Archive for January 14th, 2019


Architecture Photography

What clients need to know about site recce to shoot

by Sanjitpaal Singh /

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Kuala Lumpur Twin Towers during Sunset

A site recce before the actual shoot could be a drag at times, taking up time, effort and money – but it is an exercise to ultimately save you more time, effort, money and a whole lot of heartache for both client and photographer during the actual shoot. Photographers often may not be willing to conduct site recce for various reasons:

Kuala Lumpur Skyline in Dawn

a) Distance:

For my last recce, I was headed off to the southern tip of the peninsula Malaysia via flight. Although it’s an hour flight, there are many things to be considered and learnt prior to the actual shoot that is distance to the airport, airport to shooting site. With ‘distance’ considered, more time, effort and budgets might increase.

b) Time:
As a photographer, time is of the essence to get the right shot. It’s not as easy as a push of a button and there is a tremendous number of variables to be considered before the shoot. For a recce session, the time to location may be a factor in this equation. I live in the heart of the city and travelling to another city way down south for an architectural assignment will take a day at the very least, and a day more to return. to top it off, it takes time to scout various possible shooting locations.

Pre-production while getting to location.

c) Effort
A photographer may have just returned from a long haul assignment (just as I have and often still feel knackered from it) and in the midst of finalising all the files for submission. From unpacking one suitcase to checking gear and packing another suitcase all the way to getting to the hotel and repacking for the shoot takes effort and mental power. Travelling can take a toll on a photographer i.e: taking a weekday vs weekend flight may vary in the timing you leave the house or your studio and we are expected to be bright and fit for the shoot upon arriving on location .

d) Money
This is the most valuable factor in this entire equation. every single step of the way involves a certain amount of payout. in this case, i’m travelling to the south for an overnight trip and below is a list of items i’m paying out for.
0. initial meeting + logistics
1. flight tickets (x2)
2. airport transfers (x4)
3. access luggage (x2), i will explain more on this in a bit
4. meals (x8)
5. client entertainment meals (4people x2)
6. lodging

Bring out the charms while photographing bedrooms with combining soft and hard elements in the space

But a seasoned photographer like me knows that this recce trip is essential and it should be included in the financial budgets of the clients. In fact, the recce could even save costs, effort and time during the actual shoot.

During the recce:

Take every recce shoot as serious as the actual. As for the client, they need to be present and involved. Photographers, pack all the essential gear as though as on actual shoot. Although at times excess airport luggage has to be paid. By conducting an actual shoot, not only a couple of shots might have been locked in the bank and you have made your time worthy, you might impress the client while on site. Through the camera, you will have determined the additional challenges that might occur during the principle shoot. Sometimes, even the client gets to see what they will be getting in the actual shoot. For example, during an interior shoot for a loft, the client was not too happy with the carpets and curtains – this gave us time to get them changed for the principle shoot. Sometimes, simple things such as unwanted creases in fabrics can be identified and attended to before the actual shoot.

Hero Shots are the main shots that clients look for in any set of photoshoots. This will act as their main image for all their marketing materials.

This is to establish a game plan.
Upon arrival to the shooting site, the meeting between the photographer and client is vital. The client or a representative would have been appointed to assist the photographer in security issues, familiarising with the location and the list of locations to shoot. To complete this task, there will be a lot of walking and climbing about with the photographer and his/her camera. I usually request from the client to appoint a security staff to assist me with the gear all the way through as i have found myself squeezing through the fences of a 30 storey rooftop. The extra hands help, and it doesn’t hurt to have some extra security!

Meet the Crew
Meeting with the project staff on site, from managers to security personnels. Making the photographer visible and known to all personnel on ground helps to ease the shooting process. Most other buildings the photographer may utilise might have restricted areas and these are the areas that they might want to shoot from. It helps to introduce the photographer and inform all involved before the shoot. In commercial property projects, this is a vital step and helps keep your photographer out of prison.

Dresser rooms with mirrors may be challenging to photograph.

Get your bearings
For the photographer, scout possible shooting angles and positions of light in various time of days. This is also important to the client because they need to seek permission from other building managements and seek their consent and approval for utilising their space, so the photographer can put up his/her tripod to photograph an apposing structure.

Shoot as much as possible
For the photographer, shoot in both axis for each shot and surrounding areas. As a visual person, this will help me with my bearings for the principle shoot and notting down the time of day for the sun direction. I could use a compass but i prefer a visual reference.

The placement of lighting will determine the diference between reviewed images from the client to select from.

It’s important for photographer and client to meet and recap on the days work. View pictures together. As a photographer, it is important to have an open communication, listen and be sensitive to the clients demands. It creates a healthy relationship with the client. Photographers, don’t be too pushy with your ideas as the client will still accept your ideas after their needs and expectations have been met. That way, the

client will be getting the best of both worlds. During this meeting (occasionally after dinner and over a glass of wine), be clear of the objectives in meeting the deadlines, the working timeline and other concerns that may occur.

Book keeping
upon completion of the recce trip, a photographer should keep a timeframe and costing log. the timeframe log will be the guide for all logistics and to strike items off the shooting list. you will know where to go and what to shoot at what time. the costing log will be your expenditure and you will not be short of cash while scooting from one site to another. but of course, always have a contingency costing. i.e. metered taxis might rack up a bill while stuck in traffic to and fro site and having to pay for hotel wifi to send the files to the client.

It would be great to prepare this beforehand to determine your costing for the official quote.

Kuala Lumpur Skyline during Dusk

what could go wrong?

needless to say, living in a tropical country has many challenges for the photographer – this is mainly due to the weather. the rainy seasons differ in different parts of the country. this has to be taken into serious consideration as it’s time consuming. There is often only good soft light early in the mornings and towards sunset & the rest of the day would be hard light that will blow out the details from the facade you’re shooting. For this, I usually allow 2 additional working days for weather contingency on my quote. If any uncertainties occur during the shoot, note them in your daily email to the client in the case of extensions are needed.

site not at 100% ready:
I have been on sites where the project has been completed but some minor works needed to be done. upon arrival, the minor works mentioned had to take place on the 10th floor of a 20-storey building and there were scaffolding and holding from the ground up. It was a nightmare and these ‘minor’ works took a week to complete. Clients need to be aware of these issues and help the photographer resolve them, hopefully right after the recce trip.

use leading lines to create depth while accentuating the main subjects in the designed space while working in tight areas.

escalating cost:
rates changes especially when taking budget airlines, taxi fares and lodging costs during peak periods – these are unavoidable costs

You’re now prepped
it might have taken a lot from you and your clients but now both are prepared to take on the task ahead. the importance of a site recce is to familiarise yourself to the location, completed all ground meetings, expenditure estimates secured, nailed the timings to create postcard worthy works for the client to be delivered within deadline.

Chill space

During the shoot.
Communication is most important. Clients might be busy with other engagements while a photographer is on site. At the end of the day after every shoot, its best for

the photographer to email the client and his/her secretary low res edited previews for their approval. Apart from this working as a daily report of the works accomplish, this also allows them to comment on minute details for improvements. I don’t mind these as delivering to the clients expectations is what i was hired for.

Study ares within an apartment