Skip to main content

photo & video

How to Be a Commercial Photographer

Lesson 18 of 34

Working with a Creative Director - w/ Pat Olds

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

18. Working with a Creative Director - w/ Pat Olds

Lesson Info

Working with a Creative Director - w/ Pat Olds

so come on out. How are you, man? Good. Nice to you again. So, gang, this is Paddles. He is from fusion marketing and ST Louis Fusion is an agency that I've been working with for a while, particularly his boss, the creative director there. Brian Cleaver has been a longtime client of mine. Have been working with him for probably a decade over three or four different agencies that Brian has worked in and over several brands. That should tell you one thing. That's a good relationship. A pack came with us today to help us craft this. This image that we're going to do for Bud Light this afternoon. Uh, and he's gonna be working with us early tomorrow morning on the retouching before he has to jump on a plane and head to New York for yet another project. One thing that is very true about the life of an art director is you guys have a few things on your plate. Uh, yeah, it's very busy. Like I You rarely have more than a week to think about one project. That's pretty interesting. You have a wee...

k to. So when a client comes to you and they give you a creative brief? You've only got a week a week to think depends on the size of the project. I mean, some, like a week and 1/2 maybe two weeks. But I mean, that's for us. To probably, you know, come up with concepts, put together some visuals and present, and then other agencies may work differently. That's how I mean, we're very fast paced when there's only I mean our creative department is only probably 10 at most. Let's give people a little background on how your agency works. So yesterday we were talking about how we get jobs. You know, a client hires an ad agency and ad agency sits down and concepts and then they turn around. Once the concepts were done and presented to the client, they turn around and they look for photographers through an art buyer or, you know, through the creative director, and then you guys, you know, call us forbids. How does it work from from inside the agency? When you guys have a client that comes in and say OK, we want to work on Bud Light Platinum, What do they tell you? And how does that process, then get rolling inside of your office. Uh, I mean, the client will usually give us a creative brief, which I mean, hopefully list everything out that they want to accomplish. A lot of times it doesn't. Oh, and from that point on, we come up with I mean, well, kind of brainstorm cope with several different concepts presented out to present to them. And then, uh, you know, we put together on this agency, we put together a thana visuals for that try to really sell in the idea, and then we from that we present to them. Hopefully, they pick a concept. How many concepts of you guys have to show? We usually do 2 to 3. Okay, most of time. Three. Okay. Uh, but that's still a lot of work isn't gonna work. It's three completely different factions. Yeah, and that's the idea is so they can determine which direction they want to go in. So how good are the briefs that you get from clients? Are they very Yeah, very widely. Yeah, sometimes. Sometimes their nails. And sometimes sometimes there really specific. They know exactly what they probably want to solve it. Everything. Other times they have no clue what's better? Uh, probably Somewhere in the middle, You little even gives you a little room to play. Um, but, I mean, just the most. Someone frustrating things is where they have a problem. They want to solve it. I mean, that's not really the problem. Kind of thing. More so you guys actually have to tell them sometimes what the problems really are. Fusion specializes in the beverage world, right? Yeah. Lately? Uh, yes. We have several different liquor clients and beer clients we work on. I mean, if I just say what we mean the different clients that we were, you can absolutely say what you're working. I wouldn't say What What's brewing. We work on a lot of Anheuser Busch stuff since we're in ST Louis. Uh, then we also rubs worked on a lot of the brands we work on. We work on while turkey bourbons. Uh, they have another brand American. Honey, look, we're product that we work on Diablo Dhiab, which is a tequila liqueur. We also work on Kabul Wabo tequila, Espaillat s blown tequila, Appleton estate rums. Uh, I'm sure there's some other ones in there that I'm not even thinking of. So what? The message I think you guys should be getting, though, is just as I have said, I have found my wheelhouse, its food and beverage. That also happens with agencies. Fusion has really become known for what they can do in the beverage industry, and one client begets the next client. The strategy that works for Bud Light isn't necessarily the strategy that's gonna work for Appleton, but the principles of those strategies are more than likely based somewhere in the same foundation. And when you've got an ad agency that really understands that there were quickly able to get up to speed from one brand to the next and really say, Okay, what what do we need to differentiate this brand from another? And that's a real trip for you. Yeah, and that's I mean and it different. I mean, it widely varies depending on what brand you're working on. So when a brief comes in and you've got several creative directors and and you're looking at doing two or three concepts, it's not just you that's working on, uh, it'll. I work on a lot of the new business stuff, but it would be. They're probably be me. Uh, my boss, Brian Cleaver. Uh, way would have another copywriter on there. Um, and probably one of the