Green Screen, Lines, and Model Moments

Yesterday, a client called about an event I have coming up in December.  It’s the coolest event!  We go to two different retirement communities (these are VERY high end properties), and do holiday card photos.  Last year, we offered actual holiday cards printed from Vista Print, in addition, participants could upload the photos to social media (and receive an instant print.)  The theme?  Nah, nah, nah, nah.  I’m in WARM ASS PHOENIX AND YOU AREN’T.

If anything was rough on last year’s shoot, it was the ordering of the printed cards. I wanted to give an inexpensive option for ordering, and made it crystal clear those cards would arrive to the participant right around December 25.  $10 for 10 cards.  I also offered expedited service, which was more expensive.  Everyone went for the cheap option, then bitched that the cards arrived so late.
What does that remind me of?  You got it — Priceline reviews!  You know my theory on this — the most scathing hotel reviews are on the hotels that are about $50 a night.  Once again, I didn’t follow my own advice, and offered a cheap alternative, and then was upset when people complained they didn’t get the cards at the same speed as the more expensive option.  When will I learn?  Don’t offer the cheap rate, just the VIP rate.  Then let everyone say how good you are.  I kow this.  But I broke my own rule.
This year, however, the client has decided to eliminate the printed cards all together.  Now we’re talkin’!  As a result, they were concerned about how many people I could get through the line.  
I emailed the client my favorite story, and here it is.
The Zumba convention was held in Orlando two years ago, and it was these ladies that taught me how to do a magazine cover.  True, I’d done plenty before them — but this was my first experience being viewed as a Rock Star.  
The booth was for Z-Life Magazine, now Zumba Magazine, and was smack dab in the middle of the venue.  We’d budgeted 400 prints per day, and about an hour into it, I realized this was a huge mistake.  I’d done 200 prints the first hour.
The client didn’t want to increase the budget, so she made a wise decision — she simply changed the shoot times to be during special scheduled booth times, and promoted those slots as being a big deal.  The line started to form about a half hour before my start time, and when I walked onto the “photo set” (better known as a booth), they cheered.  WTF?!  Me?  I took a bow.  The client?  Keep in mind she had a captive audience while they waited, and couldn’t have been happier at all the attention.
Let’s back up.  The morning before it was kinda slow when I started, so I went into glamour mode.  This is where I do several shots of a participant, pick the best one, hand position it in the background, and print.  It takes me a few minutes with each person — versus the alternative, take a photo, have the computer position it, and print.  Click to print on the automated system?  About 14 seconds.  In Glamour Mode? A few minutes.  I even let the participant watch (and advise) as I pick and position their photo. 
The main difference is — when you take a few minutes, talk to the participant, and capture them from a few different angles — they feel like a model.  When they feel like a model, it’s a Cher moment and the photos rock.  Then, when they have buy in to the final product?  They love it.  And, they show EVERYONE.  
That first day, as the line started to grow, I tried to speed up, switching to one photo and auto-positioning.
“UH-HUH,” said the next participant, “You are NOT going to speed up on me!  I watched those other ladies (who don’t have anything on me!) and I WANT my moment to model!”
She wagged her finger directly at my face, “YOU DO NOT SPEED UP ON THE QUEEN!  YOU TAKE YOUR TIME ON THE QUEEN.”
I stopped dead still.  And I started to laugh hysterically.  I couldn’t help it.  And I thought:  You know what?  The Queen is right.  
And I took my time with her, and with each participant following.  I asked them:  would you rather go fast, and not wait in line, or have me take time and pose you (and as a result, wait in line).
“It’s fun watching the entire process,” said one participant, “I planned how I was going to pose.  What’s the hurry?  This is for FUN.”
And, as it turned out, I still packed about 200 people in per hour.  After two hours, we’d blown our print run, and that’s why we decided to do limited, hyped up shoot times.  I wasn’t sure how that would work, but when I walked in the next day, that’s when I got cheered.  It seems those participants from the day before?  They liked their photos so much they showed EVERYONE else.  I became an overnight rock star.
And I worked through the line again.  No one complained about the wait — actually, the opposite — and I learned exactly what was important on a shoot.
That the Queen remains happy.  Period.  Everything else is unimportant.  
So, fast forward to the upcoming holidays.  What’s better?  Having great photos that take a few moments to capture, or having average photos that take a second to capture?  I’m thinking the great photos.  As a result, I can’t wait to do the Phoenix shoots.
And, should they decide to print traditional Holiday cards.  What’s better?  Cheap cards mailed after Christmas, or premium cards mailed in time for Christmas?  When did I think cheap was better?  Me?  Mr. Upgrade.
Which brings me to today’s flight to Mexico City from Washington, Dulles.  When I checked in, my favorite question:  would you like to upgrade to business class?
Does United’s logo look strangely like Continentals?  Of course.  Of course.
And, the rock star is getting ready for his next appearance — in Cuernavaca, Mexico.  And, rock stars don’t fly steerage.  I like the warm towel, warm nuts, and china coffee cup.  After all, I have a bunch of queens to photograph.
That came out wrong, but you know what I mean.  And don’t make any cracks about the photographer being royalty.  It won’t be appreciated.
Here is the queen.  Now, tell me, does she look pissed she had to stand in line?
And here’s a photo from last year’s Phoenix holiday shoot.