The Business of Commercial Photography: The Survival Guide

Lesson 17/30 - Day of Planning / Scheduling

 

The Business of Commercial Photography: The Survival Guide

 

Lesson Info

Day of Planning / Scheduling

We covered the production calendar. And then we've got day of, so the day of the shoot, and all the things that go along with that. The most important thing that you can do when planning out a photo shoot is to plan ahead and pre-visualize. Pre-visualizing is one of the most important skills that you can and should learn as a photographer or director or anyone creating. It takes practice obviously. You need to get some experience under your belt. But you've got to be able to think through everything that can and should and will happen leading up to a shoot and at a shoot. And the more prepared and ready for whatever happens you can be the better. Often times this is where a producer will come in handy. They can obviously work with you in thinking about this kind of stuff. But my mentality is I think it's really important for you to understand everything. Whether you're fully involved in each aspect or not come the day of, you should have a full understanding of what it is that needs to...

get done so that you can communicate that, and also at times, check in and maybe push someone in a different direction if necessary. I'll give you an example of probably the worst kind of nightmare I've ever had on set. And this was, this was right when I was starting to direct. So I had done quite a bit of commercial photography, but I was just getting into video work, which is, it's similar but there is a lot of differences. It's a different world in many ways. So we had this client come to us, and they wanted us to create these short videos of people in a shower. It was for a shower head company. And the budget was pretty tight. It was small. But, it sounded like interesting create to me. And also I was very much looking to build my reel and gain more experience in the video world. So we were more interest at that point in taking something like this on, even if it's not necessarily the best budget. It offers a creative opportunity. So, one of the things with the budget was we didn't really have a full, we didn't have a full budget to pay for a producer, or at least the amount of time that you would typically need for this kind of project to hire a producer. So we ended up hiring someone who wasn't quite as experienced. They may have been more of a PA or a production coordinator kind of role, but they kind of filled in as a producer. And again, even when you work with a really experienced producer, you need to communicate to them what it is that you expect, how you see the day going, and things that you want them to be looking out for. What's important to you. You've got to control that. So, the idea was again, we were gonna shoot in studio. We were gonna create this shower that people would come into. And we were just doing head and shoulders. And so I worked with this person who was kind of handling production. And then I worked with someone in art department who was gonna build the shower scene where we could, you know, have the water coming down, and what's the background gonna look like, and all this kind of stuff. So we wanted it to just look like a simple shower. But we needed obviously to light it and all that kind of stuff. So, you can't do that in someone's home. It's something you've gotta build. So we're gonna be in studio. And again we didn't have the biggest budget for studio or probably, proper crew on any level. Like, this was very scrappy. So we got a cheaper studio. And I think this was me mostly because I was younger and starting out, I just thought, this person's acting as a producer. That's their job. That was my first mistake. You can't just put it on them or expect them to read your mind. You have to know what it is that you want to do. So, we built the shower. I don't even know if we did a pre-light. We definitely should have done a pre-light. We built the shower and we got in there, and we started testing the morning of. We got the lights up and everything. And, then it seemed like everything was going really well. And we got our first person to come in and to get into the shower and they jumped in the shower. And they jumped out and screamed. I was like, what's the problem? I was like, oh my gosh. And they're like, the water's freezing. And I was like, oh my gosh. And I'm asking my assistant, what about the water? And they're like, I don't know. And they're asking the producer, and like I don't know. And nobody know. Nobody took, no one pre-visualized this. We're doing a shower in a studio. Someone has to get in the water. Like, what's the water gonna feel like? What do, do you want them to look terrified? Then you probably wanna use cold water. If you want them to look happy, you probably wanna think about some warm water. Nobody thought about warm water. That's on me. That's totally my fault. So then we realized this hose that's feeding the shower is just going into the kitchen in the studio. And, wherever this studio was, there's just like a, you know, limited hot water tank that we used up that morning in practicing. Like all the hot water is gone. So what do we do? Well thankfully, at that same time, the client mentioned that they were really concerned about the water pressure. The water pressure wasn't, it didn't look right. It wasn't, and I was thinking like, it