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Production Hurdles

Lesson 10 from: Portrait Photography: Creating and Styling your Environment

John Keatley

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Lesson Info

10. Production Hurdles


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

Production Hurdles

Alright so, production hurdles. What are... What are some possible things that can come up that you might have to deal with when you're producing? When you're doing all these things that we've been talking about. Whether you're, and this pertains more if you're working with others, but again, even if it's just for you, it's really important to remember that you are in charge. I studied business in college and so, it was ingrained in me to collaborate and to specialize, and to let others specialize in what they do, and work together and stuff. And I think that that is really important in business and it's important in life, but where it gets real dicey is when you're talking about your creative vision. And there's times where I feel really good about myself, I'm like you do your thing and I'm gonna do my thing and we're gonna work together. And it's like, this is so fun, we're collaborating. But the end of the day, if you don't like the pictures and you're like, ugh, it felt so good to ...

collaborate but I hate looking at these pictures because the wardrobe that they were excited about, I'm not excited about. It sound selfish but you've gotta get over that. It's your vision and you've gotta be able to control that. So, when you're collaborating and working with others, again there are some areas where you can let others give you ideas and bounce off those ideas, but you've gotta take control of what's important to you. Otherwise, you get what you get and you don't get to complain about it. Again, it goes back to why it's so important to clearly communicate your vision, and also why you need to work with people that you trust. Early in my career, there was a situation where I was doing a photo shoot and this was a big opportunity for me, it was bigger than anything I had ever done before. And it was very intimidating but it was a great opportunity, and I've never been someone to back down from, you know, even when I say I'm terrified, I'm still gonna do it but I'll be terrified. And there was a situation on set where one of the lights went out. And one of the people I was working with was just frantic, like freaking out about the lights being off and running around. And I was aware of it but I just was like, oh, you know, didn't really say anything. And... The stress was palpable, it was nerveracking, in hindsight, it was awkward. It was just a really inappropriate way to be behaving, and also, it's adding tension between me and the subject, it's making me feel like I'm not in control. I mean, imagine if you went to the dentist and you're laying in the chair and someone comes in, they're like, oh my gosh, the dentist is running late again, I can't believe this is the third time this week. I'm not a dentist but I work here so I'm just gonna go ahead and take that tooth out and I'm sure when he gets here, he can check it out kinda thing. Are you just gonna sit there and take that? No, you're not gonna feel real good about that. So, you've got to instill trust and confidence in your subject, in the client. You need to be in control and also, probably make sure that you're not employing people who would do something like that. If I'm running late, which might happen, hopefully not, but let's just say I'm running late, I would hope that my crew, again, we've communicated clearly enough and I trust them enough that they're gonna go in and they're gonna say, hey, traffic's really bad, John's gonna be here in a second but I'd walk you through and kind of show you some of the wardrobe that he was thinking for you. Like someone that's gonna instill confidence and make you feel like, okay, I'm in good hands. Michelle's gonna hate this story, but another thing I think about all the time is, years ago when we first got married, I was cheap and lazy and I didn't wanna pay for a haircut. So, I would have her just give me a haircut. And she didn't wanna do it, to be fair, she never asked to do that. But I just was like, here, cut my hair. And I would get so mad. We would have the biggest fights because she would stand there, she's like, what do you want me to do? I don't know, I mean, does this look good? And I would get so frustrated, it'd make me feel, I'm like, what are you doing? Are you putting holes? Like I would freak out. But it's a perfect example of when you're the photographer or directing, you need to be in charge, even if you don't know what you're doing. You need to be figuring that stuff out behind the scenes and you need to make sure that the person sitting in front of your camera, who is in one of the most vulnerable positions in the world, having your picture taken is awful. It's so vulnerable, you need to be doing whatever you can do to build up that trust and confidence. So, anyway going back to that story, it was just chaos on set. And that night I was back in my hotel and there was a knock on my door. And... The wardrobe stylist Kristy who I was working with, she's phenomenal and she had been working, I was very new at the time, obviously this was a big opportunity for me. She's been working in big sets for a long time. Kristy was at the door and I opened the door and she came up to me, and she just kind of grabbed my face and got in real close, and she goes, "Honey, you have got to get control of your set." And I didn't know what she was talking about, but she tried to explain it. She explains this to me basically like, you do everything we just talked about. If you're letting this go on, it's not good, it's not good for the crew, it's not good for you, it just reflects poorly. So, again, make sure you've communicated expectations and hierarchy and make sure that everyone you're working with, you can trust and they know what to expect. If a light goes out or something, that's fine, that stuff happens. Let's talk about it calmly. Maybe we say, oh, you know what? We're waiting on wardrobe. Just something to kind of mitigate the situation so we can buy ourselves some time and switch out a pack or whatever it is. I'll give you another example of not communicating and some problems that came up. I did a shoot not too long ago, fairly recently, where it was a video shoot actually for a company, it was a shower head company. And they wanted to do slow motion, basically moving portraits of people's shower faces. So, it was kind of funny, it was like different people in the shower in super slow motion. So, it was like, some guy with long hair kind of waving his hair and someone else relaxed, and someone else who's strong and confident or whatever. So, we're doing all this and it was an interesting situation 'cause it was a bit of a low budget. So, I couldn't hire necessarily everyone that I normally would've, or would've liked to. So, we had to kind of get creative like we're talking about, just because, again, I'm used to working with big productions doesn't mean it's easy and I always get to just hire people to make my life easy. Every single job, there's problem-solving. Like okay, this is... A $20,000 dollar job and we only have 10, how do we do it, you know? We're constantly working through that kind of stuff. So... And I don't wanna throw anyone under a bus here, this was all on me, this