Entrepreneurs like Margo Moritz need to be perpetually opportunistic and rarely, if ever, satisfied. Would a lot of photographers be happy just to work a big event, like an annual leadership summit that draws upwards of 15,000 people? Absolutely. Would a lot of photographers see the chance that Margo saw to go the extra mile and become more involved with the same convention? Probably not.
This is the 5th annual convention I’ve shot for this client. The first year they hired just me, and I worked alongside an event photography company. I thought they did a fine job covering the basics, but I also saw a massive opportunity to elevate the imagery. So I asked [the event coordinators] to let me put a team together for the next year, and they accepted.
I started realizing I could create better imagery when I saw what the other photography team was delivering. When approaching a job as a photographer, you make a choice of offering standard coverage or a more elegant service that takes in a client’s creative and marketing needs.
One of the most common queries during a job interview is “what unique quality do you bring to the table?” A seasoned pro, Margo lets her singular perspective answer that question.
I am primarily a lifestyle branding photographer and create authentic human imagery for companies and magazines to tell a story about their people or brand. I don’t typically market myself as an event photographer. But when a client has a vision for an elevated look, I love stepping in to help them capture their event with a lifestyle lens.
For example, if I see a potential moment for a good shot, I will pounce on it and keep working it until I capture the energy, smiles, and gestures that I like.
The key is to find subjects with a certain look or appeal and ask them to put down unattractive items that will distract the eye. Next, I take them to a spot where I like the composition of the room and light, and then I work with them and their personality to get emotion, fun, and an authentic moment. It’s about taking it a step beyond simply documenting the moment to become a director.
Another aspect of taking on the all-encompassing role of a director is putting together the right team. This endeavor has taught Margo quite a bit about both bringing in the best photographers and communicating with them effectively. In many ways, this learning process is baptism by fire.
One year, I hired someone I had never worked with and entrusted him with a very important role. I walked away assuming details were being taken care of and realized once the job was done that they weren’t, so that took a ton of hole-patching to get the deliverables to an acceptable place. What I learned from that was to prepare team members as thoroughly as possible and then continue clear communication and checking in together throughout the job.
When my leadership skills were greener, I would micro-manage to make sure that all the details came out how I wanted them to. As I developed, I realized it’s not about over-controlling my team, it’s about sharing the ultimate goal and vision and then empowering them to add their own style to the work. I’ve learned that my skills are best used when I dream up the vision, organize a plan alongside the client, bring in the right people, then trust the unfolding and always be prepared for changes.
This has been somewhat challenging for Margo, a self-proclaimed perfectionist whose directorial style has become more delegative over the years. Serendipitiously, Margo’s metamorphosis as a leader was initiated largely by her work for a big-time leadership convention attended predominantly by women.
Every year, they have a keynote speaker who talks about themes like leadership, empowerment, and female entrepreneurship. Being a female entrepreneur myself, I can’t help but be inspired by some of the messages and connect to the idea of empowering women to be leaders in their own lives!
I’ve learned so much about how to craft a healthy team, manage personalities, and motivate everyone under challenging circumstances while still listening to the client’s needs and making sure we’re fulfilling them. We’ve certainly made mistakes, but that’s where the bulk of the growth happens.
As Margo noted earlier, many of those mistakes were hiring-based. There is an abundance of talented photographers out there. What’s going to set you apart is the ability to marry technical skills with a positive disposition along with the presence you set when you walk into a room.
The secret sauce is [talent] combined with a ninja attitude. The experience you create for your client is arguably more important than what the photos look like. If you make beautiful images but have a bad attitude, no one is going to want to work with you again. One time, I got complaints from the client about someone’s energy on the shoot, and, unfortunately, I couldn’t hire that person again because there’s no room for an unhealthy attitude on my team!
I have a tagline for my team: “certainly, right away.” It describes the kind of service I want my clients to feel when working with me. Imagine it spoken in a fancy British accent; whatever you ask for can be achieved with a level of elegance and a positive attitude.
Since this is the fifth time that Margo has worked this event, the invariable trial-and-error that comes with an annual shoot of this nature has enhanced both the operation and the final product. Margo says the team really hit its stride during the most recent go-around.
This past year, I felt we found a cohesive balance of team members, open communication, and strong relations with the client.
With this mindset, we created a kickass body of work, delivering 50,000 images in a beautifully organized final package.
50,000 is obviously a daunting number, but the organization and delivery of this gargantuan batch of imagery is another feather in Margo’s cap. You don’t get to where the San Franciscan is in this industry without being great at what you do — and knowing it. But, as Margo has found, that’s only part of the equation. Great leaders put their team members in the best position to succeed, fully aware that the overall quality of the work skyrockets when this happens.
I’ve learned to let go of ego while on the job. The final deliverables will look best when I don’t try to identify myself too much with them and instead highlight the talent that I’ve brought in and let the power and magic of the team drive it. I just orchestrate it to make sure everything’s going in the right direction.
So if you’re ever in need of a top-of-the-line lifestyle photographer, Margo’s your person. When asked if she and her team are going to deliver quality work in a timely manner, she’ll respond in kind:
Certainly, right away.
See more of Margo’s work at margomoritz.com.
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