What's A "Typical" Photo Shoot?

June 03, 2015  •  Leave a Comment

What's A "Typical" Photo Shoot

AUTHOR'S NOTE: This post was originally published over two years ago, but as my techniques and skill sets have evolved, so has my workflow, both on the course and in the studio.  So it seemed reasonable to me to edit the original to reflect those changes, though it didn't make sense to begin from scratch.  But back to the question, "What's a Typical Photo Shoot?"

The short answer:  There’s no such armadillo.  With so many different kinds of golf courses, so many distinctly different sets of weather conditions, and differing light conditions in different latitudes at different times of year, “typical” changes from day to day.  Plus, over time my techniques evolve.  Things change.  But there are some constants.  Sort of.

I have two rules for photography.  1)  Always show up, and 2) Turn around.  They're pretty simple to understand.  

1.  Sometimes the best image... often one that comes as a surprise simply as a matter of being in the right place at the right time... lasts only a few seconds or minutes before shooting conditions deteriorate into gray boredom.  So when a shoot is scheduled, I'll be there. 
2.  It's easy to get drawn into a scene and in the throes of focused tunnel vision, to ignore what's going on outside the focal area.  For instance, sometimes a sunrise is a disappointment as I focus on the rising sun, waiting for the angles of light to produce some morning magic.  At that same moment, though, I've often found the colors in the sky to be spectacular away from the sun.  Magic happens.  I never know.  Until I turn around.

Beyond those two rules, I have a typical schedule that I stick to on most occasions.  I show up on site the first scheduled day, early- to mid-afternoon, meet the folks I've been dealing with over the phone or via email and get out on the course to shoot my reference images.  (I snap the shutter so many times - usually about 250 to 300 times per hour - that I need help in the studio sometimes to identify a given hole.)  Then, about 2 hours before sunset that first day, I begin shooting in earnest and continue until the light is gone.  The next morning, if access is available to me, I'm typically on the course about 45 minutes before sunrise to capture the sunrise.  That session usually lasts until the light goes flat.  Depending on the time of year and the location, that could be 9am or 11am.  The light is the determining factor.  Depending on how many images my client is looking for, and the quality of the shooting conditions, those two sessions may be all that's required.  If more time is needed, that schedule holds for the remainder of my stay.  Also, since I often am asked to do some architectural or resort shooting, I will schedule those subjects right after or just before the on-course seasons.  Obviously, though, I don't duplicate my reference image session.  The good news for my clients is that since my rates are based on a per-project rate and not a day rate, if additional shooting time is required, all I need is lodging and meals.  No additional fees are assessed.

For local shoots, here in the Metro Atlanta area, I schedule one day at a time because there are no travel issues and I can select the best day to be on the course.  For out of town work, I prefer... but don't require... to schedule at least 3 days on a property, so both the client and I can be confident that I'll have ample time with ideal shooting conditions to capture the number and quality of images we both expect.  I have a terrible fear of flying to the wilds of Canada for a one day shoot and being washed out by gray, nasty weather, when what my client needs are great shots of a beautiful golf course!  What a waste of my time and my client's resources!

A one day shoot (two shooting sessions) will usually result in 40 to 50 images for my client to review.

How Many Photos, and For What Uses?

When I plan a photo shoot, the first question I ask is how are the new images to be used?  A pro photographer (please insert my name here!) can shoot to meet a client's specific needs and keep costs under control.  So whether only a few images of signature holes are needed, or a complete collection of images is required, I can schedule the proper amount of time to build a collection to meet those specific needs.

Next, I want to schedule my visit properly, so as not to interfere with scheduled events, such as an annual aerification, a Member/Guest tournament, or the presence of PGA Tour crews constructing viewing stands and hospitality areas.  And then there are seasonal issues.  Perhaps capturing early Spring color or Fall foliage is important to you and your members.  Or maybe that early summer green is the goal.  I'm easy.  I enjoy my relationships with my clients, and am happy to return multiple times during the year to build a year 'round catalog of images.  I see beauty in golf courses at every time of the year, so let me know what works best for you, and I'll schedule accordingly.

A Day On The Course…

My typical shooting schedule allows me to avoid having any impact on play.  My goal is for your golfers to not even know I've been on the course.  I'm on your property before the sun, and shoot for 2 to 3 hours in the morning.  Then I'm back very late in the afternoon and shoot until almost dark.  My goal is to avoid golfers altogether, but if you need images that include activity on the course, I can capture those images without interfering with play.  

Once my onsite work is completed, I schedule studio processing and will let you know when to expect to see your collection.  Since Spring and Fall are my busiest times of year, my schedule is heavily weighted toward travel and shooting from May to July, and again from late September thru November, so I am not always able to turn your photos around right away.  I always try to be flexible, though, so if you have a photo emergency, please let me know and I'll work hard to accommodate.

...Becomes a Week In The Studio

Why, you ask, does it take so long for me to process my photos?  After all, Walmart can turn your snapshots around in a day, right?  My photographs are what I refer to as "Hybrid HDR" photos.  Some are full HDR images.  Some make use of techniques I've developed that mimic the added depth and detail HDR offers, while using a single exposure.  

First, I shoot in Camera Raw, a format that contains all the data captured by my camera's sensor, but looks fairly awful, straight out of the camera.  (Most amateurs shoot Jpegs, a format that is processed in the camera and does not have all the original information your camera captured.)  Also, many of my images… especially those shot during the transition periods of sunrise and sunset… are produced by blending multiple exposures of the same image.  The result is an image with a wider dynamic range than is possible from a single exposure, plus greater depth and detail.  I don't want to get too technical, but by combining multiple exposures I can hold the detail in both highlights and shadows, and can produce photos that come much closer to the full range of light you see with your eyes.

Here's an example.  The first two rows, below, show a set of 5 exposures of the same image.  These are Camera Raw images, so they're pretty boring.  The larger photo, below the 5 exposures, is the final image.  This process of blending the tone maps of multiple images, tweaking white balance and color, as well as bringing out the detail and depth and can take anywhere from 15 minutes to over an hour to complete.  There is no automated process that will produce the images I'm looking for.  Each image is produced individually.


My Studio Workflow

The first thing I do in the studio is to go thru the entire shoot to identify the best images, and those I think will show your course at its best.  A normal day on the golf course results in somewhere between 1000 and 1500 snaps of the shutter.  But remember… I shoot multiple exposures of each setup, so a day's shooting really only yields between 350 and 500 images from which I select only the best to process.  I usually find that I'm pleased with 30% to 40% of my shots, so your collection could be as few as 30 images or as many as 100 images per day of shooting.

When your collection is complete, I will send you a link to a private, online gallery so you can select the images you wish to use.  Based on your photo package, you then may identify the 20, 30 or 65 images you want.  Since I always shoot more images than you have purchased, you may also add images at very reasonable rates if you find the package you purchased doesn't cover all the bases.  

Once your final selections are made, I post two sets of images for you to download from my Dropbox account.  One set consists of 300PPI, full resolution images for print use.  The other set is delivered in internet-standard, 72PPI resolution.  Both sets are delivered in the sRGB color space unless you have other requirements. 

If this article has raised more questions than it's answered, please don't hesitate to contact me any time at 678.362.5592, or EMAIL ME.  I'd love to chat with you about your project.



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