Crashing the Photo Shoot

Tips on Capturing Behind-the-Scenes Video on the Photo Shoot

I really like photo shoots. I like the high levels of energy and creativity. I like that the shoot is extremely structured, yet very spontaneous. But most of all, I particularly like that I am THE MOST HATED PERSON ON SET. Yes, I am the video guy and I’ve come to crash your frickin’ photo shoot. Deal with it.

We’re going to be in a world a few years from now where the vast majority of the content that people consume online will be video.

OK, I get that typically the desired output of a photo shoot is photos. I also understand that there are lots of moving parts, a very tight schedule, highly paid models and crew, and usually nervous clients, all focused on achieving the desired output (photos—in case you forgot). With so much at stake, why do we send a person or small crew into the fray to capture video and potentially disrupt this important, expensive event? Let’s look at the current state of online video to answer this question.

Dude, Video Rules!

In a 2015 white paper, networking giant Cisco stated, “Globally, consumer internet video traffic will be 80 percent of all consumer Internet traffic in 2019, up from 64 percent in 2014.” In another report, Cisco revealed that 55 percent of mobile data traffic in 2015 was video-related and estimated that 75 percent of mobile traffic will be video content by 2020. Internet analytics company comScore reported in February that there were nearly 234 million unique U.S. video viewers in the previous month of January. YouTube alone made up 174 million of those unique viewers. Keep in mind that the U.S. population is estimated at around 319 million people.

Photo shoot image

At the end of 2015, Facebook reported that over 500 million people watch videos on its site each day. Three months later they revealed that those 500 million people watch an astounding 100 million hours of video every day. Acknowledging the importance of video to Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg stated at a recent keynote at Barcelona’s Mobile World Congress, “I just think that we’re going to be in a world a few years from now where the vast majority of the content that people consume online will be video.” That’s right—vast majority.

Since the demand for online video content is growing by leaps and bounds, I can understand why the marketing department or agency might think, Hey, we’re spending all this time and energy on a photo shoot, so let’s capture some video of it too, especially since online video is so popular. It does make sense from an economy-of-scale point of view, but without a little careful planning the end result can range from unusable footage to unnecessarily driving up production costs of the photo shoot.

Behind the scenes photography and videography

Now mind you, despite my potentially volatile opening comments, I do not want to start a war between videographers and everyone else at the photo shoot. I firmly believe that the farmer and the cowman should be friends. To this end, I want to talk about how to get the most out of filming at a photo shoot without being a nuisance. Or worse.

Behind the Scenes of Behind-the-Scenes Videos

Behind-the-scenes (BTS) videos have been around for decades and are considered to be a type of documentary. The most popular BTS videos have tended to be feature-film related, often being presented as extra content on a DVD or Blu-ray. However, because many of us are curious about how things are made, BTS videos have expanded to cover most anything, including photo shoots. Photo shoots have many of the same elements of a feature-film production, so a BTS video for a photo shoot can have a lot of natural appeal already built in. Some will be drawn to the talent or the location, while others will be interested in the technical details of the shoot. Throw in some fun or tense moments and you have content that potentially can appeal to a wide audience.

Behind the scenes photography and videography

Like every good documentary, BTS videos benefit from planning during the preproduction phase. While technically you could send a videographer to a photo shoot with the single instruction “to capture anything you can,” you’ll likely have a better result if more comprehensive direction is given. How will the video be used? What’s the storyline? Should the focus be on the product, talent, crew, or location? Should the tone be fun or serious? Should audio be captured? Will there be interviews? And the list of questions goes on and on. The answers to these questions will help determine the type of videographer and size of crew needed and what type of footage should be captured. Much like a documentary, what ends up being filmed is often spontaneous, but having a firm set of guidelines helps the videographer determine priorities throughout the shoot.

