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How to Be a Commercial Photographer

Lesson 14 of 34

Building your Portfolio

Rob Grimm, Gary Martin, Aaron Nace

How to Be a Commercial Photographer

Rob Grimm, Gary Martin, Aaron Nace

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Lesson Info

14. Building your Portfolio

Lesson Info

Building your Portfolio

So uh you guys want to start out with some takeaways from yesterday what did you guys like what you guys want to see today what you guys want to see this may be different when we start teo the photo shoot and the you know how the attention to detail and you know just seeing what you do in in real life that was really great today is going to be a little bit more intense in terms of the photo shoot it's going to be much faster pace it's gonna be a little bit more chaotic from my point of view there's going to be a lot more going on so it should be a good opportunity learned some cool stuff today as well one thing to keep in mind we have not set up a pre light for this we don't know how we're going to shoot it we don't know where we're gonna put the lights that's something that we're gonna figure out from scratch so just so you guys know we've never done this way don't know exactly what we're going to do and we're going to go back I don't want to start whether I wind up there yeah he's to...

tally different okay, so cool um any other takeaways from yesterday anything else you guys want to see? You guys learn anything yesterday is it just the one wants let's do a recap for him they'll call what we did so building your brand building a brand big thing first and foremost, you know, we talked about that yesterday quite a bit there's so many different elements that go into building your brand number one his time and being focused and really figuring out what you're passionate about and go with that build something that centered upon your skill set figure out what your strengths are and build upon that it's a really big deal building your team you gotta have the right people behind you it's really important that you find people who are solid of what they do and can work well with you and it's particularly when you're working you know, with some people that you don't know very much when art directors come into the studio for the first time it's so important have the right team around you people that you can turn to and go to and say okay, you're gonna really help us rocket out assisting what do think about assistant assisting huge it's the best place for you to learn learning at you know the side of ah commercial photographer who's making it work is far far away the best wayto so we talked a lot about assistant yesterday best thing for you do without question it gets you in a studio gets you hands on on it gives you the ability to really learn from somebody who's, you know doing it on a daily basis as a professional, you can take that knowledge and adapt it your own way and apply it to your craft. Is you get going on your business, it's also great if you can't afford to go to school or you're not in the school for photography, this is something you can actually get paid to do while you're doing maybe another job. So I got to tell you many ways, it's the best school it's real world experience. You've got the pressure of clients. You've got the pressure of a clock. It's not like you know, class just ends. You go home, you come back tomorrow. It's the real world there's no textbooks, there's, no homework. There's, no reading that's. Great. Hey, there's homework. I don't get homework. You've never given me homework. You get enough on all your homework. Don't turn it in to, uh, way talked about that yesterday. That's a big one. You really have to build a creative community for yourself. Joining s and p in your city. Find out what other photographers were doing other first assistance and really network with him and talk to people. The more you ask for help, the more people are likely to help you. Uh, two unemployed way and just get your foot in the door and build your network, which is in turn, going to build relationships. And as I said yesterday, this business one hundred percent hands down is relationship based it's all about relationships. It's about putting your book together, getting it out there. People need to have trust in you that they want to come to your studio. They want to know that it's gonna work, that you have the confidence in your but it takes a while to build that relationship. You never just walk in and place first time and get a job. It's it's getting to know people and giving them confidence in who you are as a photographer and as a person and building those relationships. And they come to you time and time again. Awesome. So one thing that is different about today, we have a creative director with us from fusion marketing. And if you joined us yesterday, we showed you a diablo photo shoot. That was actually pat that he made the camps. That was his idea. He came to us to create it, and we had never met pat before that day, so pat came on, we shook hands and we got to work. And and problem solving and trying to figure out how we were going to execute his vision and the vision of that brand so that's going to be here we're going to an interview with him in a little bit with rob uh then he's goingto kind of take us like a back and forth while we're on the photo shoot so get your question and tell me if I'm on the right track when as we're working with the bud light platinum bottles he's making sure he's going to make sure that I'm on the right track and that I'm paying attention to the details that are really important to both his creative team into the brand's creative team so that's a fact so let's get into talking about building your portfolio awesome so building your portfolio we went over it a lot yesterday it's a really big deal without question I'm goingto pass port fool around I'm like you start and you guys can pass around we're gonna look at mine a little bit um this is kind of I can't even tell you how important this is your portfolio is you it's your first step forward uh tells people what you're capable of doing it tells people what your eyes like and