looks fine. It looks like a shower. Like what's, and they're like, that's not what our shower heads look like. The pressure is way different than that. And so that bought us a little time. And so I'm talking on one hand about what do we do about this water. It's freezing. And then we're also trying to figure out how do we get the water pressure to look like the client wants. And so, I'm talking to my art director, who built the shower, and the rigging for the hose. And he's trying to figure out how to get the water warm. And how to also get the pressure up. And so, it took a couple hours to actually figure out the pressure situation. It turns out there was like a regulator on one of the lines that was just limiting the amount of water coming through. And thankfully by the time he figured that out, the hot water had, you know, in a commercial building it had recycled a little bit so we had some warm water. It wasn't like a perfect scenario. And we , I don't remember if we necessarily told that to the client, but I definitely explained it to the agency. Some people knew what was going on. But we don't want people running around freaking out. You try to manage it as best as possible. That's where like a producer really comes in handy. When you have a producer, they're in the same way that the assistant is kind of charge of all these things and you delegate to them, a producer is a buffer between you and the client and the agency. They're making sure you have what you need. And they're communicating in a clear, calm way, even when something crazy's going on. We're just managing something and it's gonna be fine. You know, a producer is amazing in that respect. So, we got the water pressure up. We got the hot water back a little bit. And I just explained to the talent, I was like, look, you know, we don't have a ton of time. We are, we are kind of experiencing an issue with the water so we'll just try to get these takes done pretty quick. We're not gonna, we're not gonna do it super long. And he's like, okay, great. So, we get the first person in there. They do their bit. We got it. Awesome. Cut. That's a rap for so and so. Let's move on to the second one. So everyone claps. They come over to the edge of the, to the pool that we built with the shower. And they're just kind of standing there. And I was like, what do you need. And they're like, towel? And I was like, get him a towel. And they're like, we don't have any towels. (audience laughing) And so, again, like, what were you thinking. Like, you're gonna have people taking a shower in a studio and you don't have towels. Like, you have to think through like, what is this? What's happening? Like, every step of the way. And so, then we had, we had our producer, or PA, run to the store and get some towels. Again, that's where a PA would come, typically in a typical set you have a producer, they're always on set with you, and then you have a PA, a production assistant, they're running out getting towels or whatever needs to happen in this kind of scenario. But again, you're having someone stand there, and it's gonna be half an hour at the least to get a bunch of towels back. So then that's gonna chew up a bunch of time. You have this person sitting there soaking wet and you can't start the next one 'til you have the towels. And then finally, the pump for the pool, it broke. And we didn't have a backup. So we started overflowing in the studio. And someone had to run to Home Depot and get a backup pump that would be able to pump it out fast enough. So this is like, this is really worst case scenario. This has happened to me once. And those mistakes have never happened again. And I have never put more time and effort into pre-visualizing than after this happened. It's something that I've gotten really good at. It takes practice. It really does. You've got, and part of that is just experience on set, part of that is thinking through the concept and all of this kind of stuff. But, that's, I wanted to tell that story to illustrate, you know, hopefully you're not gonna have something like that happen to you. But, things will always happen and go wrong on a set. Just expect anything that can happen will. And that's fine, it usually rarely ends in catastrophe. But you just gotta be able to adapt and go with the flow as things happen. I'll show you real quick the video. So it was a slow motion kind of quirky. Like we were basically making, it was called like shower face. And so like, what's your shower face? So we had all these different kinds of people come in and do their different shower faces in the shower. And we eventually did get through all six people miraculously. All right, so, next thing we're gonna talk about is a call sheet. And a call sheet, who knows what a call sheet is? So some of you. So this isn't totally foreign. A call sheet is a document that is sent out usually the night or day before a photo shoot. And it's sent out to the crew and to the talent and to the client and agency. And you wanna do this, you do this before each shoot day. So if it's like a three day shoot, you're gonna send out three call sheets. But this is basically gonna tell everyone where they're going, where they can park, what the schedule is, everyone knows what time they're supposed to arrive. We've got contact information for everyone, if someone's lost or late, or they need to reach someone. You wanna make sure that just, all of the information that people could