The 5 Towns Jewish Times

Rabenko: Working Conditions

by Gary Rabenko

Photographers and videographers need to be more sensitive to clients’ needs and concerns, as well as to the many vendors involved in making each event what it is and the success it must be. This sensitivity to others should be practiced by all parties. It is not.

There was an incident in Brooklyn over Labor Day weekend. The photographer’s camera bag was sloppily handled and relocated by waitstaff during the time the photographer was photographing a frenetic dance set. Equipment got banged up in the case. An expensive lens was damaged. This is not an isolated incident, and many factors contribute to an environment where this occurs.

To play devil’s advocate, I know that many photographers and videographers can come in with an attitude that they are more important than anyone else. They are not, and that is a terrible attitude. Also, many fail to consider Murphy’s Law and all that could go wrong in regards to the safety of gear that is essential in the performance of their service to their client.

But before photographers get angry at me for speaking the truth about the lack of respect they might bring to the job, which may be evidenced by wearing short sleeves, speaking among themselves when they should be paying rapt attention, leaning ladders against walls, leaving gear lying about in walkways or not considering how visitors to the hall can come away with a degraded impression due to haphazard stuff all about—hear me out!

In fancy halls and at elegant events, every little thing that a guest might see has been meticulously crafted and planned. Appearance is everything, and photographers and videographers working these prestigious gigs must be mindful of all the hard work and meticulous planning done for the purpose of achieving specific visual and physical results. The photographer or videographer needs to be properly prepared and be experienced in conducting themselves appropriately.

Yet the lack of any respect on the part of most vendors when it comes to how the photographer and videographer is treated is staggering. It is recognized that the photographer-videographers’ work is what lasts and remains to share the story of all the other vendors’ hard efforts long after this day becomes a distant memory. Everyone knows in advance that there will be photographer-videographers present. Everyone should know that the public, more than ever before, expects high-tech and skilled results. Photographer and videographers should be expected and counted on to be placing lights, microphones, and camera stands where they are needed and will make a difference by being properly deployed. Mutual respect should mean that all waitstaff are properly instructed and know how important the photographer-videographer is to the collective mission by all vendors present. In some cases this is the standard and it is so wonderful to experience! But it is rare.

Sometimes, every single millimeter of the space is used. Still, the photographer must have a place for his camera case near the spot he is actively shooting. This is not a luxury. This should not be considered an offense. This is essential in the performance of his responsibilities. At any moment a piece of gear might fail and needs to instantly be swapped with its backup. At any moment a different lens or tool from the arsenal that I carry just to be prepared for all contingencies might be useful.

Exciting photographs far exceed the mediocre memories of lesser imagery. And strategic placement of remote-controlled lights makes flat imagery come alive. Those lights cannot be just anywhere, the same as seasoning needs application in the right amount and at the right time!

Surely some photographers and videographers remain unenlightened in appreciating other vendors’ needs, but I can tell you from thousands of gigs that the lack of respect most vendors have towards the official photographer and videographer is staggering! I’ve been told moments before major action that something must move — without any concern for where it could go without losing usefulness. Just as in this recent case over the weekend in the Brooklyn hall, I have personally experienced my camera bag being relocated with not a bit of caution to what damage might occur or how it could affect the client’s results. And follow-up conversations with those who moved the case — as well as with their superiors — made it very clear that they did not want to know, they did not want to learn, they did not want to care about anything other than their own tasks.

Photographers and videographers must be sensitive. Clients come to me because I am sensitive. If there was one common emotion experienced during interactions in which gear is dangerously disrespected, that one emotion would be described as contempt. This should not be? Both sides need to be educated on the others’ needs, as they are under the same time constraints and the same physical limitations. Everything must be someplace!

But because it seems that every vendor at an event has some place to call home and is understood to have a purpose there, I think photographers and videographers are the ones to initiate improving communication and should begin improving communication amongst themselves to better coordinate how and where gear is deployed, as well as how they communicate their needs in advance to others.

Party planners truly need to plan more for photographers, whether those photographers are hired independently or through the party planner. Most party planners love photographers that don’t expect anything once they are hired. When a client is thrilled with the photographic and video results, they will be more pleased with all the vendors than when a client does not have the positive results they hoped for in the imagery. Photographer-videographers, too, should start being more sensitive to how everything they do might affect others. This might cause them to be more selective in where they place the big tripods or how they leave the ladders lying around between moments of use.

Hopefully, those caterers who make sure to instruct their staff not to get in the way of the photographer-videographer and to duck under the cameras when going by and not to move strategically placed lights will find that the photographers and videographers appreciate such sensitivity, appreciate that respect, and want to be sure it is mutual.

Are photographer-videographers tzaddikim or sinners? When the hall’s one place to do photography is the chuppah area, and the florist still needs two hours to finish, we are expected to find some magic angle and improvise backgrounds to save the day. But when people the bride cares most about are late or we need a few more minutes with the couple to make the difference between images that are inspired instead of inadequate, then what can the photographer do for the client, without the caterer’s flexibility?

Photographer-videographers should know that a few-minute delay might mean guests complaining of cold food or the caterer facing overtime for 30 staff. So yes, there are boundaries. But is it fair that the one vendor the client relies on to be sensitive enough to create meaningful imagery should be stuck in limbo getting no understanding — and probably no food — even while seeing how the band members who worked half the photographer’s day — all mostly while seated — are given full meals?

Rabenko Photography & Video Arts is located at 1053 Broadway in Woodmere. To learn more, contact Gary@Rabenko.com, 1-888-RABENKO, 888-722-3656, or visit Rabenko.com.