You may have seen a few photographers out there taking quarantine photos of complete strangers for free. I decided to test this out for myself, and this is what I learned.
Erica Pahua is a Shutterbug employee that reached out to us regarding her new side project. These are her tips on how to book quarantine photos, from scheduling to sending, without the hassle.
1. Figure Out Your Schedule
This isn't always the fun part of this process, but this is necessary. Figure out how much time you want to dedicate to this side project. I want to shoot on Tuesday and Saturdays between 10:30 to 1:30pm. Enough time for a few shoots, and for same-day edits after the shoots.
2. Get Organized + Plan Ahead
Unlike some photographers, I do feel socially drained quite easily, I have decided to do a maximum of 7 shoots per day that I have off, and 1-2 shoots per day that I am working. Since these are FREE photoshoots and I want to maximize the amount of people I am able to book, therefore each shoot will be 10-15 minutes long max. The 30 minutes between shoots allows me to make room for travel time. Since I am shooting within a 2 mile radius of my home, my travel distance shouldn't be too long, however I want to give room just in case someone isn't ready, or I want to take a little longer on a shoot.
I utilized Google Drive's Sheets program and typed up a schedule like the one below. I chose Google Sheets because not only can I access it when I'm not at my computer, I can share this file with those who are interested in a photoshoot so they can fill it out without me having to subscribe (SurveyMonkey/JotForm).
Tip: I find that not asking for addresses before the day of the shoot is best. People don't want their personal information out there for the world to see. I also don't recommend texting the person before the shoot as you already have all their information. You don't want to encourage excess back/forth text streams for a 10-15 minute shoot when you have 20+ people messaging you on the platform you will use.
3. Choose a Platform to Offer your Photography Services On
My recommendation is to post that you are offering free services on your personal social media (FB/Instagram) and NextDoor. I used NextDoor as it is only accessible by people who actually live in my neighborhood/my side of town, and because I can limit how far the post is seen so I don't have people responding who live all the way in Lake Oswego for example (~30+ minutes from my home). Craigslist and Reddit's Portland page are also options, but I personally feel uncomfortable using those pages (it doesn't feel safe for me).
4. Make Your Post!
This is a sample of a post that I wrote:
"FREE Porch Photos (Keep a Photographer Busy)
I want to join in and offer FREE portraits during this time to anyone who is interested. I will maintain the 6ft+ distance, and I ask you to do the same during our shoot.
I won't start scheduling photoshoots until I have at least 6 people who are interested (so I can try to schedule them all in one weekend).
The photoshoot will be for 10-15 minutes, and all I request is that you be aware that by allowing me to take these photos, I will be using these in a professional manner to bolster my portfolio.
If you would like to schedule with me, please fill out this excel sheet:
(Insert Excel Sheet Link)
If you would like to donate or tip me, it is welcome but not at all required. My venmo/cashapp is ... You are helping me stay active, and that is enough for me!
My instagram is ..., attached are some portraits I have taken in the past."
What I find most important about the ad you post are these four things:
a) Set a minimum sign-up requirement, this way you aren't booking two people in the middle of a day off. Make this work for you!
b) Have a realistic time-frame for how long you want these shoots so you aren't spending disproportionate amounts of time for different families. A 10-15 minute shoot can yield excellent gems, if it feels too short -- this is an awesome opportunity to hone your skills on a time crunch.
c) Tell people what this is for/where they photos will be used if they agree. You may also want to send them a photo release form if you plan on publishing these photos anywhere.
d) Add your donation information! This is all for free, but give people and option to help you out -- especially if you are not employed these days. If you have a FB account, direct people to leave you reviews too! I have been tipped multiple times an amount far pass my normal 30 minute shoot price point, and it is paying for my gas -- and the rest is going in my vacation fund.
My first mistake of making my post was not limiting my post range, and I had people respond from as high north as Sauvie's Island, to as low a near Wilsonville. What I did was collect everyone's information and rank them by distance from me. Week 1 is for everyone within 10 minutes of me, week 2 will be people further north than me, and week 3 will be for clients near Lake Oswego. In total, I have received about 30 people who have reached out. Even though this number is high, I know ahead of time that I will most likely only book half of them. You have to keep in mind that not everyone will respond to you in a timely manner, or even 'show up'.
