Portrait Photography: Creating and Styling your Environment

 

Lesson Info

Next Steps: Marketing and Branding Consistency

So consistency in marketing, we talked about showing work and repeating it. Consider your goals, create a plan, and then you've got to believe in the process. Now, there's a lot of things in business where when you identify something can be done better or something's broken, you've gotta pivot and you've got to make changes or go in a different direction. But when it comes to marketing, for some of the reasons and more that we've just discussed, you've got to commit to the process and you kind of have to act a little insane about it. And the reason I say insane is because the definition of insanity, and some say Albert Einstein said this, I'm not sure if anyone knows exactly where it came from, but the definition of insanity is someone who does something over and over again and expects to get different results. If you do something over and you get one result, expect to get that same result whenever you do it over again. The difference when it comes to marketing is if you're doing smart...

things, you have to continue doing it and you will get different results eventually. Now, there's lots of little things that go into that. Maybe if you're creating really bad work and you keep marketing it, maybe no one will call. But assuming you're growing and you're doing the things we're talking about and you are creating work that's interesting and you're exploring who you are and expressing that through photography, continuing to market yourself to people, even if they don't respond to you will end in results. Again, for the same reasons I mentioned, people aren't hiring photographers every day, you know? We do our workshop, and again, we talk about this frequently despite the fact that I hammer it home for three days straight, people will sign up for an email service or something and they'll send out their first email and it's super exciting, they put so much time into it, and we'll have someone write and complain like, "I sent out an email and no one wrote me back "and I'm so frustrated," and it's like, no one writes me back, either. That's just the way it goes and I've been doing this for 10 years, you know? You've gotta keep sending those emails out. But eventually what you start to hear, and maybe you won't even hear it, but I can tell you what's happening. People will eventually see your emails. Maybe they don't at first, but eventually, in the same way that someone goes, "Oh, this looks familiar," it might take years, they may not even tell you, but they'll go, "Oh, that looks familiar" because they've been seeing it every month or every other month or whenever they see it. It becomes familiar eventually. It builds a memory. And then maybe they meet you and then it's like, "Oh my gosh, I've been getting your newsletters, "that's so cool," and then they see an award you won or a campaign you shot and it starts to become more real, more tangible, they start to trust that brand. It takes that time, and again, that story where I told you about the woman who I sent a couple things to and still didn't remember it, just think about that in full context. Again, kind of reiterating another idea that I told, there's a friend of mine that was giving an interview once and he was introduced by a photo editor and they introduced him as one of their top five favorite photographers in the world. And my friend's response, kind of jokingly was, "And oddly enough, you never hired me "in the ten years you were at such and such magazine." But that's kind of the reality, he really is one of his top five favorite photographers. I know in this case, it wasn't just something he was blowing smoke, but the reality was, despite the fact that he hired photographers for 10 years at this magazine, his style probably just never aligned with what he needed at that particular place and it doesn't mean he didn't like his work, it doesn't mean he wasn't marketing well, but just the opportunity hadn't arrived. But if he's marketing to a broad enough group of people, someone's gonna have that need and someone who really loves the work will click. So you've got to be consistent and I don't want to hear anyone say, "I've been doing it for three months or six months "or two years or three years and it's never worked." It's just, you've got to commit to the process and know so long as you're doing the right things and not being creepy or a stalker or awkward, it's gonna work, but it does take time. It takes more time than we ever want it to. I had my first agent told me, and I hated this and I still do, but he was right. He said it takes five years and I was like, "Forget that, man. "I'm not waiting around for five years." Now, it's relative a little bit. What does he mean by five years? It takes five years for it to really start clicking. Does that mean you won't get jobs in the first five years? No, you'll get jobs. Does that mean you aren't creating great work in the first five years? No, but there is something about five years, if you're working really hard and creating new work, you'll start to see, maybe it's more victories or victories at a higher rate than it was before or something. But I do remember looking back and thinking, there was something about five years. And there was something about ten years too, but it just keeps going and again, there's never a point where you're gonna be like, I've got this made, feet up on the table, that's not the case. But work hard, work hard, work hard, and repeat, and don't make excuses. Oh, it's not working, I'm giving up. So brand recognition. We've kind of jumped into that a little bit. But again, creating consistency through your marketing and through your brand. For photographers, again, I am a firm believer, it's gotta come from who you are. The one thing that you can do consistently and be really great at is be yourself. So you've gotta spend the time to figure that out and then hopefully, that's what makes your work look consistent. If you try to do it mathematically and be like, "I'm gonna make a picture that looks like these other pictures," and your only thought process is just, "I'm gonna try to match the color and stuff," it'll never work, it'll never tie in together. I don't sit down and try to make an image that looks like the rest of my images. I don't even know how to do that other than just make a plan, show up, and take a picture, and that's just kind of how it ends up looking. This is an example of a promo, a physical printout that I send out to people and this is also another one that I hand out to people at photo shoots or take with me on meetings and I'll leave a bunch of them behind when I leave. So this, it's like a magazine size or a little bigger, so the left side is one page, the right side is another page. So there's I think about six or eight pages in the whole thing. And again, I just