Skip to main content

photo & video

How to Be a Commercial Photographer

Lesson 4 of 34

Breaking into Commercial Photography

Rob Grimm, Gary Martin, Aaron Nace

How to Be a Commercial Photographer

Rob Grimm, Gary Martin, Aaron Nace

buy this class


Sale Ends Soon!

starting under


Unlock this classplus 2000+ more >

Lesson Info

4. Breaking into Commercial Photography

Lesson Info

Breaking into Commercial Photography

Targeting local photographers, I think it's a really good idea to target the people that shoot what you want to shoot, you know, if you're shooting food, start with those guys if you can't make any inroads with any food, photographers will then go, go to the next set of photographers and start to figure out on the people that you can, uh you can get in with, but the most important thing is to start getting in with the studio. I am much more likely toe hire somebody off first time around without making them come in for a test when I know that they've been working in other studios with great regularity, you know, the people that we use, they're not all photographers, um, but it helps if you have your own book that you can bring that you actually could maybe mail us something. Um, or if you just want to stop by and bring your portfolio will sit down. Look, you can ask him questions and kind of get to know you that way. I like having assistants come in and one show me their portfolio. I do...

n't care if it's college portfolio, I really don't care if you haven't shot anything new in five years, I want to see what your eyes where it's been. Um and I wantto get a little chance to talk to you even if it's only five minutes I just want to I want to get a little hit and know what you're like it's goingto go a long way to giving me a comfort level the higher you basic like particularly if I know it's one thing to know your strength but it's also good to know your weaknesses you mean you can see that in somebody's book you know where they're really falling down where they don't have it yet andi it's good to know that because you know how somebody can fit in you know if you can or cannot give them a task and give them a chance to grow into that task and you can also help shape them so school question yes, I know uh s mp is a organization where you can find some local commercial photographers are there any other organizations that you might recommend that not as well as they say and you know, I think in two slides were going to go over using a simp e in becoming a member because they have ah database for photographers and the database for finding assistance based on geography based on skill level based on like referrals so snp if you're not a member I would definitely potentially question yes there are other organizations is epa in this people say there's quite a few others out there I think it is impious and forty cities I think it is impious is really incredible they are great and we'll go through them in seconds but there are other organizations if your city doesn't have a s and p look at the other stuff because it's a great way to network and if if you know first assistance that worked for other studios, you know get to know them and you can find them so if you want to become an assistant, maybe you want to find other assistance and see what they're doing goto a couple of meetings didn't get to know what they do because you know, there's nothing better than being part of like the actual community and not just being on your own trying to make it we've brought a lot of people into the studio the gary notes I've never heard of them they weren't on my assistant list, but gary knew them and he had worked with him he had a comfort level and since I obviously, you know, trust gary and know his judgment is fairly sound most days way bring some of his people in. So, you know, he's got a network of other people assistance that have kind of gotten to know him so it's a good way to get in his head to make friends with the other first assistance local producers and modeling agencies another way might not have I thought, um contact a modeling agency if your photographer gets to know them that way you can get to know models that way um for shoots respect shoots maybe get them to donate their time for free but you know that's a good way to get to know a producer you know, a lot of producers were paired with modeling agencies a lot of modeling agencies have their own in house producers it's not a bad idea to get in touch with modeling agency talk with with a producer see if you can assist them when something if you can pay for them there's just so many different avenues don't be afraid not to use went like a mile and that might be a great way to get in touch with people not only that you might want to shoot with but in order to get on their team because they've got their doing head shots all the time they've got a stable photographers that they work with you you might not know about and they might be able to get you on the team. So chemical networking again just going back to it just it's a daily grind you gotta be on it every day you can't stop it's this is a relationship based, business based industry it's not about what you know it's really about who you know if you're reclusive you're gonna have a really hard time there's a business um you've got to get out there and you've got to talk with people and you've got to put yourself out there. It's the only way to make it in the business is talking, networking, building and your network of people, and I think the one thing you'll find is people in the photo community are very supportive. At the end of the day, I think most photographers realized we're all in the same boat, you know? Yeah, we may be competing for the exact same jobs, but we're in the same boat, and, um, we're in this book because we love it. I mean, I'm a photographer because I love it, it's totally my blood, I can't imagine doing anything else. Um, I love doing this, and I like sharing the knowledge that I have it's really kind of fun it's nice to get back, so I think you'll find that the photo community except for the guys who want to put you through the wringer like that guy did to me in chicago, most people are really friendly, and they will they will be willing to take a few minutes to very least talk with you and then point in the right direction they may give you a name um, at least something really big, so network network, network network don't stop, yes question from todd aaron who's