Wouldn’t it be amazing if your dream company hired you for your ideal gig? They love your work, they think you’re the perfect person for the job and they pay you your rate, no questions asked. This does not have to remain a fantasy. One powerful way we have made this happen in our business is by creating spec projects.
To a lot of photographers, the various parts of commercial work can be extremely confusing. Many struggle with how to break into commercial work, or figure out how commercial work differs from editorial work. The one thing that’s not often talked about is how to price commercial work.
Stylized commercial shoots offer a great way to collaborate with vendors to create something over the top for your portfolio, as well as theirs. You earn goodwill and build relationships that become mutually beneficial over time. We like to put together two or three of these shoots every year to keep images fresh and relationships alive. The planning process can be a bit overwhelming, especially if you’re thinking you can do it alone. Here are the key elements of planning and executing a stylized commercial shoot.
Once upon a time, a photographer in any genre would try to get the attention of magazines, newspapers, clothing designers, automakers, restaurants, hospitals, sports teams and music venues in hopes of landing a gig. Whether it was a one-off campaign or steady work on a retainer, the holy grail of good-paying commercial work has always come from big companies. And while the dollar amounts of these major-client jobs is still highly desirable and worth the effort to land, there is a new type of commercial role that has emerged in the last few years, and it’s exploding by the hour: social influencer.
There are a lot of moving parts in shooting a home, and while you may be acquainted with what it takes to shoot a house for real estate, shooting for an interior designer or magazine brings a slightly different set of requirements. Here’s my guide to shooting an interior with an editorial slant.
It’s one thing to be a portrait artist who uses modeling talent in your work regularly, but it’s very different when you take that show on the road. Shooting locally is complicated enough, but things become exponentially more complicated when you do the same thing out of state, and especially out of the country. Each new project in each new town presents new problems. But all model photography requires a lot of the same concerns and methods. In this article, I approach these from the artist side of things, which is how I’ve been approaching travel for about half a year now exclusively. I am going to focus on planning and executing amazing projects on the road, but not how to get paid model photography work on the road (something I don’t do anymore, but that’s another article).
A year ago, we decided to do something drastic. We stopped marketing for portraits and weddings. The bookings started to slow down and then eventually dried up enough that we took them off our website completely. Scary? Yes. Crazy? Maybe. We have more than replaced that lost income, but we had to overcome some major hurdles. The first was to find the work. Getting that signed contract after an initial inquiry is the biggest hurdle. After a lot of trial and error, we have developed some solid concepts to help portrait photographers bid on and book commercial jobs. If you approach commercial inquiries with the same mindset as weddings, boudoir and babies, you will find yourself getting passed over a lot. If you want that sweet corporate payday, you have to think differently.
Every time I look at a project, I ask myself, “What’s the story?” In commercial photography, a team of creatives conceives stories around a concept to sell a product. In editorial photography, the subject is the story, and I collaborate with a writer and photo editor to illustrate that person’s story. Then there are personal projects, where I have the opportunity to mix those worlds together. Whether my job is to adapt a story into an image for a client, magazine or myself, or to simply photograph what or who is there, my process involves an interplay of three equally weighted components that make an image work: light, subject and context.
When I started moving from wedding photography to studio work, one of the appealing aspects was expanding my creativity. As a wedding photographer you’re creative, but you’re limited to the wedding world. As much as you may want to go outside the box, you’re still photographing a wedding. Once I moved to studio photography as my main source of income, I realized I was still in the same boat, just in a different-themed boat. Instead of being boxed into weddings, I was boxed into headshots and standard commercial shoots. In order to exercise creativity, which is so important to any photographer’s career, I had to arrange shoots of my own.
Enter “how to become a commercial photographer” into Google, and most of the results are subpar at best. Most commercial photographers say they just fell into it, while others are much more secretive. As a photographer who’s worked alongside some amazing advertising agencies and brands, I’m going to tell you how to start and why it’s not as glamorous as you might think.