Sunday, January 11, 2009

Providing Diplomatic Photography Services

This particular niche is an excellent source of business development. It allows front line access to high level personalities and events, while further positioning you among other potential clients. Obviously, geography is a factor in your success, as the majority of embassies and consulates are located in Washington, New York and other large metropolitan areas.

Targeting your prospects must be done with great care. You are there to provide professional services, true, but politics are always a consideration - whether your personal convictions or governmental concern. For example, providing services to the Canadians or Japanese is not an issue. The same cannot be said of the Iranians or North Koreans, so spend some time researching prior to contact.

Understand that it is of the utmost importance to acknowledge the qualities of personal manners, etiquette and decorum. Many times you may be traveling with a diplomatic entourage, and it is essential that you are able to completely blend in. Attention should be on wardrobe, with a predisposition to dark suits, white dress shirts and polished shoes.

When attending a gathering with a senior officer, such as an Ambassador or Consul General, always allow sufficient personal space to allow them to roam unrestricted. The actual term for this is to “not restrict their movement” as a Secret Service agent pointed out to me many years ago when photographing President George H. W. Bush. I was in just a bit too close to allow free movement in any direction, and I have taken this advice to heart. It is important to try to photograph each person speaking to your subject, but equally important to do so unobtrusively. Properly executed, you are not even noticed. Ideally, you need take only one shot. These particular images are important in that they serve not only as a visual database for future recognition, but a powerful public relations tool to forward to each guest. There is great news value in an individual “conferring with the Ambassador”. Make sure you take wide angle shots to capture everyone in the room. These may be required for security reasons.

Whenever possible, try to photograph using available light. Your gear requirements should include a vibration reduction lens to allow for razor sharp images in low light conditions. To further facilitate this process, a digital camera with a large chip, (such as high-end Nikon or Canon) is essential. Every time your strobe fires you cause a distraction, so use sparingly. Obviously this caution will not apply to all situations, such as a news conference or taking group photographs. I work with the least amount of equipment possible for numerous reasons. First, I enjoy the freedom of movement this affords. I dislike being bogged down with gear. Secondly, a bunch of cameras and a bag hanging from you simple takes up too much room in small quarters and are not practical. You want to avoid distracting any attention from your client. I usually work with one camera, one fast variable focus lens and one mounted strobe. My bag is small, containing an extra body, flash, media card reader and batteries. Usually there will be draped tables at events, and you can stash your bag there temporarily.

Timing is everything, and these images must be delivered as soon as possible. I carry a notebook computer in my car to allow me to burn a DVD immediately and pass on to the public affairs officer if needed. I can also FTP the images to a server for client download, create and post a slide show and email specific shots to news outlets as directed. This allows for almost instant distribution, increasing the opportunities for publication. My workflow includes importing the images into Lightroom for naming, global corrections and exporting high resolution files directly to DVD.

Other types of photography services needed may include staff photographs for websites and PR. Formal publicity portraits are common requests for the Ambassador, Consul General and other senior personnel.

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