it tells people what your skill set it's like it is also where people know whether you've got the goods to pay attention to the details and not, um yesterday when we were talking to leslie my rap, I was saying that I had had contacted virginia plans who is another one of the reps in her group about helping me find a new rap and when I first contacted her really wasn't ready for the rap I had to sit down and go to my book and I pull it apart and went back and re printed the whole thing so I have found that a printed book is much better for my use in terms of getting people engaged in digital digital is really important I think it's important to go into any portfolio she showing with both a printed book and in a digital you know, an ipad book because if you've got multiple people in their people could be flipping through the ipad, then you can get people in greater depth and greater detail looking at the printed book um and the ipad is also great for motion if you're doing any motion is we're doing more and more all the time you obviously can't show it in a printed book you have to have an ipad so that's a great way to do it. The printed book, though is great as a photographer because number one it engages art directors more when they're looking at your book but number two it also makes you look at your image is a lot more there's something about the reflective page that makes you slow down and it makes you pay attention to the detail as it was reprinting my book, I thought you know what this area I'm gonna find? Tune a little bit more and take some of these things back into retouching and spruce him up a little bit? So print print is foreign away really important to do another important reason why you shove it like a portfolio showing with a print and maybe one or two ipads is because there might be four, five, six maybe eight people there and you don't want one person crowding around one portfolio you wantto we want them to each have the experience at once because they might not be able to be there for you twenty, thirty minutes like you'd like them to be, they might just stop in, so having multiple copies if you can is always a plus. Yeah, they pop in for a doughnut or cooking and then they're looking at your stuff quickly, then they gotta go because they're busy and another, I guess benefit to having both a digital um one I love the print, but two on your website you can just create a link for download my portfolio and they can instantly download a pdf that's like three or four megabytes and take it with him so it's good to have both but definitely start with a printed portfolio absolutely so how do we print these? What we use with absent absent technology has really and completely changed the business as digital photography came in and changed it so did absent I use my book is made by lost luggage the actual outer case which is nice they make a bunch of of covers that you could just buy right off of the shelf I used to have a guy who would build all my portfolios for me they were handmade and it took a long time it was a very expensive process this isn't exactly cheap but it's really good and these things are really well made so the nice thing about lost luggage to is that you can also buy paper that's pre drilled thieves have put together with screw posts right? So moab makes a beautiful paper that runs right through the ups and thirty eight hundred which is how I printed these you can print them on both sides and their pre drilled their full bleed so I can print over the entire page and drop it right in and the print quality is absolutely insane I mean I just I'm blown away by these every time I look at him just the detail that you get out of the absent thirteen hundred is really incredible take us to the work full how do we start and how do we finish you? How do you so as I ripped apart my book, there was one thing that I had really, really noticed about my portfolio is I have been looking at the images and putting them together in a way that I thought made visual sense. I was looking at, uh, maybe mainly color cues, like looking at how things would fit together so that the two pages together would fit in a color game's almost on daz, I ripped my book apart. I thought, you know what I'm really missing is I'm missing that emotion, missing connectivity with the reader, I've got to figure out a way two pair my images so that there's a story between the two images, somehow they connect, sometimes it may just be a color. Q but for the most part, I'm trying to create an emotion out of those two images together. It's great. If you could look at your work and think, okay, not only are these two images strong, they're better is a pairing because somehow they tell a story um one great example of that. This is an image of that love, which we're doing is this guy so despairing? I absolutely in love with its one of my favorites. The image on the left of the woman holding the martini was done for sex in the city to the movie it was italian with sky vodka as they came up with a different cocktail for each character, and we were assigned to photograph the cocktail based on each character, so we gave each image the life of the character and combined that with the cocktail the image on the right was done about a year later for a company called nor which makes a variety of sauces and different things. So we did this wrong me and obviously the colors are very similar in here it's kind of coincidental that the background on both of these images have a real similar tone, but there's also something about the martini and meet that kind, you know, and the woman who's, obviously she looks like she's ready to go out on the town, so to me, I thought, yeah, there's kind of a whole connection there. There's a cocktail there's a big dinner there's a night on the town there's a lifestyle that I want to live. You know? I want to go have a really big hunk of steak and have a cocktail and have a great night on the town, so I'm thinking about that kind of stuff, is I'm putting these images together? I'm looking at pairings that that work you know, like muscles and tequila. Uh, would you normally put mussels in tequila together? No, your mind probably wouldn't