Photography: if you fail to plan, you plan to fail...
I’ve just taken on a Cornish client in the education sector – which is beyond exciting for me! With years of experience in education, working with schools is one of the things I enjoy the most. However my excitement may have turned into mild panic when I discovered I needed to put a day’s photoshoot together – in under 24 hours…
Cue the theme tune to ‘Mission Impossible’. While I may have coordinated over a hundred shoots in my time, not often have I done them at such short notice. I like to be organised. Super-organised. Think of the most organised person you know and times them by ten. Once I'm organised, I like my photographer to know exactly what they are doing in advance, as well as anyone and everyone involved in the shoot. And more often than not, that takes a bit of time.
But one week on from the shoot, I know that it’s all perfectly achievable! Thanks to sourcing the right photographer, some excellent communication with the client, and of course my slightly control-freakish approach to organisation. So, this is an opportunity to share a few thoughts, which might be particularly relevant if you work in a school and are faced with a similar challenge.
Without exception, the secret to success is matching the right photographer to the right project. Photographers have their strengths and weaknesses, as well as their favourite commissions and the ones they might enjoy less. Your best choice is the one who will tell the story of your school through their images and help your audience understand your product better. So unless you have a cast-iron recommendation from someone you trust, it’s a gamble to book someone without a really good understanding of their areas of interest and expertise. Plus the rapport you establish with your photographer is crucial; if they are engaging and enthusiastic with you, you can be assured they are going to work well with your students and staff. Putting people at ease so that they barely notice the camera in the room is a true art.
Finding someone who has experience of working in education can fast-track your project (they understand the 'quirks' of this environment!), and if you can find someone with a marketing background, that's even better. However the buck doesn’t stop with your photographer – having a well-thought out brief, a detailed (but flexible) shotlist, and a clear vision of how the images will be used (and communicating that to your photographer) will mean you get much more out of your shoot. Small details can make or break a picture, so plan ahead and avoid lots of expensive and time-consuming post-shoot editing by ensuring subjects and the environment are properly presented.
It’s worth giving a few shout-outs to a few of my favourite photographers I have worked with over the years. Simon Jones of Bonjour is undoubtedly the king of school photography - with simply heaps of experience of working in education (but also an impressive CV in other commercial work) and best of all, he has a marketing background, so as well as being easy to work with, he really ‘gets it’. Another is Bill Bradshaw who I worked with for over ten years on a wide range of projects – with an engaging and warm personality, Bill has the knack of establishing the most relaxed environment with his subjects – staff and students always love working with him! When it comes to sport, no-one can touch Neil Munns – a sporty guy himself, he anticipates every movement, whether it’s on the playing field or in the swimming pool. For PR events, you can’t beat a former press photographer. Len Copland is my man of choice for this (find him on Twitter @SnapperLen) – just brilliant at working the crowd and getting the job done quickly and professionally. It’s all about matching the expertise and personality to the project.
Anyway, I’m pleased to report that the shoot resulted in some great images (thanks to the hugely patient and energetic Tony Cobley!) – and I can’t wait to share these with you in the forthcoming months!