Recently I was contacted by a friend who had a favor to ask. She was looking for some pictures, primarily a portrait, for a project they were working on. The project was something they were calling "Wedding Cans." They were going to attempt to pay for their modest wedding by recycling cans. This wasn't possible by themselves, obviously. Even a modest wedding can cost several thousand dollars and I don't know of anyone who can consume that many soft drinks. Their plan revolved around the idea that people would gladly donate cans for the cause. In the process, via recycling of an estimated 400,000 aluminum cans they would completely offset the carbon footprint of their wedding. It was a beautiful thing, the idea of environmental activism and financial necessity coming together in a fun way. For the press purposes online and off they were going to need a few portraits.
It was a simple project and one that I was glad to help out with. In the name of serving the purpose of Wedding Cans, I was doing it pro-bono. A quick shoot, 30-45 minutes including conversion, color correction, and sharpening. In and out. No big deal.
The pictures we came out with the first go were not to my liking. I have certain high standards that I put out there, and that night, due to equipment malfunctions and freezing fingers in the sub 20 degree weather we walked away with images that I didn't consider good enough.
I immediately knew that I wanted to re-shoot. While I know many folks would have walked away figuring, "No big deal, free shoot. You get what you pay for," I just couldn't do it. It was leaving unfinished business on the table.
We got together again a short time later, this time at Andrea and Pete's house. We did another quick shoot. All told, I was in 30 minutes once again. But this time, we nailed it. We ended up with shots we were all happy with. I walked away thinking that I had done my part to help out, and didn't expect much more to come of the images.
That's when Andrea's ability to put out a marketing blitz took over.
Immediately the story of the crazy couple, paying for their wedding with aluminum cans was on a few blogs, along with the photos. Thanks to Andrea's knowledge of how things are supposed to work in the media world, the photos included a link to my website. If you're here because of those images, welcome. Have a look around. Let me know if you see anything you like.
It didn't stop there, though. Soon, a local news station picked up the story. They ran a video that included my still images. Andrea and Pete were interviewed by a local morning show.
Then the A.P. picked up that video. Then Fox News.com, the CNN.com, then a dozen financial websites and recycling sites and environmental sites. Then the national morning shows began calling up Andrea and Pete for interviews. Then national radio, and international radio, and more websites, and more news programs, and more websites, and on and on and on.
And a large number of them linked back to my website. My traffic went throught the roof pretty quickly. All from a free shoot that I decided to do over because it wasn't up to my standards.
Admittedly, not every free shoot we do for a friend who has a project that we'd like to support will end up this way. Not every friend working on a project is Andrea. Her ability to generate interest in this has not only been of benefit to their cause (as of writing this, Wedding Cans is up to 76% of goal. That means they've collected over 300,000 cans in a month) but to mine as well. But everyone has friends with projects. If it is something you believe in, or just something you think is cool, do your part. Help out.
And for goodness sake, never let a shoot end with you feeling like you didn't get the shot without rescheduling if at all possible. It's about producing the best work you possibly can in every situation. If equipment fails, that's not an excuse. If it's cold, that's not an excuse. Make it happen. Your "A" game is the only game that's acceptable. It's just that simple.
Besides, you never know where that simple portrait of a friend is going to end up, or who's going to end up seeing it. All it takes is one good impression.