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2.2 The Role of Commercial Photographers in the Advertising Industry

In this lesson, you'll learn about the types of skilled people you'll collaborate with in advertising agencies and marketing offices. You’ll also gain insight into how interacting with these people will affect the way you shoot. This lesson is broken down into two parts: small businesses and big businesses. With small businesses, you work directly with the owner, manager, or advertising person. In big businesses, there are a lot more moving pieces.

2.2 The Role of Commercial Photographers in the Advertising Industry

In the last session, we defined what commercial photography is. In this session, we're going to take a look at the different types of people that you'll be collaborating with inside the marketing or ad agencies. This section is broken up into two different parts. There's small businesses and big businesses. Small businesses, you'll be working directly with a single point person, usually the owner or manager, or sometimes an appointed advertising person. In big businesses there's a lot more moving parts, and we'll break it down in that section. So what defines a small business? A small business could be defined as a company that has few enough employees that they have no dedicated internal marketing team. What this means is you, as the creative, are going to be working directly with the owner, manager or appointed point person for your project. So what this means is that when you come up with a creative decision, it's really easy to implement that decision, cuz it's just a one-on-one interaction, there's no middlemen to go through, no red tape to cut. You can just go ahead, and it makes really fast, easy work. What this also means on the flip side, though, is that you are responsible for everything on the creative. So you need to get models, locations, stylist, permits, you need to get anything that is required for your shoot. Generally, they're not going to have any talent, any stylists, they're not going to have a clear vision of what you want. So you have to help take what they're telling you, define it, and give them is this the clear vision. So, when you're working with a small business, it could be hard because there's just one person that you're trying to get that creative vision out of, and then it's your job to put together everything on the team to make that happen. Now, this could be as easy as just you and a model. It could be that they just need headshots or they just need staff shots. So something like that is really easy, because you can just go directly to their team, and there's not a lot of extra creativity that needs to go into that. So when you're working with small businesses, the pro side, really fast, streamlined, one-on-one interaction. The con side is that you have to do everything. You have to get the talent, you have to get the models, you have to get the locations, everything. Everything is on your shoulders. So those are the pros and cons of working with a small business. So how do you define a big business? We're gonna use the same criteria as a small business but flip it. So a big business will have enough employees that they have a dedicated internal marketing team. Even if that marketing team is just one or two people, for this course, I'm gonna consider that big business, and here's why. When you have an internal marketing team that you're working with, you are no longer connecting directly with the CEO, or the president ,or the owner. You are talking to the head of marketing. So when you're talking to the head of marketing, several things happen. There's a chain of command. If you are talking with the liaison from marketing, then it has to go through head of marketing, and then their manager, and then up to the owner, and however many steps are in between. So this means any creative decisions are delayed. It's all slowed down because it takes time to work its way through the chain of commands. There's that red tape problem. So, these jobs are going to take a little bit longer and you're gonna have more people to answer to. You're probably going to have, let's say, the art director. The art director could be the liaison or head of marketing. You're also going to have the owner. You could also have a board of directors or investors. Anyone who is directly hands-on and managing the project, anyone who has a say in how it turns out, those are gonna be all the people that you have to report to. Now, sometimes this can be a bit annoying, because really there should be two people that you report to, the head of marketing, and then their manager, or the CEO. But what happens a lot of time in big businesses is there are people like investors who say, I have a hand in this, and they want to see the product, even though no one said this person's going to be working on this project with you. So, that is a downside of working with big businesses, there's a lot more people, a lot more red tape, a lot more people looking over your shoulder. But on the pro side of big business, they're already going to have some of the things in place that you'll have to deal with. They might already have a talent agency, getting new models. They might already have a stylist. They might already have location permits. You could just be coming on as the photographer and joining the team that they already have set in place. Now, this isn't always the case. There are some businesses I would classify as big business per this definition, that do have an internal marketing department, but they're a small enough business, that marketing department is just one person. So, that one person isn't going to have the stylist and the location permits and everything put together. They're going to have a little bit more idea than someone who's a small business, just an owner trying to run their own business, because they're going to have their full-time job as looking into these things, whereas an owner of a small business, they only have a small fraction of their time looking into these things, and their full-time job has to cover every other department that a big business has. So the upside of with working with a big business is that they may already have things put in place, and you're just adding to the creative team. They'll already have stylists and permits, and you're just becoming a part of that. The downside of big business is that there's a lot more people looking