think there's something, grids are kind of part of my brand, but I also just think there's something really powerful and interesting about looking at pictures together and seeing patterns and themes develop. And that is the conclusion of our course. So thank you guys so much. For anyone watching, you can see more of my work at my website, on Facebook, on Twitter, and also on Instagram, @JohnKeatley, which isn't up here right now. But thank you guys so much for joining, I don't know if there's anyone with any questions or anything. So starting out, do you have any suggestions for balancing the time that you put into marketing, starting the business, and practicing your craft and staying creative? How do you do all of it at once? Yes. Good question. I think you have to be realistic, right? I think it starts with kind of working on some of what we've talked about, you know, understanding better who you are. Create work, I think that first and foremost, you can't do any marketing if you don't have any work to show, so create work, that should be your focus. But again, be careful, cause you don't want to fall into that pattern where you're like, "I'll start marketing when my work's better." It's never gonna be better, you know in terms of how you view it. We're always gonna be looking to the next thing, hopefully, if we're pushing ourselves. So I think you've gotta create work, you have to also be realistic. I'm not going to encourage anyone to go out and spend more money than they have. You know, you should understand your budget and set up a budget and figure out, what is it that I can do? Social media in general is free. So it takes time but maybe you commit to, okay, I'm gonna do social media and maybe I'm gonna try to send out one personal email a week to someone who I would like to work with or I'm gonna try to set up one meeting, one portfolio review, or even take someone out to coffee once a month or once every two months, whatever it is that works for you. And once you set those goals, and again, there's so much more we could talk about with that, but you do it consistently, no excuses. You just keep doing it. And those are the kind of things that will deliver results and you'll look back and be like, wow, I can't believe it. In the moment, it's never gonna seem like it's working. But write down when someone goes, you know, keep record of that, and when you look back, it's fun to see, like wow, you know what? This year felt really rough, but actually, I met with six new people that I've never met before this year and I shot for this magazine, which was one my goals. Maybe I lost these other jobs or something but, you know, keep track of it. So does that answer your question? I mean, even the stuff in my survival guide workshop that we talk about, I don't even do all of that stuff. We talk about everything that you could do and we talk about everything that you should do, but there comes a point where, Michelle works with me, my wife, and so we're able to do a lot more together than if it was just me. If there were three of us, we'd do even more. So you have to be realistic and you have to figure out, okay, what is it that I can do that makes the most sense for and my brand? But whatever that is, you've gotta be able to commit to it and do it consistently, so just don't bite off more than you can chew is the best answer for that. Maybe a couple from online. We've got one from Andrew who says, "For the commercial work, are you finding "that an ad agency is the one hiring you "or that their client is recommending "that the ad agency hire you?" Well, I think that's changing a little bit. It used to be primarily that I would work for the ad agency, and I still do work for ad agencies, but I think we're seeing more and more that companies are developing in-house creative teams and that companies are starting to develop creative on their own and so we are starting to work more directly with our client, so to speak. There's usually the agency and then the client. And I think now, working direct with clients is becoming much more prevalent than it ever used to be. And that kind of goes to that, but Techno had asked, said, "This class is amazing, but in regards "to sitting down with editors, "what is your approach strategy "after you send those promos and prints or digital, "who is the person that you schedule a meeting with, "the photo editor or the art director? "Do you wait to hear back from them via email "or do you just keep at them?" I know you talked about some. Those are good questions. I mean, who you write depends on the company. It depends on the industry and then the company specifically, you know, cause every company's different, so I'll just give you a quick rundown in general. Magazines would be a photo editor, if it's a small city magazine, maybe it's just the art director, they may not have photo editors. If it's an agency, it could be an art buyer or a producer. There used to be a lot more print producers, but now that we're going more digital, it's just kind of becoming producer and they do it all. So it just depends. You have to kind of figure out for each place you're targeting, who is the person that you want to talk with, but I think the best thing aside from having a more in-depth conversation on that is just consider the basic rules of social interaction. Don't do anything that feels creepy or weird or over the top. It's fine to email someone maybe every couple months or something if it's a newsletter. If you're writing someone and asking for a meeting and they're not writing you back, maybe try once or twice, maybe three times a couple months later, but if they don't write you back, maybe wait eight months and try again. You have to kind of find that balance. I'm not saying you should write someone all the time even if they don't write you back. Newsletters, I handle a little differently cause there's not that expectation of them responding. If you're writing someone a personal email, you do have to kind of think about it a little bit, like okay, how do I feel, this situation is going kind of thing. Any final, final, final thoughts, John? (laughter) I have all kinds of thoughts, I'm full of thoughts. I just hope that this has been encouraging and eye-opening for people and I would just say if this is something that you're excited about, photography in general, make sure that you take the time to figure out who you are, create work that you're excited about, don't just fall into the trap of doing photography and of forcing yourself to do something just for the money. The money's not gonna make you happy, so make sure whatever it is that you're doing, you love, and work hard, work hard, work hard. There's no shortcuts and I cry all the time so you have to just keep pushing yourself and enjoying the victories when they do come and it is really a fun career, but put in that hard work, that's what I would like to end with.

