Whenever I begin a new project with a client, I consider the following questions, and I urge you to do the same. Knowing the answers before you begin makes your job easier so that key elements of the shootsuch as styles, props, lighting, and contrast rangecan all be planned in advance.
What Is the Purpose of the Photograph?
Without a doubt, this is the most important question you can ask your client. The answer will determine your entire approach to the shoot and post-production process. Knowing the purpose of the picture will naturally lead you to considerations in planning and executing the shoot, such as the following:
How Will the Type of Media Usage Affect Technical Aspects of the Shoot?
If the picture will appear in a glossy magazine, poster, or billboard, it is a virtual given that the final image will be high-resolution full color. On the other hand, if the picture is intended for use on a Web site, the final image will need to be at a much lower resolution so it downloads quickly, but should still look bright, clear, and sharp on a wide range of monitors. If the image is going to be used in a newspaper, lower contrast will be called for, and the picture may have to be provided in both color and black and white to meet the needs of various publications.
How Large Will the Image Be When It Is Reproduced?
The physical size of the final image will also dictate the amount of subject matter and detail you will include. If the reproduction will be very small or on low-quality paper, you might include only the main subject with few props and little or no background detail. On the other hand, if the picture will be used as a two-page color spread in a glossy food or travel magazine, you would very likely compose the subject with a more complex background, carefully styled, and with a full array of props.
What Is the Budget for the Shoot?
Budgets are the highest in advertising photography, because they require the most preparation, staff, and resources. (Typically, the photographer, food stylist, and prop stylist all have assistants.) The best of everythingfood, props, backgrounds, and state-of-the-art photo equipmentis purchased or rented to ensure that the highest-quality photograph is obtained. Because they are often placed in major media, advertising photos typically have the highest value and cost. Packaging budgets are also high, and require similar resources as advertising photographs because the same high-quality final product is required.
Photographs for public relations and media usage have lower budgets, although some of this photography does allow enough for limited prop and styling resources or staff support. The pictures tend to be simpler, more casual in appearance, and have a shorter "shelf life" in that they are often taken for one-time or limited usage. Clients are not willing to spend as much for these photos because they have less value than advertising or packaging photographs.