Author Topic: I don't want to play 20 questions  (Read 2103 times)

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kitchcat

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I don't want to play 20 questions
« on: September 20, 2012, 01:40:17 PM »
Is there a way I can tell my coworkers (I am a photo editor & photographer for a publication) that they need to be more thorough in their emails? I'm forever getting emails with partial information/instructions and having to send multiple emails to get the full story.

BG: Writers & my bosses send me requests for photos for their articles. These requests are supposed to be very specific. So instead of saying "I need pictures of the July 4th picnic," you're supposed to send me something more like "Pictures at the July 4th picnic - fireworks, people eating together, cooks grilling burgers, kids playing with sparklers."

Examples:
  • Boss sends an email saying "Hey, can you take some pictures of [event]?" Boss does not say when or where the event is, what kind of pictures they need, etc. I search online for the event and find no public info. The event also requires a $15 ticket (something I heard through the grapevine from a friend). I reply asking, "I'm not sure. Could you let me know the location, date, and times of [event]? I also heard there is a $15 ticket. Will I be provided a press pass or is my ticket being comped?" Boss replies with the location and date, but not the time, and say they "aren't sure about the ticket."
  • Writer emails me asking to take pictures for [story]. [Story] is very general, think...best local restaurants. I ask her what local restaurants she has researched/interviewed so my photos match up with her article and what kind of pictures she wants (photos of food, waiters, diners, owners?). She responds with a couple names and ignores my questions about what to photograph. I ask her a second time, and she says, "whatever you think is good." *headdesk* I don't want to take a bunch of pictures of food only for her finished article to actually be about the stories of the owners or something like that. I want the pictures to be relevant, and I can't do that unless the writer gives me more info.
  • Coworker CCs me in an email reply to someone I don't know. I don't have the original email so I have no idea what her reply is in regards to and why it concerns me. I ask her and she said, "That's a new intern." I ask her if I have to do anything with the intern. She says to include them in emails to staff members regarding assignments. I ask, "Does this mean I should give the intern assignments? This is the first I've heard of an intern." Coworker replies, "you can if you want."  ::)

I just want to tell these people, "Don't bother emailing me unless you are going to give me all the relevant information needed to do my job. I'm not going to play 20 questions with you. Help me help you." Obviously that's not polite. What can I say to get them to quit doing this?
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Wulfie

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Re: I don't want to play 20 questions
« Reply #1 on: September 20, 2012, 01:46:06 PM »
Could you create a form that needs to be filled out and sent to you? You could include questions asking for all of the relevent information IE, date, time, address/location, ticket prices, etc.

It may be that your co-workers simply don't think about the fact that you need this info, they know all of it from what they are writing and may forget that even though THEY know it, you may not.

Nuku

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Re: I don't want to play 20 questions
« Reply #2 on: September 20, 2012, 01:48:33 PM »
Have you considered creating a simple form that they can fill out with the details you need? (My department handles requests for web posting and newsletter publications. Funny how people don't think articles need things like titles or contact information for further questions...) As long as people can fill out a form, this definitely streamlines the process.

We won't go into how many people can't fill out a form. With yes or no questions. That all need to be answered.  ::)

kitchcat

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Re: I don't want to play 20 questions
« Reply #3 on: September 20, 2012, 02:06:04 PM »
There actually is already a form that writers fill out for assignments, but there is no one that checks them to make sure they are all filled out properly. The writers fill them out and leave them in my box. Some of them have habits of leaving out details, which means I have to play the 20 questions game.

As for the last example, that can't really be fixed by a form.
Quote from: magician5
Quote from: Kinseyanne
In the bag was two cans of kitten formula

So now ... just add water and you get kittens? What will they think of next??

TootsNYC

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Re: I don't want to play 20 questions
« Reply #4 on: September 20, 2012, 02:12:34 PM »
I think it's perfectly reasonable for you to have to follow up with them in terms of focus, etc.; a person-to-person chat will get you a better idea.

And they may not realize exactly how much guidance, or even information, you want/need.
And they may also think that you are capable of researching your own info about the event, etc. And getting a press pass from the planners if the event isn't free. All by your ownself.

They may expect you to be like a photojournalist, and scope out the barbecue, looking for events that are photogenic and that tell the story of the event (big crowd around the dunking booth? pics of that! Nobody doing anything interesting at the ring toss? pass on those pics).

They may be expecting quite a bit more initiative than you are delivering. If this is a day job for you, or even a frequent hobby, I would expect you to do those things, if I were them. And if I were you, I'd do those things.


I'd expect to be given the NAMES of the restaurants, but I would be capable of calling the owner or manager and setting up and appointment. And I wouldn't need a shot list.

If I were asked to take pics at a local restaurant and had been given no guidance, I'd take shots of the exterior, shots of the interior, shots of the host/chef/owner, shots of the kitchen, shots of a table w/ food, and maybe closeups of a dish or two. If I could get the menu items the reporter was interested in, I'd like that, but if I didn't have it, I'd ask them to prepare the specialty of the house.

Of course, that could be a lot of wasted film (bytes?), and time--so I would expect to have a *conversation* with the writer. In which I would expect to guide them: "How much room for photos do you expect to have? Is the article written yet? Or in the notes so far, is there anything special about the restaurant(s) that I could try and get a pic of? How much "food porn" do you want, or would you rather focus on people, or places?"

But if I were the writer, I would be hesitant to give you a very detailed list, because I'd be afraid you'd go out the take a pic of the exterior and interior, but not of food or people, or the pretty table settings, because "that's what you told me you wanted." I'd *want* you to exercise your artistic eye in CHOOSING what to photograph. Not JUST do the technical aspect of taking a well-exposed photo.

