What Is Your Experience?

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Photo Prose

By Gary Rabenko

What have your experiences been with photographers? Have you been either very happy or upset with your photographer or videographer? Please share so I can analyze the dynamics on both sides that can go into creating both the positive and negative situations customers experience. Readers could greatly benefit from your insights.

More people like to complain than compliment, but there are many compliments given easily by the uncritical for products and services that are subpar from start to finish. People are just not aware of it. On the other hand, a mostly superior job can be criticized because it was not what the client was expecting, or it was not what she had last time, or it was lacking the one thing most important to her.

Please share your mindset from start to end. Where you feel you may have gone wrong, or right, in your selection, I will analyze the data, discuss it, and add it to the blog on my website. Was it too much shopping or too little? Did you pay too little or too much? Were you unhappy at the event, upon seeing the photos, or after making a final album? What did you think would be the most important photos of the entire collection? Later, what were the most meaningful moments to you?

I have found that often clients will change course during an event. A simple example is hiring a photographer who has shown beautiful outdoor photos, but comes the wedding day, the humidity and temperature lead to opting for all photos to be done indoors.

Sometimes a photographer is hired by a third party, or a family member, with the explicit directive to be extremely unobtrusive and remote. Anniversaries and birthdays are perfect examples. This just happened to me recently. I was biding my time, planning to take only select, discreet candids and to gradually start moving through the crowd.

Before I took my first shot, a family member was photographing the guests of honor. So I approached, thinking this was a good time to test the waters. Immediately they all deferred to me, and seemed to want to pose. My presence seemed very welcome. They were excited to be photographed. They wanted direction. They wanted to look their best.

Finally, after an hour of shooting, I figured I should determine exactly what approach to use, so I spoke to a close family member, conveying what I had been told by the one who’d arranged the contract. “Not at all!” he says. “Please! We love pictures! You are doing great! Just take more!”

In the past I have written about party planners, noting that some care about photographers, but that most planners find us to be unwanted pains, and some frequently interrupt us or fail to plan for any place to do the photo shoot. The best party planners actually do try to understand what the client will want later. But very few planners have experience with clients for whom the photographs are most important. Those clients invariably make their own wise decisions about something that will not be seen by the guests at the party.

So getting back to your decision that you were thrilled with, devastated by, or just merely unimpressed by, what would you do differently if you were doing it all over again? What was your goal then, and would it change next time?

Were you seeking a collection of candid photographs that would remind you of the many moments of the event: the snapshots that many today rely on to replace overburdened memories? Or were you seeking more than just snapshots? Were you seeking the kinds of photos that you remember from Life or Look magazines? Great imagery creates a feeling via light and shape and meaningful expressions, that all converge to make art.

Were you thinking that if enough photos were taken, you would like some? Or that you did not need a lot, just the right ones?

Did you find the photographer made the right decision on whom to photograph? Was he concentrating on your families, or just covering everyone? Did he speak too much, or too little? Did he move around too much or too little? Was the team a real team, or was it a group of persons each doing his or her own thing? Was one person in charge? How important were the secondary players? Were most of the shots you like done by one person or were they divided among many? Did you feel they were in your face too much, or AWOL too often? Was the portrait session too much fun or too much work?

Do the portraits convey subjects’ personalities, or just their presence? Were the group photos of siblings, immediate family, or extended family needed? Do you value most of the large groups that were done, and are you using them in the album, or were they just taken to be politically correct and never to be used? Did you have the large groups done before the party began, or during the party?

Did you feel that your photographer felt as if he was doing a once-in-a-lifetime project, or that it was merely a job? Did he seem excited and happy to be there? Was his personality a positive or negative factor, all in all?

In retrospect, what question do you most wish you had known to ask?

Would you use the same photographer again?

How do you feel about videography today? Is it more, less, or as important as photography?

What is the perfect video for you? How long should it be and what should it be for? Is it a historic record of the event, to pull out once in a decade? Is it an entertaining short piece to have fun watching with friends frequently?

Do you feel the photographer should be an artist, or do you feel he is a vendor to give you an album with X number of photos and some video discs?

How would you describe the nicest album you have ever seen and what made it that way?

Finally, was it easy or difficult to choose your photos, and what tips could you give others? v

Gary Rabenko can be reached at gary@rabenko.com. Rabenko Photography & Video Artists is located at 1001 Broadway in Woodmere.

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