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How to Be a Commercial Photographer

Lesson 2 of 34

Class Introduction

Rob Grimm, Gary Martin, Aaron Nace

How to Be a Commercial Photographer

Rob Grimm, Gary Martin, Aaron Nace

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Lesson Info

2. Class Introduction

Lesson Info

Class Introduction

First of all, I want to say thank you to all of you for coming, particularly our in studio audience and a lot of you have traveled very far and giving up three full days of your life to be with us it's very flattering and we really hope that you learn a lot in this workshop. Gary and I are pretty casual guys we want impart that knowledge that we have and make sure that this is really something that you can get your head wrapped around and take knowledge back with you. So I threw out lots of questions we want to make this something that's really great for you and the worldwide audience. We're really glad that you're with us as well. So thank you for tuning in and joining us so a little bit about the workshop uh, today we're gonna be going through in the am part kind of like the business side of what we do, nothing really technical, so ask a lot of questions in terms of the clients would work with our workflow in terms of estimating projects, we're gonna have our rep come on and then aft...

er lunch after we take a break, we're actually going to turn around to the studio over there and do a full commercial shoot for an actual client with an actual agency that we work with in st louis called fusion marketing so we didn't want to just focus on the technical gear side there's, tons of information and the interwebs that have that so we wanted to really split this up into how we're successful, what we do, the business relationships that we've created so again, stop us asked as many questions as you can and don't be afraid to ask us anything we'll try and answer everything that we know one of things I think that's kind of interesting a lot of ur wedding based or people based photographers and what we do is actually all product it's obviously lots of liquids, lots of booze bottles and lots of food, one of things that that I really believe it's true about my photography is I see things very sculptural e I look at an object, I look at that shape, and I realize how I've got to carve the light in order to make that sculpture come out. Those principles will transfer right to shooting people a lot of it, not all of them, but many of the things that you're going to learn in terms of lighting tools and white shaping. Well, you'll be able to apply that to working with people if that's what you're into so so tomorrow kind of the same format in the am we're gonna be going over a little more technical side of the gear that we have we're going to actually bring on one of our creative directors that we work with is going to be interview, we're gonna learn a lot about creative agencies, the roles that they have there, so again, they're also in the commercial photography industry, so if you're trying to break in, a photographer is not the only role we're going to go over a ton of the people that are on our team, andi, we're going to go over is many roles of the people that we work with. Commercial photography is a team sport without question, this is not something that we just do, you know, the two of us or just me by myself, it really takes a team, you have to assemble the right people in order to make it happen. So there are a lot of different roles that you can fit into in order to, you know, break into the commercial world and really learn a lot because it's it's incredibly difficult to do, just like as a person, it takes a team and then in the pm again, we're going to just switch, turn around, build a set, we're shooting something for ah, bud light platinum and if you guys heard of that brewery it's a little small brewery in st louis, uh, then saturday, aaron, ace from flor earned if you guys don't know floren dot com aaron is one of the best three touches in the world, a great guy he's going to take the images that we created, sit down with pat and rob ah, and build those images from start to finish. You're going to see the entire workflow from pre production from when we get the idea from the creative agencies how we build it, the dialogue, the organic dialogue that goes back and forth, the problem solving that we have the narron's going to build it so it should be interesting. This is different from what aaron normally does because he can build these very fanciful things, but we're actually producing images for clients, so we really have to keep in mind they're message their brand message and how to tailor that they the components that we photograph, that we capture into a final peace that's really going to speak to what the client needs, so it should be very informative, and you really get a chance to see how we work with other people, you know, from the ad agency and from rita cher's, all the way through to delivering a final product to the client, so today we've already been through the audience intro and again. If we want to start right now like let's go over your guys his expectations for what you guys want to get out of this so if some wants to pick up a mic and we'll try and add that in if we're not already gonna do yeah, my expectations for this is actually to find out basically from the beginning aspects of I mean hey, you know, how do I find clients? You know well, you know, what would I draw ideas from afar is like what I guess depending on their brand how do I want to set it up? I mean, it I'm coming from like bear basic like, hey, I just picked up a camera last week and I want to do what you guys are doing so I want to know what you do and show me we'll definitely cover that absolutely honey I'd like to know more about your marketing strategies how there repp plays a role in your business you know what? What has worked for you in the past and what hasn't there's a lot of places you can spend money and there's a lot of