Before the Shoot


The Business of Commercial Photography: The Survival Guide


Lesson Info

Before the Shoot

Let's talk about, after all the marketing and everything that we talked about, leading up to a shoot, there's gonna be bidding and putting a pitch or a treatment together, that's the content that's coming tomorrow. But let's assume that you did that, you got the job, now what? So there's all kinds of things that go into doing an actual shoot and working with clients and working with a crew, if that's where you're at. So the first thing is clear communication. This, kind of, I mean we've touched on this in different ways, but at this point now, someone is entrusting you with a sum of money to create something. This is an investment on the client's part. And so they're taking a risk on, hopefully they don't see it as a risk, but it is a risk, any time you decide to do business with someone, you're entrusting that person or that group. So, clear communication with the client is important. You wanna detail what it is that you intend to do and how you're gonna follow through on that. And yo...

u also wanna make sure that you get clear communication from the client on what it is that they're expecting. So that you can match up, you're not delivering something, that even if it's super cool, they're not like, "That's not at all what we thought." So you do wanna balance your vision with the client's goals. In talking about clear communication, again, you do wanna find out what does the client want? But, this is also where you want to let them know how you see this. And part of this is through the process that we'll talk about tomorrow. A lot of this conversation happens before you get the job. So you don't just get a job and then all of a sudden strong arm them into something. But, one thing that took me a long time to learn in commercial photography, is, I used to get a job and I would just be like, really, really concerned with what they want and asking them. And I think you can go too far with that, where all of a sudden you're asking them about creative stuff, and that's actually what they were excited about hiring you for. They want you to tell them, how do you wanna do this. Hopefully again, are you someone that got hired because you can fit whatever need someone has and you're the cheapest bid? That's one avenue that you could go down, but we've talked about why we don't wanna do that. Or, are you someone that they're excited about because they love your voice and your style and they can't get it anywhere else, so they have to work with you, because it's something that they feel compelled or that they want. So, in that spirit, you assume, yeah, they hired me for a specific reason. I wanna understand their goals but, to get there, there's lots of different ways. Like you could probably get to that goal with someone wearing a blue jacket or a brown jacket, what do you like? You start taking all those little things and it adds up to that one big thing that looks like you. It's the same thing here. You wanna make sure that you're being respectful and balancing what their needs are, but you wanna push for your vision and show how you wanna create this idea that you're talking about. And then, at that point, it's time to execute. You talk about, during the pitch and the treatment, you talk about what this job is, and then you get it, and then you talk a little bit more about, this is how I see doing it, you get them to sign off, so to speak, they say yeah, that sounds great, and now it's time to produce. So that's what we're gonna jump into.

Class Description

Whether just starting out in the commercial photography industry, or ready for a new chapter in your career, John Keatley shows you how to survive in a competitive field. Known for being innovative, creative and thinking outside the box when it comes to his photography, John applies those same skills into running his business. In this in-depth course, John shares some of the key elements that allow you to be an artist and a business owner. You’ll learn:

  • How to find your style and attract the clients you want
  • How to create a bid
  • The importance of drafting a treatment
  • Estimates and billing for your work
  • Planning and scheduling your production
  • Tips on memorable branding
  • The difference between an Art Director/Agent/Art Buyer
  • Techniques for editing your portfolio

If you’re at the start of your career or ready to expand your client list, this course will be the game changer you need to create a solid foundation for a thriving business.


Bonnie Aunchman

John & Creative Live - Thank you - Best. Class. Ever.! This is a GREAT class! If you are a photographer, this is definitely a MUST GET class, but even if you work with photographers as part of a creative team - you have to take this class. (I'm a Photo Stylist) John covers it ALL in this class - it really, truly is a Survival (Success) Guide. John is so detailed, honest, and generous in his knowledge/experience/wisdom in the commercial photography industry in helping you understand the business and really succeed (& stand out). When I see that John is teaching a class on Creative Live - I'm in! (I have his other valuable courses as well)

a Creativelive Student

I was lucky to be part of the studio audience for this course. John is an awesome teacher and did an outstanding job of making sense of a very difficult side of photography for a creative to understand. He shared his 18+ years of experience, including the good and bad he has gone through. The "special guests" alone are worth the cost of this class. John has an amazing team working beside him behind the scenes. Their perspective on his business was priceless!

Amy Vaughn

Thanks to John for being so open his experience in the commercial photography industry and giving us so many real world examples. I especially appreciated the contributions by the non-photographers in the second day of the course - Nichelle and Maren. Nichelle gave a good perspective on the finance and business communications side. Maren is John's agent and offered her insight on how agencies worked. I've heard photographers discuss working with agents before, but it was helpful to hear an agent answer questions directly about her experience.