possibly need is on there. This is just one on, for smaller projects. Like if we're ever kind of handling production we'll use. But typically we're working with a producer or a production company. They have their own call sheets. And usually those are like, they have the nearest hospital on there. There's all kinds of information. They get really really in depth. And again, the more information you have the better. But it's just, it's a, it's really really important. If you get a commercial project and, you know, like I said earlier, a client's not gonna say, "All right, make sure you do a production counter and a call sheet." They're just gonna assume, if you're doing commercial photography, this is stuff that's gonna happen. So nobody's gonna ask you for this kind of stuff when you're starting out but you need to know that it's important and you need to make sure that you're doing it and getting it out to everybody on time. So, day of shoot. We've got our planning in production and everything. I like to think of a photo shoot as a party. And this again, it depends on, and when I say party I use that loosely. It depends on who you are. This is a place for you to be authentic. You know, if you're really really into, if this your thing and you're like a life style photographer or something, maybe you're gonna have a DJ there if you wanna play music. I probably wouldn't do that. But it just depends. Like, just be yourself. And the same way that it's important to incorporate parts of who you are and what you're interested in in your work, your photo shoot set should feel very similar. It should be a reflection of who you are and the things that you value. So you need to set the tone. You are the host of the party. Again, it doesn't matter how big your crew is everyone is looking to you, as the photographer or director, I like to think even as a photographer, you really are a director. You are directing this entire production. You're setting the tone. What's, what kind of music's gonna be playing? You know. What kind of food do you want to have there? What is craft services, the snacks look like? What does the studio feel like? You know, all that kind of stuff. These are things that you've got to be mindful of and make sure that you're communicating. If you don't have a producer, you need to make sure you're keeping people on schedule. That's something that I'm incredibly grateful that I don't have to think about a lot anymore now that I work with producers. But until you get to that point, either you have to do it or find someone else that you can kind of, you can get to take that responsibility, whether it's an assistant or someone else. Make sure things are on schedule and things are happening as they need to be. You don't want to get to the end of the day and realize, like, wow, we have only gotten through 25% of our shot list and we have, you know, less than a quarter of our time left or whatever. That's gonna be problem. So that's stuff that you need someone to be constantly thinking about. Be really thoughtful about the setup. For me, it sounds silly, but I, it's really important to me what direction I'm facing. Like I'm very very sensitive to my environment. So, sometimes they're like, it's a square room, it doesn't matter. But it does matter to me. I know I just need to be facing that way. And I like how the window light feels better on my right than my left. Don't ask me. But I go in and I just kind of walk around silently and I feel my environment and I feel what's conformable for me. There's, I mean, my wife could tell you, there's all kinds of little things where, words feel, you know, make me feel uncomfortable or various, that couch over there just makes me feel uncomfortable. I'm at the point now where I don't worry about trying to explain it. I don't apologize for it. I just know that makes me uncomfortable. I need to change it or move. Because I don't wanna be in a place where I'm creating and I'm feeling uncomfortable. That's the last thing that you, you should be feeling 100% creative and excited. And there should be no distractions. So make sure, whatever that means to you, it may be your, and that could be like hey, you're just kind of loony toons, I'm fine wherever. That's great. But whatever does matter to you, be intentional about that and don't just sit or stand wherever you need to be. You need to also think about things like where's the makeup artist gonna be. Do you need them, you know, maybe when you're starting out, you don't have two makeup artists. So you might need your makeup artist to be pretty close to set, so that if you need them, they can hear you and they can quickly step out of the person they're working with and make a couple adjustments on your set. And then go back to work. Maybe down the road, you know, the, as you have a bigger crew, you have two people. So the better makeup room is on the other side of the studio and she can, or he can be there, because you have someone else with you on set. But those are the things that you really have to think about. You also really wanna make sure, if clients are gonna be there, this is not the fanciest of client areas that I've ever had, but this is again, earlier in our career, you know budget was a little lower. So we had a scrappier studio. And we had a scrappier client area. But at the very minimum, if clients are gonna be on set, you wanna make sure that you have an area where they can work and make calls