Avoiding Shoot Day Nightmares

The greatest day after a photog starts his business is when he actually gets a paying gig. Although, technically this is not my first photography business (I closed a successful Keystar Photography business around 8 years ago. Long story for another post…), I got the same chill up my spine when the phone rang to schedule an on location shoot. This particular client is definitely upscale, and providing my best work is not only a must for them, it could really give my business a boost with referrals.

In order to get a feel for the client, I planned to do some event shooting of them prior to our scheduled shoot. This helps me identify their mannerisms, which side is their good side, what is their true persona, so I can work to bring about all these amazing attributes in a stunning photograph. This is where I have unfortunately received inspiration for my post!
Photographers use technology to make their job easier all the time. We are quick to try new things when we have found that our current workflow has some sticking points. For instance, some have sworn by EVF technology, allowing them to see exposure before the shot. And most have dumped light meters and depend on camera body exposure, or simply use the LCD display and histogram. I have tried EVF tech way back when I first bought a Minolta Diamage 7, and it worked great, when scenes have a low dynamic range. I have also dumped light meters and color meters are the way of the Kiwi with RAW file formats. I was excited to get the opportunity to use the +Peak Design capture 2 system to improve the carrying experience of my camera when I needed my hands free. Excited really isn’t accurate, as stoked would be more fitting.

Capture Clip 2

The Capture 2 clip (they had a previous version…) is designed to quickly secure you camera with a quick release mechanism to any strap or belt. This is invaluable when trying to adjust light stands, reflectors and clients during a shoot. When you try to do this with your camera strapped around your neck, it will somehow find a way to swing like a medieval ball and chain clobbering, equipment, people and itself in the process.
Now I used the capture clip previously when I first received it. That ended with my gear crashing to the floor! WTF!?! Of course, I blamed this on my error (which it was) and corrected that and never had another problem. Until Sunday. So now, I am shooting at this event, and there was a prayer before the event started. So its time to put the camera away, since the system makes it so easy to holster right? Click, the camera is secure. I am praying with everyone else when I could feel my camera launch itself from my hip, carrying my Sigma 17-70 along with it! $%#@%! Oh my God, I’m in church, and this brand new technology almost made me say F#@K out loud!
Thank GOD, it landed on very plush carpet and no damage occurred. Did I have it secured properly? Yes. Has this happened before? Yes, but it won’t happen again! I have yet to discover what caused this to occur, but I just can’t trust thousands of dollars of photo gear to a clip that has failed on me twice. It’s quite possible that I just have a faulty unit, but more than likely, I did something wrong. Peak Designs team is an awesome company, and I am confident they did their level best when their engineering this product to prevent the very things I experienced. Either way, I won’t be using it during my upcoming shoot, no matter how much I’m in love with the concept.

Youngnuo YN-622C

This customers shoot requires the use of radio triggers. The distance between the strobes and I are too great to use optical triggering, and I also need to incorporate my YN-500ex hot shoe flashes with my studio strobes. It’s great that I have three YN-622Cs as they should fit the bill nicely. They give you up two 100 meters of range and provide TTL flash metering for Canon compatible speedlghts as well as dumb triggering for studio strobes. Perfect right? Well almost.
The triggers work really well with the YN-500ex speedlights, but the range is far from 100 meters. Matter of fact, the range is only about 50 feet! Luckily, that is about all I need for this shoot, even though if I had not tested this capability beforehand, I would have been in a world of hurt!

Go With What You Know

Until you can prove a new work flow extensively, integrating it into your process is a risky endeavor.  Everything will have limits, and you must work until you can instinctively find the boundaries and know that everything within them will work in your situation. New tech that many photogs get into and should test to death include:
  • Radio Triggers: Make sure you test the heck out of these so that you know their maximum range and that they work with your strobes. And when I say your strobes, I mean your personal strobes as RFI (radio frequency interference) may cause either you triggers you strobes or both not to work as expected. On more complex triggers like Pocket Wizards, Radio Poppers and the Youngnou YN-622C/N triggers, this testing is a must.
  • Tripods and Heads: The newer tripod systems that have individually adjustable legs and turn into monopods or invert their center column for macro shots are great. But the simplicity of these great tools often require you to RTFM (read the freakin manual)!
  • Photo Backpacks: This is the greatest thing ever invented! A backpack designed especially to hold all my gear perfectly and in a flash have it ready to use. Or, this could be a backpack that dumped all my gear in the Grand Canyon because I didn’t RTFM!
Surprises are for birthdays, not shoot days. Using the heck out of your gear before using it on paid gigs keeps your blood pressure low, and your customers happy.