A tricky question indeed for all including myself; it’s like asking a financial advisor ‘When is the right time to invest in the stocks market?’ To address this, one has to look at the variables such as the product itself, the location and the level of detailing required on the post. I will attempt to address each of these, from a neutral standpoint.
Is specialisation important?
In today’s world, specialisation is an overrated term. If a picture is all you need, does it really matter if he or she is a wedding photographer or a food photographer? Yes, it will matter if you have budgets of INR one lac or above. That’s where the super speciality will come in handy. For the common flu, a general physician is perhaps better as he would be exposed to the challenges that your shoot may throw up.
Yes, an event photographer would have different skillsets from a product photographer, but that’s about it.
What kind of gear is great?
Well, this is a rather lame question, but addressing this here as point number two as this is one of the most common questions I am asked to address. The gear is just great for all kinds of photography as long as it’s not a point and shoot camera. Actually, today, point and shoot cameras and cellphone cameras too are learning fast and give great results. Bottom-line, it is not the camera, the lens or lights that make a great picture, but the understanding of how they work.
What is the product?
Yes, the product is the most important part of the entire process. Is it a huge complex/building or something as small as a coffee mug? Is it reflective or has many edges. Does it require to be shot indoors or outdoors? If the shoot includes a person or an animal, then costume, styling, make-up and time for the shoot too comes into play. Lastly, the most critical of all – budgets J. Lights, lenses as well as the set up are determined by these understanding of basic elements. More often than not, it’s the budgets that determine the rest of the variables. Like it or not, everyone will have to live with that as that is a given reality.
Indoor or outdoor shoot?
Well, this is a question you should consult with the shortlisted photographer. Barring the obvious such as building, an outdoor short is complex as there are a lot of variables to take care of. Therefore, only if your photographer is skilled and you have the budgets to control the extras, only then explore the possibilities here, else, you will end up disappointed. The best way to assess outdoor shoot photography is to get a few references as to what you are looking for and ask the photographer to bring along a few similar samples.
Most of the grand auto shoots that are parked in excellent looking locations are actually shot inside studios. So it’s really not a compromise if you opt for indoors. It’s actually a safer bet.
Your attitude matters
The photographer may be skilled or not, but if you have done your homework right, chances are that more often than not, you will end up satisfied. Little steps can go a long way to saving your day.
First, as a customer, you need to be clear as to what you are looking for. There are all kinds of pictorial references online. Just save the ones you like and explain to the prospective photographer what you like in them and why. Let them share what is practical and what is now. This way, you will also get a glimpse of their expertise and understanding of the subject first hand.
Brand guidelines & storyline?
Every brand has a journey, a story to tell. If your brand or product doesn’t have one, then think of one. It is very important to have a theme and colour scheme in place. The photographer, if experienced, will himself/herself ask of the end-use, not from the commercials perspective but from the implementation side.
It is the extras that make your product the hero. So be it the models or props, the smokescreen or the satin frills, the backdrop canvas of the setting sun, they are all critical. The combination of these dictate the storyline, the visual appeal, as well as the message one, desired to give out. These are the little visual distractions that help better the picture overall if done in the right way.
A reputed photographer will always share in written the deliverables from his side. The photographer may or may not treat the pictures; therefore one has to have clarity. When I say treatment, I don’t mean merely changing the brightness and saturation levels. Treatment would mean cleaning up the reflections, unwanted highlights or dark spots. Reflective or multi-edged products require a lot of cleaning up in the post and trust me, this is a very time taking exercise. If this is a high-end consumer product, then a refined graphic artist is required to clean it up. And if numbers of images are huge, so will effectively push up the costs. Therefore be very selective when locking on the final images meant for release. Not all need to go for a clean-up. Therefore a basic scanning of all the images clicked before processing the selected ones is a necessary step.