Holiday office party portraits
joie grl Registered Users Posts: 19 Big grins
edited November 9, 2013 in Mind Your Own Business
My husbands command is having a christmas party. The photographer they hired backed out and I agreed to step in and help out, so no money up front. My equipment list: 2 -PBL 180w strobes with shoot through umbrellas, 1-PBL 1000w continuous light that I use in a Mega Apollo softbox, d300 with an sb900, stands, etc. the backdrops I currently have are white seamless paper and black muslin. This would be my first event like this. They want a more formal portrait style, dress is business casual. They want on site printing. I was thinking of printing a 5x7 imported behind a festive psd layer with command name, year, happy holidays. And I will be offering packages so that they can order more variety w/o the psd layer. I'm thinking of investing in a dye sub printer for the on site 5x7, but have read posts here where some pros use ink jets. My questions for you guys who do this are: 1. Do you recommend a more festive backdrop since it's a holiday party? If so any suggestions... I was looking at titanium cloth. 2. Do you have any tips regarding workflow for on site printing? 3. Any other suggestions from veterans of this style photography are greatly appreciated. I should also say that there will be approximately 250 people so 100 or so couples. I will have one assistant on hand. I am also not charging a fee since this is my first rodeo in this arena; I am however charging for the prints on site and for the packages. If all goes well I will be considered for a larger event in the spring. Thanks in advance.
We never offered on-site printing. Just drop them on SmugMug and let those that want to order direct.
Hope that helps.
After taking a quick look at your lighting, I wonder about the color temps of the different lights and also the power. It will of course depend on how large the photo groups will be and the distance.
Printing on site is a little more logistically involved than it might appear. I would second ian and point them to your website.
Also have you given any thought to creating a Christmas set, (tree, gifts, Santa, etc) as apposed to a muslin background that says nothing about the occasion and could be taken any time anywhere?
I have a similar shoot for a National Guard group here in the San Francisco bay area, and will have a Christmas set. Santa will be available also. It's up to you and your clients of course but I like the idea of the photos documenting the event and the Christmas party. They can always get standard portrait anytime.
My shoot is pro bono. This is my way to say thanks. There will be the typical candid event shoots as well.
The gray is good when you'll have a variety of different attire. Nothing wrong with adding a prop or two as well. I chose gray specifically because it allows most skin tones to look good without extra work. The same can be said for attire. Blue is another color that skin tone photographs well against (though it doesn't work well with some uniform colors).
Remember, you have a lot of folks to work through. Some more often. So a set that allows for high throughput would greatly benefit everyone involved.
Your current lighting is adequate to get the job done even if not ideal. It really depends if you want to get pedantic or just get on with the job. You can make what you have work or you can spend money on more and more gear like is so prevalent with people on the net who think equipment equals talent.
250 is not a lot of people to shoot. The trick is in the timing and organisation. I have shot 700 People in 30 min and got multiple good shots of every couple group and individual in that time. I organised things so they were shown to my setup as they entered the venue and then were taken by an usher to their seat.
I have an assistant organising the people and we make it bit of a game in that as soon as I am done the next lot of people are moving into position before the last lot are clear. My assistant has pointed out what they need to do so they assume the positions and are on their way.
From there I batch the pics in Photokey 5 and spit them out on a couple of inkjet printers so they are ready for purchase by Dinner time.
After dinner, we always get a lot more people wanting pics after they see how good the first ones look. They get friends and we tend to do more groups. I shoot, my assistant prints and we walk out with a pocket full of money and the people are delighted with the pics.
If you are not going to print onsite, seriously, forget the whole idea now. Putting them on the net is going to get you about $1.95 for all your efforts and trouble. Onsite printing is the ONLY way to go if you actually want to make money out of this. If you don't, then just put them on your site and give them away for free. You'll probably get more in donations than you would make selling the things.
The ONLY other way I would bother with is with JM's approach of prepaid. Charge them BEFORE you take their pic or you don't shoot them at all. Those you shoot can download their pics from the net when they get home AFTER they have paid.
Anything else business model wise is just playing tiddly winks and kidding yourself in reality. There are 1000 threads here about people stealing pics off the web even when they are watermarked to obscurity etc. It's pretty clear that online is all but dead and buried for those that want to get returns on their efforts.
For onsite printing, I wouldn't bother with a Dye sub printer. Again, it's simply not a practical and viable business investment if you want to make MONEY. If you have other agenda's, then they may be perfect for your needs.
