One perfect shot: How photoshoots sharpened my capacity for creative collaboration

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

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Imagine: you’ve gathered the perfect team. The weather is forecasted to be partly cloudy in the low 70s. The models are all on time. The food is ordered. The equipment is set up and working properly. The subject matter—a mint condition 1967 Ford Mustang is…uh oh. Where’s the car? If one piece of this delicate puzzle is missing, the whole photoshoot could fall apart. Tens of thousands of dollars to capture these few shots, and it could all go down the drain. Try again tomorrow? Well, the photographer is booked tomorrow, it looks like it is supposed to rain, and we have six other shots to get in before the sun goes down, and each shot has a specific location, all mapped out with drive times and setup times. It’s now or never. What do you do?

At Intrinzic, we have a wide range of capabilities that require each and every employee to embrace the process of collaboration in order to be successful. Sometimes that collaboration comes naturally and sometimes you’ve got to remind yourself to open your mind to others and jump in. In my experience, there’s nothing quite like a photoshoot to test your collaboration skills—spending a day immersed in the process of commercial photography demonstrates the need for teamwork, patience and flexibility while working in a creative team environment. It’s the moment where the agency’s ideas, client’s aspirations, brand strategy, and photographer’s vision all come together for a marathon day of elegantly organized chaos.

I think the process of photoshoots makes a perfect model for how to manage time and resources in a creative environment. The rubber hits the road and you’ve got to be creative and improvisational all while keeping to a tight schedule with rigid deliverables. Photoshoots magnify the quality of an agency’s planning process and capacity to collaborate creatively. I’ve found that if you can nail these three key things at a photoshoot, they can make the team stronger in the office, too: establish alignment, be flexible, and lean in.

Establish Alignment

Creating alignment should occur in the planning phases of the project. The unexpected always seems to happen, so everyone involved needs to know the roadmap to a successful outcome. When you have a large team, everyone must have a specific task, but having a collaborative team requires everyone to not only know their specific task in the group, but also understand that they may be required to step outside of their usual role—or comfort zone—to keep the momentum going.

Sometimes models don’t show up, and employees or passers-by will be asked to step in, even if they have never before been in front of a camera. If the lighting is not quite right, there may not be enough people on the photographer’s crew to hold all of the props. An actor, an agency team member, or even the client will have to step in.

Because unpredictability is unavoidable, the most important thing that everyone must be aligned to is attitude. When there is high energy and enthusiasm, those good vibes keep the mood light, and keep people moving forward. The result: beautiful shots.

Be Flexible

After hours of planning a photoshoot, it is necessary to do a reality check and anticipate that things may not go according to plan. It isn’t possible or even efficient to have a backup plan for every detail, so you have to make sure your team is aligned and ready to deal with situations as they arise. The best photographers and team managers are able to make the most out of the resources around them, and improvise as needed.

So about that Ford Mustang—the biggest piece of the day’s puzzle. When it boils down to it, the options are either a) get the shot, or b) under deliver. For that shoot, we walked to the nearest, busiest intersection we could find, and waited. We were able to flag down a gentleman at a gas station who had a similar-enough collector car, and he let us hand wash and borrow his car for a few hours. Pro tip: always carry cash!

Lean In

When you have a full day planned, with not a minute to spare (literally, every single minute counts), you have to make sure you are on top of every detail. This requires an adaptable mindset, accepting that at any given time, things can take a 180 degree turn is key to not only a successful shoot but also to being able to enjoy the moments of a day that is sure to be full of surprises.

I have experienced some of the highlights of my career at photoshoots, from meeting wonderful, talented people, to learning the craft and processes of other creative people. You also have to get out of your comfort zone, whether that means becoming part of the photo crew and helping with props, to having to assemble the photographer and crew, making sure they know the exact time at any given moment—a recent shoot I was on was scheduled around the rotation of the sun in order to get the perfect shot throughout the entire day.

Collaboration comes into focus

The one thing you can guarantee with a photoshoot is that it will be mentally and physically demanding. You have to be willing to put in a lot of hours before, after, and during. They aren’t glamorous—the photographer may take around 4,000-5,000 shots and select a total of 30. But, if you pull it off, the results will help brands express themselves and tell their stories in emotional and meaningful ways. And for the team who worked behind the scenes, they can provide the proof of successful collaboration in one single shot.

Read more

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