Tag Archives: Preparation

Ten reasons not to take pictures for free

You and your camera go beyond your hobby

• You and your camera •
Don’t let your hobby take over your life or put you under undue pressure.

Don’t feel guilty saying no to “photography-for-free”.

Keen photogs will probably be asked to take photos for friends. OK. Don’t be shy. The odd shot is fun. It’s about being friendly. What about when that ‘ask’ is really a ‘job’? Here are the ten reasons you need to think carefully before committing to a job without pay…

1. What is a job?

There’s no clear definition. The line between amateur and professional is blurred. Making good or great images is not the only factor involved. Being a professional photographer involves a whole lot more. A keen amateur can produce great images. But can they do it under the same pressure that professionals work under? This is the key to the issue. When you agree to do a “pictures-for-free-gig” you are doing what a professional will do – and not getting paid for it. Can you perform to professional requirements and provide the goods despite the pressure and no pay?

2. When it does not come out right who is at fault?

You! The person who agreed to do this is you. And, the responsibility is yours to deliver. Can you – deliver? You had better be clear about that; and happy to provide a comeback when it fails. Professionals carry professional indemnity to cover serious disasters and legal proceedings. Do you have cover? Have you thought about the consequences for something priceless – your friendship? A possible law suite and loss of friendship can both be devastating.

3. Unforeseen problems

Your friends have asked you to do a job. Do you know what problems are likely to crop up? They probably do not… and they rely on your expertise. You might be happy to produce the shots but do you really know what else is needed? Jumping in blind can be a minefield. What are the expected shots for this type of shoot? Do you even know to ask that question? Do you know what you will need to do to get that information? If you have not worked out what is needed to cover eventualities when problems arise you are in a difficult situation. If you do not see the problems it will be your fault. Are you sure you have covered everything? Think again. And again. For you it’s about photos. For your friends it is about their memories. You really need to be sure you know it all and what will happen.

4. Your time will not be respected…

Your “friends” will expect you to be on call. You may be happy with that. But you have your life to live too, right? Nevertheless, you are doing the job and you will need to be the one who covers the time. Some events have a lot of meeting time and provision for professional input. Do you have that time? Rehearsals, shoot lists, requirements and principle characters are all important and as the photographer you may have to meet them all. You may be required to meet people both during working hours and at evenings and weekends. You may be involved in planning for months ahead of the event. You will need to be ready to fall in line. If you are not being called to these meetings then you are potentially building up a legacy of problems for the day. When you don’t know the details of the event minute by minute but are required to get all the shots, who is at fault? Your time is important to the event. Or at least that is the way it will be seen by the event organisers. Can you really provide that resource? For free?

5. Professional standards

Sure, you will be told, “We don’t expect professional standards”. Your friends have seen your images. They know you are good. Will they feel so forgiving when you do not produce one hundred top quality images with all the expected and formal variations for their wedding, party, engagement, event etc.? One or two good ones from a shoot is great. For your personal interest it may be what you want. When you are working for someone else their expectations are more exacting. Professional standards are expected for all the shots, not just a few. Be ready to provide for that.

6. Things do go wrong!

You are the ONE! The person for the job. Do you have the eventualities covered? Here are some of the sort of things photographers might encounter…

  • You drop and break your camera on the day;
  • Your memory card is defective;
  • You get sick;
  • On the day you discover you are not allowed to use flash in church;
  • You break a lens;
  • Your daughter breaks an arm the day before the event;
  • You’re asked on the spot for shots you’ve not agreed or were not prepared to do;
  • A passing pedestrian steals your camera bag  External link - opens new tab/page;
  • A drunk guest wants to take “up front pictures” while you are doing the formal shots;
  • Extreme sunlight outside the church will blow out the white on the brides dress;

A professional photographer will have contingencies, strategies and cover for things like these. Things always go wrong in some respect. You need to cover for all these and be prepared for more. And, you need to do it for free.

7. People don’t value things that come free

It is almost a cliché – “the best things in life are the most expensive”. It may not be true. But it is a public perception. If you are doing this “job” for free there can be consequences. Your advice will be devalued because you are free. You will be on the same advice level as Aunt Mavis, the brides father and others. Worse, the chap down the road who is a retired photographer and family friend (who has never used a digital camera) will also be advising out of your earshot. Working in those conditions adds a pressure that is a new dimension beyond friendship (and professionalism). Be aware that doing the job – even if you get it right – may still damage your friendship.

