The Complete Behind-the-Scenes Guide to a Commercial Shoot


When you look around at TV ads, movie posters, billboards, you see a lot of great styles of photography. You may wonder to yourself, how do they make it look so unique? Well with this tutorial, we hope to demonstrate how you can achieve a very commercial look to photographs through the use of strobes, lighting modifiers, lighting techniques and post-processing!

Step 1: Equipment

For this tutorial you will need various bits of equipment, what we used for this shoot may or may not be available to you, and note please that there are many different types of lighting units and camera gear out there so feel free to try out what works best for you! What we used for this tutorial was:

  • 3 AlienBee B800s
  • 2 AlienBee B400s
  • 1 AlienBee ABR800 Ringflash
  • 5 Light Stands
  • 1 Boom Arm
  • 2 Large Softboxes
  • 1 Beauty Dish w/sock
  • Canon 5D Mark II w/ 24-105mm L Lens

Step 2: Camera Settings

At the outset of the video tutorial, we’ll take a look at the different camera settings we use throughout the shoot. We’ll talk about how shutter speed affects the ambient lighting in the photo, and discuss the importance of considering maximum sync speed (be sure to shoot at or below that maximum, otherwise you will be getting half of a picture when you shoot!)

I am always an advocate of experimenting with lighting and exposure, that is how I learned the most when just starting out with photography.

Step 3: Pre-light!

When shooting either models, bands, headshots, or families I always advise people to pre-light the set. What I mean is have someone there, an assistant or a friend, to stand in while you get the light settings correct and the camera settings correct.

It doesn’t matter if your shooting famous musicians or your friends family, it is just much more professional to have everything ready to go so everyone is not standing awkwardly waiting for you to figure it out. We’ll discuss a few tips relating to this in the full tutorial.

Step 4: Shoot the Photos

When the subject shows up I usually take some time to introduce myself if we have not met previously. Just take a couple minutes to “break the ice” as it were. It helps a lot when shooting people who may not be comfortable in front of the camera – especially if a total stranger is taking photo!

In the full tutorial, I’ll discuss the importance of directing your shoot and feeling confident. Be ready to tell people how to stand, or how to act, and never be afraid to jump in there and show them what your looking for!

We’ll also fully explain how the lighting set-up is going to work, and what each light does. Hopefully this will be really useful when you come to shoot your own subject!

Step 5: Post Processing

There are quite a few steps to consider when processing your images. The video will go into great detail on how to do this, but here are some main points we will discuss:

  • Retouching skin
  • Burning and dodging
  • Layer Masking/Swapping out the background
  • Real-life Application

Obviously, we’ve gone for a particular high-impact effect with this image. You may want something similar, or you may not – we’re just sharing what we wanted to achieve with this particular shoot!

Full Video

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