or be comfortable. Maybe they wanna be close to set. Maybe they don't. A lot of times they actually don't. They wanna get some work done and they just wanna check in every once in a while. Or maybe you don't want clients super close to set. And you purposefully want them away so that they're not constantly questioning everything as you're shooting. And you can kind of have a buffer. And just get feedback as you need it. You probably need to make sure that you have Wi-Fi for clients and people that are from the agency and stuff. So just little things like thinking about putting a card on the table that says, this is the Wi-Fi that we're using and this is the password. Just thinking through that kind of stuff so you're not shooting and someone's like, where's the, what's the Wi-Fi? You know, like, it's that little kind of stuff, all that stuff matters. And it might seem kind of minor, but it's something that we've gotten really good at thinking through because that experience is really important. It's part of that brand. Someone leaving and being like, what a great day. Like, everything was thought through. And I just had fun. Like, there was never a time when I needed something and I had to ask for it. That matters. And that goes a long way. So you want to make sure that you're thinking through those kinds of things. As I mentioned, you know, you wanna make sure that you have a situation where, again, for specific purposes, the client is either near or far away from you. And you also need to understand the importance of chain-of-command. There was a time early in my career where I had a huge job for a huge client. It was, in the scheme of things, like, it was a long time ago and it was as big as some of the jobs we're just starting to do now. It was an awesome opportunity. But I went on set, and the client was from another country, so there was a bit of a language barrier. And they just started talking to me about something that they wanted to change. And I knew enough to be like, that's not my department, you need to talk to the agency. Like, the photographer can't be making creative changes. Like, you need to talk with them. But there was no real chain-of-command set up there. It wasn't real clear. Part of it was, there was a broad cast production. And I was coming in on the backend as a photographer. And I didn't have my own dedicated producer that could kind of shield me from that kind of stuff. That could help kind of move the client back towards the agency. But all that chain-of-command is really really important. So you wanna make sure you're talking with, in this case these are two producers. I have a glass of champagne so it's probably after the shoot. But you wanna make sure that you have people that can help shield you and kind of keep people in the right lanes so that you're not getting outside of a situation that you need to be in. Let's see. If, also, again, something else to keep in mind, especially when you're starting out, is the scope of a project can change on set. People might be like, hey, you know, we were only go do these three shoots. But, hey, you know what, you can do 10 right? Like, that wouldn't be a big deal. That does change. It changes what you need to do for retouching. It changes maybe the licensing because they only agreed to purchase three images and all of the sudden the want 10. Obviously that gets easier when you have a producer and or an agent. Those are conversations that they just need to have with them. But you're gonna be in a position where you're on a commercial shoot, you've agreed to something, and a client or someone is like, hey it wouldn't be a big deal if you just did this or whatever. And maybe they are just kind of trying to push you in that direction. Maybe they truly don't understand what they're asking. But you need, in that case, if it's just you, you need to be able to speak up and say, well, actually if we do change this, it's gonna cost more. Like, I'm happy to do that, but we all need to understand that there's ramifications to that. So again, just being on top of things and making sure that everything's got its place. As I mentioned earlier, I won't get back into detail with this, but bring promos to set. Again, don't assume that everyone there knows who you are or what your work looks like. Bring your work to set. I like to put some of my print pieces on the client table. You know, and often times, we'll hear the client like, oh my gosh this is so exciting. Or I'm gonna take this back to so and so. Or like, just get them excited about the day. Remember they probably know who you are, or the client in this case, but again, it never hurts. Like, get your work in front of them. Make a lasting memory. Oh yeah, Lorenzo. I have a question that you had said something about, you know, a client making a change or someone making a change after everything has been negotiated or whatnot. What do you do in that case? I mean, are you, do you have like a, kind of a back pocket contract that says, hey, you're asking for this, and it's gonna be more. How do you, how do you actually kind of remedy that situation? I mean, it's less than ideal. You really don't wanna be in a creative place and then all of the sudden talking about and negotiating and stuff like that. But, I think, best case scenario is you, I mean, it's tough without knowing what the situation was, what was agreed upon. But usually, what they ask, you have to kind of balance that with