Tips for Effectively Leading a Media Team
Being a photographer or videographer is not always a solo effort. As your skills grow, often the scale of your projects will grow with them. As a result, if you haven’t already, there is likely to come a time where you need to build a media team to apply the premium quality of your individual projects to a much larger scale.
This means more than spreading the workload. It represents a fundamental shift in your role on projects. While your creative vision is likely to remain the driving force, you are no longer just a photographer or a videographer. You’re also a media team leader. Not everyone is well prepared for this change, and the biggest mistakes can be made when you assume that you can simply carry on as you normally would. It’s a challenging prospect, but when approached correctly, you can see your business thrive, and even gain some new creative perspectives.
Whatever the scope of your commission, there are key strategies that you should be employing. We’re going to take a closer look at a few of them, why they make a difference, and some tools that can help. From weddings to branding materials, knowing how to utilize these tactics to lead your team can help make certain you get the best out of each member.
[Related Reading: Business Tips for Photographers | Task Management & Organization]
The execution of any significant project can’t be entirely improvised, particularly where a team is involved. All those moving parts without guidance can very quickly spiral out of control. When leading your media team, it is essential to produce robust, clear planning beforehand. Frankly, you cannot over prepare a shoot. That doesn’t mean to say that you lose the ability to make on-the-spot creative decisions. Think of it this way — the more you can formalize the operational aspects of the project beforehand, the less time and energy you have to devote to them on the day. This gives you more space to maneuver creatively, without having to worry that the project is on track.
Your plan should include:
You should certainly set out overall goals for the project — what the team should achieve by the end, what the client wants the outcome to be. However, just looking at the big picture can get overwhelming for a team. Break everything down into the primary tasks that need to be achieved. This not only makes the structure of the project clear to everyone, but it also shows where there can be additional room for creativity on top of the essentials.
As much as possible, nail down the exact time scales for tasks to be completed across the entire project. Sure, there will need to be wriggle room here and there for the unexpected. However, this is more about helping everyone to understand how long each task should be expected to take in order to keep the entire project running smoothly. Don’t forget to include team walkthrough meetings, preparation time, and debriefing as part of your overall timeline.
You don’t want your media team to find that they don’t have the right gear to get the range of shots the project requires. Similarly, you certainly don’t want to waste time and energy lugging around superfluous lighting rigs or lenses. Your understanding of the tasks and the timescale will clue you in to the primary equipment you need, along with some backups. Your resource planning should also include finances, travel considerations, and even catering.
Remember that leading a team doesn’t mean that you should create the plan on your own and dictate it to others. Bring the entire team into the process; they’ll often have insights and ideas that perhaps you wouldn’t. If your team can’t all meet in the same physical location, using remote tools like virtual ideas boards can get everyone on the same page. This can help you all brainstorm together, and the advantage of these remote planning tools is that everyone has access to them before, during, and after the project — rather than them all being left on a single physical whiteboard at the office.
Be Their Guide
One of the mistakes that many new (and, frankly, not so new) leaders tend to make is trying to take control of every small detail. The whole point of taking on a team is to spread the load. Yes, with every commission you stake your reputation on how it is executed. But you are unlikely to get the best out of your team if you try to micromanage them. Instead, your approach to leadership should be one of guidance and trust.
Make Sure You Focus On:
On the day of the project, you need to ensure that you are able to take care of the most visible and complex tasks — attending directly to the client’s needs, guiding the creative direction of the project. This means that you need to be able to delegate responsibility for tasks that you might have previously taken on yourself. This is a leadership skill in itself. Review the members of your team for their abilities to handle tasks without supervision, and help them to understand what you consider to be most important about the activities they perform.
Your ability to feel confident in relinquishing a certain amount of control over the project is dependent upon who you hire as part of your team. During the recruitment stage, it is therefore important to look beyond pure technical ability and talent. Consider whether you trust them to work individually, whether they’ll fit into the team dynamic, and even whether they have leadership potential themselves as your business grows.
While your team doesn’t need to be micromanaged, they still need your support. This means that you need to focus on communication. Regularly check in with them, but don’t check up on them. Be clear from the outset about what your expectations are, but seek to inspire them to go above and beyond. Set up reliable methods of contact, and make sure everybody has the telephone numbers, messaging platforms, and equipment they need.
We all want to be inspirational team leaders, to use our experience to help out colleagues achieve something great. However, the truth is that being an effective leader for your media team means taking care of the boring details, too. On top of your creative drive, forward-thinking, and gentle guidance, you must also be an organizational ninja. This helps staff to see that you have everything under control and gives clients confidence in your abilities.
This Should Include:
- Make Lists
It might seem like a simple thing, but it will ensure that no small but significant detail is overlooked. From pre-production to delivery to the client, keep making lists, organize them in priority order, and check them off as they are completed. Make sure you share these with all relevant staff, so your whole team is on the same page.
- Use Tools
Staying organized relies on the idea of working smarter, not harder. It’s therefore worth exploring what digital tools are available to keep everything in check. Financial aspects in particular can benefit from utilizing payroll, client invoicing, and accounting software. They help to ensure that you don’t have a lot of loose receipts and expense details that can get lost, and perhaps most importantly ensure that your team gets paid correctly and on time.
The bigger your photography and videography projects get, the more help you’ll need to execute them well. As you transition from being a sole creative into a media team leader, make certain that you focus on doing enough work before execution, understand the value of your employees, and keep your organization tight.