from tyler, texas who says I'm now I'm forty five now how realistic is it for me to get into commercial photography at this point and what I'd be taken seriously when asking to assist and donate time center absolutely no ageism I know you know in fact the gentleman that was my first assistant for fifteen years was eight years older than me um is ages old age is not a factor in fact ages is it experience in infantile in this business? The more experience you have, the better it means you're more relaxed it means you're ready to handle the curve balls I think it might be frustrating for him to try to break into this business because he's probably you know, built a career and been very successful at something else and again it's gonna take patience but I don't think there's an age barrier I think that if you were sixty years old trying to get in the business, that would be hard. There is kind of a time limit on us when you think about a lot of our clients, a lot of the art directors we work with twenty five, twenty six, thirty years old that age gap can can become a little bit tough it shouldn't but can become a long tough so I think if you were sixteen trying breaking the business that might be pretty hard but I would say go for it don't do it absolutely photo dude is wondering what the best way is to approach an established photographer but to stand out from the crowd so that you stay at the top of their list to call for the job comes up you know, first and foremost I think eyes being polite I gotta be honest manners go a long way there's some people in this business it just don't they're too eager, you know, on that can step on toes, you just have to be patient again our schedules are so influx there's so fluid and they're never locked down um and people want you know you're either you want to get in the business, you want to get going so you want to keep reaching out to those photographers and you can't necessarily do that we'll burn out on you through quickly if you're if you're e mailing us every single day, we're going to burn out on your really fast and probably wind up hating delete but if you're patient and you're polite uh and really present who you are again this is this is a relationship based business which means personality is a lot I've got to know I can work with you I have got to know that you know, we could differ completely politically or social or whatever, but if we can connect and have a good understanding of each other we could make great images together so it's about putting your best foot forward making sure people understand who you are I would say call and ask for like a city manager producer if there is one or the photographer if he's available and just get right to the point be quick on dh see if you can schedule a time to come by for ten or fifteen minutes and just like talk because most of time it's like yeah that's cool absolutely come on by we'd love to that's a great point if you're going after a single photographer obviously you've got to call the photographer if you're going after a photo studio that's got multiple components don't try to get in touch with the photographer more than likely they've got so much going on with all the employees in the projects that they've got going on it's much better to get in touch with their producer or their studio manager or their first assistant and get that in that way that's how gary came to me he didn't contact me initially he contacted maggie who is my studio producer uh that got his foot in the door kind of guy was stalking him at his house for a while that was before there is a restraining order but you guys seem pretty nice if I were trying to get into a studio I think yours would be tough my list you're trying to get into studio gary you're going to have a lot of emails sitting in your inbox it goes right to the trash way just so people know you're you know also another thing there are plenty of companies weaken ship postcards or if you mail something like an actual don't be totally elektronik don't get lost in the mail because e mail gets lost but like print something out that's nice that's heavy that's got you work on it hand write something make it personal we get stuff in the mail that because for re touches that do only, you know, women and like lifestyles like, well that's probably not the re toucher for us and they probably didn't do their homework um because we don't do that at all so we don't really have a need for it but thank you for sending me something that was cool the personal touches air nice again relationship based business personal touches are the best way to go fruit baskets, fruit baskets or offense sent him to the studio address to the studio manager doughnut you know yeah pistachios loaded up bottles of wine I'll call you back booze is never bad because now you know the way to get into this studio whiskey whiskey so I know there's going to be quite a few questions coming in in the next few days about breaking in because there's people that are very interested daniel lopez paula from switzerland I wanted to know do you still recommend or use printed portfolios or do you rely on your website louis digital presentation um marketing these days is multifaceted its most multi pronged what I have really discovered and we're gonna talk about this more in the portfolio section tomorrow my printed portfolio foreign away gets better response when the ipad came out everybody kind of rushed to get the ipads going and I went into portfolio showings with both the ipad and with printed book and when you're seeing a lot of people the ipads air nice because if ten or fifteen people come in from the agency at one time they can all look at one book but they could be looking at an ipad and they can be flicking through it I think they're a couple of things when you're flicking through the ipad you're doing just that you're flicking through it and it goes pretty quickly the printed book is tactile it's reflective versus luminous you know everything kind of looks really good coming through the ipad but there are reflective quality of the printed page slows people down the fact that they're holding it and they're flipping from one page to the next they don't go to church they're not ripping through your book if you do rip it out of their hands because you don't want that but if they slow down, they look at your images in much greater detail than they do on the ipad uh we're just going to start the day tomorrow all about portfolio