I have used inkjets for years and had excellent results from them and the price of consumables is miles away from Dye subs. I did have a problem with an environment I was trying to do onsite printing in and thought I would look at Dye subs again. What a stupid idea that was!
The consumables are ridiculously more expensive, here they can't even guarantee supply, the cost of the things is at least 10X the cost of a good inker, the quality is still not as good, repairs take forever and when I actually asked about their performance in the environment the inkers were a bit flakey in, I was told in no uncertain terms that using them in that environment would void the warranty and they may even refuse to repair the machine at all for fear of unseen damage to other parts.
Ya, so much for Dye subs.
Get a couple of $120 inkers, a CIS system and you are laughing. They have every advantage and none of the drawbacks of Dye subs.
My overall advise is don't get pedantic over lighting, props, printers or anything else. You can do a good job and make the people very happy without making too many rods for your own back. You need to concentrate on making a good product ( not the most fantastic one ever created) and more than anything, efficency in photographing the people in good saleable poses and having the images ready for them to take home and leave enough time for the 2nd wave of groups etc.
Thanks Glort! I think I may have read some of your other posts before. The tips sound familiar! I am going to do the onsite printing because, as you've said, that's where the money is. And now, I can gladly say that the dye sub is off the table. I'm going to invest in a few inkjets (probably epson) and go from there. I have called the venue and they will have decorations setup in the foyer near the ballroom. I've decided to go ahead and order a suitable grey background since they will not have the decorations up until the week before the party. Glort, what is your advice on how to organize the workflow so that the images are easy to locate and deliver to the right customer? I realize I'm not working with nearly the number you are accustomed to dealing with, but even at 250 and this being my first event like this, it seems that every method I run through in my head makes things far too complicated. I think I may be over-thinking it, as is usually my case. Does your assistant keep up with the customers names and correlated them with image files? How do you do it, to keep it fast and easy?
I did get caught out badly on one event I took it to with something that I took for granted with the canons which the epsom just didn't have. Luckily being pedantic with plan B,C D and E with these jobs I just went down to the car and grabbed a canon and I was fine. Just surprised the Epsom didn't have the feature I used every canon has had on models going back about 10 years.
Another BIG annoyance with the Epsom is the thing will stop printing mid print when it thinks it has run out of ink. It shoots out half a bit of paper. After you re set it and it makes noises like a combine harvester that swallowed a brick for 3.5 minutes, the moronic POS then prints the other half of the print it wasted therefore wasting 2 bits of paper. AGGGHHHH!
This can really stuff you up if you are batch printing as I regularly do because then you have to wait for the batch to go through and go back and find the images the thing double half printed and put them through again. If you are doing multi pic packs, then you also have to go through and find the rest of the prints so the pack is complete.
Ridiculously time wasting.
The canons at least have the decency and brains to finish the paper they are on then tell you they are out of ink and once you re set them, they carry on where they left off with no interruption to the work flow at all. Why that logic is lost on Epsom I can only guess if it is deliberate to make you buy more ink and paper or it's just lousy design.
I find overall the Epsom is a far more finicky and less robust machine than all my various model canons which was a disappointment seeing it had 1 feature I really wanted but was outweighed by the other drawbacks. Your requirements may be different to mine however but I would check them out very carefully if I were you.
Mine has been relegated to a home printer because it simply isn't up to being practical for the work I do.
I would HIGHLY recommend a CISS though. It will take your ink costs from ( for me) around $1 for an 8x12 print to UNDER .5C. This makes a HUGE difference to your bottom line. There is also the thing that you overcome the main disadvantage of Inkers in changing cartridges. I can do well over 500 8x12s on one ink fill. And, contrary to internet forum ignorance and manufacturer brainwashing, They DON'T ruin your printer ( as if that's a big deal with ink costing as much or more than the machine) the colours don't look like crap ( Better than OEM in true to life and shadow detail IMHO) and they don't fade in a day like some would have you believe.
They work well, they work long and hard and they save you an absolute fortune.
As far as relating images to the client, can't be much help there.
I simply don't do it at all.
We print the images out and have 2-4 6ft trestle tables and simply lay them out. The clients come up, find their prints and we put them in an envelope for them and take their money. Never done it any other way.
For another type of work I do I simply put the images in clear plastic sleeves and they all go into lever arches which are divided into times and again the clients find their own pics.
I wouldn't bother about tieing names to the images. We get a LOT of people dragging friends back to the tables when they see their friends pics and tell them how good they are. Clearly significant peer pressure goes on because people are often reluctant to buy the pics but the friends tell they " They can't not get that picture" or frequently will buy the pics for them when they are getting their own and give them to them. Often at charity events where a company has purchased a table, the boss will buy all the pics for the people on his company's table. Often at the end of the night when people are leaving, other people will buy pics for people whom have already gone as well.