what the initial agreement was. So, there might be a certain price for three images. That kind of gives you an idea of what a few more might be. Probably if I was in that position, back then, I would say, like, I don't know what this is gonna cost. But this is out of scope. So I just want to let you know. You might be like, I am not willing, or can't do what you're asking. I just can't. It wasn't something we planned for. Or, you could say, yeah, technically I think we could do that. I'm willing to do it. I just need to let you know it's gonna cost extra. There's gonna be retouching. There's gonna be licensing. Or whatever. We're gonna have to pay extra talent fees. You know, sometimes there's things that they just don't even think about. It's like, we are paying these people for one image. For one ad. So even if it had nothing to do with me, if we shoot two of each person, we're gonna have to pay them, or their agent more. You know like, I just wanna let you know. And then they might be like, oh my gosh. I totally forgot. Don't worry about it. Or they'll be like, that's fine. I totally understand, but we just heard back from the client and they're actually gonna need to run this, you know, longer than originally anticipated or something like that. That stuff will happen all the time. But the most important thing is just to be very clear up front. You don't want to get into a situation where you're like nervous or don't wanna, okay, sure, yeah, yeah, and then you shoot it. And then later on you're like, by the way. And they're like, what I didn't agree to that. We, you know, I thought it was just not a big deal or whatever. So you have to make sure that you're keeping that chain-of-command and just being very clear in communicating along the entire way. Hopefully you can see kind of even just with some of these examples just why it's so important to eventually have, even just a producer. Someone that can kind of be that buffer and work with them so that you're just focused on creating 'cause there's so much that needs to happen when you're on set. So again, I mentioned this earlier. Interacting with clients on set. This is, this arrow here is pointing to the digital capture station. So, you can see, we have our digital tech. And she's working with my first assistant. They're taking about lighting and some things that need to happen. This is very close to me because I need to communicate with them quickly. I need to know if something's out of focus. Or if there, you know, if they need me to adjust something. Or, we just need to have clear communication. But this is not our client viewing area. We don't want clients hanging over their shoulders. First and foremost, just because they need to work and it's distracting having someone over your shoulder. Also, you don't want clients to get in there, and sometimes they don't understand the process. Maybe it's gonna be a composite. And they're like, why is, the backgrounds all white, I thought. You know, you don't wanna be like putting out those fires. That's for the producer to handle. But they can have that conversation in a very clear, kind of calm way, in another room, or somewhere further off where they have, ideally, screens or you could do like wireless iPads these days, where you can stream images to them. Oftentimes, you know, they wanna see a couple images. Rarely is the client wanting to sit there and look at every single image. But it is a really good idea, when the budget allows, and this is a conversation you can have upfront, you know, do you want to have a client viewing area? And the agency might say, yeah, yeah, we definitely need that. Or they might say, you know what, we don't actually want a client viewing area. We've worked with this client a bunch and it's best not to do that. And that's fine, but you can ask for that up front. But if you do have one, I would generally recommend strategically separate them. And this again goes back to, you know, making you comfortable. This is, where do you want the digital tech? They could be in front of you to the side. They could be behind you. There's no right or wrong answer. It's just what makes you most comfortable. Do you need to see a monitor while you're shooting that's kind of up in front of you? Or are you fine just kind of shooting blind and checking in every once in a while? Those are things that you ultimately dictate. And people just look to you for those, for those directions. Another great opportunity on set not to miss out on is if there's images that you're excited about express that excitement on set. Talk about the selects that you love. Like, oh my gosh, I love this. I love the emotion that he's showing here. I think this would be really cool for whatever reason. Express that. And that impacts and influences people right. If you don't say anything, we all know, generally probably clients are gonna pick images that are not your favorite anyway, but use this as an opportunity to speak about what it is you're drawn to. They're not trying to pick images that you don't like. It's just, it's someone else's perspective. And so I believe it's really important to control your vision as much as possible. So I'll use that opportunity to just convey with them, hey, I'm really drawn to this. Or, you know, also through the selects, at the end, when you're sending them in, you wanna be curated in terms of what you show a client.

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.