Insights for Planning Commercial Photoshoots Post-Quarantine
May 7, 2020
For the past several weeks, we have all been stuck at home, quarantined. I don’t need to point this out as I’m sure you are very aware. For many of us this has meant adapting to the “work from home lifestyle” full time. This situation looked very different for each of us, depending on our lines of work (and the homes we now do it in). For our studio this meant catching up on archiving, launching a new website, updating our CRM, writing case studies, and so many webinars. These are activities we wanted to do before, but rarely made time to fully focus on them. The one missing component of our work, and the one we are most excited to get back to, is producing photoshoots. As a commercial and advertising photography studio, it’s kind of what we do.
If you are a marketer or work in advertising you are most likely getting by repurposing old photos or buying stock images. You can certainly write new copy from home, you can post that content, and update websites, but it has been virtually impossible to create new and relevant professional images to reinforce your message. But soon, if not already, you made the now unfamiliar commute back to the office, had face-to-face meetings with real people, and started settling back into a new reality.
There is a lot of speculation about what the post-quarantine business world will look like and how things will operate. Depending on where you look, it is the “end of things as we know it” or “getting back to normal.” Either way the next few months will be a transition period as we feel this out together.
If you had photography needs before the quarantine, they may have been postponed or pushed back. You may have a new message that has come out of this crisis that you want to share. The remote working environment may have created new opportunities to showcase what your business looks like. For some of you, now may be the time to think about your photography needs, and if so, we have some ideas to help.
What does a photoshoot look like post quarantine?
What concerns should you have? What precautions should you take? What questions should you ask? What is the photography studio doing to mitigate risk? Should you wear your face mask in your new headshot? (that one is easy, No!)
Here are some insights and tips we put together to help you navigate and plan for your next photoshoot.
Have a clearly defined standard operating procedure for safety and sanitation
In a post-COVID19 world, we expect many companies will adopt this and we highly encourage and recommend it, but it is important to communicate that to the photographer, agency, and team members involved. Every company, agency, and organization will have their own unique guidelines and standards, but the CDC has some good info to get you started if you are looking for guidance. If your company is enforcing social distancing or masks in the workplace, this should be communicated up front to the incoming production team so they can follow these guidelines as well. Be sure to ask your photographer what their safety and sanitation procedures are and make sure they align with your policies and expectations.
Bring all creatives into the conversation as soon as possible
In the past, agencies and clients have typically developed concepts and hired a photographer to execute their vision. Depending on what social distancing guidelines are being enforced, it is now more important than ever to understand what limits this may place on the creative process. Productions may need to reply more heavily on a studio’s resources to create their ideal content and that means bringing our team into the conversation sooner rather than later. This will allow you to have more options and avoid potential setbacks later in the project.
Location, Location, Location!
Where a photoshoot happens has always been one of the most important aspects of pre-production planning. Light, space, logistical concerns, and backgrounds have generally been among the key factors, and they still are. Now there are additional considerations, such as social distancing, accessible sanitation, and limiting unnecessary interactions that need to be taken into account. Ask your photographer what the production needs are and compare those needs to the options available. Scout and review locations with the photographer ahead of time. This may be an added expense but it is one very well spent.
- Consider your location options: You want to avoid areas such as break rooms or heavily congested work areas where people have no choice but to be in close proximity.
- Is there a separate space available for backup talent, observing creatives, or waiting subjects?
- Is it easily accessible for the crew to load in and load out? The fewer door knobs, elevator buttons, or work stations the crew has to come into contact with or pass by the better.
- Is there a place close by to wash hands?
Limit the crew on set
While assistants, techs, and other crew members are important to the overall production, they are not always needed on set at all times. Talk to your photographer about how the crew will be managed pre shoot, on set, and during tear down. Determine who is essential for each stage, and only have them on set during that time. After setting up the lights and equipment, the assistants can possibly wait outside or come back later. The digital tech operating the computer could be set up in another room. The stylist can monitor the on-camera appearance of the subjects remotely. There are several options we can use to keep everyone safe and healthy.
Limit the creatives on set
It is not just the crew we can limit. Now is a good time to consider limiting the number of creatives on set as well. A frequent scene on sets in the past consists of 3-4 members or more of the marketing team and agency creatives crowded around a screen tethered to the photographers camera monitoring the images as they come in. While this provides valuable feedback and assurance that the images your team needs are being captured it is nearly impossible for this many people to view a single laptop screen while maintaining adequate social distancing protocols. Ask your photographer about remote viewing options. Can additional screens be set up just for creatives in another area? Can the images be uploaded in real time and viewed in online galleries remotely? It is understandable for you to want a representative present with the photographer, but we recommend designating one person from your team, a creative director or head of marketing, to be on set.
Have extra safety and sanitation supplies on hand - If procedures call for masks and gloves, have extra supplies on set. Hand sanitizer, disinfecting wipes, and hand washing areas should also be stocked and readily accessible. Don’t be shy about asking your photographer what supplies they plan to bring and communicate your expectations in this area.
Consider personal comfort levels, preferences, and considerations
Just because you can doesn’t always mean you should. Your company or agency will most likely have a plan and recommended guidelines to follow regarding safety and health (see #1), but some individuals may have their own personal preferences and needs. These need to be taken into account at all times. This virus has affected us all, but it has not affected us all in the same way. Some people may be uncomfortable sitting for a stylist or participating in a group photo. They may not want to handle a prop or have the photographer come in too close. These are all legitimate concerns and should be treated with the utmost respect.
Be it with the talent, subjects, or clients to gauge the individual comfort levels of those involved with the shoot. Relay this information to the studio and ask if they have any specific concerns themselves. If the photographer or crew is not treating an individual’s health and safety concerns with the seriousness it demands, it is your right to speak up. No photo is worth jeopardizing someone’s sense of safety.
Show grace and understanding
Some of these procedures may slow the pace of production. Photographers and productions crews pride themselves on preparedness and efficiency, and decisions and adjustments are often made and executed quickly. Many of the new considerations of a post quarantine photoshoot will be a hurdle that you and the photographer should bear together. Having creatives review images remotely may slow down the feedback loop to the studio, adjustments will take time to communicate, having photo assistants waiting in other areas will slow down set changes, but these are all worth the risk. Knowing this means planning will be more important than ever. Talk to your photographer during pre-production regarding realistic timeframes for the different stages of the shoot, and add in extra time whenever possible. The first few months will be a relearning period for everyone, but build that into the schedule and provide flexibility when it allows.
Getting back to business
Like you, we are anxious to get back to our work but it must be done so carefully and safely. We hope this cautious approach is helpful and provides insight. If it feels like an overreaction, we err on the side of being as safe as possible for our staff and clients. We realize the need and desire to engage your market and customers is massively important, now more than ever. As we resume operations the most important question will be “what is normal now?” Photoshoots and similar modes of content creation will resume but how closely they resemble the pre COVID19 epidemic has yet to be seen.
A key factor in all of this will be open communication and a willingness to adapt and redefine expectations. While we don’t have a clear picture of the new normal, one inevitability we see is that health and safety will be just as important to the success of a shoot as the standard creative and logistical concerns. It will be imperative that production, agencies, and clients are aligned on all fronts.
When you are ready to create some professional images that tell the story of what you do, or even what you did in this pandemic, let us know your experience. We want to hear what issues came up and how you solved them. Did something completely surprise you?
If you have questions or need help, we are here for that too.