8. Post production

A professional photographer provides an after-shoot service. Within a week the processed images are provided as contact-sheet choices for final prints. There may be a need for a book; a cd; other types of mounted images. Be prepared for about four or five days processing work. Then you will need to provide for the future requirements. You will need to be ready to send out images, keep copies available for updates and reprints for several months. You will also need to retain the images on file indefinitely (securely). You will need to make solid editorial decisions about which images you allow to be seen and which you do not. You may have a thousand images… common for amateur digital photographers. Post production is a big part of a professional shoot. Can you resource it? Can you make the grade in post production? Can you resist when your friends says she wants all the images, not just the ones you chose? Feel good about that?

9. One for free… many more to go

Once people know you do professional work – without the cost – you will be in the front line. All sorts of pressures and unreasonable requests will be made. You will be taken for granted. And, it will be up to you to resource it. Travel, printing, expenses, processing, insurance, time, new equipment – there is more to shooting regularly than simply turning up with your camera. You have to provide resources too. Remember, you will not have the benefit of income for it either. How do you say no to other friends and family when you have done a professional job once already?

10. Photography is fun – right?

Doing the free stuff is fun when you are doing it for you. There is a completely different spin on it when you are doing something under pressure for someone else and not getting anything but hassle in return. Professionals enjoy their job. They are prepared and resourced for the problems and pressures. You need to have the same resources and cope with those pressures too – free. Where is the fun in that? Taking a photography “job” for free takes the fun out of your work. And, it is no fun being taken for granted.

The overview

Despite the opinion of many people, photography is a job. There are professional standards, costs, requirements and pressures. You may want to take up professional photography. That’s fine. However, be prepared. I have pointed out the professional dimensions.

The key point is simple. There are additional pressures on you and your friendships when you let yourself be taken for granted by doing free work. Sometimes they go beyond professional pressure.

Feel free to do family shots, fun activities and enjoyable photography. Even a little charity work and some contributions to local groups are fine – on your terms. Be prepared for something that looks like a “job”. A polite withdrawal will be looked on with respect and friendship once you explain the pressures involved. Failing to make the grade will not be looked on with simple forgiveness.

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By Damon Guy (author and Photokonnexion editor)

Damon Guy - Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is a writer-photog and editor of this site. He has run some major websites, a computing department and a digital image library. He started out as a trained teacher and now runs training for digital photographers.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’.

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How to decide what to take on a photo-walk

• Evening Walk By The Lock •

• Evening Walk By The Lock •
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• Evening Walk By The Lock • By Netkonnexion on Flickr External link - opens new tab/page

A trip out is a key part of your photography.

The photo-walk is a common photographic activity. Many amateurs take the photo-walk as the main way to enjoy their hobby. So how do you decide what to take with you each time?

The purpose?

The main problem with photography equipment is the weight. If you pack everything you will probably not use most of it and you will break your back carrying it around. The art of photography is not about equipment. It is about what you make of your shot.

Every shoot is a way to achieve something. Of course you may be going on a stroll for the fun of it – no photographic aim. Nothing wrong with that. But if you want to choose some equipment to take with you it helps to have a purpose. Then you can choose suitable equipment for the purpose.

So, if your photo-walk does not have a specific aim then create one. If you are, for example, going for a walk with the family, then decide what you think will be fun. Take a camera body and a wide angle lens perhaps? Make the aim to capture people in wide scope. Or, maybe, fix your zoom with a piece of tape so you cannot change the focal length. Then you can walk around to get the shot rather than zooming.

There are many things you can do to set yourself a task. The idea is to create one thing you can concentrate on photographically during your walk. Work with the equipment you have taken even though you may encounter lots of different things to photograph. Your decision to work with pre-defined and specific equipment will present you with new creative photographic challenges. Set a purpose and develop your photographic skills.

Purpose determines direction

When you have a specific aim in mind for a photo-shoot the situation is already specific. You have a purpose to choose your equipment around. The best way to move forward is to plan what you want to do at the shoot location. Your choice of equipment should be closely aligned to what you expect to achieve.

I find advance planning makes the difference. Even if you have not been to the location you should be able to find out about it. Do a Google search and check out the situation. Also do a Google image search for the location so you can get ideas from shots other people have taken. The idea is to narrow down what you want to get from the location. If you think you need one specific type of lens then take only that. For flexibility I try to take a maximum of two lenses to a shoot. One to tackle the main shoot. One to expand my options if that is possible.

Lenses are the core of your equipment and tend to be weighty. Limit them to keep the weight down. Flash units, light modifiers, batteries, memory cards, cloths, light meters… there may be other equipment you want to take. If your planning is good you can cut that list. The type of shots you want to take will determine your lenses. The weather and time of day will help you figure out most of the other things you need. It is all about understanding what you are going to encounter. Then, be ruthless. Pack the equipment you need to meet your plan and nothing else.