One heads up with doing this is take your own lights.
A lot of the gigs I do turn the lights down to nothing during the dancing etc and if you are up the back, you can't see squat. I take 3-4 500W Halogens ( although I just got some mega bright LED floods) and put them on light stands and put them over the tables.
This not only allows people to see the images they are in, it has the "Moth" effect of drawing people to bright lights. It's like a visual reminder the pics are there and evokes Curiosity as well.
It's really important to light them up so people can see them and so you can see what you are doing as well.
Also, Get yourself some Table cloths to put under the prints. I actually use Double bed sheets and use a mid gray or blue. Don't use black or white, something mid tone is much better. The cloths give a much more professional and finished look to laying the prints out and you can hide all your crap under the tables to keep the area behind clutter free and looking professional and no one can see it.
I have Milk crates I use to put cords and things in and turn them upside down and put the printers under the table as well.
If you get multiple printers, set up a printer pool in windoze to link them together and speed up the work flow.
I remember one event I did I was pretty alarmed to see a stack of prints still covering a couple of tables. I picked them all up and put them in a box and could tell there were nearly 100 pints left. In talking to the crew on the way home, I said I thought we would do better. They said are you kidding, we did great! I said how could that be when we have so many leftovers? They explained what I had overlooked that we did a LOT of group shots after dinner and a lot of people bought them instead of the Couples shots.
When I added things up, we still cleared over $1800 on the gig so the leftover prints were insignificant in the grand scheme of things.
And that seems to be the great thing with onsite. You can't go wrong. I have done it with shooter friends and it always worked and it's always worked for me.
Personally I think there is a lot of value to having all the pics laid out and I'm not sure if I had a way of easily tagging them to the client and delivering them directly I would. I'm sure there are advantages to that, not having ever done it though I can't think of any off the top of my head.
The only thing I could think of is to have the guest list with the names and table numbers and write the image number against it as you go. That is going to be a huge handbrake though because even if you have an assistant doing it and ask the peoples name they are going to want to come and look and point out where they are on the list. With 250 you might have more time but I would avoid it personally.
Print the pics and lay them out on the tables and then have the MC announce a few times the pics are printed out ready for them to buy and take home.
That's what I do and it works great for me.
Awesome idea about the lights for the tables. The "moth effect"! I love it! I don't know that I would've thought of that. As far as printers, I started out with a canon years ago and wasn't impressed with the print quality. But, I also can't remember what photo paper I was using. Later, I came across a deal on a wide format epson and fell in love with it after that, but it is definitely not suitable for on-site printing. I was thinking of using what I currently use for everyday printing, which is a smaller epson. But, what you've just said about the design is completely true. That has happened to me on a smaller scale (spitting out 20-30 images for family). I can see how that would be a huge problem for an event. Do you have any recommendations for a canon? Also what paper do you use? I've always used epson lustre with my epson printers with great results. I've never used a CIS system and I'm definitely intrigued. Every time one of my epsons flashes that "ink low" I can hear money going down the drain. So do you have a CIS that you would recommend, or a reputable source to buy from? And the ink that goes with it? As far as setting the printers up… Are you usually wired to the printers, or do you use the wireless features? I'm just trying to figure out how the wireless feature would work at a hotel. You would have to be a admin to add a printer to the network, right? or, do you just keep it simple and hook them all up via usb? Thanks for the input on just laying the images out for them to pick up. That was the only way I could see it working in my head as well but, like always, I was second-guessing myself and thought it was too simple! haha!
No matter how well you prep and how many times you have done things something always comes up and the easier it is to troubleshoot, replace, swap out or substitute, the better.
The " Moth effect" is my ( now not so) secret weapon in doing trade shows. Light your stand up like an airport runway, put on some Boppy Music with plenty of bass that will carry without being too loud when you are near it and buy the cheapest Stall in the show and watch people walk past all the ones that clamoured to be at the front to come and see you. Works every single time. The music won't work at something like this but the Light sure will.
At one Gig a mate and I actually set the intervalometer on his camera to fire a couple of shots every 30 sec. The lights were aimed to where the people were seated rather than the back drop for effect as we were a bit round a corner but it did bring them in as well.