account execs. So you've got two or three creatives all going in different directions. Award. It depends on how it is. A lot of times, uh, we will just do more. We will work on multiple concepts at once, right? So because, I mean, I will work closely with a copywriter. Um, and we're more designed heavy than copyrighted than copyrighting. So he would probably work on multiple of the concepts. Like, say, another creative director would work on the look for one. I would work on the look for the other, but he made right copy for both. Okay, so just just depends. So sometimes there that there could be a little competition within a competition. So you're competing with the heart burger. Next. I always compete. I mean, I love That's kind of interesting. When you think about it, you're on the same team, but you're also your The competition is actually helping the elevator work of the client. At the end of the day, they're taking competition and turning it into a benefit in that decline is going to get a better product because of the art. Directors are all trying to come up with an absolute den on nails concept that's really gonna be the one that wins and what's cool when you win. Then you get to go into production with you, actually get to go on the photo shoots and do the TV. My concepts were picked makes I mean, I think we feel like a, you know, contributed significantly to the project. Let's talk a little bit about relationships once a job has been awarded. So you and I have not known each other very long. No, um, this is kind of a really interesting thing. Pat and I have worked on one project together. The Diablo, um and now he's out here helping us. It's kind of fasting from my point of view. The first time I saw Pat was when he walked in the door, came up the stairs and we shook hands and immediately behind me was to set that we had pre lit and we got toe work. That's a really interesting dynamic. From my point of view. I very quickly have to figure out how to play my game on Pat's level. And what I mean by that is I have a way that I work. I have, you know, my work flow, my my set of rules or my habits, whatever they are. And I want to figure out how Pat works so that I can find a comfortable balance between, you know, the art director that I think he is and how he works. And I can merge that with mine. So what's it like for you walking into, like my studio for the first time? Not working with me? Uh, I guess a little intimidating. Just scare people. It's not bad, is it? The go team. Is this carefully? Exactly. No, Uh I mean, it's just one of those things were like, I mean, you don't know how big the photographers ego is. Where is your ego? I mean, just kind of feel everything out. Um, luckily, you don't really have much of media, so that works out really well. Yeah. Yeah, so am I. So, uh and plus, like, I mean, you've worked on other projects for us. I was told that your a great photographer, so I mean, I wasn't going in blind like, you know, just I have no idea what this guy's about. Anything. So, uh, I mean, that wasn't it wasn't too bad in this case. My reputation preceded Eggs as I had worked with Brian for so long, and that's again, that's relationship. So, you know, I did a good job for Brian Cleaver. One time he came back to me multiple times. We worked on multiple brands. Brian knows I can nail it. He tells Pat. Rob is gonna be great for this pack comes to me. And now I've got PAD is a client. Pat knows my capabilities. So one client, you know, we'll get the next doing One job that's really good is gonna get your second job. But that coin is gonna get the next project or next point. So that's so important. I mean, I think the most important thing I mean, I'm just glad with the photographers that I've used. I'm glad that they have all been really easy to work with. Have you worked with any egomaniacs? Not yet. No. But you stories about it. Yeah, but I am looking forward when that happened. Just really just the area that you can experience. You know, I've heard lots of stories, and I know photographers who want to get really upset will throw clamps and the yellowed assistance, and it's my way or the highway totally freaks me out. I can't imagine that people are doing that. But some art director seem to really like that. Why now is that? I have no idea. I don't. I I'm sorry. I wish I could answer that. I have no idea. I mean, I guess it's one of those things where I guess the, you know. I mean, it could be one of those things where he's a really famous photographer anymore. Like is his. He has his own style. Like a lot of times in your creative director, you're going to a photographer because of their name or their style because they have this very unique style that that's what they're known for, right? So I mean, I guess when you're going in with one of those situations, kind of just have to deal with the expectation. So how do you find photographers? I mean, we talked yesterday about art buyers. Your agency doesn't have an art buyer. Some agencies do some don't, um, agency you were and before had an art buyer. And through mergers and some changes. You guys lost your in house art buyer but used the company's kind of overlord art buyer, right? Yeah. And a lot of the the way that I have experienced it is that even when we had an r pyre, I was still I mean, I was still very responsible for finding a photographer. I mean, the art buyer would help with that situation like they would. They would also go through work Brooks or through their guys they knew or their connections and providing portfolios to look at. But it was still up to me to kind of find who I want to work with. Um, but then at fusion, I mean, we're much smaller agencies, so we don't have and our fire. So I will end up looking through workbook, or I