Ask The Experts with Photographer Jeff Haden: Family Dynamics / Unusual Location

Posted by Azure on August 25th, 2009
About Jeff Haden of Blackbird Images

Before we get to this week’s question, here’s a quick follow-up to the article on location permit fees from last week. Jamie K. asked, “How do you get access to unusual places to take engagement or wedding photos? I want to do something unique but don't know where to start.” Easy: Ask! Just make your request hard to refuse… without any Godfather moments.

Say you want photos taken beside the columns on the third-story terrace of the local courthouse. (Oddly specific example? For good reason; we pulled it off.) Don’t email or call. Show up in person. And don’t go straight to the top. Speak to a clerk or other administrative employee first. Then turn on the charm: Be friendly, sweet, and a little shy while you explain. Whip out your best puppy eyes. In short, get someone –anyone– on your side. That person probably won’t have final say but they can help shepherd you through the process and be your advocate. And be sure to think about possible objections ahead of time and have answers ready. You may not pull it off… but preparing and asking in person gives you the greatest chance for success.

And don’t be afraid to ask your wedding photographer for help. Not only can we play the “We’re all in this together” card with an over-worked and under-paid employee, but we can often use a little quid-pro-quo to smooth the way: Providing photos the venue can use for promotional purposes, creating a little PR moment for the venue (we had local TV cover a rooftop photo session on a 7-story building under construction – the owners loved the publicity), or allowing the organization to use a photo in their newsletter or other internal communications. Asking is always easier when you’re happy to give something in return.

But don’t be afraid to take advantage of spur-of-the-moment opportunities. Last year we did a bridal portrait shoot in Staunton, VA to incorporate the downtown charm. We were photographing the bride-to-be standing in the middle of a cobbled street and saw a bus heading our way. Since some of the Staunton buses are designed to look like cable cars, she said wistfully, “I would love a photo using the bus….”

Why not? I waved the bus down, jumped on, glanced back at passengers all wearing name badges and thought, “Perfect.” I spoke louder than necessary so my voice would carry and said to the bus driver, “My client would love to have a quick picture taken on the bus. Can you stop for thirty seconds or so?”

As he hesitated I looked at the passengers and smiled and right on cue and older woman said, “Absolutely! I don’t mind waiting for this beautiful young lady!”

As I intended the bus driver was stuck. Well within his rights to refuse, he also risked looking like an insensitive jerk to the passengers… so he grudgingly agreed as he mumbled about the effect on his schedule. We placed her on the step, took a couple quick photos, thanked the group, and watched them drive away clapping and shouting best wishes out the windows. Again – you’ll never get what you don’t ask for. Since this follow-up from last week is so chock full of valuable advice, tips and tricks, check back tomorrow for this week's Q & A with Jeff Haden. Tomorrow, he'll answer Lindsey D's crucial question-“What can I do to minimize family drama during our post-ceremony portrait session? I have in-laws and out-laws and split families to deal with and I have no idea how to keep the peace.”
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