Each time I meet professional photographers, they talk about how difficult it is to give value to their work. This is especially true in a day and age where we all have a camera at hand in one of the devices we carry…and that it looks so easy to take a picture. To get a better perspective on the issue I met Florian Hossfeld, a professional photographer, and asked him to tell me what photography is really about and what I should pay attention to when I order a photo shoot, plus what to look for when buying pictures on a stock photography website.
Even if the picture looks simple, the client should be able to tell how much research and work the photographer accomplished to create it.
How can I be sure I choose the right photographer?
First, to make sure you choose the right photographer, you should interview several ones and have a close look at their work. Each photographer should have a professional website, with pictures organized in different categories. On their website, you should find a short presentation of what they do and if they are specialized in a specific area. For example, being able to master film and medium or larger format cameras is a sign of expertise. They should talk about the way they see their passion, whether they have a technical approach of it or a more artistic one, and how they learned about it. When looking at their photo gallery, their style must talk to you while not being too stereotyped.
What information should you find in the brief to be able to deliver relevant pictures?
I should find the context of the campaign, its objectives, the information about the product, its purpose and who the target is, as well as the atmosphere you need the product to be surrounded with. Ideally, the client should describe his intention in every possible way, as if referring to each of the 5 senses to give a global vision of what he needs. The more information I have, the better. If I feel like I don’t have enough information, I will do my own research and in any case, add my personal touch to the photo.
What makes a good picture? How can I tell that a picture is good or not?
The picture must be captivating, well executed and trigger the envy. The ad must show an ideal or different representation of the product, so people are able to rediscover the product even if it has been sold for decades. Even if the picture looks simple, the client should be able to tell how much research and work the photographer accomplished to create it. A product photographer has to think like a sales person as well: he uses his personal style while allowing the product to stand out.
For stock photography bought on the internet, the photographer will have emphasized a situation, an expression or a context to be able to reach and please a maximum of clients. The image has to be ready to use and thus needs to be represented in many ways. Basically, a good picture is the one you are not just ok with but when you feel it’s obvious it’s the one you need.
Can you tell me what I pay for when I buy a picture?
You pay for the time spent for the photo shoot and postproduction. This may include preparation, setting, execution, post-production and physical support (DVD or prints). You also pay the material to some extent, its renewal and the insurance he needs to protect it. The experience and notoriety of the photographer also has to be taken into account in the price. Finally, you pay for the assistants he may need, the location rental and all other expenses related to the photo shoot.
Let’s imagine you have the perfect conditions to take a picture, how long does it take you to deliver a picture between the time you prepare your camera to the post- production?
If the outdoor conditions are perfect or the studio lighting already set up, the photo shoot in itself takes between 5 minutes to hours, depending on the subject and the techniques used (moving lights, diffusers, grey filters, type of camera). For post-production, count between 1 hour to several hours, also depending on the subject and material used. Keep in mind that in order to have one good picture, I need to take several pictures and that will also increase the time I need for overall production.
What is the most challenging for you?
I find it challenging to explain the price to some of my clients who are not aware of the time and the expertise involved in a photo shoot. They realize the effort and work put into it when they see the first pictures and they are usually satisfied.
My biggest challenge is also to promote myself. While making contacts and social networking is quite easy to me, being its own agent is another story. It’s a full time job and my days are already filled with photo shootings.
Why is photography still used compared to illustrations, movies or animations?
With the discovery of the digital technology, photography became the basis of all other media, especially 3D animation, matte painting, illustration and movies. As an Art, photography offers a realistic approach. It has also become the fastest and easiest way to communicate on news websites, social networks or smartphones.
How do you see photography in 10 years? What should we expect in terms of innovation?
In a few years, the market will offer ultra-high definition sensors with the ability to zoom in or crop out any portion of the picture while still being able to print out a wall sized prints.
Compact cameras and smartphones will integrate new softwares that will accurately simulate depth of field control in post-production all over a sharp field. Those two innovations will allow engineers to reduce the size of DSLR-like cameras by removing zoom lenses or bigger sensors.
4K and 8K video may also change the way event and sport photographers work: they will be able to select very high definition of still photos from a video. But I see this more as an option rather than a realistic approach because of the tremendous post production work it will involve.
A campaign in particular that caught you eye?
The Hasselblad campaigns. But I may be biased☺
Guest post by Isabelle Loiseau, a marketing & communications professional. She has been working in Paris on BtoB and BtoC top of range brands, mainly at advertisers in the paper industry, and worked on awards-winning campaigns. She also writes. Her first short-stories compilation will be published this fall. She is now living in Vancouver.
Florian Tibor Hossfeld is a fine art photographer, film maker & painter travelling around the world to share his inspiration and memories. Exploring complementary mediums is essential to fully express his creativity for his projects. His photo shoots are a kind of ritual. For landscapes he usually carries a 6×7 medium format camera with slide Film, which provides the best results in terms of color depth & details. He composes his shots carefully and waits for the most special timing to give a magical atmosphere to the scenery. For street photography, he shoots both film and digital, depending on his mood! While his retro-style 6×6 camera is a good companion to catch a smile from people’s faces, using a faster 35mm SLR with sharp primes and fine grained B&W film allows him to freeze genuine instants of life. He particularly loves working in the darkroom to enlarge and handcraft his own prints.