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News & Insight

Essential Advice On Handling Clients During A Shoot With Variety Magazine’s Chief Photographer

By Kishore Sawh on February 27th 2016

There’s more value to extrapolate from certain events and environments than are sometimes immediately obvious, or stated. Often it’s what’s not stated but implied and intangible that carries the higher weight.

My young cousin is immensely interested in theatre, and over the past year has been spending time in London’s West End with a highly decorated, sought after, and prodigiously talented set creator and director who has worked on the London Olympic Games, Broadway, and so on. He’s barely 13, so he isn’t allowed to do much, but what I’ve tried to explain to him, is that just being there, and being observant is going to count for a lot.


You see, when you’re hired for a job in any industry, and certainly anything creative, you’re not simply hired for the final product you’ve associated with, but your understanding and ability to operate within a certain environment. For him, sitting in on a creative brainstorming session, seeing who takes the lead and how ideas are presented, or observing or taking in through osmosis what titles are responsible for what jobs, and how to move within that arena is massive. These are things you can’t pick up often from text. This is entirely analogous to photography.

Depending on what you’re shooting, and at what level, this will have a varying impact on you, but if you’re reaching out and up, aiming to deal with larger more discerning clients, and work with more talented people on bigger projects, this kind of environmental exposure and understanding is going to matter. Those who you work with are going to want to know that you understand how a production set works, that you have an idea who does what, and that you know how to conduct yourself in those environments. They need to know that you know how to assimilate and behave.

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In this video herein, Chief Photographer at Variety Magazine, Michael Buckner, allows us behind the scenes at his photo studio at the Sundance Film Festival as he shoots high profile celebrities, and the insight he gives, if you pay attention, is significant. Not only do you get a peek at how his studio is put together, how his lights are placed and so forth, but he drops little pieces of gold about how to deal with clients.

He speaks about each event having its own pressures, even if it seems alike to others, and ways to get around it. The little tips in there too, such as using a shooting table to effectively use as a barrier between you and the client if they seem a little nervous or closed off so they feel a little more protected, then peeling back those layers from there. In that very vein, I absolutely love and agree with how he deals with clients who want to try something or do something; he suggests not stopping them even if it’s not what you want, because it’s something they want to give to you, and then it can lead to other things. Essentially, you let them do what they want to do, and then you lead them back to where you want them to be.

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From there, he touches on the importance of keeping your cool and being able to handle something going wrong, which, inevitably, something will. In this scenario, he is dealing with very famous people who are photographed day in day out, and explains that if you get flustered and start sweating, they’ll eat you alive. So you need to be competent and have ideas on how to keep going forward even if something goes awry. It’s a good watch – a few minutes well spent.

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A photographer and writer based in Miami, he can often be found at dog parks, and airports in London and Toronto. He is also a tremendous fan of flossing and the happiest guy around when the company’s good.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Manav Parhawk

    That’s a very interesting post Kishore. It’s so important to stay tuned into your subjects and your gear.

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    • Kishore Sawh

      Manav, long time no speak. So good to hear from you, and I’m sure this is something you’re quite attuned to. Cheers, and don’t be a stranger.

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  2. J Cortes

    Great find Kishore . You’re always posting legit content. Thanks for sharing .

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    • Kishore Sawh

      No thanks needed J. Thanks for keeping up with us, and me. Be well and stay cool.

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