Predicaments, Mishaps, and Unfortunate Circumstances That Can Happen During a Photo Shoot (Part 1)

Predicaments, Mishaps, and Unfortunate Circumstances That Can Happen During a Photo Shoot (Part 1)

By Chamira Young.

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Chances are you’ve most likely witnessed your fair share of unexpected circumstances arise during your photo shoots.

Ever hear of Murphy’s Law? It’s the old adage that declares, Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong (See the full explanation on Wikipedia here).

And go wrong they will, especially during a small selection of your meticulously planned, carefully crafted photo shoots with clients. I don’t mean to sound like a Debbie Downer (sorry, Debbie), but it’s just an inevitable law of life that…you know, shtuff happens, especially when you don’t want it to. It doesn’t happen every photo shoot, of course, but just enough so that you soon learn you need to be at the top of your game at every shoot you do.

They can range from the mild inconvenience of misplacing that pesky lens cap, to full blown cases of clients trying to slip you the fast one. Some mishaps of are completely by accident, while others you probably brought upon yourself. As the professional on the scene, you need to be prepared.

It’s sharing time.

Hence, this post. I confess, more than a few are based on personal experience. The purpose of this post is to live, laugh at ourselves, and ultimately learn from the predicaments we find ourselves in.

While names and some small details have been changed, these experiences have either happened to me, or directly to fellow cohorts that I know. My purpose in elaborating about these experiences is so that you can learn from them, of course, but also to find the humor in the many predicaments we photographers find ourselves in. Also, I must preface this post by saying that none of this is meant to be malicious; I love my clients. They’re awesome.

Predicament #1: The Sneaky Friends and Family Discount

When a client shows up to a photo shoot with a bunch of extra family members, be on guard. They may try to make the move.

What move, you ask? When it happened to me for the first time years ago, it started off innocently enough. A few family members showed up at the park to watch Becky get her senior photos taken. They were in the neighborhood anyway, Becky’s mother claims, so what’s the harm in them watching? It’s a family affair, after all. Clutching my camera, I found myself staring at a clan of almost a dozen people.

Then, halfway through the shoot, it happened.

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The patriarch asked if they could slip dear old Uncle Joe into a photo or two with the graduating girl. You innocently wonder what the harm in that could be. It’s all about under-promising and over-delivering right? Besides, uncle Joe was from out of town, so this was a once in a lifetime chance, right?

Riiiight.

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Then they send Becky’s two year old niece toddling into the picture, and before you know it, they’ve got the entire family squeezed into the shot for a bonafide family portrait photo, an altogether separate service that requires an altogether separate written agreement. Later on, when I handed over the disk of complete photos, they had a ton of extra photos their sitting fee didn’t cover. And I’m sure they took those photos to Meijer or wherever to make cheap prints.

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In retrospect, there were ways I could have used this situation to my advantage. First off, I could have withheld handing over so many photos on cd (some photographers would probably argue against giving them a cd at all, but that’s a whole other post). Instead, I could have made it a point to have an in-person consultation with the parents of the graduating girl with the purpose of selling them prints of the extra family members. In-person meetings are notoriously better at making print sales with clients in most cases. Or, another solution was that I just could have said no to the family member additions during the shoot, or kindly explained that it would be an extra fee. Fast forward to today, and I charge a specific extra fee for the addition of family members, and I make sure to include it in the written Project Agreement (aka contract) I haven clients sign.

You live and you learn.

Predicament #2: When Nature Attacks, Part 1

With how much we spend on our professional gear, you’d think we’d guard it with our lives. Heck, most of the time we do.

But there are exceptions.

There is that rare occasion when you have that great, earth shattering idea for a shot, and then all logic goes up in smoke. I’ll confess to this one as well; I was on a past outdoor senior portrait shoot in a park, with a teen and her extremely responsible parent. Someone (me) had the bright idea to head over to the ankle-high stream and take some shots. Hey, one of us piped up, why don’t we stand directly in the middle of the stream? My extra gear was weighing heavy inside my photographer’s vest, and the idea of putting all that equipment at risk as I awkwardly plodded to the middle of those bubbling waters was none too appealing. So I dutifully slipped off my vest and handed it to the parent, who would watch from the nearby shore.

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I plodded out to the middle of the stream, and heard a scream behind me.

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Grey hairs sprouting, I managed to turn around just in time to witness The Responsible Parent lose her footing on the muddy banks of the stream and stumble forward onto her hands and knees. A blood-curdling scream erupted from my lips as I watch my precious photographer’s vest slide partway out of her arms and into the slimy mud.

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She righted herself quickly enough, but the damage had already been done to the front of the vest’s fabric. Thankfully, thankfully, my extra lenses and cards were zippered securely within the vest, and none of the mud had leaked through.

That was still too close for my taste. For the future, I vowed to place my stuff next to a nearby tree away from mud and water.

Predicament #3: When Nature Attacks, Part 2

Speaking of the elements, you may find yourself in some tricky situations with those outdoor photo shoots. This was the case as I stood in the middle of that stream (directly after the vest-mud incident) and had the bright idea of having the high school subject stoop down and playfully splash droplets of water into the air.

I dutifully positioned myself directly in front of her as she stooped down to gather some water, and told her to splash it upwards. This is gonna be awesome, I thought to myself.

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You probably see where this is going.

Looking through the viewfinder, it wasn’t until I saw the small wave coming directly at my camera did it even occur to me that I was in the line of fire.

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I let out a yelp and tried to scuttle to the side, but not before my precious lens got hit with a few droplets. To be unnecessarily specific, it was my brand new Sigma 18-35mm 1.8 beauty, and I’d driven to Canada to purchase it the day before because it couldn’t be found anywhere in the United States.

By the way, this is a perfect time to mention the importance of having a lens protector. And insurance coverage.

It all turned out well and good. The droplets were easily blotted out with my shaky sleeve, but I learned an important lesson that day: Be flippin’ careful with your gear, especially around the elements. It’s easy to get caught up in a good idea, but think clearly plan out the execution.

What predicaments, mishaps, or unfortunate circumstances have happened to you during your photo shoots? Share with us in the comments.