Zen & the Art of Production: 12 Tips for a Smooth Photoshoot
Hi friends. Kate here again. I’ve been reading your questions lately, I’ve noticed that many are about production. It’s no doubt that shooting days can be stressful: you have a set of objectives that need to be accomplished, time is limited, the client is present, weather, travel, lodging and permits may be a factor, you’re coordinating people and there are always little surprises that crop up. Plain and simple, there are just lots of moving parts to a shoot. It follows that the more you can reduce your unknowns and possible stressors, the smoother your day will run. So, whether you are running the show yourself or you hire a producer, here are a few simple tips that may help you run a smoother production.
Have a plan. And a backup plan. Production is all about planning. The more organized you are ahead of time, the better and more smoothly your shoot will run. A great production is very front-loaded to allow time on set for you to focus on the shoot and deal with any surprises. Do your homework: think hard ahead time, anticipate possible challenges, run through the day in your head and preempt problems before stepping on set.
Prioritize. Work to get the most bang for you buck. After you’ve made your to-do list, prioritize the most impactful tasks and the most time sensitive items.
Clearly set expectations. Good communication with everyone involved is essential. Schedule a pre production meeting early on to get everyone on the same page. Follow up in an email for clarity. We all remember different parts of conversations that affect us. Summarizing is a great way to make sure that nothing is omitted.
Have fun. Laugh a lot. Smile. Enjoy your day.
Remember people’s names. The bigger your crew gets the harder this can be, so create a system for yourself. Create a call sheet that lists everyone involved on the shoot and keep it with you for reference.
Allow enough time. Plan the day so that you have plenty of time. Set the call time early enough so that you and the team don’t feel rushed. Take breaks. Enjoy lunch together. Pad the schedule in case any scenarios run long. Be realistic. Can you really accomplish what you hope in the time alloted? If not, you should either reconsider the objectives or increase the budget. We can all be guilty of packing the days pretty full, so save time where you can: quick transitions
Be budget conscious. One huge source of stress on a job can be trying to do too much without enough resources. Try to match your production to your costs. Know where you can have flexibility: your own time/rate, negotiating rates with your crew, street casting vs models from agencies. And and where you can’t: adequate food for the crew and permitting fees.
Feed your crew. It is amazing how this will keep spirits high. Pamper your crew. Serve a warm lunch. Provide plenty of water. Have healthy options. Have some special treats. Dine in a restaurant. Do something unexpected. Know your team’s dietary restrictions. Remember people’s favorites and you’ll be the hero with lots of smiles all around.
Know your kryptonite. This is my only ‘don’t’ on a list of ‘dos’, but a very important one. It’s very important to recognize what factors contribute to your stress, and then try to reduce its presence. My kryptonite is caffeine. What’s yours?
Be grateful and show it. First, remember why you love working in the film/video industry. Whether is because of the creativity, the people with whom you work, the variety, the travel, or the [insert your reason here], be thankful that you are doing it. Second, be thankful to those who are helping to make it happen: the talent, the crew, the client, the caterer, the location rep; anyone touching your production. Tell them you appreciate them.
Do your best. That’s all you can really do. And this doesn’t mean you won’t have made mistakes or that you haven’t learned a ton or even that you won’t do things differently next time, it just means that you did everything you could for this particular shoot. Be happy with that.
Reflect. After your shoot, take a few moments to debrief the shoot. Celebrate your successes. Identify areas you wish to improve. Take notes so that next time, you are not reinventing the wheel.
I wish I could say that I do all of the above all of the time, but I cannot… yet. It’s a work in progress, but I can say that the more that I follow these tips, the happier I am on set and the smoother my productions seem to go.
Chase Jarvis Blog