Hey all, Benjamin “Von Wong” Montreal Based photographer here.
As a photographer who does creative collaborations and who freely invites fans he has never met before to attend shoots, I often end up with large sets of people to manage. Many photographers I know prefer to keep groups small and tight knit because they find that things can quickly get out of control but I have found that with a little careful management you can keep things fun for everyone AND deliver awesome imagery at the end of it.
I think one of the things that became a signature for me is that attending one of my shoots if fun. In this post, I’ll share my thoughts on what makes the shoot fun, while keeping it productive. Bare in mind that this article is written specifically for creative collaborations, not for professional work. While it’s a good idea to keep always keep shoots fun getting the image becomes the first priority when it is a paid job.
The obvious solution to making your photoshoots exciting to all those who participate in it is to make the subject itself fun. For example, in one of my latest photoshoots, we gathered 6 or so waterguns to create indoor rain while using a Lensbaby Composer. This obviously resulted in quite a number of hilarious situations simply because every adult becomes a kid again when you drop a super soaker in their hands… (As BTSed by Kaleena Jay Studios and Monique Guilbeault and videographed by Claudel Desir)
But obviously, not all shoots you do give you the opportunity for such excitement… so what do you do in a more ordinary shoot situation?
As with all photoshoot, it’s always good to have a good idea of the shots that you are looking to accomplish. Me, I’ve settled for crappy conceptual sketches that I doodle out before the shoot as “minimums”. It’s always fun to try and get more, rather than less but having a good idea of what you’re looking will help you keep track of the shots you want and how much time is remaining/has passed.
2: Keep people busy
I like to find out why people want to come to my photoshoots. Is there something in particular they want to see, learn… and if there is, how can I best help them. It’s not always possible to take one on one time with every member on the shoot so I try to delegate and make sure that the more experienced fellows take care of the less experienced ones. The result is that everyone stay busy, and feels useful.
If you’re happy and relaxed in your photoshoot, everyone will feel that and act accordingly. Walk around with a frown mumbling to yourself, people will be so terrified of getting in your way that they’ll remain silent the whole way through. On my end, I tend to make a slight fool of myself by dancing sporadically or running about while flailing my arms uselessly. Comic relief makes everyone happy.
4. Control your set
On the completely opposite spectrum of being relaxed, happy and occasionally nutty you also need to keep in mind that this is a photoshoot, not a circus show ft. yourself as the guest monkey. You have to be able to assert authority when the time calls for it. My method is to clap my hands and with a slight change of voice get every member of the team to get into their positions, and calling out a couple names of those who are slightly slower at reacting.
5: Be funny and creative
Anyone who keeps in mind the “we’re here to have fun” spirit of mind will find a way to make anything fun. For example, in my latest shoot I wanted to dirty the white shirt of my model. Rather than have him take it off and dirty it conventionally, I proposed that he hump the closest vehicle. Small moments like these will completely change the atmosphere of the shoot and make the entire shoot that much more enjoyable of an experience.
6: Have a time person
I tend to get carried away when managing, entertaining and shooting. This means that quite often, time flies by way faster than I actually realize so I assign a time person “warn me when we hit 2:30” , “let me know if I’m taking too long”.
This person will generally help me make sure that everything’s according to schedule. The additional knowledge knowing that you have someone else watching the time for you also makes a difference.
7. Bring coffee and donuts
Sounds stupid but that small 40$ you invest in bringing coffee and donuts to your photoshoot will have disproportionately positive repercussions. Though it might not sound like much, having something for people to eat and drink that’s warm and sweet shows consideration and improves the overall moral of the whole team. It also adds a slight social vibe to the whole activity when two people share a coffee while talking.
8. Group clap, group photo!
This may also sound like a trivial detail but giving a group clap all around once the day’s been completed will give everyone the feeling that they’ve accomplished something meaningful and all done a good job. The group picture will give everyone a nice memory to remember the day by and both these together will encourage them to come by and help you again the next time around.
P.S. if you wanna attend one of the 1,000 (yes one thousand) person shoot by Ben in Germany check out his Greatest Gigapen project.