As far as the particular Canon Printer, the one that currently looks like it would fit the bill is the IP7260. It's a printer only and has top resolution and good print speed. I see that there are CiS's available for it as well. Frankly, I don't think it matters which printer you get as long as it does the high end resolution and has the print speed. I'm pretty convinced most of the machines around the same level use the same inner workings anyway. They may throw an added feature in here and there but the print engine I think is the dame with more crap thrown around it.
I tend to go for printers rather than multifunctions because I don't need a multi and the printers only are far lighter and more compact. That said, Printers only are getting harder to get in the consumer levels machines which is all you need. That's all I use and the only comments I have ever got on print quality is compliments.
I have 4 Different models of canons and they all take the same cartridge and as far as I can see all have the exact workings to them despite being spaced out over a period of 5-7 years in their model spread.
I haven't bought a new one for a couple of years so I don't know if they have really updated anything other than the software even now. I was looking at the new ones available here and they have changed the design of the housings with a funny front that folds back rather than a lid that lifts. They also have gone to the rubbish Epsom system of front tray and feed.
That was something that was big factor in buying the Epsom because I wanted to put the printers in boxes and the rear standup feed of the canons makes for a Huge box to accommodate that. Unfortunately I found the shallow depth of the tray to be a real pain when you can only stuff about 30 sheets of paper in if that as against to double or more with the canons rear vertical feed.
I don't know if there are any other models available in the states or not. If you can get some old rear stand up feed models, I'd grab them. I'm going to look for some new old stock myself.
If the tray type is all you can get, we'll not much you can do.
With the Ciss I use a couple of local suppliers but a lot of the tanks I see on fleabay are all the same and one of my very helpful and honest suppliers told me there are only a handful of people in the world doing these system parts anyway.
As for ink, I'd just go with the larger brands. Dunno what they are in your part of the world but you should be able to search the net and find out. Maybe if someone else here has a system they recommend they could let you know. I believe the inks I use are made in Germany so that may be a starting point. I don't know if there really are any bad ones, certainly if a company has been around selling the things you'd be on the right track to getting something good.
One thing I did with my ink system was to pair up some tanks. The setup is very simple and on mine the feed was just a hole bored in the bottom of the reservoir and the feed tube had a hard plastic fitting with a grommet in the bottom of the tank. The parts are available as spares from my ink guys.
I fed a 2nd set of cartridges from the one tank which saved the price of the tank and also space. I can sit the printers side by side and have the tank in the middle. To move the printers I clamp the ink tubes off and stack one printer on top of the other and put the ink tank on the feed tray and tape it in place for transport. never had a problem and the ink feeds work perfectly.
What I would suggest is Checking out the CIS suppliers and seeing what models of printer they have systems for BEFORE you decide on a printer. No use buying a printer to discover you can't get the CIS for it.
I use a wired system for the printers as the only wireless machine I have is the epsom. That set up on the wireless quite easy and will link to my laptop even when away from the home network.
The Canons are all USB and that has worked fine for me.
At some events I use a wireless cared in the camera and shoot the images across to the main computer and then pick them up from there and send them to the printer. Again, I go for simple and USB hardwire seems to be the way to go.
I did do one event and had trouble with the printers. Did something weird I now forget but after much stuffing around I changed the printer cable and the thing worked fine. Carry spare cables with you for everything and if something goes nuts, change them and see what happens. That was really the only trouble I had in doing dozens of onsite jobs and printing many thousands of prints.
I'm moving away from printing in some of my work now and going to putting the images on USB.
Haven't tried it for events and i'm not sure of the viability. I'm sure some people would like it, I'm also of the opinion that a lot more would want prints. Still, you can always test market it and let the people choose for themselves. I have Sold prints and the images on USB so that has been a definite sales increase. You have to think though, How do you present images if you DON'T print with this market?
Perhaps something may be to do prints and offer the images on USB as an EXTRA. Spin it anyway you want, Buy the print, get the digital copy for "only" $xx extra OR, the images come on USB but we give you a FREE print with it.
I'm just about to place another order with a Chinese Supplier for some " Themed" Drives. I'll get 3 different designs which have been great hits with the kids I shoot. One design for the boys, one for the girls and one for those that can't decide or the family with both. These are really great when selling because you can take an indecisive parent thinking about the will I buy or not to a purchase based on the small decision of asking the kid " What character would you like me to put your pictures on?"
Yeah, and people tell me that it's all about photography and sales skills aren't important. Hope they keep up that delusion!
If you can come up with an angle for what you are doing ( and the onsite is a good one to start) you'll definitely increase not only your sales, but the interest level of people thinking about hiring you for other events.