8.18.2011

A break from the medium format nostalgia to talk about the Boy Scout motto.



 You know the motto.  It's "Be Prepared."  And corny as it sounds it's one of the most important things I remember from the fogs of my own history as a Boy Scout.  And I generally hew to the motto in all things photographic, from having back-ups in my gear to double checking locations and weather maps before shoots.  But I fell down on the job yesterday.  I rallied but I wasn't happy with myself.  Yesterday was our first day of shooting on an annual report shoot that will go on for the next week or so.  We have to shoot in August and, since it's for a roadway/construction concern, all the photography is outdoors.

As you might know Texas is in the midst of both an extraordinary drought and a record breaking heat wave.  We've gone over sixty days with triple digital daytime temperatures.  It's pretty amazing stuff.  If I were a landscape architect right now I sure would be reading up in the finer points of xeriscaping.....

So when I planned for the shoot yesterday I found just the right broad-rimmed hat, the perfect non-polarized sunglasses,  a Sportif technical shirt with an SPF of 40 (long sleeves please),  a very cool pair of long cargo shorts (I know, I know....) and appropriate shoes for stumbling around big blocks of concrete and rebar.  I put a case of 16 ounce bottles of Gatorade in the ice chest along with a couple of cooling neck wraps.  And then I packed the gear.

We were shooting for a square print sized brochure with ten inches on a side.  I packed a Canon 5Dmk2 as my main camera and the 7D as a back up.  I knew we'd want some sweeping, dramatic shots so I packed the 20mm and the 24-105mm L for the full frame camera and a lovely old Tamron 11-18mm SP for the cropped frame 7D.  I also brought along but never got around to using the full complement of Zeiss lenses.....

And here's where I screwed up.... I opened the filter drawer and grabbed all of the circular polarizing filters.  There must of have been two pounds worth.  I tossed them into the camera bag along with the other stuff.  And I ASSUMED I had all the filter diameters covered.  Both the 11-18 and the 24-105 take a 77mm filter.  I had 52,  55, 58, 62, 67, 72, and 82mm filters.  In some cases I had duplicates!
But not a single 77mm filter.  So I did the next logical thing and looked through the filter case for the 77 to 82mm step up ring I was almost certain I had.  Nope.  Didn't exist.

Turns out that the lens/filter combo I ended up using all day long was the 11-18+ cir.  polarizer.  I gave new meaning to "hand made photos" as I ended up holding the filter in place with my fingers, being as careful as I could be not to intrude on the image area.  Everything worked well but it was a pain in the butt.  Sometimes I was perched on top of a ladder, camera gripped in one hand, filter gripped in the other, gripped with more than my normal dose of acrophobia......all while sweating away in the direct rays of the sun.

When we finished our shot list for the day I made a careful inventory of the filters and all of my different lens filter sizes and went straight to Precision Camera to fill in any blanks.  We start up again today and I'm happy to say I feel like I am finally well prepared.....



A quick note on contracts.  When you start working with a new PR agency or Ad Agency it's an important time to revisit your commitment to getting signed contracts.  We have a policy here in the studio that calls for signed agreement forms for every new project.  If we've worked with a client for many years and are responding to a quick request for a shoot chances are we'll send them a quick e-mail outlining the project and the cost and ask them,  "Is this what you had in mind?  Does this price work for you?"  And when we get back, from an ongoing client, a response like:  "Yes.  That works.  The budget is fine."  We'll get to work even though we haven't covered ourselves with grade "A" paperwork.

But every once in a while there's a new agency taking over an account we've worked on for years.  Even though we have a good relationship with the final client it's pretty much mandatory, if the agency is "contracting" with us for the client, that we get a more robust contract in place with details about who is paying for what and when.  We also have a policy of getting a deposit for half of our initial project fees and costs upfront.  It's a quick way of separating the serious from the bullshitters.  Money talks.

If we don't get the signed contract we have a couple of choices.  Of course we can walk off the project but then we open the door to any and all competitors......and you can be sure that a new agency you haven't heard of has one or two favorite suppliers just waiting in the wings....or you can go back to the direct client and make your case to them.  Another reason to keep your client relationships happy and mutually beneficial.

And I'll let you in on one of our firmest rules:  All attorneys, churches and politicians must pay up front or when we deliver the images.  No exceptions.  Here's why:  If you get crosswise with an attorney as a client you'll never be able to outmaneuver them when it comes to collections.  They know every way imaginable not to pay a bill they aren't fond of.  Churches all believe that you really shouldn't charge them in the first place because, of course, they are doing "God's work."  They will forget an unwritten agreement quicker than a prayer.  And it's really not going to raise your professional profile within your community to have to sue a church.....  Finally, if you work for a politician and they lose....they are already out of money and you'll become just one in a long line of unsecured creditors.  And believe me, it's hard to raise campaign funds after the fact to pay off debts already incurred.

You can go all self-righteous on me if you are an attorney.  I understand that there are a ton of good and honest ones.  It goes back to the "bad apple" theory.  (In all honesty, I have friends who are attorneys who I would work for at the drop of a hat...these are rules that can be interpreted....).    You can be appalled at my lack of respect for "the church" but I've been on the other side of a couple of deals and I'm pretty sure that as long as humans are involved in the process there are a few financial leaps of faith I'd rather not make.  And no matter which side of the ideological coin you fall on I'm pretty sure, if you think about it, you'll get my very direct caveat about working for politicians.

Don't forget your hat and your polarizers.  It's going to be a hot one....

9 comments:

Bill Millios said...

I would also add "the government" to the list of people who pay on delivery. A photographer buddy of mine (who also reads this blog, and who might drop in with the actual story) told me about a situation where he couldn't sue the government unless they specifically gave him permission to do so - which they were not willing to do, since they knew they'd lose. What's up with that?

Bill MIllios said...

Oh, and which hat?

Paul Glover said...

At one point I did some work for someone who has experience working with campaigning politicians as clients.

The rule of thumb was that if your client won, you had a fair chance of being paid anything you were owed, if your client lost you were 100% S.O.L. every time. He always took full payment upfront. No exceptions.

Plus, chances are good that they are, or at least were, practicing attorneys, so they too know how to wiggle out of their obligations.

Nikhil Ramkarran said...

I'm and attorney, and as an attorney I heartily endorse your policy of ensuring that attorneys pay up front, in full :)

neopavlik said...

You always get half as a deposit up front or that just applies to new agencies ?

I read through your Commercial photographer book in 2 days, good stuff !

kirk tuck said...

Neoplavik, I usually ask for a deposit from everyone. It locks the date and ensures payment to subs. With good, loyal, longterm clients I'm comfortable just asking for a deposit that will cover my actual expenses: Models, assistants, make-up person, location fees, food, etc. If they can't come up with a deposit for this stuff I being to expect that they also won't be able to come up with the final payment...........why should I bankroll companies?

Dave Elfering Photography said...

Kirk as someone who has been a Church treasurer I can fully understand the frustration someone could have. All except the largest Churches are manned by volunteers and often loosely organized. Trying to use the law on lawyer is like trying to put on fins and out swim a dolphin; you're in their element and the chances are slim.

I remember seeing two signs in a cafe that apply here "Our new credit manager is Hellen Wait... if you want to apply for credit go to Hellen Wait" and "In God we trust, everyone else pays cash" :)

Anonymous said...

Bill M., the government has sovereign immunity against lawsuits seeking $ unless a waiver is granted (such as by a specific law). You should definitely get payment up front when dealing with a government entity!

Anonymous said...

Aside from all the previously mentioned, you should also require accountants pay up front. (Just a little experience talking here.)