over your shoulder, lot more people to report to, and a little bit more red tape. Now I work with both type of businesses, and all kinds in between. When you draw this line, there are a lot of companies that kind of act like a small business, where you have a lot of contact directly with the owner present, CEO, but they do have one or two people that are their marketing team and that is just their job, so you'll be talking a lot more with them. So there are small businesses and big businesses, and then that kind of in-between area where you have a mix of both, but now you get a sense of an idea of how to target each business based on how you want to work and who you want to work with. Let's talk about the types of skilled people that you'll be collaborating with. Now, depending on what genre inside commercial photography, whether it's food, products, real estate, or headshots, you're gonna be working with different kinds of people. Each genre is gonna have their own types of things, but I'm gonna go over three really quickly that are pretty much going to be involved in any commercial shoot that you do. The first is going to be the art director. This is the person, whether it's the owner, manager, or liaison from the company that is going to be overseeing your work, approving what you do, and having creative input. Now, some art directors are going to be very laid back, trust you as the photographer, and say, bring me what we hired you to do. Some are gonna be very hands on and say, this is our brand and you have to do it this way. So depending on the person to person, it could change. But an art director, or someone signing off on your work and giving you creative input, is always part of the process. On small shoots, it may be your client. You're doing their headshot, so afterwards, they're the ones approving it. Or in a big business, they could actually have an art director on set, and the art director would want to see things as you shoot them. So you might be shooting tethered, or every hour or so, downloading images to a card so you can scroll through them on your laptop. So, an art director, regardless of whether it's big or small, will be involved at some point in the process. Next is stylists. Now, depending on what your shoot is, stylists come in a lot of different forms. If you're doing portraiture, a stylist could be wardrobe, and set design, makeup. If you're doing food, it could be a food stylist. Or if you're doing real-estate, it could be someone setting the room. But regardless of what it is, a stylist is going to be involved in your shoot. If you don't have a stylist, then your commercial shoot is going to come in subpar because anyone can just walk out and shoot. It's the styling that goes into the photographs that really sell images. So sometimes you're the stylist. Sometimes you style your own shoots. Sometimes you bring a friend along. Sometimes the client will style their own shoots. But regardless, someone has to style the shoot, and generally there are people, like makeup artists and food stylists, that specialize in helping you, as the photographer, pull off a successful shoot. Next is going to be logistics. Sometimes you might be the logistics, again, sometimes it might be the client, or in a big business situation there might be a logistics person on set. Now, if you work with a big brand, like Nike for example, Nike has people that are watching over their athletes like a hawk, and you do not get one second more than the contract states. So that is a logistics person who their sole job, first of all, make sure you don't damage their athlete, but second of all, to make sure that no matter what happens, even if it's outside of your control, that you're running an hour late, that shoot still ends on time and you don't run late, or rather, the athlete doesn't run late. So there is always gonna be a logistics person, whether it's someone at the venue that you're renting saying you're getting kicked out at so and so time, or whether it's someone like Nike watching over your talent like a hawk. It could be something as simple as someone looking at their watch and saying you have five minutes to finish this one before we have to move on to the next look. But there's always going to be some manner of logistics. If you have to do logistics on your own, practice a few times, judging how long it takes you to do certain things, so that you're never late on a shoot. If you're working with a big business and a shoot runs late, that business will not work with you again. That's just the way it goes. So you have an art director who is going to be giving creative input and judging your images. You have stylists, they come in all different shapes and forms, but someone who's working to bring your images over the top. And you have logistics, someone making sure everything goes on time, you leave when you're supposed to leave, you don't damage anything in the process. Now, all three of these are going to be incorporated into any shoot you do, no matter how big or small. Of course, the bigger the shoot you do, the more people are involved, but a lot of the people will fall into one of these categories. They're either giving creative input, working to bring the shoot a higher level of production value as a stylist, or making sure some part of it, whether it's an animal wrangler or an athlete wrangler, gets out safe and on time. Let's take a look at an example. In this photo, I was commissioned to shoot this Christmas tree at a Mercedes dealership. This was a very self-directed shoot, so I was actually acting as the art director for this one, giving all the creative input. I was half working as the stylist along with my wife, who was making sure that all the ribbons on the cars were nice and straight, along with all the ornaments facing outwards. As for the logistics person, we did have someone on set from Mercedes, that was making sure that I didn't cause any damage to the tree or any of the cars around it. So, even with a very small shoot that only had three people on set, we had all three of those positions, art director, logistics, and stylists. So, now you know what goes into working with small businesses or big businesses, and the different types of people you'll collaborate with. In the next lesson we're gonna take a look at how you can get your foot in the door if you haven't already, and get an internship in commercial photography.

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