I ran into this post from Christopher Kilkus (here) about a shoot that the client couldn’t attend, so he setup a computer with a webcam so they could watch the shoot remotely. What initially struck me as creepy and weird on second thought makes sense when you think about cutting cost and collaborating with people all over the country. Heck, Nick Knight pioneered studio shoots live on the web 10 years ago with his SHOWstudio site. There’s even remote webcams that could roam around set controlled by the client (here). Anybody else have experience with this?


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  1. Anybody with a Kinect and an Xbox can use video chat to try this out. It’s a little creepy how it pans and zooms to follow the action and sound.

    There’s no reason why you couldn’t put several around the studio so the client can have a window open for each one.

  2. A colleague at our magazine used his Mac webcam and the photographer’s Mac webcam to communicate remotely at a shoot he couldn’t get to. It worked well though the Rovio is a definite step up. However, it’d be sad to never need to leave the office. Going to shoots is the best part of the job!

  3. In the past year I’ve had a couple of different clients request jpegs during the shoot so they can sign off without being on location. This works fine, as long as there’s wifi to tap into, but both of these shoots were not done in studio. On the 2nd shoot (no wifi access), we had to dump selects onto the laptop, process quick low res files and email via the iPhone. This greatly affected the shoot; both creatively and in our efficiency.

    • @Eli Reichman,

      No amount of money-wasting gadgets will replace working ON SET. I can’t tell you the amount of times we’ve had to send jpegs and sit and wait for approval from several layers of clients who stayed in their office. If they want to really have an impact on the creative, they need to BE THERE. Otherwise everyone just sits around, and time is money. The cost of a plane ticket and hotel is way less than going into OT every day because you had to wait for someone to tell you to move the product 2cm to the left. That’s not collaboration, that is a weak attempt at pretending to have a say.

    • @Eli Reichman,

      It is for this reason we use a Clear card (or any other 4G network)

      Might not work in the distant boondocks, but most locations we visit work just fine, and many of the 4G cards fall back to 3G if it’s not available.

      I also agree with Cletus.

      • @craig, Keeping in mind the majority of my work involves people on location, my preference is to have the AD on set. Tethering to a laptop can easily turn into a logistical nightmare. Sending files no matter how quick the upload can absolutely kill any creative spontaneity that builds throughout a “normal” shoot. That said, we all do what is necessary to keep the client, “happy.”

        • @Eli Reichman, after the first time this happened to me with an AD who didn’t look his email for an HOUR after we sent the jpegs I have had to build into the bid some form of cost penalty for AD’s who are too busy to come to the shoot. There’s nothing worse than everyone sitting around waiting for someone in authority to have a look at something they should be actually present at.

        • @Eli Reichman,

          Yep. C’est la vie.

          • @craig,

            I did this just once. It turned an afternoon’s table top shoot into a 4-day event waiting for image approval. I was waiting up to 24-hours at times to hear back from the AD. Never again.

  4. I think only seasoned photographers think it’s creepy. To us that are under 30 it just seems fine. I think if it is a big production having your client there is important but I think it could be a huge cost cutter for the less important projects.

  5. It’s only a matter of time before that cyclops eye can be remote controlled and have a tw0-way conversation with you.

  6. I’m old school and believe in keeping shoots authentic, organic, and natural… I think the Rovio would disrupt the energy.

    Then again, if you are a pro you should be able to adjust to any situation on the fly.

  7. i think it’s great although i could see how it could slow up the process some. we did a shoot the other day and had the art director download the capture pilot app for iphone. it was nice that he could be there and see the shots as they came up and there wasnt a crowd of people around the monitor.

  8. The good news is that if something goes terribly wrong on set, you can always yank the plug on the feed, or have your stylist “accidentally” drop a mini skirt over the cam and blame it on technical difficulties as your c stands are toppling over, and your strobe pack bursts into flames, the animal handler is getting attacked by the ostrich, the models are having a cat fight and yelling in a foreign language, the card corrupts on the phase one, the digital tech spills his redbull into the mac pro tower and you are screaming about why your latte isnt hot enough.
    ……..Suddenly the clients live view goes black they get a connection timed out error

  9. Weird. Creepy.
    Although, Christian’s ideas make me think maybe it’d be an opportunity for some good fun…..

  10. desktop art direction

    Jpging the AD is one thing but having a live mic on set sounds like what brought down former PM Gordon Brown with his “bigoted woman” comment.

  11. I’m a seasoned photographer and I’ve shot this way.

    I don’t find it creepy, I don’t find it that technically difficult, it’s just not productive and damn boring.

    The only way that you get close to the same collaboration on set with an AD is for them to sit in front of their computer for 12 hours non stop .

