to the lack of communication, confirmations, and proper briefing, the photo shoot not only took a toll on the city of New York financially, but emotionally too.
After discussing it with some colleagues and photographers, the general agreement was this should have never become a photo shoot in the first place. Use Photoshop instead!
Lesson 2: Stick to Business—Leave the Ego at the Door
Photo shoots can be glamorous, involving celebrities, pre-release top-secret products, and incredibly talented photographers. Amidst all the excitement, egos can get in the way and jeopardize an otherwise fantastic photo opportunity.
Jill Greenburg was becoming a hot photographer, shooting covers for Wired magazine, Fortune, and developing a style of photography many other photographers were trying to replicate. It didn’t take long for the editors from The Atlantic magazine to come knocking on her door. The assigment was to take photographs for the cover of their magazine, of Senator John McCain during his campaign for president. She completed the assignment, but captured a few of her own at the same time, retouched them, and posted them on her own website with slogans and statements that ridiculed the candidate.
Not only was this incredibly unprofessional, it was also embarrassing for the publication that trusted her. Last I checked, they were considering taking legal action and did not pay Greenburg for her work. The photography community also lashed out at her actions and she has since changed her agency rep twice (mutual departures).
The extended lesson here is to have strong relationship with your photographer, a solid contract, and a clear creative direction that won’t be altered because of personal opinions.
Lesson 3: Lights, Camera, Models, Props, Wardrobe, Makeup….
There’s a lot of coordination involved in preparing for a photo shoot. Location, proper staffing, transportation, equipment — it’s a lot to organize. Some of this is the photographer’s responsibility, but most is in the hands of the client and agency. Communication, again, is the key to making a photo shoot go smoothly, though being able to improvise on the spot is also necessary in extreme situations. Here’s an article I found that illustrates this lesson very well—enjoy!