It’s important for everyone to know that even though it’s a “photo shoot” that the videographer is bringing value to the client as well. It’s essential that the videographer is able to do the job for which he has been hired and should be granted the necessary access to do so. Likewise, the videographer should understand that the primary focus is photography and should utilize his ninjalike stealth skills. In other words, stay the heck out of the way as much as possible. Developing good rapport with the photographer, crew, and talent goes a long ways toward keeping peace while still capturing the necessary footage. For this reason, photographers are often asked to provide their own videographer or recommend someone with whom they feel comfortable.

“Globally, consumer Internet video traffic will be 80 percent of all consumer Internet traffic in 2019.”

When producing a BTS video, take a page from another form of documentary: reality television. The fact of the matter is that reality isn’t really that interesting. I’m sure your own reality is interesting to you (hopefully), but it’s not necessarily interesting to others who have to watch it. Likewise, capturing the making of a photo shoot can be a bit bland to outsiders. While at the onset it seems very glamorous, it’s actually very repetitive. You move to a new location; the crew sets up; the models go through makeup, hair, and wardrobe; and then the photographer does his thing. After the creative director feels she has the image she wants, the crew tears down and the whole cycle starts again. Rinse and repeat. As video producers, it’s our job to find an interesting and entertaining story to tell that properly represents the client. Note that unlike reality television, most brands don’t want to be associated with heavy amounts of over-the-top drama—(sarcasm alert!) not that you would ever find any on a photo shoot.

Lifestyle Photography? Let’s Shoot a Lifestyle Video Too!

A brand can potentially invest tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars in a photo shoot. Given the time and energy that go into a photo shoot, particularly lifestyle or editorial types of shoots, it sometimes makes sense to simultaneously create a lifestyle or editorial video as well. While this type of shoot sounds like the best of both worlds, it’s important to understand the caveats before proceeding.

The farmer and the cowman should be friends.

Creating a BTS video of a photo shoot is a relatively low-cost project. You have the costs of the videographer and post-production costs (and often you can find someone that does both). Ideally the videographer will capture the elements of the shoot without disrupting it or substantially adding time to the schedule. On the other hand, a lifestyle shoot that involves both photography and video are sharing resources such as talent, locations, and crew, but often the two can’t occur simultaneously. In other words, video can’t be shot when photography is happening and vise versa. So what happens is that one crew is waiting on the other to finish before they do their thing. The net result is an extended shoot schedule, which results in an increased budget.

A longer shoot schedule is only one of several challenges. Perhaps the photography that is planned works well for online or a printed piece, but the nature of the blend of talent, wardrobe, and product don’t lend themselves to produce a cohesive video storyline. And speaking of talent, it should be noted that not all talent is created equal. While some models have the ability to act, others do not. Modeling and acting are two very different disciplines, and using the same talent for both may yield undesirable results. And then there is potentially a huge technical hurdle to jump. Often photographers shoot with strobes and the orientation of the photos can either be horizontal or vertical. Videographers need continuous lighting and the orientation is usually horizontal. Unless both crews are using natural or continuous lighting, chances are that the setup for one medium will not work for the other, which, again, extends the schedule.

While the challenges might sound insurmountable, it is possible to combine photography and video on a single lifestyle shoot with great results, but it does take lots of planning. If combining both sounds too daunting or costly, consider adding a lower-cost BTS video to your next photo shoot. You’ll still need to plan, but this type of project is easier to execute and still yields good content. For examples of videos produced at photo shoots, check out Britton Marketing & Design Group’s YouTube playlists.

So the next time you’re planning a photo shoot, consider adding video to the project. And in the not-so-distant future, when video dominates online content and you are planning your next video shoot, consider adding photography to the project. After all, the farmer and the cowman should be friends.

Photos: BMDG

Dennis Balgavy

Dennis Balgavy

Dennis Balgavy is a serial career changer: audio recording, product development, marketing communications, IT, research, video production, web development, and writing—and, oh, yeah, there was that time he flipped hamburgers.

Meet Dennis Balgavy