mean, we get I get tons of stuff in the mail from different photographers that I will if I see something that looks like it, You know, we may use in the future somebody we may use. I buy a little way in my desk. How much stuff do you get from photographers? Do you have any way to quantify no e mail or direct mail? E mail? Probably. Where does it go? What do you mean? Where does it go? Get dumped right away. I look at it, You always looking at all. I mean, I'm not saying I always look at it some days, but other days I do look at it So some of it gets through. Yeah, usually. I mean, I will say this if I do get an email and I looked through it, I will probably. There's a link I'm supposed to click on or something. You know, it's interest me from there. I'll probably click on it when I get a direct mail piece. I mean, it's like one step removed that I have to go to my computer, type in the URL and then go see the work during it. So I mean, it's a I may not do that. Alright, CC, that's That's a really good example. Now my wife is the exact opposite. She's a creative director. She's a designer. She's very hands on kind of touchy feely. She will look at stuff in her email with great are much less frequency than she will. Something that comes direct mail. She would rather pull something out and look at it in touch and feel it depends on the person. And it depends on the direct mail piece to if I just I mean, if I mean I get, like, tons of postcards and stuff like you were talking about earlier, and then that's fine. But then say I get a really unique piece that I don't see every day that I mean, I may spend a little more time with you. Ever put him up on your wall? I did it. My old job having here. I've got two posters that are taking up a lot of rooms, but I don't want a fair Fawcett poster. No, I don't know who that is. Oh, man, that's crazy. I got a question for you after hearing what Gary and I have done with our website in terms of s CEO and trying to guess about how our clients are searching for photographers. Are we on the right track with the way you are looking for photographers? So what's going on? Uh, I'm trying to think, uh, when I go online? Let's see. Like, I will go through workbook and there is something to do with, like, tactically, like flipping through the pages. And that's really nice or I'll go on their website. I think, for one thing to you guys are looking at computer screens all day. Yeah, that's so there's kind of a nice break to actually pick up a workbook and go like this and have something this tactile and reflective raises luminous and blowing out your reading every second. Yes, your eyes don't hurt his bed. Yeah. Um, yeah. I'm trying to think the other way. I pick photographers. I mean, we're really lucky in ST Louis just because, I mean, we do a lot of liquor. You know, my beer shoots that because of Anheuser Busch. There are a lot of photographers in ST Louis. There are quite a few, um, trying other ways I used. Do you look on the web very much, or you look like well, during, like, uh, actually, yeah. I mean, I just usually google different terms that, you know, like, uh, you know, beer photography. But I just think it's more of like, an inspirational thing like I'm just trying to see what's out there and see what other people are doing. Um, but then I will. And then it I do swipe a lot of images off all the time. Yeah, and you drop him in your land all the time. Like that's probably 95% of where myself comes from, is that's good to know. So just sees getting your images out there does make a difference, because art directors were looking at it and they're swiping it and putting it in into their layouts never makes it into a final way out just to sell the idea and do sometimes through those photographers, get the work. Yeah, all right. Yeah. So that's a That's a huge benefit of it. Um, intern in terms of of looking on the web. Um, is that the best source for you to look at a photographer's set of images? Do you like it when they come into the studio and they show you that you know the work? Uh, well, it's quicker for me to do it on the Web. I could do it my own time kind of thing, but when they come in, I would say, Like I know this is gonna sound bad. Probably, but I feel obligated to say Came in to go look at their work. Hell, yeah. We brought you cookies. You better come. They always bring food too. So it's telling its arrive. It's an edible bride. Yeah, but they Yes. Oh, they come in. I feel obligated. And, you know, like, I may not have looked at their work otherwise, right? So, I mean, it's definitely definitely helps. That's what I'm getting out. Just talking with Pat here is there are multiple different ways in which he's looking for photographers. And all of those ways are having some sort of success on some level, not necessarily for everybody. But somehow these methods that we're using are getting through. And it's a formula, and it does work without question. Awesome. Does anybody have any questions for Pat? Hi, Pat. Just wondering what are some of the recommendations would you give to us photographers not to do in terms of trying to approach you? Uh, usually I've had a few Call me in bad, you know, And I'm I'm really busy when I'm at work all the time. Usually, uh, when they call me and I say, Can't talk and that's fine. But the a lot of times they will keep calling and keep calling and keep calling. Keep calling. That's why. Usually email is a little better for me just cause I can look at it in my own time. Is that one thing about me? I'm when it comes to email. I'm very unorganized. So I never deleting email anyway until it tells me I have Teoh. So I'll see it eventually. That's yeah, e mail. Just I usually once it says your full, I'll finally start going through everything