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Creative Spotlight, Linny Morris: 10 Tips for Photo Shoot Success

Creative Spotlight, Linny Morris: 10 Tips for Photo Shoot Success

Today’s guest post is from Honolulu-born Linny Morris. She has photographed professionally for more than thirty years. A graduate of Parsons School of Design, she has also lived and worked in both Manhattan and Los Angeles. Linny enjoys the variety inherent in what can loosely be called lifestyle photography, but confesses a newly renewed passion for architectural, interior and garden photography. Her most recent published book is The Hawaiian House Now from Abrams, but a major book about the Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum’s Hawaiian Hall – both the architecture and the collections – is currently in production. Morris has also shot for such magazines as Dwell, Coastal Living and Honolulu magazine.

Here, Linny dishes on 10 key ways editors can help photographers get the most out of every photo shoot.

1. When agreeing to a fee, think beyond the shoot.

A photographer's fee includes more than just that day's work. Whether you’re hiring for a day rate or a flat feel based on budget, remember there is so much more involved than just the photography. You should factor in expenses for equipment rentals, assistant's fees and digital editing, processing and optimization.

2. Experience counts for something.

A starting photographer may have a good eye and impressive Web site, but may not be able to hit the mark every time. As with any professional field, hiring an experienced photographer costs more than hiring someone fresh out of school but the results are often more reliable.

No matter what the price, though, don’t go into an agreement blind. Check any potential photographer’s references and talk to other creative professionals who have hired him or her for jobs in the past. Your colleagues are your best source of referrals and they’re interested in helping you make good investments.

3. Photographers have expenses, too.

In addition to providing our own gear, we must pay out of pocket for repairs, which are shockingly costly. Any good business must build cost of production into their pricing structure, photographers included.

4. A good stylist is my best friend.

Stylists are indispensable, especially on residential shoots. They have developed prop resources and show up with a carload of carefully curated items that often make all the difference in whether the photos appeal to the viewer and make them want to read the article you’ve written, buy the product you’re advertising or put themselves visually in the space you’re describing.

Stylists can also help save valuable time and money. The photographer and photo assistant have their own specific set of problems to solve regarding lighting, composition and mood. Running back and forth tweaking flowers or pillow arrangement shouldn’t be the photographer’s primary focus.

5. "Scouting Shots? Yes, please!"

For a commercial home shoot, I like to do a walk through of the home ahead of the job and make a tentative shot list, observing the path of the sun in relation to the home and how much I will be able to use available light. I charge additionally for this fee, but feel it is worth every penny for the client in time saved the day of the shoot.

6. Let's touch base.

True, long drawn-out meetings can be a waste of time. However, a phone call or two between key team members discussing the coordination of the sometimes-complex aspects of the job are essential.

7. Edit your shot list down to what’s possible.

I ask clients to make their own shot wish list and to prioritize the shots in order of importance to them. That way, we can manage expectations ahead of time. It’s important to know the editor’s must-haves in case the budget limits the amount of time we can spend on location.

Note: Sometimes, images that are important to the story may not actually make good photographs. Or, that same image might not work in context with the rest of the images. I’ll do my best to make sure the editor gets what he or she needs. But flexibility and a plan B are important. That’s where the prioritized shot list comes in handy!

8. Trust is important.

I often get requests by magazines to shoot a setup horizontally and vertically or to try a specific shot in multiple ways. I do this with reluctance because, when looking through the camera's viewfinder, a shot is almost always clearly stronger on way or the other. I adore art directors who trust me to make that choice myself and will then do their part during layout to make a beautiful story with what I provide.

9. Look through the viewfinder (but don’t overthink it).

Collaborating with a talented team is pure pleasure. By sharing images as we go along, we get a better end result. However, it’s important to avoid “too many cooks in the kitchen.” Multiple directors with opposing viewpoints produce either a watered down image or one in which there are clashing elements.

10. Make sure your photographer understands how to process images for print.

I can honestly say I have never once been asked up front if I understand how prepare digital files for print. However, I really think this should be a part of the conversation between photographer and the editor who is considering hiring them for the first time. This is something I've learned mostly by trial-and-error, but now consider to be crucial. And I know editorial staffs of magazines evaluate photographers based on this. I recently overheard art department people talking about this exact subject. They actually rejected one photographer for an assignment saying that his files always needed lots of extra work to be ready for press.

Whatever your subject matter, remember, you get what you pay for! A photographer willing to do the careful, complete work necessary to ace the job might not be the least expensive option. But experience speaks volumes, and so will the images.

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