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.
I love Flex lights. They are easy to use, very powerful, cost-effective, they throw great light and they’re extremely portable. They are not just for video. Read my article on commercial shoots in this issue, where I talk about how we used two of the 1x1 Flex Panels to light some food photography.
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.
Commercial photographers capture images that will be used to make their client money. If Procter & Gamble hires a photographer to produce images for its latest Tide campaign about how its product gets whites whiter, then the photographer must create images that convey that message. This is usually the highest-paid type of commercial work. The finished works are tear sheets. You find the images in magazines and on signs and websites. Commercial photographers are paid each time their images are used for an agreed amount of time.
Headshots are becoming higher in demand with the rise of social media. In the age of startups, more and more people need to have a professional photo that represents them and their brand. If you’re not taking advantage of this exploding market in photography, I highly suggest you start. There are five steps to creating easy headshots that I implement in every single session that comes through my door at www.nj-headshots.com. Whether or not you have a studio, you can take these are steps to create the best possible headshot for every client.
This month we dive into running and producing a commercial shoot for one of our clients: Delmonico Steakhouse in Las Vegas. Photographers have more access to this type of work than you might expect. Any client walking in the door for a headshot is a commercial client. Think of headshots as the gateway drug for a more in-depth relationship and project delivery.
If you’ve never been to White Sands National Monument in the gorgeous state of New Mexico in the American Southwest, you have truly missed out on an experience. It’s my favorite of the Southwest’s long list of travel hot spots, better even than the Grand Canyon, Death Valley, Carlsbad Caverns, the Valley of Fire and the Las Vegas Strip. This 275-square-mile patch of white gypsum in the desert sent my brain reeling with excitement and possibilities. So when an opportunity came along to produce a photography art book that needed one specific theme, I knew where I wanted it to be: White Sands, New Mexico.
When you think about creating a black-and-white photo, ask yourself, why black and white? Some clients simply want it for a particular marketing look or just for the love of black and white. Either way, you should know why you’re shooting in this style. In this article, I focus on a recent black-and-white project I did for a commercial client.