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Establishing a Team

Lesson 8 from: Portrait Photography: Creating and Styling your Environment

John Keatley

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Lesson Info

8. Establishing a Team

Next Lesson: Jobs on Set


Class Trailer

Class Introduction


Creative Photography Path


Importance of Personal Work


Concepts and Inspiration


Choosing Your Environment


Research and Mood Boards


Finding Your Style


Establishing a Team


Jobs on Set


Production Hurdles


Working with an Art Director


Pooling Resources






Set Design and Props: Interview with John Lavin






Technical vs. Flexible Lighting


Creating Environment


Gear Essentials vs. DIY Solutions


Lighting for Your Subject


Lighting for Your Environment




Directing Your Subject


Tips for Directing Talent


Pre-Lighting and Test Shoots


Shoot: Stylized Portrait - Close Up Part 1


Shoot: Stylized Portrait - Close Up Part 2


Shoot: Stylized Portrait - Close Up Part 3


Set Tour and Lighting Set Up


Shoot: Building Environment & Lighting Adjustments


Shoot: Building Environment Part 1


Shoot: Building Environment Part 2


Photo Critique


Shoot: Row Boat in Fog Set Tour


Shoot: Row Boat in Fog Part 1


Shoot: Row Boat in Fog Part 2


Shoot: Row Boat in Fog Part 3


Shoot: Row Boat in Fog Part 4


Shoot: Scuba in the Hull Part 1


Shoot: Scuba in the Hull Part 2


Shoot: Scuba in the Hull Part 3


Image Selection: Stylized Portrait


Image Selection: Building Environment


Image Selection: Row Boat in Fog


Image Selection: Scuba in the Hull


Next Steps: Create New Work


Next Steps: Share Your Work


Next Steps: Marketing and Branding Consistency


Final Image Reveal - Concept and Casting


Final Image Reveal - Retouching: Communication and Direction


Final Image Reveal - Final Q&A


Lesson Info

Establishing a Team

So, now we're going to talk about team building. How do we kind of start working with people if we've never done it before? How do we do some of this without working with people? But, I'm going to walk you through a little bit, and kind of show you, and again, this is some of what I'm able to do now is not how I started out. So, when I do a shoot now, usually I'll have at least one or two assistants and a digital tech, and we'll talk about each of those specific roles. Here's a shot with a former assistant of mine and a digital tech going through images on set. Here's a video shoot that we did. You can see we've got a gaffer and a DP, director of photography, and a camera operator, and again, you know, like production is also figuring out what kind of gear you're going to need on set, like how are we going to light this? Are we going to use a big 12 by, like you see here in the background, to block out the sun, or you know, are we going to use lights? All that kind of stuff, like that'...

