The Business of Commercial Photography: The Survival Guide

Lesson 1/30 - Class Introduction

 

The Business of Commercial Photography: The Survival Guide

 

Lesson Info

Class Introduction

(applause) Hi, thanks for joining us today. It's good to be back at CreativeLive, I was here almost exactly a year ago, and I taught a course on conceptual portrait photography, where we did three live shoots and we talked about everything that happens behind the camera, and today we're going to be flipping that around, and we're going to be talking about business. What it takes to actually do what you love and make a living at it, and all the stuff that we have questions about and all the little secrets and things like that, that hopefully won't be secrets by the time we're done. To give you a little backstory, this class is based off of a workshop that my wife, Nishana, started back in 2015 called "Survival Guide," and I used to teach a workshop before that, that was a little bit of lighting, a little bit of business. I studied business in college, and it's been something that I've always been really interested in, and so we started this workshop, it was kind of business and lighti...

ng, and after doing it for a couple years, I realized that the little feed back that we got, every once in a while someone would say, "Oh my gosh, that thing you mentioned on business "really made a big impact on me." We started getting feedback like that, and nobody said anything about the lighting part, that's not important, but what we started to realize from these conversations was that there was a real need and desire on people's behalves that they wanted to know more about business, and I think that is something that's lacking, especially in the photography industry. And I remember what it's like to have these ideas or dreams of things that I really wanted to do, but simply no clue how to get there. Like when I wanted to start shooting editorial for magazines and I felt like I was creating pretty good work, and it seemed like it looked like the type of work that was in a magazine, but who in the world do I talk to or reach out to, how do you make that jump? There's not a handbook, or at least back then, maybe there's more information now, but there wasn't anywhere to go really. And it was because of the kindness of a few key people in my life who really took the time to teach me a few things and sometimes it was something just really simple, but in those instances, the impact that they made on my life and career was literally the difference between me going out of business and me not only continuing on, but thriving, and so what my wife and I have learned through that experience is if just a lack of information is the only thing keeping someone from really going after their dream, there's no reason why we shouldn't be providing the information, especially when people have done that for us. So, that's why we want to be teaching this, and that's why we're here today. Another thing that I want to mention is, there are no secrets. If your business is based on secrets, or things that you don't want other people to find out, your business is pretty weak. There's not a real strong foundation there. One of my core beliefs is that the best way to create work is to create work that's a reflection of who you are, and when you do that, I believe that you're creating something that no one else is capable of doing, and when you can live into that, there's no competition, we're only competing with ourself. So the cool thing about that is that helps facilitate community, and we can share and help each other, and that's just a better way to live and work. So hopefully that gives you a little bit of background as to how we got here. So today we're gonna cover a whole bunch of stuff, everything from building a brand to marketing, to post-production and production, and how to put a lot of the stuff together that is required to create the work that you want to be creating, and getting in front of clients. A nutshell of what I explained to you is, basically what we want to be doing is teaching artists to thrive in unfamiliar territory. That's our tagline, and that's a good way to look at this. Through speaking and teaching over the last several years, it's been shocking to hear, sometimes in different ways, but essentially something I hear all the time is people saying, "I'm not a business person, I'm an artist." And I get that. Business is difficult, and especially when we just talked about the fact that it's hard to find information, it's easy to say that because it kind of feels like an excuse we can justify why we don't want to address that uncomfortable area of our life. But the problem with that is, if you depend on making money from photography, you are a business whether you like it or not, and so if you're going to lean into this idea that, "Hey I'm an artist "not a business person," you're gonna neglect that. Expect to go out of business. That's just the reality, and we're gonna be talking a lot about reality and kind of removing emotion, especially when it comes to business, and thinking practically, and looking at the situation we're actually in, so again, I wanna just put that through your minds. I know that a lot of us either aren't naturally inclined and-or are confused, but we have to find a way to break through that excuse and drill down. That's why you guys are here today, so I'm excited to dive