When I approached a potential commercial client to do a “test shoot” she was more than skeptical.
This client is redesigning her website and frankly, I think the only reason she even agreed to meet with me is because her web designer and marketing manager talked her into it. I have done plenty of commercial work for builders, fitness companies, restaurants, and retail stores but I have never tackled a commercial project that requires the type of precision that this client wants.
I could tell right away that the client was skeptical of me and I would by lying if I didn’t admit that I even had doubts about my own abilities to pull this off. Still, we agreed to meet at my studio a few days ago to do a test shoot so that she could get comfortable with my capabilities and so that we could both get a better idea of what style of photographs we like and don’t like for the website.
When she first arrived at the studio I had everything ready to go with the lighting and backdrop that I thought would work best. I was tethered to a large monitor so we could see our images in real-time and all I needed was for the client to show up so we could get started. When she did show up she again asked “why are we doing this?” by the end of the session she had her answer…
We started off simple enough, just a few basic images in a similar style to those that she shown me on other websites. As she saw the images coming out of the camera she began to loosen up gain a bit of confidence. We were able to review our images immediately and discuss what we liked and what we wanted to change. By the end of our quick, hour-long test session we tried several variations on the same themes and we both learned more than we would have ever known from simply talking to each other.
Having a “quick and dirty” test session did two big things for us. 1) It helped us build trust and rapport by working with each other and getting immediate feedback and 2) It allowed us to try several different ideas and styles without the need to have a team of stylists and assistants around to make sure that everything was was perfect. “Directionally correct” is really the ultimate goal of what we were trying to achieve.
The next step is for me to process all the photos so we can review them with the whole team and decide on a style for the final website and images. When it comes time to do the actual I’ll already know what the client wants, what the challenges are that we’ll be facing, and will have my team ready to get in and get the job done as efficiently as possible.
Back in my project management days we used to say that every minute in planning saves an hour in execution. I haven’t done the final shoot yet, but I can already estimate that this one hour of test shooting (and another hour of review) will save the client at least 4-6x that in actual execution time. That means that she gets a better quality product for less time and cost.
So yeah… that’s why we do test shoots!