Wednesday, February 01, 2017

Be an Anticipator and not a Procrastinator

Nikon D750, Nikon 85mm ƒ/1.8G, ISO 100, ƒ/4, 1/200
Meet recording artist Sydney Rhame. She was a contestant on The Voice a couple years ago. Here she is singing "Photograph". By the time Sydney had gotten on the voice she had already been performing for many years. She actually started singing at age six and then started performing at age eight.

Recording artist are practicing all the time. They work hard for years for their "break."

I spent some time setting up for Sydney. I had not only setup the studio like this for her to make some headshots, I had also scouted around to get colors to match her clothing.

Nikon D4, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, ISO 320, ƒ/2.8, 1/640
I found some fall foliage that I could use in the background to compliment her hair.

Nikon D4, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, Sigma TC-2001 2x, ISO 12800, ƒ/5.6, 1/1250
To get to the big games like the Chick-fil-A Kickoff these players put in many practice days and games spanning years of preparation.

Most Folks

I am finding that more people are procrastinators in their work than are anticipators. People wait until they are near a deadline to actually start working on a project.

In school teachers have projects that they tell us about long before they are due, but most of us wait until the night before. Now after we have done a few of these and found out that doesn't leave us enough time we may actually start it a little sooner–like a day or two earlier.

Word vs Photograph

Throughout my career there has been a healthy tension between writers and photographers. One thing you will hear photographers saying to writers is I can't call the subject and change the ƒ-stop.

A writer can more easily make changes in their part of a project at the last second whereas a photographer has to reshoot to make a change.

When I started out I would just pick up a small camera bag and run out the door for the newspaper. Today I realize that the more I plan and prepare for a photo shoot the better the results.

Today I ask a lot more questions when I get a project. Why are you needing these photos or video? What are you looking for from the project? What is it that the audience to do once they have seen the project?

The questions go on more than just these few questions. Once I am comfortable with the direction and style they are wanting I can then plan for what gear I need for the shoot. Sometimes this requires me renting gear.

For most of my projects today travel is involved. I must book flights, hotels, rental cars, assistants and more.

Nikon D5, Nikon 85mm ƒ/1.8G, ISO 100, ƒ/1.8, 1/160
Advantage of Anticipating

When you anticipate as I must do for assignments there is a lot of dialogue with a client. Much of this is in written form between me and the client. The great thing about this process for me is I have a paper trail showing how I was proactive and getting their approval before executing anything.

When you talk through a treatment with a client in as much detail as possible when the assignment is given then you give yourself and the client the advantage of keeping the costs down and pushing the quality up.

Since I am working in an artistic field for a career then the one thing that keeps you receiving a paycheck is being in demand. Believe it or not but the busiest photographers I know are the ones who are Anticipators and not the Procrastinators.

Some things you can do that are disciplines of an Anticipator:

  • Going to clients with project ideas
  • Responding quickly to phone calls, emails and texts
  • Asking questions when client gives you a project–Immediately and not closer to the deadline
  • Delivering the photos quickly–Photos processed for client without quality suffering
  • Creating estimates and invoices quickly
  • Raising concerns and issues before the client realizes a concern–While there are somethings you cannot anticipate you are always trying to take ownership as if the success or failure of this project can make the client be super successful or put them out of business
They say if you want something done, ask a busy person, even though this idea is somewhat paradoxical. 

The reason is that people with hectic schedules have, by necessity, gotten really good at realistically estimating how long things take. The thing that is interesting is once you know someone like this you are prone to go to them to help you. The one thing you hope never happens is that they say no. The reason they will say no is that they know if they can deliver your request or not.

If you find yourself busy and having to occasionally turn down people it is a good sign that you are most likely an Anticipator. However, if you are desperately trying to find work you might just be a Procrastinator.

How to turn yourself from a Procrastinator to an Anticipator

One of the best things I learned in my time at Georgia Tech working on the communications staff was from our art directors. They had reversed engineered the timeline for producing print projects like view books and magazines. 

I would be part of the meetings with the clients going over new projects. The art director then took a couple of minutes and walked through the deadlines, starting backwards. 

When do you need this project? Then they would start with that date and then say well the printer needs two weeks from the time they have it to turn it around without any rush fees. Before this the graphic artist will need two weeks to layout the piece and then have you sign off on it. This includes two reviews. By the way your review time puts on hold the project. So if you take 24 hours to approve or make changes then that is how much the project is delayed. If you take a week to get it approved then that means we need to move up the date for you to get materials to us.

Now before the graphic artist can start work the writer and photographers have to create their content. The good news is often the photography and writing can be done simultaneously.  They both need two to three weeks. For them to stay on schedule the subjects they need to work with need to be available as well or that also impacts the schedule. 

Based on this we need six to eight weeks to produce your project. When working with most new clients we were often only three to four weeks from their deadlines. Most of the time we had to move their deadlines out due to make things go faster often meant rush fees from printers and or hiring more writers, photographers and or graphic designers to tag team.

The question you must know the answer to for any project is how long do you need to produce your very best portfolio quality of work?

Anticipators are really those people who are gifted at time management and know how to get the very best quality of work and understand the time they need to make it happen. They are also good at executing their plans and producing quality work which creates a demand that creates an even higher demand because they are know for being busy.

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