in. The first step, whether it's business or photography, there's a couple things that tie into both aspects here, is you have to know what it is that you want to say. You also have to know who you want to say it to. You need to know what type of work you want to be creating, and where you want to show that work. If you're gonna come up with any sort of realistic goal and process to get there, you gotta know where it is that you wanna go, otherwise you're going in all kinds of crazy directions. If you don't have a goal, like I said, you're just chasing blindly. For me, it's really become as simple as creating work that is for me and nobody else. That's become something that I've begun to put into practice and what I'm going to be showing you here, this is all personal work. The reason for that is, as much as I love advertising photography and commercial photography, I love working with a team, and problem-solving and collaborating, for me it all starts with my personal work. It starts with me having something specific that I want to say, and letting that inform the type of work that I do, so that my work then, also feels like what I want to say. I'm not just doing something for someone else. That's not as fun a place to be when you're creating. In this image here, along those same lines, this is my family doctored up a little bit with wigs and things like that, but this image is just for fun. The reason that it came about is, I was doing a photo shoot for a friend, she wanted to do a picture of her and her boyfriend for the holidays, and we had been friends for a long time, they have a great sense of humor, and we just had so much fun, I was just laughing the entire shoot, and especially having, I was in the middle of my commercial, editorial career and a lot of what I was doing at the time was for other people. I get an assignment and they're like, "Go photograph "this person," and I didn't really know who I was. And so it was a lot of just me fitting into a different mold depending on who was calling me at the time. In this particular shoot with my friends, it was just so much fun. I hadn't had that much fun in a long time and it really reminded me of why I got into photography in the first place because I was curious, and I enjoyed creating, and it seemed like this world where anything was possible, but it's really easy to get into it for that reason and then all of a sudden we lose that joy and that creativity, and then it's just kind of a job. And I didn't want that to be what I was doing. So I realized, just something as simple as, "Wow this is so fun, I could have fun like this "more often if I just simply allowed myself, "gave myself permission, even, to take the time "or spend the money on that." Also because it was her and her boyfriend, I realized, I don't have any pictures of my family. I photograph for everyone else, but not my family, and so I thought, why not just do a yearly photo of our family, just for fun? And it wasn't because I thought, "Oh, clients are gonna "see this and it's gonna be a great money-maker," or anything like that, but inevitably, when you do something and you truly love it, that's gonna be your best work. Oddly enough, over the years, whenever I get a call from a client or we get a mood board for detailing a project that someone wants to talk to us about, there's usually a couple of our family pictures in there, which I always get a kick out of, because they're saying, "We love what you do, just do it for us," as opposed to, "We found this thing and you are available "hopefully, can you fit into that?" Another example of this is in our Survival Guide workshop, I do one-on-one portfolio reviews with everyone. Inevitably, in each class, there's always maybe one or two people that I'll do a portfolio review with, and at the end we've kind of talked about, you need a find a way to include your voice in this more, it seems like this is a lot of work for other people. There's always someone who says, "oh gosh you know, if you don't mind, if there's time, "I have this one thing, it's really weird, "it's just for fun," like they're making excuses and kind of pushing it off, and I've done this enough now, I always get excited when that happens, because I know that this is gonna be amazing work. The reason why I know that is because whenever you make those excuses or you're nervous, you have those insecurities, you feel that way because when you create something that's truly personal, it's a vulnerable feeling. You feel like if you put that out in front of somebody, if it's rejected, you're being rejected. That's a really scary place to be. So we always find excuses to push that off, and things like that, but like I said, every time they show me this work and it's just incredible, it's usually nothing like what they've just shown me, but they were so nervous and scared about it that they almost didn't bring it out. So for me, again, I think I have a track record, I don't feel that fear. Eventually you get over that, hopefully. Again, for me it's as simple as just, "Why am I shooting this? Is this just for fun? "Or am I shooting this because I think it's gonna "get me a job, or I think this is "gonna make someone else happy?" That's the mindset that I want you guys to practice on getting rid of, and learning to create just for fun.

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.

Reviews

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.