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Best of 2010 - Andy Caulfield

An urgent call from a new client with a job as an emergency replacement propelled Andy Caulfield to action with no time to waste. Given less than 24 hours to shoot the New England Aquarium’s New Balance Foundation Marine Mammal Center before its debut, Caulfield calculated an estimate, did a quick site visit, agreed on the terms and began to shoot. Despite the beehive of activity, Caulfield got what he needed — including dusk and dawn shots — while also establishing himself with six new clients.

Andy Caulfield, Needham Heights, MA

Web site:

Project: Last-minute architectural assignment to shoot the New England Aquarium’s New Balance Foundation Marine Mammal Center.

All images in this article © Andy Caulfield

ASMP: How long have you been in business?
31 years, since 1979.

ASMP: How long have you been an ASMP member?
31 years.

ASMP: What are your photographic specialties?
At this stage of my career, architecture along with some general commercial photography.

ASMP: What do you consider your most valuable piece of equipment?
No piece of photography equipment in my kit can replace my eyes and ears.

ASMP: What is unique about your style/approach or what sets you and your work apart from other photographers?
I’m focused on the job at hand. I organize well, offer ideas and work hard to exceed my client’s expectations.

ASMP: Please describe the processes and techniques central to the making of this work.
Working digitally, I was aware of what I needed to resolve at the site and what I needed to resolve in postproduction (merging, compositing, retouching and sky replacements). That made me efficient at each view.

ASMP: You received this assignment from a client that found you on the Web without your direct marketing outreach. Do you know how they first discovered your Web site?
My client contact, an architect in the firm’s office, was originally based in California and had worked with photographers from my college, Art Center College of Design. He had a level of comfort and respect for the expertise of this school’s past graduates. When he contacted me that morning, he told me that he had originally e-mailed me about this project, prior to assigning the other photographer. Unfortunately I never received his original e-mail.

ASMP: Can you estimate the current percentage of your client base that is generated directly from your Web site, as distinct from clients generated by more traditional marketing efforts? Do you have any further comments about trends in this area based on your experiences?
My web site is generating about 70 percent of all new business inquiries. Frankly, my other marketing has been inconsistent.

ASMP: What types of updates to you make to keep your Web site fresh, and how often do you make changes? Do you incorporate social networking elements into your Web presence?
I like to add new work as soon as it is completed. My web site, through SiteWelder, is very easy to update (please let them know I recommended them). When I see a great web site I always compare it back to my site to see what I could do to improve my own. My social networking elements efforts have been minimal.

ASMP: Since this was a last minute assignment and you had to be available to do the work that same day, please talk about how you handled the original phone call.
I needed to be sure that this was a real emergency and not one the original photographer could have resolved. Once I clearly understood the time constraints, I reviewed the scope of the project and level of multi-party participation, the use and the deliverables. I quickly calculated an estimate and then inquired what amount the original agreement was for. My numbers were within 10 percent of the budget they were working with. I told them I would work with their existing budget if the scope did not change and that I would solve their problem. I also let the architect know that they were the commissioning party and his firm would be responsible for the cost of the base shoot if any of the other parties pulled out.

ASMP: Given the short notice, what form of verbal or written agreement did you use to define the assignment?
After a brief walkthrough, it was a handshake deal on site with the principal of the firm. I began my photography just minutes later. No time to waste.

ASMP: Were there existing shoot arrangements (lighting, technical assistance, etc) inherited from the original photographer?
I was told that the original photographer had walked the site with the client. The Aquarium itself also had a photographer and videographer present to photograph on the same day for their own purposes and, at one point early in the day, I was offered a chance to go out on a boat with them briefly for some water views. I’m unaware if that was set up in advance (it was the Aquarium’s boat) or of any other specific arrangements. The other photographer’s needs were more PR based and they were gone after a few hours. It truly was a beehive of activity when I arrived. After the quick walkthrough of the site with the principal I had the client contact/architect from his office accompany me for the duration of the assignment.