Connect to your photos
Don’t capture another picture that says nothing of your own style. Grow your confidence in creating or styling a portrait that pops and, more importantly, resonates. Recognize that you’re tired of feeling disconnected to your photography.

Tap into your artistic vision
Establishing your creative voice and finding the inspiration and support to stay with it are essential skills for a career in photography. Commit to mastering the technical elements so you can save time in production, focus on creating images with emotion, and start making the pictures that express your creative vision and ultimately resemble what you want to get paid to take.

Learn from the authority: John Keatley
John’s photos have filled the pages of Rolling Stone, Wired, and the New York Times Magazine. He’s covered celebrities from Anthony Hopkins to Macklemore, and even had the rare opportunity to photograph Annie Leibovitz. He’s also passionate about education and supporting artists to find their personal style.

In this one-of-a-kind class, John breaks down how to conceptualize, produce, style, light and fine tune your ideas. He leads you through the creation of an environmental portrait series, showing you how to make a vision come to life with any budget.

What you get out of this exclusive shoot:

  • Find inspiration and execute your vision
  • Research and create desired environments for set design or location scouting
  • Cast for portrait and direct subjects on set
  • Build a team of support around your project
  • Lighting and styles to make the background and subject work together
  • Creative ways to build your vision, regardless of budgetary limitations

What our students are saying:
“The amount of information John gives is mind blowing. To see the process from beginning to end, the road map to creativity...you cannot help but to be on the right road to success. He gives you steps to take and shows you how it's done.”
- Lorenzo Hill

Commit to your creativity
Are you ready to push the boundaries and find your unique voice? Get the hands-on tools to flex your creativity, collaborate for results, and carry out your vision.

 
 
 
 

Reviews

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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!