think of that. But visually as this, these two images are both really dark. They have similar tones, but there's something about it that kind of makes sense if you think about all right, you know what I might want to eat and drink that together. So that's kind of that's kind of how I'm playing on things I'm looking to paginated my book and pagination is the way the book flows from one thing to the next. We're think here again, this also makes visual sense in terms of coloration, right? Um, I'm big on food and beverage that's my thing food and beverage. So what am I repeating? Food and beverage, food and beverage? I'm driving that message home. There's product intermix in here, there's some watches. They're a few other things, but for the most part it is food and beverage all the way through. How do you start out like talk about how we print everything out. So table the way I did this is I actually printed everything really small. I don't want to go ahead and make all these giant prints of everything I printed things very small, like I don't know four by five and I caught him out and I put them on the table. I had, you know, a big kitchen island, and I just laid him out, and I started pairing things together, and I found that I actually needed to make a few multiple prints of the same ones because of one image might work really well with three other images, so I would lay them all out and look at them and really study how they worked as a pairing, and by process of elimination, I would find the pairings that I felt were best. Then, once I had those pairings don't together, I would tape them together, and I would start putting one after the next. So the whole book was basically laid out on the kitchen table, going all the way across because I wanted to see how it would look as we went from one page to the next. So I have thought about this book from the front cover to the back cover, every single image placed here for a very specific reason, and it's, really, you know, you can kind of go through and tell you exactly what every single reason is, yeah, I could, but it makes visual sense to me, it makes no sense in terms of taste. It makes sense in terms of what I do is a photographer. I think one of the cools things when we laid everything out on the table, you could see how complementary colors kind of transitions from, you know the blues to the greens to the darker tones and that that in a way it's it's harder to do on a computer that's something that you actually have to print out even put it on like a magnetic board and just see how your eye goes through the colors because if the colors are more abrupt, they don't they're not exactly complimentary it's it's harder one of the things that's also nice about the way I shoot I'm shooting everything to eleven by fourteen my book is eleven by fourteen I'm using a medium format camera, which loved my fourteen is very standard crops eyes an animal I'm losing almost none of the image sensor when I cropped eleven by fourteen, which means that every image I take is almost instantly in my book that's one thing I like about medium format versus a thirty five for me because of thirty five cents or being ob long it doesn't fitful bleed you have to cross something off if you're going to do a full bleed and I want my image is big and impactful as much images I can I want the whole page people just when when the entire you know page is an image it hits him and it's just got a lot more visual impact. So again, tequila and pizza and beer. Who doesn't want that? Even in the morning? How many photographers in the commercial round would you say shoot only to portrait or the majority toe landscape? How important is that? When you're thinking about your book? I think that the majority of advertising photographers were shooting to portrait because that's the standard for advertise, you know, there's. Not a whole lot of advertisements that have done you know, is that horizontal? Some are on. Obviously, in my book, I have a few pages horizontal, and I like them. I like the way they break up the book, but for the most part, commercial photographers, uh, we're shooting for advertising are definitely shooting to a typical in my fourteen and a half by eleven. Give this book to the backer and you guys can play around with it as well. There any of you guys now in the audience thinking about that in terms of okay. Is this gonna be a portrait landscape? Should the majority of my images be porcher landscape? How is that gonna help me tell story that looks kind of similar in the same I didn't think about that when I started shooting at all I didn't think about how it would fit in my portfolio I just live shooting images that light and then I found the problem we have is how am I gonna crop this and make it work in my blood and it doesn't always do that sometimes you know when I think as photographers developed you see the full frame so you used the full frame which means cropping something out later it's a degradation of the image and you're not as happy with with it so now I'm at a point where I'm going into almost every single image including job images I'm thinking about how they're gonna work in my book and I'm really working with that eleven by fourteen crap that's one of the advantages of the medium format sensor for me so the printing process kind of quick how long do you guys think it takes us to make one of those books? I guess I was gonna ask do you print this in house put that in the studio okay, so we printed on something the absent thirty eight hundred right um two eleven by fourteen we get the paper like we said from a company called lost luggage and it's made by moab each page probably takes what eight to ten minutes to print so it's it's a slow process and with the amount of images that we have overall it's a three to four day process all day if we don't have any problems with the printer uh there's no hiccups all the images are coming out, you know, perfect for steve don't anything unless you didn't yeah and like you have to have the next one cute up ready to go so it's like prepared like an entire week for printing your portfolio and like put in time but it's it's such a great process toe you know, step away