Peanut butter and jelly. Batman and Robin. Chocolate and Vanilla. Laurel and Hardy. Mickey and Donald. Thelma and Louise. Mario and Luigi.
We all know good things come in pairs, and working as a photographer is no exception to that rule.
One of the things we get quizzed about most often in relation to Pure is the fact that Crystal and I (Rachel) work together as a team. We shoot a vast amount of our sessions together, and work at the business end together too. It's a mysterious and inviting concept to many. And people are always curious how it works for us and if it could work for them too. Since I am not a legal expert, this won't be an extensive legal how-to on the workings of business partnerships. Rather it will be an overview of how it's worked out for Crystal
Crystal and I met in 2008 on a ParentsPlace message board for expecting moms. We both had a love of photography and were dabbling in part time photography businesses. We were still learning a lot of the business part and were both at a point where we were trying to decide what to do with our businesses.
We finally got the chance to shoot together at a bridal session and something clicked. We realized we shot a lot better together. We had more fun, we felt more relaxed and that translated into more relaxed clients and better images too. So one shoot together, turned into a wedding we shot together, which turned into more and more things we shot together. Eventually, we stopped formally inviting the other to shoots and started to call and see if the other was booked before scheduling a client.
Slowly our businesses melded into one and Pure was born. (Ok, ok, so we went through a few name changes before we landed on Pure, but you get what we mean.)
So, what do we get out of team shooting?
We're mainly wedding and family photographers, and the parlance in the wedding industry is often centered on "second shooters." That's not actually how we roll. When we shoot, we both are main shooters. No one is THE shooter and no one is secondary and relegated to an eternity of table shots.
So what does that mean? It means that we are able to divide and conquer. While one person is doing all the pre-wedding detail shots, the other is with the bride and her dad doing dad seeing his little girl in her wedding dress for the first time, or groom with his daughter or niece or bride and her mom. While one is doing ring shots and reception details, the other is getting formal groups. All important details, but we can give each one more attention and focus.
The above images were captured at roughly the same time in the wedding day. Using all that good light as efficiently as possible!
But if the situation arises and there is a very large group or a lot of small children, then having someone shoot large group shots and someone getting everyone's attention, posing quickly, and making sure everyone in the shot looks there best is wonderful. A group's attention for group shots is not very long, so having two people getting things done is perfect.
In those situations where we are shooting together at weddings, or in regular client sessions where we shoot together, how does it help? We generally have at least 3 cameras on us at all times. Sometimes 4. Rachel shoots 2 cameras most of the time. So we try to have multiple focal lengths, and then we simply choose different angles, different focal lengths, and different light to tell the same story. So our clients get so many more choices to choose from (and eventually buy) with team shooting.
Below are a few examples of nearly the same moment, but wildly different images resulting. So much choice for clients!
These shots are also at almost the same moment, but give the client vastly different experiences they can relate to. You will notice how we are shooting with different lenses and focal lengths.
This can be invaluable for shooting things like first looks for brides. Again, almost the same moment, but a completely different perspective.
We've found that being able to offer such rich and varied galleries to clients has helped us to sell more album pages, ask a higher price for sessions, and sell more images. Our word-of-mouth is pretty good too, because we underpromise, but really overdeliver.
Ok, ok, so you can get a lot of shots with two shooters. Good good, but you could probably get a second for some of that. (Though I would argue that you would have a hard time getting such reliability in that situation.) What ELSE does it help with?
Crystal and Rachel have fairly different, but compatible personalities. Crystal is creative and enthusiastic. She embraces the fact she is loud! She's funny and very friendly and loves to make raucous jokes. Rachel is a little more cerebral. She's the technical nut and tends to like a little more dry humor. What works amazingly in this situation is that clients come in all shapes, sizes, and personality types too. So while one couple or client might warm right to Crystal, another feels very at home with Rachel, and so that tends to be how we choose who will lead in the situations where someone in obviously in charge as we shoot. The team member that the clients feels most comfortable with is the one who typically leads out. It helps us easily and naturally tailor the client's experience with us.
Another amazing benefit we will tout constantly when people ask us about team shooting is how much we can grow in a short amount of time. Working with someone gives you instant feedback. We brainstorm together, we troubleshoot together, we critique each other and we provide ideas. We can come to the shoot with ideas and if something is not working the way we think it should, we can quickly troubleshoot problematic things. I think half of the reason that we have been able to continue refining our signature lighting styles is because there are two of us. In the beginning, when something was not going as planned, one would be able to keep shooting and keep all the balls in the air, while the other stayed back and tweaked the lights until they worked. It was not a situation where we would have to junk an idea just because some little thing popped up.
Above is a situation where the flashes were not quite working, so we got a safe shot and Rachel kept shooting the getting ready while Crystal tinkered with the flashes and got them working just right so we could give our images that perfect polish we want to be known for.
One of my favorite stories of the benefits of team shooting and troubleshooting happened when we were shooting a small wedding at a beautiful outdoor enclosed pavilion. The front was a very large floor to ceiling window and Crystal went out to get a shot of the party from outside of the window to give the album a sense of place and document the venue better. There was a small step down out the door that was almost imperceptible and tripped up quite a few guests that night. As Crystal was walking out looking at her camera and changing settings for the outdoor shot, she lost her footing and fell face first (and CAMERA first!) to the pavement. She got up, very shaken. She tried to take a shot and her camera would not focus. She came back into the reception quite upset by the fall. She showed Rachel the camera and Rachel quickly realized, in her non-shaken by a surprise fall mind, that the switch that turned off the auto focus on the lens had been switched to manual in the fall and that switching it back fixed the situation. It seems simple but having that second pair of eyes and second mind is often invaluable.
Another amazing benefit is that there is simply less overall pressure. Less pressure to get a million epic shots per wedding. (Yep, I only have to get HALF a million, right?) Less pressure to edit a million images. Sure we both edit and deliver a ton, but to give a very impressive representation, it takes a lot less stress from both of us. We can focus on the story as we see it and edit our favorite shots. Even if one of us feels a session or wedding was a little more ho-hum, the fact we both were looking for creative angles, lighting, focal lengths, poses, framing and whatnot to tell the story means that there is usually a pretty cool story there.
And finally we have found that creativity begets creativity. Sounds basic, I know. But when we start brainstorming, it is amazing to see how one idea from one person starts another idea from the other, which gets spun in a completely different direction by the original person, and on and on. Sometimes the trouble we have is not that there are too MANY of us in the team, it is that we need more manpower to help fuel all of our original and awesome ideas that come out of different creative minds working together.
These are just a few of our whys. Next time I will start writing about the hows of our partnership. How do we divide work, who edits, etc. Would there be interest in a follow up like that?