Don’t rush the deadline

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“The Post-Production 101” 

PART A.4: Don’t rush the deadline

“The idea of waiting for something makes it more exciting.” – Andy Warhol

After slipping actual shooting tips into the last chapter that should be – officially – about the post-production, this article is estimated to be more about the period of time between the production and your receipt of the final results. It’s a time when, after choosing your favourite images and giving instructions to the retoucher, your role is to do nothing really. Just waiting. To increase your thrill of anticipation of seeing and finally publishing the pictures, and as an outlook, in the next couple of articles, we’re going to talk about things you need to know regarding the rightful usage of the photos. This will prevent you from putting your foot in it and, like so often, help you to plan the job more efficiently in the first place – unless you’ve already set things in motion a long time ago when you were faced with so many ideas and practical advice on how to plan and prepare a shoot. Anyway, this article is about patience and why you’ll need it after the shooting day. And for those who aren’t patient by nature, the next paragraphs will reveal another piece of knowledge about good scheduling in addition to what you’ve learned in Tip No. 24.

You never need the photos tomorrow

As the year 2020 and the COVID-19 pandemic has shown to us – even if it certainly was painful – when shutting down and canceling all plans for content and campaigns as well as the production thereof felt like it would spell the end for most companies and brands, at the end of the day, it didn’t. While this is an extreme example and it was, for most of us, an unexpected once-in-a-century event (hopefully so), when it comes to business as usual panic and hectic should not, ideally, be part of your shooting schedule. As Tim Urban explains in his TEDx Talk “Inside the mind of a master procrastinator” a healthy and more successful way of going about a project is to give all phases enough time to be worked out. And although for you, the work reached the climax on the very day of the shoot, if you’re a good planner – or want to become one – you need the providence to set a deadline that leaves a margin time for the post-processing of your images. If you’ve read even just the title of my Tip No. 29 (“Retouching is a real job”) – but hopefully you have read more of it – you shall have understood that editing images requires time, skills and is highly related to the perceived quality of your images. After all, when you’re in a hurry to use the photos, if it’s even realistic to make it happen, it will be at the cost of the retoucher’s good night’s sleep. Following Jim Jarmusch’s principle of picking two out of the three terms “good”, “fast” and “cheap”, this consequently means that a closer deadline can be obtained with a higher budget. While this is certainly true considering that it was all communicated early enough and therefore allowed reasonable negotiations and proper preparations before starting the editing sprint, mistakes can still happen when work is done under enormous pressure. Besides, unexpected challenges, as described in the last article, may come up and jeopardise the deadline and editing’s quality notwithstanding that you’ve raised the fee. The way I see it, trying to find solutions for tight deadlines is solely avoiding the elephant in the room. Time pressure is, let’s name it, a deficit of organisation. A wiser and less stressful way of going about your shoot would be to choose just the one term “good” and it implies a more harmonic and respectful way of working together. Therefore, in a client-team-utopia, the terms “cheap” and “fast” shouldn’t be up for debate. After all, everyone involved wants to perform in the best way possible.

Think forward, not backward

On German-speaking sets I’ve more than once heard the sentence that the photos were needed “am besten gestern” – which word-for-word means they were needed yesterday, or put another way: sooner than possible. Maybe, reading about this expression appears twisted to you due to the lack of a literal English version but imagine the nasty surprise a person in charge of the post-production is experiencing when hearing about how urgently the images needed to be delivered “yesterday” even though they are not even all taken yet. Looking at it from a distance, when this saying is used (which is very common by the way) it sums up very well – or it reveals – how marketing and media work processes are lagging behind trends, seasonal events, etc. instead of looking at the bigger picture and planning productions thoroughly. Turning the tables and starting to produce content and campaigns much in advance, however, can not only relax the post producers’ situation and guarantee more quality. It can also mean that you’re ahead of the competition which gives you more freedom and space for innovations. Furthermore, if anything happens to go wrong or turns out to be a bigger workload than expected, there’s enough time left to perfect the results or even change your mind and choose a different direction. This way you won’t find yourself hogtied as easily as you’ve simultaneously created a work ethic that gives you more flexibility and dignity. All of a sudden, you will have become the market’s trendsetter as opposed to being the one who constantly had to copy and adapt to the standards of others. If that sounds appealing to you but you’re currently stuck in a spiral of being behind time changing this won’t be easy, of course. Considering that the first steps would involve the planning and realisation of campaigns that are a look in the crystal ball while current “panic” projects need to be shot too this certainly means a major effort before it’s accomplished. However, as cheesy as it may sound: nothing in life comes for free. Nevertheless, in regard to the increase of quality and better position of your brand you may want to dare and change your strategy. As a result, you will be able to enjoy a working routine that is lighter and therefore more pleasant as soon as you’ve overcome the stressful switch.

 

Debate the photography schedule backward

To come back to the deadline itself this is a factor that shouldn’t be kept from the team too long. Better yet, it is to discuss the entire schedule with them from the start. Naturally, setting the date for the shoot is essential but so is the date of delivery to you as well as to them. Making the latter your subject when you’re clarifying the team’s availabilities will not only help them to estimate their own day planner concerning further job options. It will also give them the possibility to suggest an optimised schedule for your own campaign according to their experience with similar projects. After all, you are hiring experts who know their capabilities and how much time they’ll need to play them out. This is how they can give you an answer to the question you may be thinking about by now: how much time, precisely, is needed between a photoshoot and its deadline? Unfortunately, it’s not that easy to generally put a figure on this for there are many individual coefficients that play a role in the calculation. As mentioned above, other jobs may keep the photographer or retoucher off processing your images immediately after the shoot. Another dependency is the number of photos you’re expecting and how time-consuming the editing is in the specific case of your images. Likely, the vagueness of this answer is a little disappointing but my recommendation is to keep on reading.

Connecting the pieces of advice

As already announced in the preamble, the next chapter of the “post-production 101” is going to deal with a number of articles on the buyout and the rightful usage of your photos. The tips after that will give you an insight into how the photography data is handled best for different mediums and what files you can expect to receive from the photographer or editor. Looking into these topics shall as well help you to understand the advantage of a clear foresight regarding the number of photos and the way they need to be prepared. Needless to say, all steps from the pre- to the post-production are intertwined very much and are best thought through from the beginning if you wish to have an optimal result. From this viewpoint, it makes sense – hopefully – that giving advice regarding post-production also includes many tips for the production and its preparation. If you are working with creative agencies who relieve you of the struggle to be so accurate they will, nevertheless, need to ask you for a deadline and other information regarding the content itself. In this sense, being patient is not only important in terms of waiting for the due day to come but also when it comes to open communication. If there is something that could improve all work stages of creating brilliant campaigns, it’s certainly this element. The answer to any open questions you may have, therefore, lies in the very hands of your team. Anything that you don’t know or bothers you can be solved as soon as you let them know about your concerns. Practising and valuing communication is a connection between all the dots in this series of articles, especially, because every shoot is fairly individual. By reading on, I hope that I can touch on as many points as possible to give you the right material to consider and think of when it comes to your own shoot. But to close this article in this spirit: when it comes to planning campaigns or content shoots the deadlines should always be discussed in the first place – with the photo team and the retoucher!

EPILOGUE

If you enjoyed reading this article, or you found it helpful in one way or another, I would love to know (reach out)! You are also welcome to support my work and writing by donating whichever amount this is worth to you. I will thank you with lots of telepathic love and more interesting journal entries. Cheers!

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