over and show you how we go through the steps who we used to print it because that's such an important part you know, we have six portfolios all around the country are reps have um um if you're not printing your portfolio seriously, consider doing it because that's gonna leave the best impression with someone especially in art director no, I just said it slows him down it makes them pay way more attention to your work than if they just had the ipad now you're showing motion obviously we can't show emotion in a printed book, so the ipad is the only way to do that um and we're doing more and more motion all the time so the ipad goes on portfolio shoots but I try to reserve it for motion and not for the present stuff in it workshops so you guys congratulations you made it you did one of the things on her list workshops are a fantastic I think one of my favorite things to attend because you are in person you're asking questions you're engaged you know we're probably bring some ofyou on set tomorrow so that's the best way to learn the photoshoot, seeing it actually being done so it's also a great way to network yeah, when I was starting out, I went to santa fe to the santa fe workshops all the time I love going out there it's a great way to meet other photographers you challenge yourself, you're learning from somebody who you admire obviously that's where you're going to a workshop is something about their work that you like, but you get a chance to meet other photographers and form kind of a community there's several photographers that I'm still friends with today that I met at a workshop in santa fe, you know, fifteen years ago and was kind of nice about it is you can also use those people to bounce ideas off of look at your work and kind of helped push it along it's a great way to network believe they're not going to workshops is kind of you wouldn't think of that as a networking tool, but it isthe so our next workshop is actually with f stoppers uh few f stoppers workshops dot com uh there's about ten photographers were gonna be in the bahamas this location sorry we're gonna be uh, you know, it's actually the bahamas it's cheaper to go to the bahamas and somewhere like vegas, the rooms and pretty cheap that flights are super reasonable so we're gonna be down there on the beach is better yeah, we got the beaches it's going to be in the atlanta. So f staffers, workshops, dot com check that out. There's gonna be ten pretty well known photographers down there this may and that's what the contest is actually for one of our workshops to day workshops were given away for free. So go to the facebook page. You have to like us on facebook as well, but we're going to be given one of those away on senator, we're going to be concentrating on splashes down the bahamas doing lots of liquids, emotion, lots of splashes so it will be a lot of fun. Well, let us know if you need a couple hosts way need emcees? We can't make this work without you guys. Come on, pack your bag. Come on down! Stingray stingray live alright. So organizations going back teo s m p let's get into that. So yes, and peace of big one. Um I really like s and p they are kind of the forefront for photographers. Um, they represent photographers needs in many ways, number one uh, people always trying to rip us off, you know, there's a whole issue of usage and usage rights, particularly in this era of the internet where there's so much going on facebook people khun, grab your images and you know, kind of use them in inappropriate ways snp works really hard, they are constantly in front of congress lobbying for the behalf of photographers so that we can protect our images because we make it we make money two ways one is on our day rate, what it cost for us to execute a shoot and two for license licensing an image. So if somebody steals our images, we've lost a lot of money, aunt it's just not fair, so they work really hard to fight for our rights, which is really, really important they're big, they've got over seven thousand members it's what thirty nine countries are thirty nine cities in the united states, so they're around they hold meetings all the time when I was getting into the business, that was one of the best place is for me to network other photographers were there other assistants were there, it was a great way to get together with people in your community and find out what's going on because we can be kind of isolated. Sometimes you're just in your studio by yourself or if you're a location, shoot her and you working out of your house, you're not involved in that community enough on a day to day basis, so going to meetings with the snp and networking with other people and talking about what's going on the business it puts you back in that same boat you realize hey, we're all in the same boat so let's do everything we can tow elevate the level of create creativity to us in our city were you at the end of the day you want to draw better attention to this city that you live in the more that you can generate as a community as a creative community the better it's going to be for all photographers so I think it's really important you do things like join the snp, go to the meetings, hook up with other photographers, hook up with assistance and build that community it's it really is very important I would think of the snp as more of the entire business side it's they have business bible that you should have read by now. I think we have a way out back here. Um let me grab that real quick quick coming on air some p I know they do have a chapter here in seattle and for everyone who is like a college student out there they have ah ah they do have a student discount or studio our student membership about things like fifty bucks and you get a free the free a s and p book to so they also have a rob grimm discount if you if you go there and you used to discount code rg photo right now uh, go join it. S and p you'll get business bible for free. You probably get a copy that's dry and, uh, it's a great it's a great organization t join I really can't say enough about it, so they've got to find a photographer database, which is great. They've got find an assistant again. We've kind of gone over all the stuff we're ready, but it's a lot of networking, great opportunities and in thirty nine cities, that's a lot. They're just awesome used it to hone your business skills. Like I said, they have got so much information on how to execute this business in the right way. Um, it's