anecdote

Mission Creep

I have lost count of the number of times I have agreed the details of an assignment with a client only to find out that they want to add a few “little extras” on the day of the shoot. Sometimes it is a job where we agreed to do a dozen headshots only to find out that they’ve added another six or seven. It can be a school prospectus shoot which was meant to end with the school day where, over a cup of coffee, they casually add an after-school club that doesn’t start until after you were supposed to be off-site. In the most extreme case I can remember it was to do half of the job in central London and the rest of it a two-hour drive away on the outskirts of Coventry.

The military term “mission creep” sort of covers this except that most definitions use the word “unintentionally” whereas this kind of “job expansion” is pretty often entirely intentional. How you handle this regular occurrence says a lot about you as a photographer and can define your relationship with that client for years to come. What might seem as a harmless addition to the brief can leave you with extra work, less time to shoot parts of the original brief and can get you into a row with the client.

For me the worst part of mission creep is the almost inevitable additional time that will have to be spent in post production. It stands to reason that even if you can shoot extra pictures in the time given for the job there will be a greater number of images to be sorted, captioned, cropped and toned. The client almost always ends up getting what they perceive as more pictures for the same fee. (more…)

Older than old school…

Equipment and my equipment choices tend to evolve pretty slowly. Way back in the 1980s I was using a lot of off-camera flash on location and that meant either owning and running a lot of extension cables with my Elinchrom mains powered units, buying (or renting) a Norman system or using some basic flashguns (the term speed light hadn’t really entered common usage by then, other than as part of a Nikon model name) to do the job. I came across the Lumedyne range (old school) in the mid 1990s, although they had been around for a while by then. Before that I spent many happy years with my cobbled-together battery powered flash kit which was based around the already long-in-the-tooth Vivitar 285 system. I call it a system because there was a ton of accessories that you could get for it and it had some common connections that meant you could pair it up with almost anything you wanted to.

I mention all of this because I stumbled across a pretty much complete Vivitar 285 kit when I was looking for something else in my many boxes of disused and “may-come-in-handy-one-day” kit. In the box were: (more…)

Batteries – can you ever have too many?

Canon batteries August 2019. © Neil Turner

A few weeks ago I was on a simple PR job alongside a small video crew and another photographer. Like most jobs we talked about what we needed, let the video team go first and then shot our pictures. As the day progressed the pattern was repeated until just after lunch the other photographer ran out of power for his camera. He was using a single Canon EOS5D MkIII and I was shooting with two EOS5D MkIVs so we had the same type of battery and I offered to lend him one of my spares. When asked how many spares I had I said that I had four in my camera bag and another four in the car along with a battery charger that would run in the car or on mains should I get desperate. He was amazed that one photographer could own so many and I was equally amazed that anyone doing this for a living wouldn’t. Since then I have been asking around and it turns out that I am quite unusual. (more…)

Location lighting half day workshop in London

Thursday 23rd May at the wonderful Cherryduck Studios in Wapping.

For anyone who remembers that far back my www.dg28.com website started out as a vehicle for me to post updates about the work that I was doing along with some technique examples that I rather pompously called “photographer education”. Well, that was in 1999 and a couple of years later I started doing occasional workshops and lectures about my use of portable flash on location. I have done a lot of talks over the years including a couple on behalf of The BPPA to coincide with exhibitions that were held on the old SS Robin at Canary Wharf. SS Robin attendee Steven Frischling said

“He’s good folks… totally worth the price of admisssion, got off the plane and went right to work with what I learned from you within hours”.  
(Steven had flown from Pennsylvania and was en route to Germany!) (more…)

How big do you want them?

This chart is for one “average” photo and represents a comparison for that picture as a guide. Closed image file sizes vary widely due to their content. The photo in question is an environmental portrait taken with a Canon EOS5D MkIV.

Sometimes I post blogs which describe how I do things and others are intended to be conversation starters and thought promoters. This one falls directly into both camps but it was originally written to start discussions.

How we deliver images to our clients is a subject that photographers can debate until the cows come home or until the technology changes and the debate has to start all over again. For the kind of work that I do most of the time (editorial, PR and corporate) there are a huge number of compromises to be made – most of which are dictated by a small number of factors:

  1. Does the client have a digital asset management system?
  2. Will the client want to do anything to the pictures before sending them out?
  3. Who are the end users and what will they want?

Once you start to gather the answers to these questions you can start to discount a lot of options that, as photographers, we would like to see. Ninety-nine percent of the pictures that I deliver are in JPEG format. It isn’t the best format for quality but it is almost universally recognised and it offers the ability to compress the files. It makes sense to us to save our images at the highest quality available and to deliver the pictures in a way that allows for that quality to be maintained but a surprising number of clients simply don’t want or can’t handle that. A modern DSLR with a 24 megapixel chip produces very large files – even as JPEGs; Too large to safely email. Too large for them to be stored easily unless the client has a decent server or at least a method of storing (and retrieving) a lot of data. (more…)

Theresa May MP – July 2000 portrait

The fifteen frame edit supplied to the newspaper from a seven minute portrait shoot with Theresa May who was the Conservative front-bench spokesperson on education in July 2000. © Neil Turner/TSL

When I published my piece last month about the arrival of the Kodak DCS520 cameras I included an interesting portrait of Theresa May MP taken just over eighteen years ago. Several people – including some picture editors – got in touch and asked to see the whole shoot. It was the second time that month that I had photographed Mrs May which, given that I was working for a group of education titles, wasn’t that unusual back then. As always the interview overran and the time for pictures was severely curtailed. The inside of a Member of Parliament’s private office is rarely interesting and so I went tight with what little time I had. (more…)

Style sheets and client expectations

When I returned to the world of freelancing ten years ago one of the biggest changes that I noticed was the arrival of the “style sheet”. Almost every commercial and PR client had a prepared guide that let you know what they wanted from a commissioned shoot and a few pointers of what they, or their end client, liked and didn’t like in their pictures. These ranged from really helpful pointers about what kind of clothing should be worn for portraits or whether or not images should have unfussy backgrounds through the obvious such as “images should be properly exposed” to the mildly bizarre “avoid any and all references to money”. I wish that I had kept them all – they would have provided me with a mixture of useful references and a good laugh.

Recently I have seen two rather odd things in style sheets provided to me by three totally unconnected clients. The first oddity appeared when talking to a PR company about an upcoming commission. They are based in London and the job was for an insurance company. Their style sheet featured three identical pictures and one completely identical paragraph to a style sheet supplied to me previously by a Manchester PR company. I cannot see a connection between the two PR companies and so you have to think that they are getting their style sheets from a single supplier or that they have both copied something from a third PR company. Either way, it explains why so much of the PR and corporate sector has come to look like a catalogue for a stock photography company. Bland people doing bland things with even lighting is a bit dull and I’m pretty sure that every single one of the photographers involved would have been capable of something way more interesting.

The second oddity came when a PR firm working for an educational establishment sent me a style sheet with one of my own photographs used in it. A picture that I created almost twenty years ago and which bore no resemblance to anything that I was being asked to do. When I asked them where they had obtained the images for their style sheet they told me that they had got them from Google Images over the years. Bizarre indeed. (more…)