The last minute…

Photo: Marcus Grossalber

Were it not for the last minute, I’d be a lot poorer. As the owner/operator of a busy photo and video business I receive a lot of last minute requests from clients who just realized that they need someone to cover their event—tomorrow.

Some decisions do take longer than others and sometimes an event doesn’t get confirmed with a lot of advance notice, but I am always a little bit surprised at how often I get asked to cover something with very short notice.

If you are in the business of planning, or helping to coordinate, an event, here’s how to get the most value out of your last minute requests and make sure you still get the best service you can get.

1) Have a budget or know the market value you are asking for very well – with the clock running down you don’t have time for any protracted negotiations. Either state your budget up front with your request, or have it ready to vet against the price quoted to make sure you are within an acceptable range so you can book immediately.

2) Don’t waste time with a shot list – it is almost always unnecessary if you are dealing with a professional as the shots you’ll spend time spelling out are the ones your shooter is going to go after anyway. All events, regardless of the specifics, have a certain similarity and flow to them and the key moments, important people, and physical characteristics of the room and set up are going to be captured.

3) Respond quickly! While you may end up reaching out to a number of potential suppliers, please take a moment to notify the ones you don’t choose that the gig is off. A lot of professionals who live on gigs will hold a date for you if you’ve asked them to. Just because there is short notice time, doesn’t mean someone else might not come up with an even shorter notice – if you’re not going to use the supplier you’ve contacted on this occasion, let them know so they can jump on the next opportunity.

What’s the difference between a photographer and a plumber?

In life, timing is everything.

50% off if you're a plumber
50% off if you’re a plumber

Now I am not drawing a facetious comparison between plumbers and photographers, as both provide valuable services and at precise moments in time, invaluable services; think: basement flooding from backed up sewer or capturing “The Kiss” on the wedding day. Both work with their hands and have a variety of tools (though a photographer’s kit is a little pricier than the average plumber’s bucket full of pipes and parts).

And both typically charge by the hour. And there’s a big difference here. If it’s 11pm, minus 30 outside and your water heater konks out or you’ve burst a pipe, you rapidly learn that you will pay anything to have your problem fixed. In economics this is known as price elasticity, or the price elasticity of demand. Some prices have high elasticity (the price of say, a pvc pipe; you’ll buy the cheapest one that does the job), while others are very inelastic, like the price of gas for your car (which you will pretty much pay no matter what it is as you have no choice). Usually, the fewer choices you have, the higher the price you will pay.

Many business exploit this to their huge advantage and even create scarcity, or the illusion thereof, like diamond companies do by buying up huge stocks of the world’s diamonds in order to keep the price elevated and the illusion of its scarcity strong.

Time also creates scarcity, as anyone dealing with a last-minute cancellation from a service provider before a big event will know. And here’s the main difference between a plumber and a photographer. Or at least between most plumbers and this photographer.

If you call a plumber with a last-minute emergency, the clock starts ticking the moment that plumber puts on his occasionally poorly fitting pants and drives to your home or business. You’ll pay the travel time, you’ll pay the service time, you’ll pay the parts and you’ll pay a premium for the rush job. God help you if it is also a holiday, evening or weekend – which is, of course, when everything that’s going to break does break.

3P5A9094---Version-2If you call me, and I’m not already booked, I’ll come work for you. I’ll do it for the same rate I would have charged you if you’d booked in advance. I’ll do it gladly and I’ll work to deliver quality images to you that not only meet your current need, but win your attention so that the next time you don’t end up booking another photographer who bails on you last-minute and leaves you scrambling.

I’m not one to brag, but it is very gratifying to know you’ve helped out a client and been there when they needed you to be there. Here’s what a recent client had to say after booking me last-minute:

Thanks so much for your help on Wednesday night. Everyone was very pleased with the event, and the photographs look great. If we’re ever in need of a photographer in Montreal again you’re the first person we’ll call.

You may be planning an event now, or will have to in the future. There are many details to organize and several moving parts to coordinate and things sometimes just go wrong. If you do find yourself at a loss and looking around in the last-minute for a photographer, rest assured that if you call me, you’ll be in good hands.