just absolutely invaluable. So they've got the snp discount just kind of go through this stuff kind of quickly the business bible, this thing, it really it's a great resource after two day decades in the business, I still go to this. Um, I'm not going to pretend that I know everything because the business changes a z economy goes up and down, up and down, and as things change in the business, we have to adjust our business practices not constantly, but on a regular basis. This is a great place to go and find information that constantly updated. Um, a little little bit of information here for you guys about the membership because they have different levels, they have a pro level where you have to be working for three years and you have to generate the majority of your income from it. They also have non pro levels where you don't have to be working for three years. You don't have to generate fifty one percent of your income from it. So it's, just a great thing to join and there's a discount code I was talking about. So go day some p s and p dot org's and joined and use rg photo and it'll help you a lot. Ok, let's, go back to photo assistant because it's a it's a really big, big big one. Uh, always be early. I don't I don't want to wait on assistant just that's that's a killer for me if we've got a shoot going on, you've got to be there on time. In fact, be there early plan to be there fifteen minutes a half an hour early. There's way too much stuff going on in a photo shoot to let people come in late. We've got to get rolling again this is all about making art between probably nine and five. Which is that's a lot of pressure you know it's not like just working on a portfolio shoot where you can do whatever you want you've got to get going on it so um do it's not expected it's good to look around the studio and make sure that you're getting stuff done if there's dishes piling up don't let them pile up you know put him in the dishwasher just do the little extra things those go a long way to making me feel a lot better and helping my studio run better so do things without being asked that's the same thing basically go ahead and empty the dishwasher or start to clean up their studios can get kind of chaotic when all this stuff is going on so it's really good to be able to be that person who can kind of help me stay focused stay tunneled by getting rid of the extra stuff that's around studios can get kind and nutty when you're alone anticipate what is what is needed next that's a big one and that takes time when you're working with a photographer I have a certain way of working without question I have the tools that I go to I halve the light shapers that I want I have a methodology too the way I'm going to execute a photo shoot so when you've been working with me for a little while you'll have the opportunity to know how I work and then you can anticipate my needs back in the film days I always knew when the photographer that was working with needed another polaroid I'd have the polaroid holder ready and loaded and just ready to hand him I pretty much knew when he was going toe switch over and go to film and shoot film and I would just have that stuff at the ready it's really nice for them not to have to say hey man where are you? I need this you know if you can anticipate what the photographer needs don't necessarily do it but you know like it's not yet you don't have to execute it yet but haven't are ready that's so big it makes it makes us happy gives us that warm fuzzy feeling um I have a hundred ten percent positive attitude I hate that one hundred ten percent just be really positive you know I mean as a photographer I set the tone for everything right the clients or their crews there if I'm negative that means the whole shoot is negative right if there are components of my chute or my crew that are negative it's not good it's going to bring me down it's going to make me frustrated so being willing tto work in a positive upbeat manner knowing that every job has curve balls we're going to have to do something you may have to go out and buy something at walgreens that we need and it's not fun to go run the walgreens but you got to do it so be happy about it um ask other crew members if they need help that's always a good thing to do is an assistant too if your if you are stuck and there's not anything for you to do right now see if you can help somebody else out uh maybe something simple like helping the wardrobe person steam some more clothes or something but it's good to be able to fill your time and not just kind of stand around you know, this is a big one taking ownership of mistakes. Um not you know, mistakes happen, things get broken, you don't do something right that's cool. We're all human. Not taking ownership of it is not cool and it's okay, sure way tio not come back to studio uh, when people aren't like saying, you know, I screwed this up how can I fix it for you? What can I do if they're throwing blame or deflecting? Or you said I'm immediately turned off and I think most photographers are so just, you know, pony uh I guess it's a good way to say no task is too little again go to walgreens to get q tips or emptying the dishwasher it makes a huge difference in the day there are so many moving components and so much stuff that has to happen by the end of that day there really is nothing that's too little and the little stuff believe or not so important really brings a lot to us take notes you can't ask us questions all the time during the middle of a shoot but take notes because this is a great opportunity for you to learn so it's not a bad idea even if you do it on your iphone you want take a little notes I would be careful with an iphone it's better to have a little note pocket in your in your back pocket because you don't want the photographer to think that you're on your iphone texting your friends or, you know, doing facebook it's much better to be writing a note down in a notebook so keep that in mind study study study another important thing definitely look at what we're doing study it, ask us questions look at what other photographers were doing look at the final images of other photographers and see if you can figure out how they did it based on what you just learned in my studio we have all have very different ways of working with things way worked with all of our modifiers in different ways but take a look at what we do study it and then see if you can find it on other photographers