The point is…

…have a purpose. Make sure every time you go out to do some photography you have a purpose in mind and plan to achieve it. That way you will be able to plan to get the most out of the situation.

By Damon Guy (author and Photokonnexion editor)

Damon Guy - Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is a writer-photog and editor of this site. He has run some major websites, a computing department and a digital image library. He started out as a trained teacher and now runs training for digital photographers.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’.

Don’t Look Bad in Front of Friends and Family

A day out with the boys.

A photography shoot for friends. A photo shoot demands careful thought. When you know you will be doing shots for friends or family you want to get it right. Be prepared so you look good and perform well.

The key to shooting in front of people you know

So you are interested in photography! Before long you’ll be asked to take photos for family or friends. You may already have been asked – it happens to all of us. The impromptu shot is not too bad. It is more nerve-racking to do when you have been specially asked for an event, party, wedding, or important occasion. You don’t want to let anyone down. You certainly don’t want to look a fool because you fluff-up on the day. So how do you carry it off?

Approach your task with confidence, preparation and planning. Make sure all the bases are covered. Here is what you do…

Advance Preparation

Ask what is expected of you. You need to know…

  • How important is this?
  • What/who you will be shooting.
  • Who you will be working with/for…
  • When you will be doing it.
  • Where will you be doing it.
  • Why you will be shooting.
  • How you will do it (is there a brief?)

You can probably think of other questions to ask. Just, make sure you know what the shoot is all about.

If you don’t have any of the required skills, get online and find out what you need to know. Be clear about what’s needed and plan to cover your learning work with time for practice before the event. Leave ordering time for buying things and delivery too.

Leading up to the shoot

Finalise the equipment you need. Here is a preliminary list…
2 cameras; 2 flash units; Lenses, charged batteries (x4?); Memory cards; chargers; lights/stands; light/flash modifiers/reflectors; suitable clothing (cold or hot gear as appropriate); umbrella(?); contact/business cards; tripod…

Why two cameras and equipment? If one is damaged on an important event, and you quietly pull out another and carry on – the professional. Think how confident you will feel too. Access to only one camera? See if you can borrow one for the day. Otherwise do the best you can. I skipped over lenses. The ‘glass’ you need depends on the shoot. If you don’t have what you need, consider hire. The deals are pretty good for a weekend or a few days. If your contact considers this an important enough event they may pay for hire. Try to get the hire ahead a few days so you can try the equipment before the shoot.

Visit the location of the shoot in advance. You need to know about the shoot location…

  • What size is the location
  • How light/dark it is
  • What power provision
  • How many people can it hold
  • What are the rules (especially if a business)
  • Do you need location permissions
  • What’s the access/parking
  • Is parking near/far
  • What scope is there for your shots
  • Light and shady places
  • Natural backdrops available
  • What else will be put out (tents, food, disco, stage…)
  • Bbar times/licensing
  • Where can’t you shoot
  • Other things you need to know fo your event
Planning the shoot itself

Think out how you are going to handle the shoot. Don’t make it up on the day. You will not be creative and get all the shots you need. Do some sketch plans how you are going to make the best of the location. Pick several places to shoot. Pick places for groups or singles. Plan the main shots you want and their order – a professional approach.

When you have a plan check it through with your contact. It is important they know you have got it in hand. Also they will have confidence that you are going to do the job they asked.

The day before

Check all the equipment works, batteries charged, cards clean, everything packed, camera ready; lens cleaned and packed, pack lens wipes too. Make sure you have a route and maps addresses ready too.

The transport arrangements should be prepared and ready. Pack your kit to be ready to leave early. Review all your plans for the shoot. You will be more spontaneous if you already have a shoot plan in your mind. You may need to have a shot list as your main plan to follow. You should have your ideas and plans in order in your head. Don’t forget your wallet or money! Finally, give your friend a call. Check it is all OK and to reassure that you are ready.

On the Day

Dress for the occasion – everyone looks at the photographer. Look good, wear appropriate clothes.

You must arrive early to set up. So, leave early for the shoot. Check traffic reports beforehand. If you get there in plenty of time you will look and feel more professional. If you have setting up to to do – arrive an hour early. To just re-scope the location arrive half an hour early. Leave enough time to park too.

While you are traveling, review your plan in your mind. Try to relax if you are nervous. Its understandable but you will need to be ready for the fun! Visualise and mentally rehearse your shots while you travel.

On arriving report to your contact. Make sure they know you are there and get any ‘latest news’ Something always crops up on a shoot. You need to know changes in arrangements straight away.

Once you have all this in hand, you can set up. Then you are into shoot mode… off you go! You the professional… Be confident, follow your plan, make sure you enjoy yourself!

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