Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Photography or Rip Off: Prepare to be Photoshopped


A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to participate in a professional photoshoot for the Hot Bird Music website and social media profiles. It was my first commercial shoot and I would like to do it again in the near future. Although photography can be exciting, it is also a business, and I want you to be prepared in case you haven't been to a commercial photoshoot before. If you've already been to one in the past, perhaps I can clear some things up you had not understood.  

Here's the story: I was already a member on Elance (http://elance.com), a website similar to Craigslist that allow people to hire professionals of any occupation. I typed in something in the likes of "photographer in Cleveland" in the job search and found a candidate to hire: Jenn Simmons. She and I traded information and set up a date for the shoot. I gave her a set of pictures as examples for how I'd like my photos. She conducted her own research for inspiration and downloaded photos that displayed music producers and casual businessmen.  

While waiting for the day of the photoshoot, I tried getting in contact with a Recording Arts and Technology department manager at the Cuyahoga Community College, a school located here in Cleveland, Ohio. I studied music production and music business at this school and was hoping that I could get a few shots in one of the school's music recording studios. I kept calling and left two messages, but the department manager never returned my calls. I have to say it was partly my fault I didn't get a few pictures at a recording studio because I didn't attempt to contact the manager until four days before the shoot when I had plenty of time a few weeks before to contact him. I could've easily called a few other recording studios in Cleveland, but why do that and pay sound engineers for my time being there when I could possibly go to the college with free admissions?  



On the day of the photoshoot, I brought about four outfits with me to the photography studio. All of my clothes were on hangers inside one plastic garment bag. Lesson #1: Never place all of your outfits in one garment bag. Buy separate garment bags for each outfit you will bring to a shoot. Duh! Luckily Jenn had a steamer to get the wrinkles out of my clothes after all the time I spent the night before ironing. Thanks, Jenn.  

During the camera flashes in different angles, Jenn shouted some suggestions for posing in addition to the poses I struck on my own. We were feeding off of each other for ideas. There were times in which I was void of inspiration for posing. Lesson #2: Rehearse the poses you will use at your photoshoot. Each outfit you wear may be a representation of a particular theme. You could think of poses that correspond to all of your themes, but it is also important to have specific poses for each outfit and background of your choice. I was at my shoot for about 4 hours and there was no time for running out of ideas.  

After the photoshoot, the photographer e-mailed me a link to a webpage where I can download proof sheets. These proof sheets were pdf. files that contained about 300 pictures of me taken that day. I noticed a watermarked word across every picture that reads "proof." This indicated that the pictures were copyrighted and wasn't necessarily mine unless I bought each picture (except for 6 photos she would work on at no extra charge) in addition to the photography service I paid for the actual shooting.  

Was this a rip off? I admit I was a bit shocked when I saw the word "Copyright" written in the footer of the proof sheets (not my copyright), but then I remembered what I learned about photographers when I was studying music business. Lesson #3: It is not uncommon for photographers to set up their transactions in this way. Once I remembered that lesson, I then became ok with the proof sheets. What you can do is negotiate with your photographer before the actual photoshoot starts and ask him or her to agree to lend you the copyrights to all of the pictures of you and allow you to have immediate access to those pictures after the shoot is completed.  

Just because I do not have immediate access to all of my unwatermarked pictures doesn't mean I will not re-hire Jenn. She's a skilled photographer and I already recommended others to her. Whichever photo I'd like to "purchase" from her, she would polish it to meet the standards of other professional photos we see online and in print. So I'm grateful. Click here to check out Jenn's blog post about the photo session.  

Hopefully I have inspired you for your next photo shoot. Whenever you are looking to hire a photographer, try going to Craigslist, Elance, or Odesk and search for one in your local area.  

This blog post appears on the Hot Bird Music blog. If you enjoyed reading this, click on the link and share it with your friends.  

Christopher Patton
Hot Bird Music

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