I think emails an interesting way to do it because, you know, before, unfortunately, I'm old enough to have been around before. Email was even a viable factor, so phone calls were really the way you would have an introduction to somebody you have to call them. E mails are kind of a softball because these guys were so busy, I don't know a single art director that isn't going full tilt all day, every day, all year long. So sending them an email, a nicely worded email as an introduction. Eventually they'll get to it. I've gotten a great response that way. Uh, that's been a really hard change for me because I am the kind of person I like to pick up the phone and talk to people. And I think that's a great way to put my best foot forward because I think I can be charming when I need to be. And I don't feel that I have the ability to be charming in an email. You really don't. Tone doesn't come across an email like, Well, it can come negative can get across the roller way even when you don't mean it. Yeah. You got another question? Yeah. When you go to these photographers websites from email or direct marketing, is there something that you're looking for specifically or things that you're specifically not looking for? Like just general website tips for photographers? Yeah, sure. Um, returns. Think here. Uh, usually when I'm going to for Tyrus website. I am a lot of times, it's probably during a pitch, so I'm really looking for some kind of like creative inspiration of how you know it's something different. Some way I can make these bottles look different or something. You know, something that can just really looks great. Um, the other time, like a lot of times, like, you know, you mentioned see a communication arts like I've never really thought about looking, you know, picking photographers out of that either. Like, I just I have a subscription to that. So I go through it just for inspiration. Yeah, just to look at cool stuff. But I never really thought about pulling an actual photographer. This is incomplete. I should I'm in their first. Well, Pat, thank you so much for being here. People are learning a lot. They love hearing firsthand what you're looking for from the photographers. But quite a few people are wondering, you know, what is your thoughts on when you see a new photographer approaching your agency? Do Are you more likely to look them over their work? Anybody that comes, I mean, I'm but with agencies I have worked at since I have graduated college have been very laid back, and I've had I mean, I've been very fortunate in that way because I don't think I'd really want to work in a very stuffy environment. So I mean, anybody who comes in, we we get, you know, we give the time to listen to their presentation and see their work. I've never been one to say, Oh, they don't have the experience. I mean, who cares really about experience if they have the portfolio of backup, what they dio. So something that's really interesting that that Pat is talking about when he's going out on on the Web and he's looking for inspiration. Keep in mind he's working in a very tight segment. His agency is known for food or for doing beverage work right. They get how to brand and how to push a beverage brand that kind of forces them into a tunnel. So he's looking for inspiration on How can I do what I do every day a little bit differently, a little bit better, So that tells you is a photographer. Listen to what I was saying yesterday. Look at inspiration and innovate. Try to come up with something that's going to stand out a little bit because Pat may come across that say, Wow, I have not seen a drink down that way. Boom swipes and into his layout winds of hiring that photographer. These guys also need inspiration sometimes because they're looking for new ways to do things. Yeah, and it's not always just want point out. It's not always necessarily liquor, either. I mean, because just innovative ways of products shoots. You mean that can translate Teoh liquor, right? We talked about that yesterday, where a lot of the lighting principles that we're doing on bottles could be turned into a lining principle that's used on Portrait's. So the same is happening with you. You're looking for inspiration, kind of in any source that can help you drive a message for one of your brands. More Internet questions? Um, I have a question. So Rob has told us that, you know, the best way to get ahead in this business is to be nice and be polite. And I imagine that Rob is one of your best photographers because you just are Eagle issue. Your nature is so sweet, and you're just thank you. You're giving. You're not pretentious at all or condescending, any of those things that people can be. So I'm just wondering how much of that is true in your in your business. If a photographer is is not polite and not nice, but their work is outstanding, I still have a hard time working with a jerk. Okay, so you're less likely, even if their work is outstanding for not light Nice and you're not going places in this industry. Yeah, that's I think that's with anything. Yeah, I think that's the general rule. There are some exceptions. I won't name photographers, but there's some big name photographers and they have really famous egos. It is their way or the highway. Some of the stories that you hear are just They absolutely leave me with my jaw on the floor like, How does this guy get away with it? And it's something about that persona. So there are some exceptions to the rule, but I think those are few and far between me. It's like that photographer. If I feel like that photographer is not gonna come to me looking for work, it is presence in his ego or large enough. It's one of those things where either the client has heard of him and suggested and wants to use him or he