from the computer, put the camera down and actually make something that tells a story and it's great for your I tell you it really helps develop your you can you can obviously go to services, there are a lot of service is that you can upload your portfolio and the printed book and you just open the mail and you get your book back that's that could be a cost effective way to do it and it's a time saver because you don't spend multiple days doing it. I personally like printing the book myself. I can manage the image quality where I can't manage it if I haven't sending it off to the service. The other thing that's really great about using a lost longest product like this and not having a bound book you can open this back up and you can swap images out so the core of my book gets updated with great regularity but not every image has to come out we can take out a couple of images and add you know six more images in and it's a matter of only printing a few pages versus reprinting the entire book if you're if you're using an off site service somebody to print your your book and it comes to you in the mail you've gotta print an entire new book you can't swap ages out so this is a really cost effective way to do it down the line as your book grows and develops and I think for somebody starting out this is a much better way to go because you can swap images out as your images get better versus swapping out the entire book so before the interwebs how many portfolios did you have? What was that process we had between ten and twelve we had a written log of where they all were because they had to be fedex to different ad agencies around the country and you had to keep track of who had your book and where it wass you know obviously the website excuse me has really changed the way people view our portfolios they could do it much faster and if they want to seymour they can they can call in your book but you know we used to have to have you know, a good ten or twelve of them which was really expensive yeah, now each one of my raps, I've got three ropes through zahara there's, leslie there's virginian there, scott l a chicago in new york. So each one of them has the book I have to, so that I can, you know, have one with me send one out, so it kind of got it down to five, which is nice, you don't have to have quite a cz many, um, that may sound like a lot, but I think five is really it's, not a bad number. Just looking at the pages itself doesn't have, like, a tax. So when you put this group host and I mean, you're getting the full image itself and not, you know, can't drilling through that, you don't have to drill through it, they come pre drilled and they come with a basically a little hinge, so it's, basically, you put it in the printer, you've gotta futz with the printer a little bit, does there's a way to set up the printer in order for teo, do full bleed? And when you read the absent manual, tell you all how to do that, and they're also forums that going to help you troubleshoot because it could be a little fuzzy, and you have to shift the image a little bit. For the left side versus the right side when you're doing, you know the full bleed but you just drop it in it's just a screw post I mean, it could not be more simplistic the only other thing that we didn't talk about we use also something called desert varnish this comes off the printer must and we have a string basically in our portfolio room and we just clip him onto the string and we have to put three coats on each side basically spray it so the longevity of the paper is preserved because people are gonna be touching with their oily fingers water? Yeah, the desert varnish is interesting because it's what it's a mat varnish and it keeps oils and stuff from getting on the images and keeps him from ruling it. You gotta be careful with it, it's an ether based product so you want to do it in a fairly well ventilated place because it does kind of get you a little heady when your spring him, but we give everything three good coats and they're set to go so that's a part of our time too when we say it takes just four days to do this if we're printing every single page in the book and we're coding each page front and back it's a good four days with a work, any questions before we move on there's a question from the internet actually from cabaret is from montreal canada quebec saying how many pages for the portfolio uh good question again I'll go back to don't have a bad image in there I think when you're starting out it's not bad toe have fifteen twenty images that you know that's a fairly good number when people know you're starting out I've got I know something give me a count there I probably have thirty two pages total something like that so I've got sixty four images um I could easily load them up with more but you don't want to make people look at your book too long uh sixty is kind of probably the top somewhere around there but twenty you know, fifteen to twenty I think is a good number of people starting out and your printing on both sides so you take the paper out and then flip it over yeah print comes out and then we spray it and then it goes back in actually no actually yeah no it comes out you let it we hang out we let it dry for maybe ten minutes and then that comes back in the opposite direction and then the you put it in kind of a different uh it doesn't explode I access on the print of rip that says where the image is going to hit and as I said you've got to goto absent and read exactly how to set that up because if you just try to print and it's not going to come out right, you're gonna you're gonna have a little bit of border, you want full bleed, but basically that's another reason why we looked at the whole thing out on the kitchen table because we're printing two sides, meaning we're you know, we're printing the right page, but on the back of the right page is the left side of the next spread. So you've got to think about how they transfer one to the next, and you have to set up your portfolio printing process so you know exactly which image you need to get next, we tend to go through and print all one side. First we print all the left hand pages, and then we goes back and we