Page C3.2 . 21 May 2003                     
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    QUIZ

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    Working with a Photographer

    continued

    Ask the photographer about their contact with local or national magazines. It is to their credit if they have already published in Architectural Record, ArchitectureWeek, Architectural Digest, Interior Design, Hospitality Design, and similar publications. If they have a good reputation with these magazines, it may make it easier for you to get your project published there. Of course, a photographer can be highly skilled and professional and only be published in local or trade publications.

    Requesting Estimates

    After reviewing portfolios and selecting a few whose work you most like, the next step is to request estimates. Tell the photographers how many shots you want or how many locations you want to be photographed.

    Photographers generally break down estimates into several sections: their day-rate (fee per day, not per hour); expenses (assistants, food, film, and Polaroids); and format selection.

    The "format" refers to the size of the film, which includes large format (4 by 5 inches or 10.2 by 12.7 centimeters), medium format (2-1/4 inches or 5.7 centimeters square), and small format (35 millimeters). The larger the format, the higher the quality but the greater the expense and the more time needed to shoot. In architectural photography, the large format has the additional advantage of giving the photographer greater control over perspective.

    Digital images are gradually gaining acceptance in the architectural world. These can be either shot with a digital-back camera or photographed traditionally and then scanned. With current technologies, the latter procedure gives the greatest latitude in color and tonal range.

    If you plan to request digital files from the photographer, keep in mind that it will require a large, 80-megabyte (4800- by 6000-pixel) TIFF file to produce a high-quality 16- by 20-inch (40- by 50-centimeter) print. A file this size can also be used to produce a large-format transparency if needed. (Some publications and competitions require transparencies for submissions.)

    Making the Decision

    Once you have several estimates in hand, you may discern a range in quality of portfolio that correlates with cost. Now you must decide on a balance between budget concerns and quality of images. An aid in deciding is the "marketing ladder." (You may want to adjust this ladder to meet your own business needs.)


    Marketing Ladder: Image Uses
    national ads
    national publications
    industry competitions
    local publications
    local ads
    industry publications
    internal portfolio
    internal use only

    Determine the highest point on the ladder to which the image is likely to extend. An image that will only be used internally can justify lower spending, so a photographer with little experience might be acceptable. As the image ascends the marketing ladder, the more you need an experienced photographer.

    The Creative Process

    Once a photographer has been chosen, schedule a walkthrough on the property. During the site visit, lay out a rough shoot schedule and determine any unique challenges to be tackled in advance. Make note of exact shot times in relation to sun position and pedestrian or vehicular traffic. Decide whether props, such as flowers or furniture, should be added to enhance the space.

    If this is your first job with the photographer, take one last opportunity to assess his or her proficiency. Question their selection of views, angles, timing, and props. This is your chance to participate in the creative photographic process. Ask if they have any unique ideas for the space. In their answers, listen for clues as to how knowledgeable they are about architecture. The photographer should be able to articulate an understanding yet express a flexibility toward your ideas.

    The next step is to sign the contract, a step often overlooked by both clients and photographers. Ideally, the photographer should send a contract detailing the estimated final price, outlining any stipulations, usage rights, and a final shot list. An explicit contract allows most potential problems to be ironed out before the shoot.

    Part of a photographer's fee pays for your right to use the image for a set period of time and in a predetermined set of media, such as editorial, brochures, or portfolios. The rates are set by the photographer and are based on many variables including length of time, type of use, and number of images. An outright purchase of copyright can run from a few thousand to many tens of thousands of dollars.

    The last step is photographing the project. It is ideal for the architect to be present to oversee the shoot, especially if you have a unique vision you want conveyed. Second best is to send a trusted representative. Keep in mind that each shot can take up to 3 hours. Afterwards, the photographer should be able to deliver the finished film within two weeks unless there are extenuating circumstances.

    As with any business interaction, the more you know about the professional expertise of the photographer you work with, the easier it will be to articulate your ideas and understand theirs. Similarly, the more they know about architecture, the more fruitful the interaction will be. Every photo shoot can be an opportunity for mutual education in both fields.

    Mike Butler is an architectural photographer based in Hollywood, Florida.

     

    AW

    ArchWeek Image

    An unconventional composition, shot for builder GCS. The image was photographed at dawn and lit completely with supplemental lighting.
    Photo: Mike Butler

    ArchWeek Image

    A modern chair by Dupoux Design was shot in a delapidated warehouse to juxtapose new with old.
    Photo: Mike Butler

    ArchWeek Image

    An interior shot of the Opium Restaurant, Miami Beach, designed by Stephan Dupoux, shows a blending of installed and supplemental lighting to simulate the sensation of being in the space.
    Photo: Mike Butler

    ArchWeek Image

    Minimal props and compositional elements combine to create the serene feeling experienced in the home of Cuban artist Thomas Sanchez and expressed in his work, seen in foreground. Photographed for Casa & Estilo Magazine, Miami.
    Photo: Mike Butler

    ArchWeek Image

    Office space in Miami designed by Spillis Candela DMJM.
    Photo: Mike Butler

    ArchWeek Image

    Touch Restaurant, South Beach, Florida, designed by Stephane Dupoux. A shot of a booth, completely lit by supplemental lighting, accents the surface materials and geometric design.
    Photo: Mike Butler

    ArchWeek Image

    Staircase designed by architect Catherine Azendano for Royce Industries.
    Photo: Mike Butler

     

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