has that look that we just have to have so, like I know going into to this experience that wow, this is probably going to be terrible like for me. So it's just so I just know what to expect. I think that happens sometimes. Like when photographers become celebrities. That's when the ego tends to really blow out. But But there were guys who, like arts driver, who I think is, if you don't know art starves work. Look at his work. He is absolutely amazing photographer His His younger brother was my roommate in college, so I got the opportunity to meet him very early on. And he's pretty eagle list from what? What I know of him. And I really appreciate photographers like that when they have and hopefully I am this way when they have a good skill set, but they can be kind to the people they're working with. Um, I just think it goes a long way. I give you hear me very often. Even talking with Gary yesterday, I'm saying, would you take another capture, please? Um I don't know. My parents just raised me right. I think you need to be polite. I agree. Part of being a good person. All right. This is again from fashion TV over in Singapore. Wondering How do you assess the capability of photographers before commissioning them for a job. I'm sorry, case that accessibility. How do you assess the capability of a photographer before commissioning them? How do you know we got the goods? I mean, it all comes down to portfolio. I mean, usually it's I mean, hopefully it comes from the portfolio. And then there's either a, you know, hopefully a conversation with the photographer before we have actually talked a couple times before we Diablos. I was giving you my production thoughts. Yeah, exactly. So they would explain how they plan on doing this on. You know, there's conversations back and forth, and then you're like, OK, that sounds great. Well, you know, signed the contract, So we talked about that a little bit yesterday. I like giving people a brief on how I'm going to do something that gives the client confidence that they know what I'm gonna dio. Because keep in mind, Pat had not walked in the door yet, and we're going to do a job together. But we had talked about it. I had given him a creative brief. He basically had an understanding of how I was gonna work. That probably put him at a little bit of these when he walked in the door so that we know, Okay, literally, we can shake hands. We can get him something coffee or something to drink, and we can turn to the set. And we can start to solve the problems that are in front of us and the challenges that are in front of us. For our clients, we had, like, props, bills and all sorts of stuff. That was cool, huh? Yeah, I enjoy that. And that fixed are the, You know, the smoke also wanted a lot on that one. Good. Okay, Here you go. Do your temper. One more quick question. I had a situation about, I don't know, a month or so ago where I had a friend contact me and she worked for an ad agency that worked with Coca Cola. Um, and she presented me with a job opportunity, and I knew that I didn't have the equipment, um, to handle the job, even though I wanted it really bad. And so I passed along. What would you guys suggest doing in that situation? Should I have taken the job so they make the right decision. I didn't want to be unprofessional. What do you do? If you didn't feel confident, then I wouldn't take it. I mean, because that's gonna look bad on you later on. If you blow it, basically, without question, you did the right thing. Okay? No knowing that you don't have the capabilities like it was what we're talking about yesterday. Know your strengths. Um, a lot of photographers fielded the very capable of shooting everything. And a lot of the principles of photography will translate from one discipline to the next. That does not mean that you've got the goods to do that next discipline. If you don't feel comfortable with doing something, then you shouldn't do it now in saying that, there have been plenty of times. And even though I've been in the business over two decades, there plenty of times where I still get nervous. Um, a little bit of butterfly, A little bit of nerve to me. It just makes me hunker down and make sure I do my homework and I go in and get that job. So there's a difference between not believing you have the capability and just being a little bit like, man, I got you know, I'm gonna have to be on my game. So I like that. That challenge of having to be on my game it's nice when somebody comes to me with challenges. Like who? How am I gonna pull that one off? Like the yogurt land thing? That's powering thing that made me a little bit nervous. And, you know, I had to test that for two days with the food stylist to come up with a solution. We didn't have a solution until we were well into the afternoon of day two. So we were fueling that clock. We're like, we're kind of running out time coins coming here tomorrow. So there is some pressure. But we had our skill set and we knew we could handle it. I think you absolutely did the right thing. Passing it on to another photographer and quite honestly that clients going to remember that now, if they go somewhere else and they're suddenly working on a brand or they're working on some sort of a project that's appropriate for you, you better believe that they're gonna call you. You did the right thing without questioning, saying I'm not ready for this? I don't Because essentially you said to them I don't want to screw up your budget. I don't want to blow your budget and give you a black eye. So at the end of the day, a client has to appreciate that. Thank you. You're so awesome, Rob. Like you very much. All right. Well, why don't we give a big thank you to Powell's for joining us?

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.