So several weeks ago Pita Pit contacted me. They hired Winnipeg Jets goaltender Connor Hellebuyck to be the focus of a contest they were going to be running for two months. People would have to guess which is Connor's favourite pita. Each of the participating Manitoba Pita Pit restaurants was going to be giving away a signed Hellebuyck jersey worth $1,200.00. Pita Pit needed top notch images of Connor Hellebuyck not only for the main poster for the contest, but also images for their social media marketing as well.
Actually, originally it was supposed to be Kyle Connor. However apparently the way things work with the team for situations like this you can expect substitutions on players to happen right up to the last minute. There are apparently several factors at play behind the scenes that dictate this. In this case, the switch was known a week in advance.
Unfortunately, the Jets had a difficult game the night before and I received a panic email after the game stating that because of the loss, they feared an extra long practise the next morning which would throw off our schedule for the shoot. It was possible, but nobody knew for sure.I was asked if I could allow for more time just in case. I did have a client scheduled for 2:00pm that next afternoon. The time for the Hellebuyck shoot was noon. (Well, that was the "latest" time schedule as that had changed several times as well over the course of the previous ten days). I was told I had between 30-40 minutes tops with Connor. I originally was told and hour, but either way I'd be packed-up, out the door and to my next client with plenty of time...or so I had originally thought. I called my 2:00pm client and explained the situation and thankfully he agreed to switch our appointment to another day.
Switching that afternoon appointment to another day turned out to be very fortuitous, as Connor Hellebuyck was actually 2 hour late for the shoot because of the extra long practise and didn't actually show-up until 2:00pm. During that time I made sure I was set up for two very different types of photography that was needed to take place. The first was candid in style as I was capturing him while he made his own pita from start to finish. It was very much documentary work with basically no time to set up proper lighting gear. I wouldn't have had the space for it anyway for this part of the session as the restaurant in general was very small, but the areas where the staff creates the pits was crowed and tiny. Unfortunately, the restaurant went against my suggestion to close down for the duration of the shoot so I was fighting both customers and staff being in the images. No idea, but these were all bonus images for social media use anyway. the real important stuff was going to happen next...or so I thought.
I was wrong. They then had Connor Hellebuyck sign all types of memorabilia. The jerseys for the contest, cards, posters, sticks, masks, numbers....you name it, they got him to sign it. Then they wanted staff images with Connor. Again, considering the time restraints they had him for and the space and limitations of the location, I had to think fast and work on the fly to get these images as best as can be without spending 20 -30 minutes to set up proper lighting that would make these images look their best.
I had a distinct feeling that this assignment would be like this so I made sure I was 100% set-up in advance for the poster shoot and the signing images, and I was working as fast as possible to get through all the other stuff they wanted to do before we got to do what they ACTUALLY needed. Without fail, when I finally got through all of the "extra stuff" they wanted and finally got down to what I was really being hired to do, the person from the company who arranged for Hellebuyck to be there (a third party company that works with sports stars for events like this) was starting to tell me to wrap things up. I had a gut feeling this was going to happen. As I said before I had made sure the set area where we were going to be doing the poster shoot (and where we did the memorabilia signing) was set and ready to go hours (he was 2 hours late, remember?) before hand. I had the staff prepare 5 pitas in advance, had them prepare their house chips in a carry out container, dipping sauce, an in-house drink so we didn't have to worry about copyrights issues from a soft drink company that Pita Pit didn't arrange for usage rights from before hand, etc all ready to go. I was able to pull off what I was "expecting" to have a full hour to shoot in only "10 minutes" because I was fully prepared ahead of time.
These type of situation are why you hire professional photographer in the first place. Knowing what needs to be done, what could go wrong and being able to pick-up and change plans on a dime when an audible is called and STILL get the job done all without skipping beat is what separates a true professional from the rest. I had already spoken to their graphic designer in Toronto ahead of time and knew what she was looking for to create the poster, so all my bases were covered. I was able to get the job done to the client's great satisfaction even though things were drastically different on site then what I was being told ahead of time.
Now, through all of this I must say Connor Hellebuyck was one of the nicest, down to Earth people you can would ever meet! Super friendly, didn't have an ego you would associate with a sports start making $6,000.000.00 a season at all. However, I was conscious to the fact of what Pita Pit was paying for him to be there and made sure everything I did was done as fast as possible. I'm not going to disclose what Hellebuyck was paid to take part in this photo shoot and allow Pita Pit to use his likeness for this two month contest. However I will say it was in keeping with someone who makes the season salary that he makes. After all, he makes considerable more than minimum wage. When we are dealing with those type of numbers, you don't want to waste any more time than necessary.
In the end Pita pit was thrilled with the images and how i photographed the session. They said I handled myself in the most professional manner of any photographer they had ever previously worked with, and appreciated how in control I was and how I tried to keep things moving and on time. While I appreciated them saying that, that is why you hire a top level pro. Way too often I've heard of horror stories of companies having major problems because they tried to save a few thousand up front by hiring a cheap photographer, only to have things bite them in the butt and having it end up costing them 10X (or even more) in the long run. A true professional gets the job done right the first time.
PSYes, as a true Winnipeg Jets fan myself.... after everything was said and done I asked Connor to sign my own Winnipeg Jets jersey..which he happily did! :-)