Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Education, Education, Education...



Any conversation with a client which starts…” how on earth did you manage to do that?”… whilst they're grinning ear to ear, is always a good start to a meeting!

Having heard this recently from a long standing client it got me thinking about just exactly what it is we do, and why we manage to have this effect on clients whilst just doing our job…

It’s not that clients are totally unaware of what we do as photographers…after all there are some who take great interest in exactly what happens when the photographer turns up…those that take “thoughtful contemplation” as clear signs of incompetence and a need to offer constructive advice from their extensive photographic knowledge…after all just how difficult can it be to take photographs if you’re doing it?

Then again others will look around the studio as though entering a magical kingdom… a land of smoke and mirrors…where pretty much anything you do will result in an “ohh” or a “whowww!” You are clearly a magician who will work your own special magic on the obscure widget they have brought lovingly to this temple of creativity.

However when it comes to the image above, of The Creative Arts Building at Huddersfield University, my client has many years of experience of what I do and how I do it… usually when we discuss budgets it’s all about trying to avoid their photog’s irrational desire to request 100ft aerial platforms, movement of entire site offices, relocation of a visually offencive parked car…or indeed entire car parks…or "borrow" an aircraft to achieve a suitable aerial viewpoint which will definitely look fantastic, but needs to be overhead around dawn to get the best light…and yes we have done all that and more…and they’ve loved the results! To say nothing of the fact the best light will definitely not be until next spring when the sun is in the best location…

That I “chase the light” …a phrase I believe truly describes photography, but must confess I’ve pinched from a photog friend…just hope he’s not looking…is really the key to a project like this.

Light… its direction, strength and quality which help create great images…whether the source is several million miles away or within reach. Put another way if you can stand there and see no shadow cast by yourself it’s either not a good architectural photography day…or you’re related to the “living dead”…just best not to explain this to the client quite like that!

When I recce’d this location, along with several others for this client, I was really conscious of the reflective nature of the building cladding and glass curtain walls…key features of the design and materials employed…despite the fact I was there during a typical “Yorkshire Summer”…that it was “raining” does not adequately describe the generosity of the weather!

What did we do without Google Maps, weather forecasts and sun charts…that’s right I have a little knowledge of where to look to find the time of year when the sun “should” shine in just the right direction for this or any other building…not magic really! So that’s why this client trusted me to wait through several months of apparently lovely sunshine for the time of year when the sun would give us the effect I had in mind…

So on the weekend of the shoot we were on-site just after sunrise…about 6.00am…after around a 2 hour drive…sitting in a supermarket car park with a clear view of the building…waiting for the local cloud to clear…and waiting…and waiting…because the forecast was for sunshine before “mid morning”…

Here I’ll gloss over the wonderful cooked breakfast…always sets you up for a day “cloud watching”… the issue of car parking for hours sat staring out the car windows…always guaranteed to attract attention from the “fluorescent jacket brigade!” Yes…I am “stalking”…that great big building over there…not your customers!!

And it’s all that questioning, planning, preparation and experience which we as photographers need to educate clients about. If we’re lucky…just like I’ve been…our clients realise that we have skills and experience which they must respect, just as they would any other professional…and in turn we must produce the result which make them ask “how did you do that?”

It’s just that moment which gives the opportunity to educate them about what makes us professional photographers…over a coffee and chocolate biscuit please!

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