This was not my first SHOT Show, but it WAS my first show in the capacity of photo/video/pseudo-journalist guy.
Here are some of the things I learned personally and professionally in no particular order. Mind you, this is just scratching the surface.
- Relish the moment – you are fortunate enough to be working in an industry that involves true heroes. Remain humble and understand who you may be walking next to…they may have changed the world. Everyone has a story, and being able to receive even an infinitesimally small exposure to that wealth of history is an honor that I can’t describe.
- Strengthen Internet Friendships – a lot of us know each other through whatever post we make on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter but rarely see each other in person. Finally being able to put a face with a name is awesome. If you don’t know who someone is, ask. Don’t try to be the alpha-alpha. Every single person I met this week was more accommodating and cooler than I ever could have imagined. Because I was able to do that, I consider the week a success. To me, jobs and business will come and go, but the friendships are what make life worth living.
- Pace yourself – No need to try to be the first guy to drink Vegas out of whiskey. It ain’t gonna happen.
- You’ll never see it all, so don’t try – I tried. And I tried last year too. And I missed seeing some of the products that I was personally interested in. Time slips by very quickly, and unless you budget even an hour or two to visit a few booths, you will have filled a week and not done much for yourself
- Pre-work is everything – Know exactly who you want to see, the interviews you want to line up, how much time you will need, and a general sense of where things are on the show floor. A few minutes of planning will save a lot of wasted time running back and forth from one end of the building to another
- Have a partner – I did not have one this year, and lugging all of the gear, setting up the shoots, capturing/importing data, and generally just combining notes would have been helpful. I got bumped more times while trying to film than I care to count due to some attendee with no awareness of their surroundings. Having a blocker for protection would have made some difference
- Brain dump on the move – I carried a Zoom H1 audio recorder around with me to just capture all of the random thoughts and follow up notes after visiting a booth. You could probably do the same thing with voice notes on your phone, but I was testing out the Zoom. I’m STILL going through the recordings for missed nuggets
- Hydrate. Constantly.
- Don’t be afraid to direct – If a subject can’t speak well, or is nervous in front of a camera, don’t hesitate to help them out, make them feel at ease. Do a few takes
- Make sure you get the shot – People at the show are busy, and taking time to do an interview or product explanation shouldn’t be a burden for them. That said, it is THEIR product and you should do everything you can to make it look good on film. Don’t just film one take and hope for the best. I got burned on this one because I was trying to be the nice guy and not to take up too much time. Believe me, some people need more than one take.
- Use Lav Mics – Because it was easy, I used a camera mounted shotgun mic from RODE for most of my interviews. However, I had a set of Sennheiser wireless lav mics in my bag that, in hindsight, I should have used EVERY TIME. The audio would have been a lot cleaner. Take the extra time to setup your subject with a lav.
- Get good B-roll – This is a no brainer, but I found myself racing against the clock to get as much footage as I could. Getting B-roll of the products allows you more editing options, cuts down on DSLR zooming, and makes for a better end product. I should have taken my own advice on this topic and I’m paying for it now.
- Don’t Zoom – I was zooming in and out during the 2 minute interviews and that makes for a less than optimal video experience for the viewer. I typically setup all my shots in advance and do this for all of my other gigs, but for some reason I didn’t take the time to do it in-booth
- Ask Permission – Whenever I walked into a booth, I didn’t just start snapping pictures. There is a huge market for counterfeiters with cameras, so I made it a point to introduce myself and ask if I could take some shots. Generally it was well received and I was able to shoot in every booth I entered with the exception of ONE, that wanted to maintain brand integrity.
There was so much to process this year, I could write a series of posts, but I realize how quickly that would bore you all to tears. In the end, going to SHOT SHOW 2014 was a huge success for this thing called Firelance Media and every dollar spent has been well justified. I hope to get back for SHOT SHOW 2015. Time to start saving.
Matt Stagliano is a photographer first, and firearms / outdoors enthusiast second. His work has appeared in countless magazines and online outlets such as RECOIL, SKILLSET, Guns & Ammo, Concealment, Breach Bang Clear, Ammoland, and others. He spends most of his time running Stonetree Creative, a full service portrait studio in Maine when he is not on assignment as Firelance Media. Learn more about Stonetree online or follow him on Instagram (@stonetreecreative). On Facebook here.