Thursday, January 29, 2009

Mind Your Models

One of the things that those of us professed as geeks know is that we're not model material. Often, while we can spot an attractive member of the opposite sex, we don't necessarily judge others as less than attractive - to avoid the "pot calling the kettle black" claim.

So, when two unarguably geek sites (which I ready at least twice a day) write an article critical of the model wearing a product, it's worth a discussion.

Here, the article on Gizmodo - NES Varsity Jacket Is a Limited Edition for a Reason - below writes: "Jackets don't come much uglier than this, but hey, at least it matches this guy's male pattern baldness."

So, what does this have to do with Photo Business?

(Continued after the Jump)

Here's another, on Engadget - NES Controller Varsity Jacket would be more awesome with awesome models - which criticizes the model - "At first glance, we actually gagged upon seeing the jacket pictured above. Immediately after regaining our composure, we wondered how on Earth such a magnificent piece of retro kit could have such a negative impact on our lives -- then, it hit us. It's the dude. Seriously. Strap this $200, limited run jacket on anyone even remotely beautiful and we'd bet you too would see things differently. Or maybe it is just obscenely tacky, but it'd be much less so on anyone other than this fellow."

This is an example, likely, of a client saying "we don't need to hire a model, just get my cousin Vinny to wear it", or "we owe our programmer some goodwill, let's use him", or some variation thereof.

Further, the jacket doesn't even fit him. He looks like a size large, and the jacket looks like a size XXL.

When you have a product to sell, paying attention to the details, like a well lit product, a model that is appropriate (or atleast doesn't detract from) the product, and one that fits appropriately, are just a few of the many things that hiring professional - from photographer to talent - is critical to the success of a shoot.

Further, as the professional photographer, it is your responsibility to convey to the client the importance of your judgement when it comes to talent. Often times, when a client insists on "street-casting", or casting from within an office, we ask for snapshots of the subjects, or we take snapshots ourselves, and then take them away to make determinations as to which person is best. Even when the client chooses someone who we know won't work, we make the snapshot, so as to not offend the non-workable subject. Usually, clients that are ad agencies or PR firms understand the nuances of the right subject being chosen, and how that can impact the product. This product is a limited edition of 1,000, and likely could have entirely been sold by the two postings on Gizmodo and Engadget alone by people wanting street cred amongst we geeks for having it. However, now no geek I know would be caught dead wearing this jacket, because our daily read has panned it.

Thus, a $200 jacket, with a limited edition of 1,000, and a possible gross revenue of $200,000 will, instead, likely show up at the discount store, or become a giveaway gift at Nintendo video conferences, all because someone didn't pay attention to who the model was. That's a $200,000 mistake there.

Please post your comments by clicking the link below. If you've got questions, please pose them in our Photo Business Forum Flickr Group Discussion Threads.


ryan said...

I just completed a fashion/catalog shoot for a client recently, who demanded to use a non agency model. They wanted to save money, and said the agency model options looked "too perfect". Their reasoning was that the non agency model looked more like the average guy who might buy their product.

After making my concerns clear (and making sure they signed off on the model), I completed the shoot. Needless to say the client is not happy with the way the final images look. Any money they saved on the model went way out the door if they decide on a reshoot.

Andy Ptak said...

I do a fair amount of Resort work, mostly in the Caribbean and I cringe every time a client says that they want to use 'on site talent" (read, some vacationing schmuck and the missus). Even the big guys fall prey to this and it's so depressing trying to work with someone who squints all the time, can't hold their gut in and can't take direction.

Especially in these tough times it's very tempting for clients though - it's not just the model fee, it's hair and make up as well, and don't even mention a stylist! All of these fees add up and people are cutting corners everywhere.

On site talent will do it for nothing, or next to. And that's what the shoot is probably worth afterward. We should have all stayed at home. Don't know what the answer is though. Some people will always be cheap, even in a good economy and some people will actually work with you to get the best job possible, even on a restricted budget. Takes all kinds.

Dennis Murray said...

My first thought on seeing the image was that it reminded me of Puddy on Seinfeld wearing the Magic 8 Ball jacket.

The second thought was sizing on the jacket was dead wrong.

RichardP said...

Did it ever occur to you that the jacket may actually sell out. Espeically now that Engadget has picked it up. I dont know much about what this controller is or does- but I showed it to my son and he said he would like to have that jacket. I asked him what he thought of the model and he said- "I dont care about the model".

I would speculate that many of Engadgets readers look alot like the model featured! And they just might also like to have that jacket!

The landscape of the photo business has changed folks. The age of the big pocket photo shoot is over. Peoples buying habits have changed. Big business no longer needs to seduce people to buy their products- people are buying out of need or want. They arent buying to be like the beautiful models featured.

If that model was holding the new lecia safari M8.2- I bet you all would still have clicked the link to look at that camera. Because you want it. Not because you want to be a part of the elite photo crowd. You already know how nice that camera is.

I think if we are going to survive in the busisness of photography, we need to adapt to this. Companies are not cheating us- they are just adapting as well. They have smaller budgets.

Why spend big dollars for a photo shoot when you can spend half or a quarter and pretty much get the same results in sales. And this penny pinching can also save jobs and keep the company around.

As far as I can see- its the guys with the big debts that insist on charging the big bucks. Take a good look at the strobist pool over on flickr- 98 percent are amatures- but their work is on par with many of the so called pros.

And dont make the mistake and think that big business isnt noticing. It is! Just look at the amount of OT's popping up in the strobist discussion with titles like- "I have a wedding to shoot this weekend-what do I do" or "I have catalog shoot coming up- what lights do I use"!

Biff Henrich said...

Just because the clients (and the world) have changed their priorities, it doesn't mean that we as professionals stop trying to do things the right way or stop trying to convince the clients to do things the right way. "Everybody's doing it", is not a good reason or an excuse. If after all good faith efforts to sell the right methodology to the clients and they insist on cutting all the corners, then have them sign off and get on with it. Or don't do it the wrong way if you think it will come back later to bite you.

As we all know, any geek with a camera is not a photographer just like any geek with a hammer is not a carpenter.

Stephen Sherman Photography-Boston said...

Really, use "real" people when your butt is on the line? Serious cash invested in the job, I try to avoid it at all costs. Use actors if you need "real people"
Many if not most of us have been asked or forced into that situation.
When push comes to shove and your on location or even in the studio and the subject has to take direction, show emotion, express body language or just plain look good these inexperienced people don't cut it.
About using amateurs.
Sure, anyone with a $500 camera and a few lights, given enough time, can make a decent shot.
Does the client want 1 or 2 decent frames out of hundreds shot over a few hours or something better?
Every kid out of school or assistant can come up with a book (or site) with 10 great shots but how long did it take them?
I'm not suggesting every job requires full bore production but many require at least some.

Thats the job of the Pro, knowing what corners to cut and the ability to maximize the potential of any given situation.
It takes years to get to that point.
To me, at least, I feel its necessary to make every mistake in the book along the path to perfection, which is a moving traget at best.

Sorry if I got a bit off-topic on this.

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