s all the kind of stuff you have to figure out beforehand. You don't want to shop up at the shoot and be like, "Alright, how we going to light this? "Did anybody bring lights," you know? Like you've got to, you've got to have all that thought through before the fact. So, the best way to kind of wrap your mind around this is start with people you can grow with. Years ago, the one thing that I kind of started realizing was when I was doing editorial, I was doing all my own retouching. When I say retouching, I mean I was like affecting it in Photoshop. However I was doing it, I was doing it myself, and there came a point where I realized "Okay, I want to up my production value." So, production value, what does that mean? It's the quality of your production. It's like, if you need, you know, if you need glassware and you're trying to create a fancy dinner party environment, are you going to get fine china and silver, or you going to put in paper cups, you know? Like, paper cups is pretty poor production value for what you're trying to go for. So, that's what we're talking about, but, basically I wanted to start doing advertising and as I was doing research and collecting images like we talked about, one thing that I realized was my production value and my retouching was not where I wanted to be. It was lagging behind what I was aspiring to and it was also not really relevant in terms of what people were looking for, commercially. Now, so I don't sound like I'm contradicting myself, just because other people weren't retouching the way I was, doesn't mean that's a bad thing. Maybe my retouching is so, you know, different or unusual, that that's what makes me interesting. Not the case, like I say in my case, but you know, just again, just because other people aren't doing something doesn't mean that it's not, it's a bad idea. But in this case, I knew I needed to I needed to find somebody who could retouch my images to get them to look actually how I wanted them to look. And so, what I did was I found some retouchers who were awesome, like they do what I would love in my images, and I called and had a couple conversations with a couple houses. And they're used to working on like the biggest ad campaigns in the world with the top photographers, and I set the phone down and was like, "Oh, I guess we're not doing that," you know, and that was it I just, I left it at that. That's on me, I just gave up, knew I needed that, but I didn't find a way to make it happen. I just called some of the best, and was just like, oh wha wha, you know, like woe is me. What I should of done was put in more time and found someone that I can grow with, and eventually, thankfully, that's what happened. I was connected with a retoucher and we were both kind of in similar career paths. Like, he wanted to push himself and create work that was at a higher level, and I wanted the same, and so we were able to really help each other. I was able to provide images that he can work on. He was making my work look a whole lot better, and we grew and learned from each other, or at least I certainly learned a lot from him. So, keep that in mind, find people that you can grow with. It doesn't mean that the person you're working with, they may be a little better, you know. Try to find the best you can, but when you can grow with people, it gives you an opportunity for longevity and building relationships, and eventually, hopefully very quickly, they will be at that point, and then there's a relationship there. But if you just start cold calling people like that, it's not going to work out. So, and how do you do that? Look for people who have drive or ambition or goals. People that you match up with well, who you feel, you know and we all know this. Like when we meet people, even just in personal relationships, you can tell when you're going to hit it off with someone. Find people that you hit it off with, and also people you connect with creatively in that way as well. And again, kind of referenced this earlier. Where do these people come from? Ask around, put your self in the situation. You guys got here, so I mean, that shows ambition. You applied, you know, to be here. Use that same ambition, talk to each other. I bet someone in this room knows a retoucher, at least one retoucher. You know, maybe someone in here does retouching. So, I mean just again, it's talking. It's putting yourself out there. It's letting people know, "I'm looking for this." Networking, you know, mutually beneficial relationships. We talked about that, any questions about, yes? When you speak about networking, can you give some examples, as far as how you would go about that? Sure, I mean, Yes I think again, like talking to people here, there's community groups, you know, there's like, I can't tell a specific ones, but I mean there's Facebook groups, collections of photographers. There's probably if you go to a local camera shop, they probably have classes or meetups, you know. I know Instagram, there's meetups. There's all kinds of ways these days to connect with people, whether it's just like finding a retoucher on social media and just writing them, you know, or just writing them, it never hurts to ask. I'm not saying don't approach those people, I mean, you can still approach them. Maybe, who knows, maybe they'll even say like, "Wow, I really like your work, "and it's not something that we have in our portfolio, "and it would be fun to do an image with you." Or whatever, I mean, put yourself out there, and you know, it's not going to happen over night, but the sooner you start that process, the sooner, you know, the sooner it will happen. And to give you another example of kind of like putting yourself out there, I did a talk at CreativeLive, and as I mentioned earlier, I'm getting into fine art, and so my goal is really, is to have my work in a gallery. I want to do a gallery showing. I know that's really hard to do and it takes a long time, and so my expectation was this may not happen for several years. But, we did this show and I gave a little talk. There was just like a one night thing. It wasn't like the work is staying up there or anything like that, but at the end, someone asked like, "What's your goal with this fine art work?" and I said, "My goal is to be in a gallery." I was like, "I don't know when it will happen, "but that's what I'm working towards." And there was someone in the audience that night who owned a gallery, and his girlfriend kind of nudged him, and he came up and gave me his card afterwards, and we connected, and then I did my first solo show two months ago in January, at that gallery. And we were talking, he said he came to the show, he liked my work, he knew I was doing that work, he owns a gallery, but he said if I hadn't said I really want to be in a gallery, he never would have approached me. So, you have to put out there what you want to get back. You can't expect anyone to connect the dots for you, and it's the same thing, in terms of like finding a crew, or a retoucher, whatever, you should be telling everyone you know, "I'm looking for a retoucher." And they may not be a retoucher, but they may know someone who is, and I can't tell you, you know, for all the high level work that I strive to do and all the people in that world that I contact and try to network with, some of my biggest jobs have come from the most random conversations that were completely outside of that loop. Just because I put something out there. So, hopefully that kind of helps. Keep that in mind in this very room. That's awesome, thank you. Yeah. I think that kind of speaks to somebody who had asked about... They live in a small town, and so, kind of feeling challenged by being able to network out with a retoucher in particular, if the biggest city near them is, like an hour away. So, is it possible in small towns too? Well, my retoucher lives in Hungary, so we've never met, so I mean, I think that, especially these days, distance is not even an issue so much any more. Now, if you're wardrobe stylist lives out of town, that can be an issue because at some point, you're going to need them in the same space with you. But you know, that's the beautiful thing about, you know, networking and social media in the digital age is that we can do and work with people from all over the world. And retouching especially, what does it boil down to? It boils down to, now is there value sometimes in sitting next to a retoucher? Yes, sometimes you can bang things out a little bit faster because you're like, "What about this, what about that?" and you're there in the same room as opposed to they do something, send it to you, you tweak it, send it back, you know. That can take time, but overall, I don't need to be in the same place for that. So, you talk about, you know, having like your end goal of what you want to be or emulate, you know at some point, and not letting that end goal stop you. So as you're developing your team and you're starting at the level that your at now, how do you find the people that are in sync with where you want to go with a vision? Like how do you discuss that with somebody to find out that that's where you're both headed? Right, and now that's a good question. I mean I think, you know, again it goes back to the better you understand yourself, and the better you can communicate your visions, the easier that conversations going to go. Sometimes you don't know, until you start working with someone, you know. I've had situations where the conversations went great and I was like, "Man, this is perfect. "This is going to work," and then we got on set and it was like, "Did you hear anything we talked about? "Like, I heard you responded and I thought..." And it's like what went wrong, you know? And so, that's again why personal work is so important. If you leave that to chance and you show up and the client and money and everything is depending on it, and you didn't have that ironed out first. Like that's big trouble, so sometimes you just have to live it to experience it, but again, communication and experience really.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials

Keatley Keynote Presentation
Casting for Nautical Shoot Video

Ratings and Reviews

a Creativelive Student

What an amazing show. I'm so happy that I could be a part of it. It was so great to see John at work and in his element. I learned so much from watching his process from beginning to ending. So many questions have been answered. I feel more confident, to get myself out there and create and make work that comes out from my imagination. I will definitely be keeping a journal/notebook with me at all times. I would also like to suggest that we have another course for John Cornicello, home studio. I'm curious to see what John is working on in his studio.

Doppio Studio

It's amazing to watch and understand how this great creative professional work. There's a lot to learn about with his production process. For me, that lives in Brazil, is a major opportunity to enjoy this class.

Vitamin Dee

Wow! There's just so much great information in this class. If you've ever wondered what it takes to produce an environmental portrait, this is the class for you! John did a superb job of taking us step-by-step through his process. From model casting to set building, lighting setups to culling; it's all here. He even wraps up the class with next steps and how to put it all together. He gives the knowledge so you can take it to a place you can create your own magic!

Student Work