A successful photographer is flexible. Whether flexibility means timing, travel, the crew’s size, or creating visual imagery for multiple mediums, photographers constantly evolve their skillset. During COVID on-set with safety protocols, Cade Martin finds every project warrants some adjustments, especially when it comes to communicating and sharing information with the clients. Here are three examples of adaptability in action.
How did casting for this project work?
We proposed casting people that were sheltered in place together. By using talent in a close relationship, we could be safe and capture human touch. And importantly, a group of people who are already close physically and emotionally would lend to natural interaction and connection.
We’ve been sheltering in place for some time; it isn’t surprising to hear that a campaign about preventing suicide was an urgent one. Did you feel you were ready to do a studio shoot, given the required safety protocols?
We were definitely ready, we have set strict safety protocols that we have tested and closely follow, so yes, we were ready to go. In terms of the project, suicide prevention cannot wait, so we needed to be ready. Suicide doesn’t halt in a pandemic. So when Shari Hindman and the team at Siddall Communications, on behalf of BeWellVA, reached out to ask if we could make a campaign, safely, now, it was something that we had to do.
Given you were shooting for six different scenarios, how did you handle safety protocols?
We had a small crew with only the two on-set talent allowed in the studio at a time. Neither hair nor makeup was part of the equation. As instructed, the people up-next texted from their cars when they arrived. After the previous talent left, everything was wiped down before we let the next set of talent know it was clear for them to come in. Everyone, crew and talent, wore masks at all times.
The process was appropriately distanced, but the images aim to show we aren’t alone. The distance is physical, but it doesn’t need to be social or emotional.
How did you communicate with the client as the shoot progressed? Did it change how you were shooting?
Times are strange, every situation is different and nothing is unexpected or surprising. Case in point, the client was unable to attend the shoot so we had to share images as we worked in studio. The client did not have the proper software for viewing the images via live streaming so we shared the images for feedback as we went via traditional email. While this process was a little slower, and not as immediate as live streaming images, it worked and the client loved the process and the images.
While we certainly did not reinvent the wheel – client communication capabilities required flexibility, creative thinking and a little patience.
This was your first indoor, on-location shoot since COVID. What did the set-up look like for communicating with the client?
Adjust, pivot, recalibrate – whatever we call it, nearly every business is looking ahead with fresh eyes. Tuff Shed found that the imagery in their photo asset library could use a refresh to reflect the current circumstances. To get them what they needed, I worked closely – but distanced by 1,700 miles – with Michael Werth, Creative Director at Tuff Shed, and the GM of the Richmond Factory, Sierra Lane, to lock down shoot logistics.
We were able to nail down the logistics for the shoot in under a week, and complete the shoot itself in one day. Images were live-streamed to Michael who was creative directing from states away.
While the way we do things is necessarily different, a little “tuff” even, the focus on an end product that makes everyone happy hasn’t changed. The whole team is happy with the results and with the creative teamwork that made it work. These images showcase great pride in the work from everyone on the team.
This project was on location in one of Tuff Shed’s manufacturing facilities. Can you share what you were thinking about staying safe during a shoot that was manufacturing as you were there?
The real MVPs, the ones who made everyone involved feel safe and comfortable were the local Tuff Shed management and production teams, who were nimble and tireless, juggling a day of fabricating building components and pausing for an occasional photo, all while closely following company safety measures and best practices around COVID-19.
Including myself, we had a small three-person crew and a minimal footprint as far as equipment – a mobile digital station and one light. Ninja esque – we were respectful of the factories everyday tasks and we could easily dodge forklifts and any other workday going-on’s, all the while making images and live streaming while moving around the facility to the creative who was states away.
If anything, shooting during this time has brought into clearer focus the vital nature of communication. The process is laid out step by step so everyone is on the same page and we are being efficient with our shifted resources.
Stay Safe, Stay Creative, Have Fun Behind the Scenes
This third project was different in that you only needed hands and stock photos to create the message for the campaign. Did this make it easier to follow COVID protocols?
Definitely, we stuck faithfully to our internal COVID safety protocols, but not having the additional variable of talent made for a quick and simple shoot. Although both of our shoots with outside talent have felt really safe and organized too!
Our need to communicate important things doesn’t disappear in a pandemic. With sustained attention to safety protocols we created this behind the scenes video production with a handful of people on set and a remote feed.
This shoot looks to have benefitted from the previous shoots in working through the logistics of client communication capabilities and running an efficient shoot. Can you tell us about how you communicated with the client during the shoot?
Problem-solving, evolving, learning – what works best.
Here we were in a studio with a set that did not move so the live-streaming / monitor set-up could live throughout the day.
Thousands of miles away in Arizona, the art director joined in and collaborated with us and the on-set team via a live streaming feed.
For the setup, we had two monitors facing each other – one monitor showed the live feed from the camera and the other monitor was the client on Zoom so they could watch the live feed coming in from camera. A third monitor was facing us, the team, so the client could have a second zoom window and he could see and converse with us as well as having the ability to toggle Zoom windows from us to reviewing the images as they appeared via live feed. Max Headroom, anybody?
The learning curve has been steep and quick, but there is no room to mope or resist it. It’s about responding and pivoting- we want to do great work and keep everyone safe, So best practices have been identified pretty quickly.
We are working safely. We are working small. But the impact can still be big.
Follow Cade on Instagram to see imagery, the result of finding beauty in the unfamiliar.