Class Description

Ready to break into the commercial photography business, but unsure of where to start? Rob Grimm and Gary Martin will help you navigate the ins and outs of the industry by delivering expert advice on an entire gamut of subjects –– from marketing, to shooting, to branding, and location scouting.

Rob and Gary’s workshop will be your personal guide to every single aspect of commercial photography. You'll learn how to set a budget, advertise your brand, and build your portfolio and client base. These two seasoned pros will also share invaluable technical tips on shooting and retouching.

This course is a one-stop shop for all the tools and skills needed to build a commercial photography portfolio and find your niche in the industry!

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase



Free Bonus Materials

Digital Swag Bag.pdf

Day 1 Presentation Slides.pdf

Day 2 Presentation Slides.pdf

Ratings and Reviews

Student Work

Related Classes



I have gratefully been watching this tutorial for free online, and as always CreativeLIVE has done an awesome job in bringing one of the best instructors of the trade and his creative team to help us improve and enjoy a higher level of understanding and performance in the skills we would like to achieve. I am humbled as always and ever so grateful. I would love to purchase the course myself, but since I live abroad, it is practically impossible, I hope those who can, would. I would just like to add one of the most interesting things I have learnt from this course is the careful attention these guys are paying to minute details and the amount of patience it takes to achieve their goals in each project. Stay inspiring, Totoo in China


Outstanding course! I'm a former creative director, now photographer full time and have had the unique experience working with studio photographers for commercial products in the past. This course is right on and very close to my experiences, and now that I'm behind the camera, it's nice to see some of those trade secrets revealed. Commercial work is fussy and you often have to sweat the details, but the results can be astonishing and rewarding. Rob and Gary do an excellent job explaining the ins and outs, without any pretention or hold-back on secrets. Something that's always annoyed me in the past, photographers never liked revealing their process. It's great fun watching Rob and Gary work a shoot, and Aaron Nace is beyond amazing in his retouching skills. I don't expect to break into this field, but I wanted to learn how things are done, for my own personal projects. I particularly enjoyed learning how they get the look of ice, ice crystals, and frost on the sides of glass bottles. I purchased several items from Trengrove, as they suggested. Their acrylic products are not cheap, but the quality is amazing and I'm very pleased and looking forward to experimenting. Thanks to all at Creative Live, RGG studios and Aaron Nace for this presentation.

Doors of Imagination Photography

This course is outstanding. I would consider it an advanced level. Having a good understanding of the technical aspects of photography and lighting is recommended. Rob Grimm takes you into two real product shoots. These were not canned demonstrations, but the real thing including working to get the lighting setup just right. The postproduction section with Aaron Nace was enlightening. This does require a good preliminary understanding of Photoshop. It was amazing to watch them build the final images for the client in real time. This is by far my favorite course to date.