And if what's missing is basic stuff, thn you might create a fresh form for every story and email it back to them, asking all the questions in an easy "fill in the blank" format. That might work.

(I think the writers are expecting you to check that they're filled out properly)

As for #3--I think you have all the info you need. Loop the intern in, if only so she can see how the workflow and communication go. If it were *important* for you to give the intern assignments, someone should have told you that. But hey--if you WANTED to give the intern an assignment, since you asked, I guess you can.  I'm not sure what more you want from that.

jmarvellous

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Re: I don't want to play 20 questions
« Reply #5 on: September 20, 2012, 02:20:26 PM »
I have worked with photographers at daily publications for 10 years, and this is ALWAYS a problem. Periodic reminders that "all sections of the photo request form must be filled out if you wish to have a photo to go with your article" are the norm. Student publications are particularly egregious.

Make sure EVERY section is available -- things like time, date, location, entry fees or where to pick up badges, name and contact info for the reporter involved, names of contacts onsite, as well as detailed instructions of valuable shots (and if the designer is involved, they'll often also request vertical vs. horizontal, or mug shots of certain individuals). And if they don't fill it out, respond immediately with a standardized, specific version of "all sections of the form must be filled out in order for a photo request to be fulfilled; see me now if you have any questions." Repeat ad nauseam. (Caveat: Sometimes it's best to figure out the details by phone or in person, and there should be an option for "we'll discuss details" on the form, and that's definitely a 2-way street between the photographer and the writer or editor, as it should be.)

In other words, train your co-workers to do their jobs, and do yours only after they've done theirs. You don't have to step too gently here.

Redneck Gravy

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Re: I don't want to play 20 questions
« Reply #6 on: September 20, 2012, 02:35:07 PM »
I have worked with photographers at daily publications for 10 years, and this is ALWAYS a problem. Periodic reminders that "all sections of the photo request form must be filled out if you wish to have a photo to go with your article" are the norm. Student publications are particularly egregious.

Make sure EVERY section is available -- things like time, date, location, entry fees or where to pick up badges, name and contact info for the reporter involved, names of contacts onsite, as well as detailed instructions of valuable shots (and if the designer is involved, they'll often also request vertical vs. horizontal, or mug shots of certain individuals). And if they don't fill it out, respond immediately with a standardized, specific version of "all sections of the form must be filled out in order for a photo request to be fulfilled; see me now if you have any questions." Repeat ad nauseam. (Caveat: Sometimes it's best to figure out the details by phone or in person, and there should be an option for "we'll discuss details" on the form, and that's definitely a 2-way street between the photographer and the writer or editor, as it should be.)

In other words, train your co-workers to do their jobs, and do yours only after they've done theirs. You don't have to step too gently here.

This!  I worked for a printing company for over 20 years dealing with local magazines - same issues.  Someone asks for pictures from deb ball, you take photos at the event of couples dancing, families around a table, etc. only to discover what they really wanted were pictures of centerpieces to go with an article about a local florist!   arrgggh

Amara

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Re: I don't want to play 20 questions
« Reply #7 on: September 20, 2012, 03:30:41 PM »
If creating a form makes sense why not make one that they need to submit online?

Create one (or more for various needs) so that you have the boxes you need checked or filled in and the sentences you need completed. Make sure that it is one of those forms that requires the user to fill out all the spaces or the Send button will not work (like the online ones that refuse to send it until you correctly fill out the spaces marked with a red star).

 

bopper

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Re: I don't want to play 20 questions
« Reply #8 on: September 20, 2012, 04:21:48 PM »
As far as what to take pictures of:  Have they ever said to you "I didn't want pictures of the food, I wanted pictures of people dining" or do they just take whatever you do?  You could take a variety of photos of the event and submit them.  If they complain then say "I will be glad to focus my photography to a specifc type if you let me know ahead of time."

As far as specific info on teh event, you could have an email template that says:

"Sounds like a great article!

Could you let me know
Time:
Date:
Address:
Contact:
Press Pass available?
Ticket needed?
"
and send it every time they are vague?

kitchcat

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Re: I don't want to play 20 questions
« Reply #9 on: September 20, 2012, 05:34:34 PM »
OP again--
Just to clarify a few things. This is a student publication, and everyone on the staff (including my bosses) are students. The need for specific photo requests has been in place long before I was hired, so I know it's not just me thinking the writers are being vague. In fact, my bosses often apologize to me for the writers being vague and have been trying to get them back on track.

This!  I worked for a printing company for over 20 years dealing with local magazines - same issues.  Someone asks for pictures from deb ball, you take photos at the event of couples dancing, families around a table, etc. only to discover what they really wanted were pictures of centerpieces to go with an article about a local florist!   arrgggh

This is basically the reason my job requires that the writers be specific about what they want. We had one writer give a photographer a request to take photos of the campus athletic facilities (nothing in specific). When pressed for more details, she just said, "You know, students doing sporty stuff."  ::) The poor photographer spent hours running all over campus taking pictures of students using almost every single facility you can think of related to sports (gyms, football field, soccer field, swimming pools, weight rooms, cardio rooms, dance studios, etc.). When she turned in her files, the writer laughed and said "Oh, I just wanted some of people running on the treadmill or something, not all this." Well, jeeze. If you wanted something specific, why couldn't you just say that before you wasted this poor girl's time?
Quote from: magician5
Quote from: Kinseyanne
In the bag was two cans of kitten formula

So now ... just add water and you get kittens? What will they think of next??