places waste money yeah, yeah, right, right and so I'm hoping to learn from your mistakes I've been making it myself, you know? But you know, so maura long that sides of marketing things that I'm really looking forward to great we'll cover a lot as well I'd liketo have an idea, like breaking into the market. How does one do that when you don't have prior work to go out and promote yourself? How do you do that? So I think we're going to touch on that were going, yeah, everything there is going to touch the question, we're really going to spend a minute on it, but it takes as knows you write it down quickly, I would say what I'm most excited about learning is in portrait photography and wedding photography, so much of the job is dealing with people, so you're kind of fifty percent taking pictures and fifty percent doing being a therapist and a comedian, and I'm really excited to learn about just focusing completely on the art and the lighting and just really creating something without all that other craziness going on. Hi, um, I'm really interested in learning how to become an assistant, uh, when I have a portfolio that's about ten years old and how to kind of revamp it and and to get a job to get the experience, but not having the portfolio yet. Okay, great. Lots of good questions, I know we're going to cover everything, I will tell you one thing, patients in time without question is going to apply to every component. Of turning into commercial photographer without question it's not something that you can just do tomorrow it takes time to really develop your style it takes time to build relationships commercial photography is not just a business it's a business about relationship people have to trust you they have to see in your work that you can execute an amazing image and they have to trust you to come to you with their client dollars because they're essentially taking client money they're giving it to you and they're putting their reputation on the line so it takes a while to build that trust but there are a lot of steps that will go over on how you put yourself in the best position to build those relationships and gain their trust over time but patients is with that question and it's the hardest thing to do particularly now with the advent of digital photography I mean it boom you can get a picture right away the image is amazing it's almost hard to get a bad file with a digital camera these days they're incredible so it it's I think increased the eagerness to photographers have and let's face it we're kind of impatient people to begin with is probably why we're photographers immediate gratification you can see the results but it takes a little while to get your you know your sea legs under us so we'll give you some tips on how to get there so after we talk a little bit more about what we do, we're gonna go into the rolls of commercial photography and only about ten different people on our team and we have two different cities, so we have to build a team of people in two different cities, and that needs to be pretty deep because they're all freelancers, they're all contractors, so we need a pretty big roster that we can take anywhere, so we'll get into that as well, especially with assisting and how to break in because that's how I broke into this industry as well, um, building your brand, we're gonna go over that that's gonna be in the a m today, voter wraps are wrapped. Leslie zahara from sahara reps dot com is going to be coming on, and we're going to do an interview with her. This was really terrific she's been in the business thirty years great example ability, relationships, you somebody has incredible staying power and has helped elevate my business, so she she's been able to take me on and put me in a position to get bigger jobs, and everyone had without her she's got a wealth of knowledge, and we're looking for having her out here with you as well to talk about what she does and how she helps shape the tigers and make it better. And probably one of the biggest things that you could learn from we're going to cover in the a m section today and it's finding bidding winning license signor images for usage rights with your clients s o we're going to spend a decent amount of time on that taking through a real job that we just did maybe four months ago yeah uh so or think about the questions and have it ready on then pm photo shoot so let's go what do we uh take a seat we'll sit down sit down have a sip of water and we'll go into the first part so rg photo that's the name of our studio well you already kind of covered the fact that I'm rob grimm I have been in the business for twenty years I started taking pictures when I was a little kid I was very fortunate to have my father is an artist and I literally grew up on his lap at a potter's wheel it was very influenced by him got into the business after college and worked my way up through assisting I spent four and a half years as an apprentice and spent almost nine four years out of another photo studio full time both as an assistant and a photographer and then opened up rg photo and we specialize in commercial product work with food and beverage and product being the emphasis so it is a team approach without question but that's, our that's, our studio in a nutshell, that's mean not so how do we differ from the average portrait photographer? How how is our studio different? How is our clientele different? What's our clientele is very difficult. First and foremost, we work almost exclusively with ad agencies and design firms. If you're in the wedding kind of portrait business, you're dealing with people, you know, smaller scale in terms of its just one or two people, we're dealing with ad agencies in brands and were coming through a chain of command, so an ad agency is being hired by a brand to execute their vision, they say, ok, this is what we want to do. We have a brand message, we need to get it out. The ad agency will in turn come up with a bunch of different concepts, figure out what they want to do, present