5. The Art of Managing Clients
Do not take what people say personally, I repeat. This will burn you out if you do.
People will want you to work around their schedule, if you recall step 1 (Figure out your schedule) -- Make them work around YOUR schedule. They can pay you to work outside of your free scheduling. This may sound harsh to some, but I have learned that you need to set boundaries, especially as a photographer.
If a certain amount of people DM you or comment that they are interested in the shoot but haven't filled out their information in the excel sheet you posted, create a copy/pasteable message like this: Hello! I'm looking forward to photographing you. If you want to book a time, please fill out this excel sheet. If you see a time and can't seem to plug in your information, please respond to this message and I will plug the information for you." Just so you know, sometimes Google Sheets does 'act up' and it isn't editable from the receiving end, so do know that limitation.
6. The Essentials of The Shoot
Make sure to charge your batteries the night before, and pack all the gear you need (* are necessary).
a) Prime or zoom lens between 85-300mm.*
c) Memory Card (I always use either a 64g or 128g)*
d) Flash (if you think you need it -- I don't use one)
e) Lens pen/micro fiber -- it's spring and pollen is everywhere
f) Rocket blower if you plan on changing lenses (especially relevant for mirrorless cameras)
I recommend using a longer focal length prime or a zoom lens because you need to follow the 6ft distance rules. I am using a Sony 90mm f/2.8 macro (I have to be nearly 12 feet away to really capture a person's whole body + a little background, so this is perfect for me).
Other excellent lens options include: 55-300mm range kit lens, 85mm, 100mm, 105mm or the 70-200mm. Not only will these lenses help you abide by the distance rule, you will also have excellent bokeh/compression.
Tip: Look up family poses for the shoot if this is your first time shooting portraits. This can help you on the day of if the family members seem stiff.
7. Day of The Shoot
a) Message the person for their address, and arrive a few minutes early if possible, if you know you will be late let them know
b) Greet them, but make sure to not meet them at their doorstep. You have their #, so call them if needed. Ask them to lead you to where you are shooting them, backyard, patio, middle or the street etc. Set a timer or be aware you have 10-15 minutes.
c) DO NOT pet the pets that may wander into the shooting space, pets can spread your germs to the family they return to.
d) Keep an eye on your photos, take one test photo and adjust your settings. Be aware of your white balancing as well. My first photoshoot, I noticed that the shade had an overwhelming blue cast on auto white balance, so I set my white balance to shade and the images looked perfect -- no color corrections to be made in post.
e) Not everyone prepares poses ahead of time, so you may need to model them. For families, I like to do serious and silly photos, and try to pair up members so it's not just the whole family (ex: mom/dad, mom + daughter, dad + son, siblings etc). If they have porch steps, tier them off, or play with lining them up according to height. If you notice something is off with their clothing or have a major hair fly-away, do let them know -- this will assist you in less photo editing in post.
f) Once your time is up, let them know what your turn around time for the photos are, and let them know if they want to tip, your information is on the original post.
8. Processing Photos + Sending Photos
I edit all my photos in lightroom, and I like to keep my photos as natural as possible. I do shoot in raw so I have more flexibility come editing. In the photo above my settings were as follows:
ISO 320 | 90mm | f/4 for sharpness + a little bokeh | 1/250 Shutter speed. For this photo, I asked them to arrange themselves in order of height.
For these shoots I am doing, I go through the photos first and delete all the photos I don't want to work with or edit. I usually end up with 10-15 photos I want to send to the client (do not feel pressured to send 10-15, that is a 'large' amount of photos considering the time frame). I edit them, export them, and upload them to either Google Photos/Drive or DropBox to send to clients. Quick tip: Export one photo and view it on your phone. The computer screen I have for my desktop is not the best and sometimes the colors of the edits are not saturated enough, or appear much too saturated. I like to double check a few edits before I send them to the client.
I chose these formats due to how easy it is to share photos via link through text message (you already have the phone number of your client, so this is convenient). The tech savviness of your clients can range, you can always just email images as well if they aren't familiar or comfortable using links.
Thank you for reading! Hopefully these tips were helpful at giving you the behind-the-scenes of my quarantine shoot process.
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