was nobody's fault but my own. But we worked with a PA as our producer, in this case, and it was great 'cause we didn't have a lot of budget but they also wanted the experience, and so hopefully that was a mutually beneficial situation. But I didn't think through all of this. This was one of those situations where I was like, oh, they're a producer, they'll take care of it. When the reality was, even if they're the best producer in the world, these are still conversations I need to be having with my crew. I need to set those expectations, so. I just thought, I told him, here's the shoot, here's what we're gonna do. We'll show up, it'll be great. So, we also had an art director, someone who's kind of building a fake shower in the studio and everything, 'cause we can't go in a real shower, we need to have lights and all that kind of stuff. So, we get there, and we set up and do a run through in the morning, and everything's looking good. And we're like, awesome, we're ready to go. And then all of the sudden, the person, we had someone testing it just to kind of get the lights right, and right towards the end, they're like, oh, my gosh! And jumped out. And I'm like, what's wrong? It's freezing! And I was like, oh, I never thought about that. I was like, well what are we doing to heat the water? And everyone's looking at each other like, I don't know, it's just coming from the run of the hose from the faucet. Like, I guess the hot water heater is tapped, right? We never thought about that and I never communicated that in advance. Well then... The client got there and we let it charge up a little bit, and it was kind of just like, alright, let's see what happens, hopefully we can do it quick. And the client was like, that water pressure is not right. It's not powerful enough for me. It looks good, but they know the thing better than we do. It's not shooting the way it should, so we went 'round and 'round and 'round and 'round about that. And probably should have done a pre-test the day before with the client on set, we didn't do that. Turns out there was a regulator on the line coming into the building, and so we had to release the regulator and then the water pressure could come in faster. And then that was it, we were able to fix that. And then, we found out that the bilge pump was backing up and it was starting to flood the studio. And so, we're like, oh my gosh, we need to figure this out. So, the set builder had someone run to Home Depot and got a backup pump, which we didn't have, we should have had a backup pump. And thankfully, we were able to kind of catch ourselves and say to them, okay, I think we're good. The water was a little cold but the way it was pacing out, we're getting warm enough where it wasn't like killing each person. We did fast takes. We shoot the first one, and the person comes out of the set and they're like, alright. And they're just kind of leaning there and no one's doing anything, he's kinda looking at me, and I'm like, can we get him a towel or something? And I look at the person, they're like, I don't have any towels. And we're like, what are we doing? He just took a shower, he can't just be walking around, like you need a towel if you take a shower, right? This is a very extreme situation but this is exactly why you have to pre-visualize everything. You have to pre-visualize what you want to happen and then you have to pre-visualize what could or probably will happen. And that takes time too, that takes practice. But now that's something where like, even when I'm not doing a photo shoot, we're going on a road trip, I'm thinking about all the potty breaks the kids might need and in an hour six, they're gonna want this and that. And it's a learned skill and it takes time but you've gotta be able to start thinking ahead in advance. And just know, problems are going to happen. Your life will never get easier as a photographer but what you can do is prepare yourself better to handle those problems when they come up. So, I know it's probably a stressful place to be, but is it safe to assume that you kind of live in this space where you expect everything possible will go wrong and then try to figure out a way to prevent that from happening before it does? I mean, yeah. I don't want you to become pessimistic and negative, but. You have to just be prepared and I think if you can do that in a way where you assume it's gonna be something and you're ready for it, hopefully you can have a good attitude about that. And that's something that producers are amazing at. I've seen the craziest situations where it's like, I said I wanted a monkey! Not a dog! What is going on? We need this tomorrow! Or whatever, and they'll find it, they'll be like, oh yeah, no problem, I'll find a monkey. You kind of have to develop the mindset of a producer in some ways because being stressed and freaking out, it's not gonna help you or anyone else. So, it's finding that balance of just knowing, okay, just know this isn't gonna go how you planned but it will be fine because you have a talented group of people around you, and you've done this before. And that's kind of the best I can tell you. Maybe there's a better way for you to kind of prepare yourself but that's what it takes for me, is that mindset. Yeah, Lorenzo. I think this is a question is gonna be more toward the magic bullet which we pretty much know you have one. (laughing) With the part of, 'cause I hear photographers say that they'd wish they had gone to business school as opposed to photography school or whatnot, what would you recommend as far as if someone decides to go back to school or whatnot, do they go for business management? Project management? Because it seems like there's a lot of things to be managed in the production of, you know, whether it's an editorial shoot, a commercial shoot, advertising, or whatnot. So, what direction would you actually point, not necessarily saying you would point them that way, but to kind of get them in that mindset? Well, I mean, I think honestly, you've already taken the first step. I mean, you're here. I think just being open to learning and bettering yourselves. And you know, Creative Live is an incredible resource for that. We do a workshop called Survival Guide twice a year and the whole point of that is, we don't really actually talk about lighting or any of that kind of stuff, we talk about strictly business and marketing and finding your style. And it's all the stuff that nobody teaches photographers, it's the stuff that I've been able to learn and use in my career, but it's something that, again, I don't know that you need to necessarily go to school for two or four years to learn that. But the stuff that a business school might cover is very important. So, we have a three-day workshop where we cover all that stuff. And you're not gonna leave and know it all, you might need to wrestle with it for years and continue to think about it and talk about it in groups and stuff. But I think just learning and trying to grow and taking a step forward and putting yourself in an uncomfortable position. If my next project doesn't scare me, I'm not going in the right direction, that's kind of how I try to think about it. I'm trying to always bite off more than I can chew 'cause that's the only way I'm gonna learn. If I'm just doing something that's safe and uncomfortable, then that's kind of when it's over for you, you know? So... Hopefully that answers your question.

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