them to the client and then turned to photographers and say, okay, we need to execute this so we're working with a whole group of people to execute a vision once they've assigned us to task to do that, we've got to turn to our team of people that were assembled to go ahead and put all those pieces in place to execute that so it's it's, a big, lengthy planning process. I think one thing that might be a little bit different with doing portis is it doesn't take much time to plan you kind of booked a session in some ways you know what you're going to do or you know, the wedding date you've got to be there and you have a certain list of images that you know you have to get you got to get the bride and groom together you have to get you know, the wedding party together and you've got to create the whole field of wedding so it's conveyed um with us we have to really understand what the brand messages we have to understand what the ad agency wants to dio we have to execute that um that message and then bring a little something extra to it you know, it's definitely important for us to have our vision but we don't want to overstep our bounds I don't want to be a prima donna and say oh, now that you've hired me, this is how we're going to do it. Um I really won't understand what the clients want to do with their brand message so I can execute that to the degree and then maybe add a little extra awesome tell me a little bit more about your background how did you get to where you're at where what's the secrets to be in that patient's I guess that I grew up you know, on my father's lap who was an artist a tte the potter's wheel and had that sense of art throughout my entire life I went to college and bolder and went into the business school and this is where my father and I were at each other's throats my father's probably the only person in the history of parents who has screamed at their child you have got to drop out of business school, get into your school he'd any day but he was right he knew me. I'm glad I spent some time in the business school because it really helped me with my business but I needed to be in a dark room I needed to have a camera in my hands so I got back into the fine art school of boulder spend my time getting my b f a ce o photography was my emphasis area but I did sculpture I did print making I did drawing I did a bunch of other disciplines that really helped me think sculptural e like I talked about earlier I see objects as sculpture. So mind my job is to really carve that object back out of light I've got to get that thing to come to life and I think having the discipline of the bf a degree and being in sculpture classes and being in printmaking has brought so much to what I do is a photographer I've heard a lot of other photographers talk about this that they have, you know, art history, backgrounds that they look at paintings, they look at the luminous quality that the painters used in order to bring the light out and it's true, looking at that kind of stuff and really studying other disciplines of art will do wonders for us with a photographer. So I graduated from college, I moved to chicago to work for sotheby's auction house. I had this dream, I still stuck in this business thing and still fighting my father a little bit, and I had this dream that I was going to own a gallery and some million dollar paintings and wear armani suits and drink where I'd wine it was all going to be awesome. We don't do that no way definitely don't sell million dollar painting, I'm in armani suits, armani suits him or do you want tea today? Absolutely. Um, I was miserable in that world, the art world in that sense was just not for me it all. So I started calling photographers in chicago knowing that I only had a college portfolio. My my book at that time was two years old, it was all architectural, and here I go, I want to become a commercial photographer, and I'm already very interested in product stuff it was kind of what I was drawn to seeing what other photographers were doing so I started by calling you know, I just started calling around luckily I had a girlfriend whose sister I was a producer for a very famous photographer in chicago named this monarchy and that was my first in called him got his studio manager that gave me a couple names and I just started knocking on doors it's kind of frustrating there were some people that were really open and say okay, you know, thanks for coming here there's some stuff strong stuff here there's some weak stuff here this is what you need to do to get better so you can come assist me they're a couple people that really try to break you uh there was one guy in particular who happened to be a food and beverage photographer in chicago he was ruthless just absolutely put me through the wringer told me everything was horrible just you know, he was a mean guy had a heart attack and died at, like forty eight years old. So carla don't be mean to people is what I'm saying, but I worked my way in I started doing interning at a couple photo studios I just volunteered my time because I didn't have a strong enough book so people weren't really ready to hire me and quite honestly since I was in the fine art department in boulder that was more about, you know, kind of having fun and being free wheeling it really wasn't very technical when I was in my first photo studio I had to break down a huge set that they had a huge too I didn't even know how to take apart of four by five so I had to ask like how do I take apart a large format camera and one of things I learned very, very quickly you've got toe ask if you don't know something don't fake it don't be afraid that you don't know it is totally fine this is a very technical business there's a lot of weird stuff that just weird equipment it's like how do I even handle this? Don't be afraid to ask questions so I kind of worked my way in doing internships and then started assisting and it's just kind of rolled from there. Yes, how long did you volunteer? Like how, how much you know and not very