ASMP: Tell us about your discussions with the architect, building staff, construction crew and others in order to finalize shoot details within such a limited time frame. Were the needs of any one party more important than the rest?
There was a general consensus that everyone was working with the same deadlines and goals to finish a great project. We all tried to stay out of each others’ way and work in opposite ends of the site, but when that was not possible we were given a few minutes to complete a view and had to move on. Everyone was very cooperative. One of the biggest concerns was leaving the existing lighting on for the dusk view as the Northern Fur Seals had just been introduced to their tank that day. After much discussion with the trainers, permission was given to have the lights on for the dusk view. I have a few sample images of the overall situation and the event tent that was later erected that blocked most of the views I made.

ASMP: Given that you had no time to scout the location, what range of equipment did you pack to cover unknown site conditions?
I packed my normal location kit including cameras, laptop, strobes and hot lights packed with an emphasis on mobility.

ASMP: Are there any particular strategies you used to arrive at a consensus between such a large group of contacts within such a tight timeframe?
Be respectful of everyone’s needs, but be firm about your own needs when it’s necessary to make the photograph.

ASMP: Were there any pieces of equipment or elements that you found lacking once you were on location? If so, how was this resolved?
The client indicated a dusk shot from a boat was on their original shot list.

Moving boat and time exposure was not making sense to me so I convinced them to have me photograph from a land-based angle I thought would work. However, I needed a longer lens than I had on hand, so I contacted the pro camera store EP Levine’s rental department and they made arrangements for me to come in after closing to pick up what I needed in time for the dusk view.

ASMP: Are there any aspects to planning or producing this shoot that you might have done differently if there had been more time, or if you were to receive a similar last minute assignment in the future?
There really was no time to plan for this particular assignment, only to react. Faced with a project of similar scope, I think I would add assistants or PAs to help with some of the aspects of crowd control, site clean up (it was a working construction site) and general wrangling.

ASMP: Has this shoot led to other assignments with any of the new contacts you made or do you have any future projects under discussion? If so, please elaborate.
Although I received high praise for my photography of the project from all the clients who participated, I have only done some additional work for the commissioning architect. He also has referred me to third parties who have licensed individual images as stock for their marketing. Several of the original clients I contacted recently have said they don’t have any budget and are photographing projects themselves.

*ASMP: Now that you have six new potential clients from this project, how are you marketing to them? Are your strategies for this any different than for your existing clients? *

AC: Well, there’s the advantage of already having been personally introduced and they now have familiarity with your work and finished photography. You are also established as a vendor in their system. That is generally a much better place to start than a cold call.

ASMP: A section of your portfolio is dedicated to Green Build projects. How important are these projects in relation to your overall business strategy in terms of distinguishing yourself?
This is more a personal interest than a successful niche, but I’m trying to generate client interest. I don’t think I can focus marketing on this area until I get more projects photographed, though. Part of that experience will be the work, and part will be my familiarity with the subject matter and terminology so I can converse with the architects and manufacturers effectively.

ASMP: Your Web site portfolio also includes information and images about your retouching services. Please tell us about this aspect of your business.
Retouching to some extent seems to be expected by clients. I try to distinguish between image processing and client-requested retouching. In the end some clients see the difference and are willing to pay for it, others don’t see its value or don’t think they should pay. I try to work only with the clients who value this.

ASMP: In addition to your assignment work you also have a personal series, Home Sweet Home, displayed on your Web site. How long have you been working on this series? Please talk about the audience response you’ve received for this body of work as well as any future plans for this series.
In addition to my commercial photography for over 20 years I traveled extensively internationally and photographed for stock. These types of structures and other architecture always caught my eye. They were photographed for my own personal enjoyment. I thought it would be interesting to viewers of my web site. However, no clients have commented; I have only received comments from other photographers. I will likely move that portfolio to another Web site I have and use that portfolio space for more commercial images.