Part 2: When should I hire a professional?
Although this is an age old question, it has become more complicated with the advancements in digital technology. Cheap digital cameras, digital editing and retouching software, lots of YouTube “How-to- videos” have converged to make this a more perplexing question than ever.
As a business owner, I get it. If all you need is to cheaply document a product, widget, or thing to say here it is, buy it, then most professional photographers can’t compete with you doing it yourself. Having said that, “cheap” is not always cheaper in the long run.
Let me throw out a few more things to think about when it comes to “Cheap isn’t always cheaper.” Time is money. Anything that takes you away from what makes you or your company the most money is not cost effective. Then there are set-up/equipment costs. The cost per square foot of space you dedicate to a photo booth and equipment. The cost of purchasing, maintaining, insuring, upgrading all your photo, lighting, computer equipment, data storage, backgrounds, and props. If you hire an employee or use an existing employee then you have employee costs as well - payroll, training, workman’s comp. insurance, medical insurance, vacation, sick leave, maternity leave, etc, etc.
All of these cost are factored into a professional photographer’s fees. The good thing about hiring a professional photographer is you only have to pay these cost during a photo shoot and not 24/7 all year long. Any time you invest money into space, equipment, etc., if it’s not making you money, it’s costing you money. If you’re going to be photographing 5 days a week every week of the year, it could be cost effective for you to do it yourself, but that’s probably not the case.
And there’s another factor to think about even at this stage.
The current trend for advertising agencies and companies is to bring a lot of their photography and motion work in-house. They’re seeing these services as a profit center. In my almost 30 years in the industry, I’ve seen this happen before. This strategy, in the past, has worked for 2 to 3 years and then they have come to the realization that it isn’t a good solution after all. What happens is that their clients will start seeing that everything the in-house department does, looks the same. Hiring professional photographers and directors for their unique visual aesthetic is what emphasizes each brand’s unique visual voice. In the past what they’ve eventually figured out is that all the costs related to bringing production in-house really doesn’t pay off in the long run.
OK, I can here it now - “We’ll just use ‘stock photography’ and retouch it to make it fit our needs.” There’s nothing wrong with stock photography as long as you’re willing to see the same image being used to promote hundreds of other products. Maybe even your competitors product. Let me share an insight with you. If you’ve spent much time looking for outstanding stock images, you know how long it can take. Then you have to get it approved. Then you have to buy the license to use it. Most likely, after that you’ll need to do some retouching too. If you add all the time and money you spend using stock, you most likely could have hired a professional photographer to create a custom image for around the same cost.
From our experience it ultimately boils down to this: What do you value? Do you value your time to do what you do best? Do you value a still or motion image that stands out from everything else and effectively sells your product? Do you value images that look specific to your brand? Do you value someone with years of experience solving visual communication problems? If you do, then invest in hiring a professional photographer/director. The investment will pay huge dividends.
Lately, we've had the privilege to work on some nation food brands, both still images, and motion for TV and web commercials.
As with most endeavors in our business, there's lots of crew and vendors involved. This helps make the project run smooth and bring the client's vision to reality. In previous posts, we have discussed the importance of not only traditional branding but also "Visual Branding" in today's marketplace.
We pride ourselves in the ability to accomplish "Visual Branding" across the mediums of still and motion. The benefit is a consistent message and increased brand awareness. A perfect example is "Target Inc.". Most of the time I can tell it's a "Target" ad or commercial before I ever see the logo.
Putting the final touches on lighting and composition.
Working as D.P. on the video commercial.
Getting our models pumped so they show the right expression for our still shots.
Viewing playback to make sure everything looks awesome.
We recently were asked to be the D.O.P. ( Director of Photography ) on a Jose Ole food project with our friends @BicMedia.
With our years of experience shooting food, we bring a lot of know-how on how the food industry likes their product lit and styled. We bring that same experience and expertise to our motion projects.
Food motion in many ways are very similar to stills and yet very different. In the end, both need to communicate what your client wants the audience to know about their product or service.
Food stylist and assistant food stylist hard at work prepping product.
Working with the crew on shot angle
Yes, they let me touch the camera.
Hoping not to get my hands slapped by the food stylist.
A lot of hand-waving going on here.
Working with the director and crew to get the perfect shot.
Click to see final video
Link to a fun behind the scenes video of our shoot.
I'm excited to announce our updated Website. We refreshed the look just a little, but still wanted to keep the site consistant with our Brand. The big difference is on the back side where most will never see. One of the great things about the refreshed site is that it is much, much easier to upload new images. The other good thing is that the refreshed website looks and works the same on mobile devices. Let us know if you enjoy the new work. Thanks, http://www.levelfivesolutions.com/ for all your help!
Recently we were asked to shoot a video and still campaign for one of our Awesome clients.
We have shot a number of food projects for them in the past but this time they wanted to add motion to the project. They love the "Visual Branding" we do for them and wanted us to continue their look in motion.
We showed them our food reels on Vimeo and it sold them on our ability to do the project.
I love shooting both motion and still although the motion requires more time, different equipment, more staff, and many times a lot more product. For example, if you are pouring sauce on a product, every take will require a new plate set-up.
Communication is critical when shooting motion. Everyone has to be on the same page on the final outcome of what your shooting. What is it going to be used for, what does your client want the focus to be on, how many shot variations are needed. We always need to make sure there is enough footage for the final edit.
This was just part of the team for the shoot. Food stylist, Assistant Food stylist, Art Director, Product managers, Photo assistants, Production Coordinators, Motion Digital Tech, Executive Chef, and Myself as Director/ DP/ Still Photographer.
One of the challenges we had to solve was making the food look steaming hot for the video. We ended up drilling a hole in the plates and piped steam up through the table and plate to get the food to appear steaming hot.
Steaming hot and add some toppings!
We built this sandwich around the steam piping.
We did have one casualty!
Thanks to all the crew and staff we produced some great stills and motion for our client!
Thanks to my photo assistant Calvin for the great behind the scenes photos!