long I the first group I work with is called a satan photo group they're no longer around, but I probably volunteered for them for three days and then they started hiring me on a freelance basis so I came in and I work a day here in a day there and I get paid I did the same thing with a guy named jack for no and for serving go hard too fashion photographers in chicago when I moved back to st louis, I kind of moved back to st louis by accident. I didn't intend to it, but I just started doing some freelance assisting and same thing, even though I had been assisting for a while, I've been assisting for probably a year in chicago, the studio that I wanted being hired full time. They wanted me to come in for a day just to test that's very common. We asked people all the time to come in and work for a day for free because we want to know how we all fit. You know, if this business is interesting because we have to make art between nine and five, you know you've got to physically create art for the client on a clock and the team has to be very unified and you have to be able to read people and get on the same page very quickly. So that's one of the reasons why we bring people in to work for us just for a day so that we can kind of get a sense of who they are and what they can handle. And then and then we feel like we can throw things off because it's really important, I think it's really important to you. Assemble the right team around you and let them do a job which I'm not very good at I mean I'll admit that I'm really right I'm pretty bad at that I didn't say it yeah it's hard for me sometimes to say okay go move that when I could do it myself but I'm trying I'm getting better so I too taking two decades I just stand around and drink coffee all I really don't do much drink tea you don't even know if it's true I drink tea coffee is for chumps we're in seattle had to bring up coffee yeah they like it out here they're little yeah they're a little fun to call the idea doesn't it? Yeah rob wondering you said you had a draw towards product photography early on do you remember who some of your inspirations were with other photographers? Perhaps that kind of gravitated to that direction that's a good question you're going back twenty five years and now nothing comes to the top of my head let me think about it I'll try remember some photographers who really kind of gravitated towards I think it was just there were two I think they were a couple things one as I started breaking into photo studios I was really amazed by the studio itself and when I started seeing all the equipment and a lot of the stuff it was around that kind of clicked for me and those begin our objects and they're not they're not people and I found very quickly that I had a love for the equipment and I had a love for glass and bottles and surfaces and that just kind of all clicked from the very beginning uh let me think about other photographers that were inspirational I don't want to get too far off track because I just have so many questions for you you just said talk all day wait we are I know a lot of people just starting out or wanting to break into the commercial industry and you said that you didn't have to volunteer for very long I'm just wondering do you think that that's normal for people that want to break in that they would go and volunteer if they could get their foot in the door for a few days and then maybe the studio would start paying them a daily rate or that's normal here's the thing if I'm going to come if I'm gonna ask him to come in and work for me for free unless they completely don't click with me and are just they break everything in sight and they're rude about it I'm gonna have them back, you know, unless they really mess up, I'm gonna absolutely have them back they've given me a day of their time or they give me a couple of days of their time um I want to give them something back in return so I'm gonna give them the opportunity to work on some jobs and see how it goes we're going to go over kind of how you would approach on how you would contact a studio because we have a ton of people that contact us on a regular basis um so we know what that's like um and we bring people in all the time on spec shoots on stuff that we're doing we do a ton of testing they were not shooting for a client rob's built some crazy set were like playing with light and there's water and whiskey flying everywhere and rob's got his pants off it's weird it's weird it's a tuesday no patents, no pants that's armani suit it's armani suit tuesday no pants points but you should know the schedule I should since some strange it we'll get it we'll get more yes. Okay, cool. You want to go that's me down my back and you want to go over your background? You sure? Um so I'll just kind of tell a story about how I got into this if you would have told me ten years ago I'd be working here what it told you your line? You know, I grew up not taking photos no one put a camera in my hand at the age of six on a family vacation um after graduating from the university of denver um I was given the little white mac book from apple and I was like, holy, I just come from a pc holy cow this thing's awesome like in my movie and my creating stuff on this little point and shoot crappy three megapixel camera that I had and I was joining the peace corps so I was going to broad I was living in eastern europe and I didn't really have anything to do in the culture was different on the people were nice going around this little point shoot and look at it on my flows like this sucks these air terrible photos you know, like what's wrong why aren't I doing? I guess you can't just point and shoot and have it look good no, you know, at the time was like a four hundred dollar camera and then I was just kind of messing with I photo going online, taking tutorials, figuring it out and at the time you know, a resource like creative live didn't exist yet, but there was people making youtube videos and it's just kind of coolest I was learning that way, you know, pain