Don’t Be Afraid of ‘Systems’

SUMMER-SCHOOL

As a commercial photographer I know a lot about how to make things happen. In fact, being a commercial photographer is a lot of ‘solutions… NOW’ sort of life.

The locations are too small or too large. Too many lights or not enough. Always need another stand or something that will go just 6″ higher. It is a constant battle of “making” it happen when so many things are against the photograph coming out at all.

Solutions – solving problems – that is the nature of what we commercial shooters do.

I have to admit that I have never liked ‘systems’. I hated them, actually. They took the serendipity off, they seemed to be too button down corporate to me.

But I came around out of necessity. I was always able to keep things in my head; appointments, billing, conversations, expectations. All in my head.

I was also pretty good at multi-tasking.

Then I realized that ‘multi-tasking’ wasn’t really what was going on, I was busting my ass doing things simultaneously that could easily have been done one at a time. The idea of ‘multi-tasking’ really is a farce for so many reasons.

We are humans and most of us humans have to have a focus. A way of putting all of our attention on one thing, and getting that thing done.

Spending 6 hours multi-tasking to get 4 hours worth of work done is inefficient at best. Destructive in many ways.

So I found myself forming systems… little ones at first, then larger and more complex ones as the gigs began to get more complex.

THE SIMPLEST SYSTEM: CHECKLISTS.

I use checklists for many of my common functions now, and I use them religiously.

I have a checklist for my shoots. And I check each thing off as I load it. Does it make loading go a little slower, yeah. A little. But I never worry about getting to a gig without something I NEED.

As I have mentioned before, I have cases with gear that is packed in accordance to the type of gig I am doing. All my speedlights (save one in the bag) are in one large tool kit with triggers, cords, modifiers and all kinds of clamps and holders. When I do a gig with speedlights, that box is there and it is everything I need. There is a checklist in the box to help me repack the items. Did I remember to get all the clamps, and are there any grids missing? Checklist… got it.

I have a larger kit checklist that combines the different containers, which are also checklisted.

A big shoot may require Lighting Kit A and Lighting Kit B. It will also necessitate stand case A and B as well. Since those cases are prepacked to the same standards (checklists) each time, I need only grab them and load them according to my needs.

Every item I use is on a check list. They are marked as loaded, and then remarked when reloaded at tear down.

I don’t ever want to get home without a camera body or flash head. Again.

THE DAILY WORK CHECKLIST

I have been asked how I get so much done (even though I sometimes go to bed thinking of all the things that didn’t get done). I have my daily checklist to help with that.

Here is how I do mine. Starting early morning.

5AM to 6AM: Check Email / Social Media for trending articles.

6AM – 7AM: Write for my blog/book. I try to write 1000 words a day across various platforms. These days I do a bit more than that since I am working on a novel and doing discovery for a non-fiction book.

7AM – 8AM: Breakfast, walk the dogs, take my daughter to school and such.

8AM – 8:30AM: Review plans for the day.

9AM – Noon: Email is off, focus on the main job at hand. Can be broken into two distinct gigs if necessary. (This includes any marketing initiatives.)

Noon – 1AM: Lunch, email, social media check in.

1AM to 4PM: Email is off, focus on the main job at hand. Can be broken into two distinct gigs if neccessary. (This includes any marketing initiatives.)

4PM: Check Email / Social Media. Have a bit of fun.

5PM /5:30 PM. Dinner and get ready for webinars usually at 6PM.

After Webinars, relax, read, chat with friends.

Before retiring in for the night, I take a look at today’s list and make tomorrow’s list of prioritized gigs.

I rarely watch TV or movies (weekends are for that) and I rarely have the same schedule every day… this is an estimate checklist above.

Shooting days are far different and by nature looser.

CONTENT CHECKLIST: WEEKLY

I maintain a lot of online presence; from this site to the three Project 52 Pros as well as my namesake site, it can be overwhelming to keep up with it all. I have a checklist for content, updates, posts and what gets attention on what day.

For instance, I post on the Project 52 Pros sites with regularity. New assignments are added each Friday, and the critiques are uploaded the day after they are given. (Unless I forget to check my list… which recently happened when I travelled. Lesson learned. Big time.)

Here is what a content checklist could look like:

Posts:

Lighting Essentials on Monday.
Project 52Pros on Tuesday
DonGiannatti.com on Wednesday
DonGiannattiPhotography on Thursday
New Assignments on Friday (All P52)
Newsletter on Sunday.

I use the Editorial Calendar Plugin to keep ahead of things on my websites.

For content I also have a small checklist. 
Citations linked.
Author Info added.
Links checked.
Spelling checked.
Any additional info that was promised or needs to be on the post.

I probably add a couple of checklists to specific projects once or twice a week, but these are the ones that keep me going… and turning out a lot of content.

Don’t be afraid of checklists and systems… find the ones that work for you and make them your ally in the war that is over our time – and those who want as much of it as they can get.

If you have any systems you would like to share, use the comments field below.

NOTE: If you are a wedding shooter, check out this article at Tiffinbox.

Making a “Splashing” Apple with John McAllister

SUMMER SCHOOL, DAY ONE: JOHN MCALLISTER.

John shows how to create this stunning effect.

P52 Summer Assignment 26: “Wet” #3

You can download the raw files used to make this photograph here.

Image One
Image Two
Image Three
Image Four
Image Five
image Six




For more from John McAllister, visit his blog.

SUMMER-SCHOOLALL THE TUTORIALS DURING “SUMMER SCHOOL” ARE BY PROJECT 52 PRO MEMBERS EITHER CURRENTLY ENROLLED OR ALUMNI.