When to say “We’ve got it. Thanks for your time!”

So a few weeks ago, I went to photograph Robert Reich for a good magazine client. I was working with an assistant who is quite a good photographer (can you say recent POY recognition among other awards?), and we finally settled upon one situation which required no lights, just a bit of careful setting up of the camera and removal of minor distractions in the background. The professor shows up, and is a bit distracted by the OTHER photographer who has set up in the same area to shoot student photos (more lights, cloth backdrop, high and public stress level, if you know what I mean). I introduce myself to the professor, show him what we are doing, and away we go. He gives REALLY good photo for 10 minutes, and I figure we have plenty. It is not going to get any better (at least not with me at the helm!).

I tell him we are done with this situation, and we have another that we need a few minutes to set up, and we will come and get him. No problem he says, but when we get him in the other situation, he doesn’t look right…I try for a while, getting nothing really good, and finally call it quits because he is itching to go, and nothing is getting better (the one shot that I thought was potentially the best, we could not do for various reasons of protocol).

Why am I posting this? Because it was about the first time in my memory that I KNEW we had it, and it couldn’t really get any better, but I soldiered on anyway. I got greedy. Now in the good old days, we used to get greedy for a reason (film!), but with these cute little autofocus digital thingies, when you have it, you can pretty much confirm it right then and there, and move on.

Of course, there are still CLIENTS, and we REALLY REALLY want them to get what they need. This means choices, of course. And this means FEAR. What if they do not get what they want? What if they don’t like me any more? What if they move on to the next person on the Rolodex (remember those, too?)? It is all too clear in my memory the times I do something that I really like, and upon seeing it, they ask if there is anything else, or they don’t get it. I think it goes back to some early parenting shit. We get trained to second guess ourselves against our own judgment.

So, to quit rambling, I wish that I had stopped after the first situation. Fast Forward to LA last week shooting for another good client, and the subject showed up and told me that he had a lunch meeting in 7 minutes, so could we be done? Well, due to my already discussed psychological profile, I aim to please, so I agreed that we would speed along. All this EVEN THOUGH I HAD ASKED IF HE HAD ANY TIME CONSTRAINTS THAT DAY. Whatever. So I shoot for 7 minutes, and he gives good smiley photo (this client likes smiley stuff for their covers), and I realize that it is not going to get any better. So I let him go to lunch. And of course we shoot another situation AFTER lunch and another appointment. No problem…everyone was very nice, and the second shot was a bit wacky, but pretty safe. This job I know that they need two situations (one for the cover and one for the inside feature photo).

This second situation takes until the very end to get something that I like that looks almost as good as it did with my assistant (another fabulous photographer…do you sense a pattern here?). Well the client picks only images from the SECOND situation! Wow. Talk about confusing this poor photographer. Perhaps the lessons are not black and white, but 8 bit grayscale! I quit the first situation because I knew that I had it (after conferring with my friend, Laptop), but the second was what they liked.

I’m not sure what any of this means, but you can bet that I am more likely with digital to move on sooner than with film. I’m still not in love with the small cameras and the shape, but there is a bit less stress leaving the shoots these days…much of the technical fear is gone…but that fear of not pleasing the client (and the subject, and the PR person, and everyone else in creation) still exists. Yeah, that’s my point.



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