like thirty dollars for like eight megabytes of data so it's just like shelling out of this money in eastern europe it is like starting like a dial up having people send me dvd so that kind of it the into that two years me and another volunteer decided we're going to make a documentary on why the soviet union and their current communist government how they differed so we're like okay, we're going to take on this massive project it's gonna be awesome we got the interwebs at our fingertips and I actually flew home bought a camera was like a cannon xl one like standard uh uh wasn't high def we didn't really know what we're doing we didn't really know about audio but we had like the interwebs at our fingertips it was completely different than it it wasn't like today with creative lives and we have all this stuff we could just learn and sit down so we weigh spent about a year making this documentary and we learned a ton we obviously they learned from our mistakes the audio was terrible, you know, not today we learned exactly what not to do but I I really fell in love with production and I kind of when I came back just abandoned my business finance degree was like all right, that was a wasted a hundred grand but whatever parents wanting yeah that's a good point knows so so then I was like, ok, what do I do now? Um um at a crossing so I joined to start up I was the director of marketing for this company in st louis and I liked what I was doing it didn't really like it was trying to figure out how to break into photography then joined apple um and I started working for apple is a business consultant for a while but the whole time I was just using that as a stepping stone to figure out how to get into commercial photography so I did that for two years on I started assisting as a digital tech so I knew a lot about computers I knew a lot about raid I knew a lot about digital asset management and that was kind of my my bread and butter so I was shooting you know I'd gotten the five demark too and I was like oh my god this is amazing and like my photos are starting to look a little bit better but I still didn't know the business I didn't know that lingo I didn't know how anything worked and the industry so I was like okay that is not something I can just learn offline nobody's teaching that so I saw the value and having photographers like rob pay me to steal their secrets so I started working for all these different photographers around town and I started working for rob and I remember the first day that I saw his studios was walking in his neighborhood looking for a studio for me and another photographer and we thought you were gonna do event we're going to portrait you start working for magazines going to editorial work and we were doing that a little bit we're to the point where we could rent a bigger studio what what is what is this place like it looks like a playground for creative people have a lot so and I knew who robbed wass but I've never seen this studio so you know I emailed his producer at the time it was like he had loved come donate my time I was like I will do this for free I absolutely saw the value and doing that for free so uh it took maybe a couple weeks for a month he brought me in I started working as a digital tech um he started bringing me in on shoots on test shoots and then it got to the point where working for rob was becoming a problem for my job with apple so it's like maybe like a half a year into it good problem from the timing was right um his studio manager at the time took a job at a creative agency um so a lot of luck I attribute to where I am today gary really came to me by accident in many respects he had been contacting my studio producer and um I hadn't didn't know anything about him photography business is seasonal there's times when stuff just hits and then there's times when you just dead there's nothing going on and we were all busy ones all photographers in town were kind of slammed at once I couldn't get anybody on the crew and maggie was like, well, how about this guy gary martin said all right let's bring him in for one day let's see how he does you know he came in, he volunteered his time and carries very valuable he's got a lot of skills, but fortunately he spent, you know, he's a huge techie I'm an old fart so I'm not a tech is a young whippersnapper I just got his e mail work and say, hey, I thought that was a miracle so, you know, love, right? I mean, it just kind of happened that I couldn't get any of my regular systems uh, we had an opportunity to bring area in, let him, you know, show us what he could do and, uh and he proved his weight and, uh, he's been your fulltime now is hold yours disclosures years most valuable without question he works really hard and it's always going to doom or puts it out there says, hey, can I do this? Can I do that or, you know, just goes ahead and get stuff done for me and my wound it's terrific, so quick example right here and there's something that I put together that rob and I kind of went back and forth on if you enroll in the class, I think of you purchased the class. You're gonna get like a fourteen page assistance manual, um, on everything that we look for. And if you follow this thing to the t, you would absolutely get hired and and welcomed back by a photographer because there's only certain things that we look for, we don't ask that, you know a lot about cameras, that's like that's that's at the bottom of our list, and we're gonna go over that. The last thing I'm gonna expect you to come in and know how to run a hostile blot and all my brown color equipment. It's, very technical stuff is very expensive stuff, so most people don't have access to it. We need a good attitude. We need somebody who's responsible, who's, positive, who's on time, it's on that assistant daniel, don't you? You'll get a lot of information out of it.

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

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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.