Last Thursday, I attended the latest installment in our GDCMB professional development lunch talk series. The talk was called “Talking (photo) shop” and the speakers were two of GDC Manitoba’s long-time Affiliate members… Ian McCausland and Mike Grandmaison.
I’m not going to try and recap the entire lunch talk, but I did want to share a few points that particularly resonated with me. Funny during Ian’s talk, I found myself listening as a designer/creative director, while during Mike’s talk, my photographer side was all-ears.
First, the barrier to entry has really reduced. With all of the changes to photographic technology, cameras are much more accessible to the average person and there are lots of photographers around. It is ever more important for experienced photographers to set themselves apart, define who they are as artists and professionals and to demonstrate the added value that they can bring to a shoot or to their work. I would think that most creative professionals have experienced or will experience this at some time. Custom illustration versus clip-art, hiring a designer to solve your business/communications problem versus using pre-made templates, high quality stock versus subscription or credit stock, etc.
Ultimately when we hire a photographer for a job, we need to trust that they’ll deliver. Proven experience, a strong portfolio and positive recommendations mean a lot.
Related to the above, Ian shared this link and noted that when designers are choosing which photographer to work with, they should be running through a basic checklist. For example, are they: 1) using proper equipment, 2) shooting in RAW format, 3) using a workflow that will properly secure your images, etc.
Another thing that Ian talked about is that for him, the most rewarding projects are those where he is involved early on, contributing to the conceptual stage. Often a designer/studio/agency, etc. will approach Ian with a concept already approved by the client (usually mocked up in Photoshop using stock, etc.). If schedule/budget allows, it would be great to involve Ian earlier, before the client sees it. This gives him and the designer the chance to discuss alternate solutions (such as angles, pov, etc.).
If our purpose is to shoot a bunch of images to build up a photo library, a-ok to have a rough shot list with locations and understood that we’ll want lots of options. However if we have a specific layout and shot in mind, it is best to set up for that specific shot, and spend the time getting THAT shot.
We all know this because designers work best with the same thing, but creative briefs are key. The more that we can share with the photographer in terms of the overall message, concept, style, etc., the better. Give clear direction. Also know where we plan to shoot — if all available light, no need for the photographer to pack/carry all of his/her lighting gear.
When we can, go straight to the source. It is photographers who supply their photos to stock companies. Why order from a stock company when we can contact the photographer directly? Photographers like Mike who have been shooting for years have built up a large library of images. One thing Mike mentioned in particular is that he has a big agricultural file — something of interest for all of those designers working on ag-related projects.
Mike does some commercial photography, but mainly he shoots what he loves and then finds a way to market it afterwards (displaying and selling fine art, selling stock, supplying photos for calendars, creating his own books (he just published his 10th!!!), etc.).
Ian mentioned this too, but get to know the local photographers. Depending on their area of focus, they have key local knowledge (locations, seasonal spots, places to get props, how to get permissions to shoot in some locations, hair, makeup, models, etc.).
On behalf of GDC Manitoba, a big thanks to both Ian and Mike for taking the time to speak at this lunch talk, and to Joe Kerr at Pixels 2.1 Gallery for hosting us. Pixels is such a beautiful space! For those who didn’t get to attend, there is still a chance to see some of Mike’s work — his gallery show “Prairie and Beyond” is up at Pixels 2.1 Gallery from September 7-29.