shoot, we print all the right hand pages that gives the left hand side a little time to cure because you want that when it goes back in the machine and the reason we don't coded beforehand, the print rollers were will actually make indentations on the varnish, not the page, but on the varnish, and you'll get lines out of your barn, so let it let it cure, then run it through the on the second side, and then you conveyed us both of them. It's pretty costly to make mistakes from pretty near on practice on something else that's expensive paper yeah test out first questions well it's got a couple bucks yeah could you go back over the portrait versus landscape again in your book you have both I mean you have todo to last games do you do that just to show that you khun do that landscape I do that intentionally one I want to break up the book a little bit I want to give the reader a bit of visual break and to their some images that just lend themselves even though I'm looking at things almost always eleven by fourteen you know traditional portrait there are some things that lend themselves better to building a horizontal composition like the the lehman attend the chino toe which is the no those bottles of soda with the lemons dripping in that just worked out really well where I could kind of stretched it out like okay this is where I'm gonna have a horizontal break so I did those two images for my book with the intention that they were going to be horizontal breaks and I was going to eat come into the portfolio in specific spots to help break it up visually so I'm trying to get the period person really engaged have have a sense to the pagination that goes from one base to the next but then I want to give them a break gives him a little bit of pause, you know kind of changes the way that thinking a little bit and then back into the rhythm so it's it's kind of intentional pattern when you are choosing images for the book do you always choose them all by yourself out of your own intuition or do you have like a team or your wife so somebody that she kind of call in to help you make the final decision? In the beginning I used a lot of opinions without question I asked a lot of people what they thought you know, what should I do? And I found that varying opinions kind of led me to be the cat chasing its tail or the dog chasing us. I'm like ok where he said he liked that and he she said she didn't like that, so now what do I do? I got to the point where I was very comfortable with it and I started going on my gut instinct. I do talk about it with my rap quite a bit particularly virginia because she had spent ten years as an art buyer. She knows what a good port foil looks like, so I will very often put stuff together and send it to her and she'll give me a thumbs up or thumbs down or say, hey what I love this but what about this and this together I keep my team of uh you know, portfolio wrangling down to an absolute minimum and kind of go with my gut then no, you say that you use in mma where paper but is it a specific type of malware paper? Because I had seen it is a specific type of milan paper. It is if you goto lost luggage they only sell. I think maybe one or two types of that specific type of paper and the paper that we get from them is on ly I think it's on ly sold it lost luggage I might be wrong. I know it is always a little off because his pre drilled for this I'm forgetting it's a luster something lester paper okay it's always you waken they cell of intelligence, they sell it with landscape too. You have the option of different sizes, you're not constricted to eleven by fourteen so if you want to do something smaller, you certainly can. The other thing I'll tell you about what's nice about this book is there's no acid tates in a lot of people will put images in acid tate sleeve. Don't do that acid tate's get scratched really easily they reflect everything in the world they reflect people, they reflect all the lights it's really hard to see the images most art buyers absolutely cannot stand acid tate sleeves even though you think, oh, that's really good because it protects my image and if somebody is eating a big greasy burger over the portfolio it's not going to get ruined, it just doesn't work it's better to go something like this if somebody drops a burger grease on your image it's a bummer, but you can swap it out. Um, acid tates or bad paper is beautiful just the way it feels loved and again it's really tactile and it causes the art buyers and art directors to slow down everyone who picks up these books go well, you know, and they and they do that they kind of rub it a little bit so thank goodness there's varnish on it to keep their oils off, but it's tack and it's it's reflective it's visual that draws them in which I think is different when you're looking at an ipad that's luminous, it has a different emotional it just just different things to your eyes than the reflective light does. So how about we do one final question before we move on? Sure, it's all right uh flood rip, who is eighty from brooklyn, wanted to talk about any copyright issues as far as putting photos from paid shoots in your book or do you need permission from your um, clients or how does that work that is in my contract? So every estimate that I put together in every invoice that goes out, I have a terms and conditions on that and my terms and conditions are taken from the snp, they have done a really good job of organizing that for you, and you go in and you plug in your own information, and it specifically says that I have the right to use this for my own promotion, it's an image that I'm creating for them, but at the end of the day, it's mine image in terms of the creation of it, and I have the right to use it for my self promotion if they have an issue with that, we're probably not going to do the job more than likely because, you know, these are my images, this is how I'm going to get the next job. So, um, I need to have that right? And, you know, really, clients don't have an issue with that. I don't even think of a coin has said you cannot use this for your own self promotion as kind of a crazy request.

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.