Now days it’s easy to find yourself shooting various projects in conjunction with video production crews. Agencies and companies like to do this because they can shoot both print stills and TV commercials at the same time. This not only allows for a consistent look and feel for the entire campaign, but it typically is cheaper for them to just overlap the two instead of doing two separate shoots. Photographing in these situations can be challenging for photographers. Here are a five tips to get what you need and keep everyone happy on set.
One of my favorite clients that I shoot for often is almost always in conjunction with a video production crew. Sometimes that crew is big and sometimes it’s small. I’ve had to learn to adapt to this working environment for shoots. It can definitely become harder to get the shots you need in the amount of time you are given, in these types of shoots. Here are a few things I’ve learned with my shoots when video is on set also.
#1- As the photographer, you most likely aren’t going to have much say in things before the shoot. In my experience, the video production company and the agency is doing all the pre-production, casting, scouting etc. As the photographer on these types of shoots, you pretty much have to bring the equipment and necessary crew you think you will need and make it happen. Generally you will know where and what types of situations you will be shooting in, but rarely will you get to scout them out beforehand.
#2- I hate to break it to you, but the video takes precedent over the stills. This can be hard for us photographers because on a normal stills-only shoot, you are the one calling the shots, but that’s not usually the case here. Video takes more time and is more expensive to shoot, so that typically has priority. That doesn’t mean that what you, as the photographer, shoot doesn’t have value or is less important. The client and the agency still expect you to get great shots. It just means that you have less time with more pressure. You will still be able to direct talent, find the best spot to shoot to an extent, and do what you normally would do; but you usually only have about 10-20 min per shot to do it.
#3- Depending on who the director for the video is, can make your job easier or more difficult. I’ve worked with directors who tried really hard to get me the time I needed to get my shots and others where I’ve felt like I’ve have to fight for every shot, which is hard. When that happens you still have to get the shots you need, but be respectful and good to work with, even if the director is making it difficult. Try to be flexible and not get irritated, even if things aren’t going exactly how you want. In order to keep everything going smoothly on set you just have to kind-of go with the flow on these types of shoots. I’ve learned getting frustrated doesn’t help at all. You just have to get in there, do the best you can and make things happen. Even if its not the best time of day, you don’t have the time you want, the talent are already tired, etc….
#4- There is going to be a lot of down time for you. Make yourself and your team useful and get shots where you can. Have lighting preset as much as possible. I’ve always tried to get shots in between takes or if they aren’t shooting audio at the same time they are shooting. This just gives the client more options since most of the time they aren’t exactly sure what they want or how they want to use the stills. I’ve found using a telephoto lens and just getting back and out of the way is a great way to pick up extra shots and keep everyone happy.
#5- Lastly, try and piggyback off the video lighting as much as possible. This will save you time and keep a consistent look for the client. As much as you can, talk to the director and key grip to see when you can use the existing video lighting to shoot with. Most of them time this will work unless video is moving to a new location. In my experience, using what is there already and adding a single strobe with an umbrella or something quick can get great results quickly. I’ve found allowing video to shoot first, then me second, keeps everything on schedule. There are times when you can shoot while video is setting up, just be aware of what will work and won’t work for each set up.
Hope that helps and here a just a few side notes. I’ve had to put myself in the shoes of the director and try to be more understanding. Most of the time the production company doesn’t even know that I’m going to be on set shooting until sometimes a few days beforehand. They have planned the shoot out to make sure they can get what they need and then I show up and tell them I need to get shots also, which can make their jobs more difficult. Be mindful of their needs and in most cases they will do the same in return. Keep in contact with the producer. They can let you know what is coming up and what to expect. Work hard and shoot as much as you can and as quickly as you can and the client and the agency will be happy and want to use you again. When done right, shooting stills and video can be a fun, collaborative effort!
Enjoy and, as always, thanks for checking it out!