    That never happens, (actually who could do it) so what does happen is you get a silence on the other end of the line, because they were called into a meeting, so you wait and wait and then you get instructions, but hold it . . . let’s run it by the Account Manager down the hall and get her opinion . . . then you wait and wait and finally make the correction shoot it, send it and once again silence.

    That’s how the day goes and the project gets very flat footed.

    Not to take this off subject, but one issue with our industry, (not just photography, but the advertising/marketing industry as a whole) is it’s being viewed as a commodity rather than a creative process, where something unique is provided for a singular client.

    There is value in creativity and creativity doesn’t start with a layout that is a screen shot from someone’s website, a tear sheet from a rival brand, or worse a statement of let’s just do what we did before but this time shoot it on white.

    Creativity starts with discussion, collaboration and most of all mutual respect from all parties.

    Inspiration comes from working shoulder to shoulder with people of disparate backgrounds and experience.

    Sometimes we should all remember why we get up in the morning and it’s not to stare into a computer screen for 12 hours.

    At least not for me, or the people I truly look forward to working with.


  12. Nick Knight also made an insightful quote, which I can’t recall verbatim. Something to the effect of ‘99% of good photography is based on subject and circumstance’.

    If a client is going to spend millions of dollars on media buys, why would they consider risking loss of time and money (production costs, ‘to media’ costs) over the relatively cheap cost of sending an AD?

    If the budget is really low, this may just be one more hidden production cost the studio or photographer will have to bear. Again, the big question ‘Return on Investment’?

  13. I actually had a conversation with one of these robots on a shoot at a Silicon Valley office, different company than the Rovio though. I thought it was kind of creepy (maybe because the person controlling it couldn’t get their video feed to work, but she could see us). They are pretty quiet and would sneak up on us. Weird.

    When I am on shoots where we are JPGing images back and forth, it mostly results in the set coming to a total stand still while we wait the silence on the other end of the connection to come back to life.

  14. Photography from its very beginning has been a technology based ever changing medium. The “strippers” the folks that used to cut the images out of an 8 x 10 transparency are long gone because photo editing software made it easier and better. I think this remote viewing thing has its place when travel and time are an issue.

  15. Nothing creative has ever come by committee.

    There is no collaboration working this way, everything is after the fact. Nothing worse then setting up a tabletop and going through all the jpg processing (because the low res has to look very close to the final hi res), all the incremental tweaks, and wait, wait, wait, to have them come back as say they love the position of everything but can we put it on a different surface.

    I used to do a catalog for one company that wanted to work this way. Started out with constant jpeging, then add web cam, then add UStream Live on our iphones. All the while I’d still be on the phone with the AD almost continuously anyway so it’s not like they were getting much else done back at the office. Every year I would look at how much time it took to shoot the previous catalog and quote the current job accordingly. Last year we were twice the price for half as many shots (and still lost). Shots literally take 4-8 times longer then when having an AD on site. They are not happy, we are not happy. They went with another studio last year and pulled out after one day and came back to us. The other studio didn’t know what they were in for and bid low and couldn’t deliver any kind of quality under those conditions. This year the AD is going to shoot it herself because she doesn’t have the time to go to a studio and art direct.

    What it amounts to is shoot the image and we’ll tell you if we like it. If we don’t, keep trying until we do and then we’ll pay you for that one.
    The Rovio is ridiculous. What, am I gonna have to buy a workstation and put it on the floor so the Rovio can see it.

  16. either they trust the photographer to do his job right.

    or they should take the effort and walk over.

    everything else is just a half-a** solution that suits some number-cruncher that doesnt know how photography works. next what? mount that camera on a quadrocopter? just because it can be done doesnt mean it is a great idea..

  17. The only “clients” I invite to a shoot are portrait subjects. Do you want to be a photographer or a camera jockey?

  18. We regularly have a web cam setup for clients, or their support staff, who can’t make it to shoots. We also screen share our capture cart as well (so the clients can view the images as they’re being shot). It’s not the best setup, but it works.

  19. Ive already done this quite a few times with live broadcasting of images to FTP servers while broadcasting shoots live to clients via webcam. I have a rule that I try and not have either any clients or more than 2 people in the studio at once because it clutters up the space and slows down the whole process. Most of my clients actually have begun to enjoy the live broadcasts so its interesting to see how the idea of “one set” is changing.

  20. I did this for a shoot just before Xmas as my client couldn’t make the shoot that day. I proposed this method with the help of my IT colleague and it became a major success. I’ve been booked again on the back of that and furthermore have been able to charge a small fee for the service. It’s starting to grow on the UK shores and am sure it’ll grow in the rest of Europe also. I remember the Nick Knight shoot, a trip down memory lane.

    • Slight glitch with the portfolio link but fixed.

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